Comparing African, American, and European Folktales


    Author: Rebecca Miller

    Grade Level: Early Elementary





  •  Students will be able to identify similarities and differences between an African, a Native American, and a European folktale.


  • Materials Needed:

  •  The worksheet


     Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

     The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin

     Cinderella by Charles Perrault


  • Procedures:

  • Anticipatory Set:
  • "Can someone tell me what a folktale is?" Briefly discuss what a folktale is. For example, a folktale is a story in which the hero or heroine triumphs over adversity.
  • Explanation of Purpose:

  • "We'll discuss the differences and similarities between three folktales, one from Africa, one from Europe, and one from the Native Americans."
  • Activity:

    1. Read Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters to the class. Ask the students if this story reminds them of another story. If so, what story does it remind them of? They should say Cinderella. Over the next several days, read the other two stories to the students.
    2. Ask the students questions about the books to get them thinking about the similarities and differences. For example:

       "What were the sisters like in all three stories?" (mean, cruel, selfish, etc.)

       "How many sisters were there in each story?" (1 in Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, and two in the others)

       "What was the 'Cinderella' character like in all three stories?" (kind, unselfish, beautiful on the inside, etc.)

       "What was the 'Prince' character like in all three stories?" (good, he wanted the best wife, etc.)

       "What were the problems in all three stories?" (The sisters treated the "Cinderella" character cruelly. The sisters wanted to marry the "Prince" character. The sisters and "Cinderella" had to prove themselves worthy of the "Prince.")

       "What were the settings of each story?" (Africa, America, and in a land far away)

    3. Have the students get into groups of three or four. (They can work individually if you prefer.)
    4. Give each person a worksheet. Tell the students in the group to work as a team to come up with two similarities and two differences in the stories.
    5. When the students finish, bring them all together.


  • Discuss what the students have written. Ask them to think of reasons why these stories would have similarities and differences.
  • Evaluation:

  •  Students will be able to list at least two similarities and two differences between the stories the teacher reads.


  • Note: There is a web site you may want to refer to for additional versions of the Cinderella story: http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/folktexts.htm/



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