Fate vs. Mind: A Macedonian Folk Tale
Looking into various aspects of this folk tale, students will also weigh the strengths of fate and consciousness. Folk tales can also be told in a stylized manner, as this one is.
After reading the letter and participating in class activities students will be able
- To describe several stylized characteristics of folk tales and fables.
- To cite arguments on both sides of the issue of whether fate or will determines what happens in life.
- Have the class review Carla Bachechi's background and her assignment as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Ask a student to point out Macedonia on a map of Europe or of the world.
- Explain to the class—or remind them—that folk tales and fables are often written and told in a stylized format. Then pass out copies of Carla's second letter, "Fate vs. Mind: A Macedonian Folk Tale." Ask the students to read it to themselves—either in class or for homework.
- Divide students into groups of three or four and ask them to analyze the folk tale, looking specifically for elements of style that they find different from what they might find in a novel. Coach them to look for any aspect of the folk tale that they find unusual, strange, funny, clever, or interesting—aspects that stand out.
- In a class discussion, have each group, in turn, report one trait they discovered in the folk tale, until all groups have suggested all the different points they discovered. Students are likely at least to identify
- Repetition of phrases (the description of the shepherd is repeated often, and also gets longer and longer as the story progresses).
- Personification, whereby an abstract object (Mind) and an inanimate concept (Fate) are given human characteristics.
- Point out that fables and folk tales often make a point or teach a lesson or a moral.
- Hold a class discussion to discuss the findings of the groups.
- Ask the class what purpose repetition might serve in this folk tale. [Among the answers could be that young children enjoy the rhythm and the familiarity of repeated expressions. Also, children learning to read can benefit from repeated phrases, since they will recognize a repeated phrase on subsequent appearances, which will reinforce their learning.]
- Have students consider what function personification serves in the story. [Try to elicit from them that it allows abstract ideas and inanimate objects to interact in ways that would not be possible in a more literal setting.]
- Ask students what the moral of this story is. Discussion might range widely between those who believe in the inevitability of matters, or fatalism, and those who believe that humans have some control over their fate.
- In the context of this story, ask students what Fate is. [Answers might address inevitability, resignation, preordained results, and the idea that "What will be, will be."] Ask students to identify what Mind represents. [Answers might address not only our ability to think, but also our potential to influence what happens to us.]
- Ask the students whether they anticipated that Mind would balance Fate, and if so, why they thought so. [For one thing, there would have been no story line if Fate had simply prevailed.]
- Point out to the class that Carla chose to tell this tale with a shade of sarcasm, in which she makes some fun of the genre of folk tales—having fun, herself, in the process. Help students to understand this concept by showing them an example or two, then ask them to find some examples of the author's jesting. [Some of the many examples: "As is true of most fictional, supernatural beings, they were proud and stubborn." "As the supernatural beings continued this hazy argument..." "Having observed the whole ridiculous scene..." "But Fate was a persistent supernatural being."]
Frameworks and standards
- Folk tales and fables often tell more than stories; they also teach lessons.
- We can always debate about how much influence we have over our own lives.
- Why do people sometimes choose stories to convey lessons?
- How much influence do we have over our own lives?
- For another example of personification, tell the class the story about an argument between Sun and Wind, in which each was claiming to be the more powerful of the two. In the face of this impasse, they decided to test their claims on a stranger walking across the landscape by attempting to remove his coat. Wind went first. He blew and blew and blew, but with each gust, the stranger clutched his coat tighter to himself, leaning into the wind. Finally, Wind gave up. Then Sun beamed down upon the stranger, and in short order, the walker removed his coat. Ask students what lesson this folk tale imparts, allowing the class to discuss different interpretations. Then have the students write a short folk tale, employing personification. Have the students share their stories with the class.
- The attribution of human traits to animals, or anthropomorphism, is also a common device in fables and folk tales. Have the class read some of Aesop's Fables, or tell them the story of the tortoise and the hare. Be sure to ask the students to define the lesson in that famous account of perseverance. Then have the class write folk tales employing anthropomorphism, and share them with the group.