Study Guide for Earth Day
The Starfish Parable
I take the listeners on a guided imagery through the story. I ask them to close their eyes and seethe old man - how old is he; what is he wearing, how did the sand feel on his feet; can he smellthe salt in the sea; what does he hear; how does the starfish feel on his hand; what is he thinkingas he throws the starfish into the ocean? Then visual the young man - what is he wearing; whatcolor of hair does he have; how long is it; what's on his feet; what did it feel like when he talkedto the old man? What did the old man feel when he heard what the young man had to say?Remember the last line - "It made a difference to that one."I tell them that storyteller tells images not words. Now that they have the images of the story -the sights, the sounds, the smell, the feeling (both in their hands and their hearts), they can tellthis story. Storytelling is the first recycler. We take a story that has been used by many and renewit with our images.
Margaret Read MacDonald's - Earth Care: World Folktales to Talk About
This is an abbreviated version of the story found in the book...
The story starts with 2 friends, one a farmer and the other a shepherd, who have always gotten along.When a disease kills the shepherd's sheep, the farmer insists that he split his land and let the shepherdnow farm alongside him. The shepherd hesitates to have his friend split his land but the farmer insists.They both settle into this new pattern of life – still the best of friends, when the shepherd finds a caskof gold buried in the ground that had once been the farmers and tries to give it to his friend. The farmerinsists that it now belongs to the shepherd and for the first time the two cannot agree!So they take their debate to the local wise man who is in the process of teaching students when theyarrive and so he puts the questions of how to solve the farmer and shepherd's debate to his students.At this point in the story, I stop and ask the students what could be done with the gold. I tell them thatthere are no right or wrong answers. I have received some interesting answers. Many say that theyshould split the gold between the two of them. Some said that The money could be used for charity.Others said that it should go to another person. I liked the one that said that the farmer shouldbuy the sheepherder more sheep.1st student says - it came from the ground so put it back in the ground.2nd student says - it was brought to the teacher so now it belongs to the teacher3rd student says - it was found in the ground, ground is part of the nation, the nation is ruled by theKhan so the gold should go to the Khan.The teacher is getting more disgusted by each of these answers so finally he turns to his fourth studentand asks again.The 4th student says - Since neither of these men want the gold, why not do something wonderfulwith this and create a garden for the poor where they can come and eat fruit, rest in shade, drink clear waterand have a sanctuary from the harshness of life.I stop the story at this point. The rest of the story is below. I think for the purposes of the exercisehave them do, it is the perfect place to stop. However, here is the rest of the story...The shepherd, the farmer and the wise man all think this is a marvelous idea and the wise man even says that if the student is willing to take the gold and go the Khan's city to buy seeds for this venture, then he will donate the land where the student can plant this garden. The student agrees and takes the gold to the Khan's city - a long trip shortened by his imagining the beauty of this future garden. It takes him a while to find his way in the busy city but finally he finds the seed merchants and is just about to purchase his seeds when a camel train winds its way through the market and the student is horrified to see live birds, hanging by their feet and covered with dust, knocking against the camels with each lurching step. The student offers to buy all the birds and the camel driver laughs and tells him the birds came from all over (mountains, forests, seashore, etc.) and they are for the Khan to decorate his palace with their feathers and to be eaten at his table. "No one else can afford them!" The student holds out his bag of gold - and the camel driver sees it is even more than the Khan will pay, so he sells the birds to the student. It takes hours to untie, brush off the dust and set the birds free. Some need to wait in the shade and be gently massaged back to life but finally all birds are flying again and the student is walking home happy that he was able to free them... ...until he realizes, upon reaching the ground that would have been the garden, that he spent the money and now cannot buy seeds and the garden will never happen. He drops to the ground and weeps, saying aloud his deed. A bird hears this and flies off. Finally the student is roused from his weeping by hearing the sound of wings. Thousands of birds fill the air and tell him that they will help him. The birds land and some begin to dig the ground to prepare the soil, rolling the rocks to the edge of the garden to create garden walls. Others carry seeds from hilltops and beaks full of clear water to put into pools (I changed my version to the birds digging wells since I told this at a sustainable environment event) and the biggest birds fly great distances to bring rare seeds back. Then the birds fan the seeds and also breathe their warm breathe onto the ground. Before the students eyes, the seeds sprout and grow into trees with luminous apples, green lawns to rest on with interspersed pools and beautiful flowers. Word spreads quickly and when some of the rich merchants hear about this marvelous garden, they leap onto their horse and ride to see it for themselves, certain that anything this nice should belong the them. When the merchants arrive, the walls grow higher and the gates slam shot and lock with 7 locks. The merchants stand on their horses backs and reach over the wall to grab the shining apples, but when they touch the apples, they are thrown from their horses to the ground. Finally the poor arrive since they had to come on foot. As they approach, the 7 locks click open and the gates swing wide. The poor taste the apples which are as sweet and juicy as they are beautiful. They rest in the shade and drink from the cool waters and enjoy the flowers. When it is the end of the day, some return happily to their homes, now at peace from their day in the garden - but some have no homes. So the garden shuts its gates and locked up the 7 locks and the walls grow yet taller to keep them safe inside. The apples begins to glow a soft blue (?) light, the birds softly sing sweet lullabies and all who remain inside can sleep peacefully for the night. Thus was the magic garden of the poor created - because of the dream of one young man.
Discussion Questions and Story Ideas
- How are these stories different? How are they alike?
- How else can we do to make little differences in our environment?
- Which story do you like better?
Ideas using the starfish parable:
Here is another version of the starfish story http://dreamemporium.com/starfish.htm
How did the author make the story his/her own?
What do you know about starfish? Here are some interesting facts. Can you make them into a new story?
Ideas to use "The Farmer and the Shepherd" story: