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SOS-Searching Out Stories/Info - Perseverance
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Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers, Teachers and Librarians

(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)

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1) Query: This is for a school project for my son. He needs to find a folktale about perseverance.


Wouldn't that fit most of the "quest" stories -- perhaps "The Fool and the Flying Ship"?

Mary G. 4/6/05

"The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship"
(from Old Peter's Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome, with illustrations, cover design, and decorations by Dmitri Mitrokhin. 1918.


An old peasant and his wife had three sons, two of whom were clever, one of whom was the Fool of the World. He never harmed anyone, but he was simple as a child. The parents favored the two older boys, could barely remember to feed the Fool; he never held a grudge.

Tsar sent messengers throughout country announcing that he would give the Princess in marriage to anyone who could bring him a flying ship with wings that could sail through the sky. Two older brothers set off to build such a ship and thus become rich and powerful. The parents gave them the best clothes and loads of food: soft white rolls, cooked meats, bottles of corn brandy. Mother waved goodbye long after they were out of sight. They were never heard from again.

Fool wanted to go, too, but parents told him he was so stupid he would walk into bear’s arms or be eaten by wolves; Fool decided to go anyway: “I am going. I am going. I am going.” Off he went in his rags, with nothing to eat but crusts of black bread and water. Mother turned her back on him as he left the house; parents were glad he was gone.

Fool sang as he went to seek his fortune and marry the Princess; met an ancient Old Man with bent back, long beard, eyes hidden under bushy eyebrows. Fool told Old Man of his mission; they sat down together to share his meager rations. But when he opened his bag, there were fresh white rolls, cooked meats, corn brandy, which he gladly gave to the Old Man to eat. Old Man said, “God loves simple folk. Even though your own mother does not love you, you will have your share of good things.” The Fool and Old Man ate, drank, sang joyous songs together. Old Man instructed Fool to continue journey, make a sacred sign of the cross three times at the first big tree, strike it with his little hatchet, fall backwards on the ground, lie there until someone woke him up. The flying ship would be constructed and all ready to fly. Fool was to sit in it and fly off anywhere he wanted; the Fool followed instructions.
Something jogged him awake, his hatchet was worn out, big tree was gone, in its place stood a flying ship. Fool got on board, seized tiller, instantly ship leapt up into air, sailed away over treetops.

Fool sailed above roadway for fear of getting lost. Looking down, he saw man lying on road below with his ear to the damp ground, man said he was listening to all that was being done in the world. Fool invited Listener aboard; they went on, singing songs. Down below was man with one leg on ground, the other tied to his head, man said that if he had both legs untied he would step across the world in a single stride. Fool invited Swift-goer aboard; they all went on. Down below was man with gun taking aim, man said he only shot at bird or beast 1,000 versts away. Fool invited Far-shooter on board; they went on. Down below was man with heavy sack of bread on his back, man said he was searching for more than the “scrap” of bread he had on his back. Fool invited Eater aboard; they all went on. Down below was man walking round and round lake; man said he couldn’t find any water, that all the water in lake was no more than a drop. Fool invited Drinker aboard; they all went on. Down below was man walking toward forest with wood on his back, man said if wood was scattered about a whole army of soldiers would leap up out of ground. Fool invited Wood-tender aboard; they went on. Down below was man carrying sack of straw, man said that if magic straw was strewn around in heat of summer, weather would instantly turn into snow and frost. Fool invited Moujik aboard; they went on, singing happily and cracking jokes.

They reached the palace of the Tzar; flew down and cast anchor in courtyard. Tzar heard them singing, saw them land the flying ship, sent servant to find out who this great prince was; servant returned with news they were all dirty peasants. Tsar immediately plotted to get out of promise of marriage to his daughter; decided to set impossible tasks.
Tzar ordered Fool to bring him magical water of life before he finished his dinner. Fool in despair. Swift-goer untied his foot, immediately leapt out of sight, found water of life, put some in bottle, sat under windmill, fell asleep. Tsar nearly finished with dinner, no sign of Swift-goer. Listener put ear to ground, discovered Swift-goer was asleep under windmill with fly buzzing, perched on windmill close above his head. Far-shooter stepped in, picked up gun, aimed at fly on windmill, woke Swift-goer with thud of bullet, Swift-goer leapt up and ran in less than a second back to Tsar’s palace. Fool gave magic water of life to servant who presented it to Tzar just before he left table.

Tzar now commanded Fool and companions to eat 12 oxen roasted whole, as much bread as could be baked in 40 ovens—in one meal. Fool terrified, but Eater said this would be just a little snack for him; he gobbled it up, still hungry.
Then Tzar commanded Fool and companions to drink 40 barrels of wine, with 40 bucketfuls in every barrel. Fool dismayed, but Drinker said it would be nothing for him; he drank everything down in one gulp, still thirsty.
Tsar agreed to wedding, but told Fool to bathe in bath-house first, instructed servants to heat iron bath-house so hot Fool would stifle and frizzle. Nervous Fool entered red-hot bath-house with Moujik and his straw; straw made everything so cold that Fool had scarcely enough time to wash before cauldrons froze to solid ice; they slept on the top of stove, shivering all night, but still sang songs.

Tzar in rage; demanded Fool prove he had regiments of soldiers to protect Princess; Fool hopeless, but Wood-tender reminded him of the soldiers inside his wood; so Fool challenged Tzar that if he put him off again, he would make war on his country and take Princess by force. Fool and his companions sat in flying ship singing, laughing, making jokes all night while Wood-tender scattered sticks. Gigantic army appeared instantly—cavalry, foot soldiers, guns, men in dazzling uniforms.
Next day, Tzar awoke to find himself surrounded by Fool’s troops; Tzar terrified, immediately sent rich jewels, fine clothes to Fool, begged him to marry Princess. Fool put on fine clothes, became most handsome man in country, presented himself to Tzar, fell in love with Princess and she with him, got married same day, received rich dowry, became so clever that all respected him. Tzar and Tzaritza grew to like him; Princess adored him.

How about Lazy Jack? He surely perseveres time and time again until he gets it right. Here are some folks highlights determination, an easy leap to perseverance.

Karen C. 4/6/05

c) I seem to be suggesting this story for a lot of themes, but "The Lion's Whisker" is also my favorite story about perseverance. Bizunesh, the stepmother, is determined to win her stepson's love and she does NOT give up.'swhisker.html

Judy S. 4/6/05

Created 2005; last update 2/18/10

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