restricted access 5. “The Wolf Really Wasn’t Wicked”: Ethical Complexities and “Troubled” Students
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60 • Life Lessons through Storytelling 60 5.‘‘The Wolf Really Wasn’t Wicked”: Ethical Complexities and “Troubled” Students Once, a wolf got a bone stuck in his throat and he went running among all the other animals and begging and pleading, “Will you help me? Will you get this bone out of my throat? Will you? Will you? Will you? Will you help me? Will any of you help me get this bone out of my throat?” And he said, “If somebody helps me get this bone out of my throat, there is a reward so please, please, somebody help me get this bone out of my throat.” Now there was a crane and the crane was interested in what the surprise —this reward—was gonna be. So the crane said, “I’ll help you get the bone out of your throat.” The wolf opened his mouth and she stuck her long beak down into his throat, pulled out the bone, and when she came out, she looked at the wolf and said, “I’m ready for my reward now.” And the wolf looked at her. “What?” And he showed his teeth and his eyes were big and he said, “You had your head in my mouth and I did not bite it off. I gave you your life. How many creatures can say that they’ve had their head in a wolf’s mouth and live to tell about it? That is your reward.” “The Wolf and the Crane” is one of the most popular fables, appearing in six of the seven contemporary editions. In this version by Hill as told by the storyteller, we can see two competing ethical concerns.1 On the one hand, it portrays a wolf that did not provide an expected reward for having the bone removed from his throat. On the other hand, we hear of a crane that requires a reward for doing a kind act. Perhaps because this fable does not yield itself to a single, easy lesson, it led to the most debate and critique of all the Aesop’s fables that we told the children. When I first read this fable I was focused primarily on the wolf’s unethical behavior. This was influenced in part by the morals that followed the fable. For example, in four versions the moral was: “Expect no reward for serving the wicked.” This moral explicitly labels the wolf’s character as unethical. In only one moral was the wolf not labeled as either “wicked” or “an enemy”: “Those who expect thanks from others are often disappointed.” “The Wolf Really Wasn’t Wicked” • 61 Even though I was influenced by these morals, I was also open to having the fable yield multiple messages. Not wanting the children to be limited to one message, we told the story and discussed it, only later introducing these two morals. We also invited children to come up with their own lessons, as we did with the fables discussed in the previous chapter. Interestingly, the rural as well as urban children were able to see the competing lessons of this fable. When one of the rural groups heard the story, students introduced both ethical concerns as they described who they would want to be: Donna: What else? What did other people think? Duane: I would have been that, you know that one guy that stuck his thing, I would like// Donna: Crane? Duane: I would have felt really bad ’cause then I would’ve, after I did it, I wanted him to tell me what I would get ’cause he didn’t give him nothing. He [the wolf] thought that was the reward for doing that. And then I would fight him. Donna: You would fight him? Okay. Paul: I think I’d rather have// I think I’d rather have my head than anything else. Donna: Would ya? Okay, what do you think about it Danny? Danny: I would have been one of the other animals he asked and umm I wouldn’t have just helped him for the reward. I would have helped him just to help him. Generally Patricia, the storyteller, and I would elicit initial reactions to the story before we would ask students who they might have been in the story. Here Duane initiated the topic of “who would you be” by saying he would have been the crane and as the crane would have felt disappointed, implying that the wolf treated...


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