Metaphors Built On Crosscultural Tales

Story 4, "Feed What You Want To Grow," has its origins in a Native North American tale. Story 16, "The Importance ofAccepting Compliments," is based on a story I collected in East Africa. Story 68, "Taking a Different View," I originally heard as a Sufi tale about camels that I have adapted into a more Western context. "The Four Faithful Friends," Story 34, is the much-loved national tale of Bhutan that is found painted on the walls of homes, hotels, and government offices.

All cultures have told stories, and all cultures have told stories specifically for children. While some do not cross cultural boundaries very readily, others are adaptable as therapeutic tales, as I have hoped to illustrate in the above examples. I would encourage that you look out for, and collect, the stories in your own cultural background, and those from other cultures, that may be relevant for the children with whom you are working.

How children see meaning in cross-cultural stories was brought home to me when I returned from Bhutan and told my grandson the story of the Four Faithful Friends (See Story 34). He contemplated it for a while then said, "But the monkey could climb up the tree and pick the fruit on his own." He continued, "The pheasant could fly up into the branches to get the fruit." With a little more thought he added, "The elephant could reach up and pluck the fruit with its trunk." And, yes, the rabbit could probably wait till the fruit ripened and fell.

He was right, of course. Each animal could survive by itself. Even the tree may well have grown of its own accord, as trees in the wild have a good track record of doing. As I thought about it, my grandson's comments seemed to hold their own wisdom. This new knowledge made the message of the story even stronger for me. The bottom line was that the animals did not have to cooperate to be able to reach the fruit but chose to cooperate. They wanted to be friends. They wanted to help each other. By working together, by sharing in the activity of cultivating the seed and harvesting the fruit, it was a lot more enjoyable and productive than doing it alone.

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