Comparing Japanese Folktales with American Tall Tales
By: Leah Ebel, Brenda Gates, Karen Munch, and Christine Cervera
Featured Children’s Literature:The Adventure of Momotarō, the Peach Boy, by Ralph F. McCarthy
National Content Standards:
K-4 History Standards Topic 4: The History of Peoples of Many Cultures Around the World; Standard 7a: The student understands the cultures and historical developments of selected societies in such places as Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe (Benchmark: Illustrate or retell the main ideas in folktales, legends, myths, and stories of heroism that disclose the history and traditions of various cultures around the world.)
Reading and Writing
Reading Standard 1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions draw from the text.
Reading Standard 2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
Reading Standard 9: Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
Writing Standard 3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
Language Standard 1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Language Standard 2: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
Plan for Assessment:
Students will write the story of Paul Bunyan as a Japanese folktale or will write the story of Momotarō as an American tall tale. A rubric is provided.
This lesson is intended for use in grades 3-6 and will require two or three 45-minute sessions. To adapt for use in primary grades, have students write the stories as a whole class and then individually draw illustrations for the stories. In primary grades, the teacher will need to provide additional guidance for the discussion on story characteristics.
The teacher should be familiar with the Paul Bunyan and Momotarō stories. Paul Bunyan is a classic American tall tale, especially popular in the Midwestern United States. Paul Bunyan is a larger-than-life hero who represents frontier enthusiasm. He is a symbol of strength, the willingness to work hard, and the ability to overcome challenges even larger than he is. Paul Bunyan and his companion Babe the Blue Ox take on gigantic mosquitoes, rainstorms that go on for months, and natural obstructions like mountain ranges. He was first made famous by Midwestern newspapermen in 1910. Paul Bunyan’s stories have been used to explain natural features such as Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes, as well as human activities, such as the massive logging industry in the early 1900s. Each Paul Bunyan tale is slightly different, depending on the region where the story originated.
The name Momotarō translates into Peach Boy (momo=peach, tarō=boy, often added to the end of the firstborn son’s name). T he story takes place in the Edo period (1603-1868 CE); the earliest written version was recorded in 1723. T hree places in Japan claim to be the setting of the story; Okayama prefecture has the strongest association. The story involves an elderly couple who discover a child inside a large peach they found floating down a river. Later in the story, Momotarō leaves his parents to go to Onigashima Island, or Ogre Island, where he has vowed to defeat the oni, or ogres. On his way to the island, he befriends a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant, who vow to help him fight the oni. With the help of his new friends, Momotar ō defeats the oni and returns victoriously to his parents. Many different versions of this legendary tale are available.
Extensions and Cross-Curricular Ideas:
Resources and References:
Resources for Use in Lesson
Folk Legends: Momotar ō. Kids Web Japan.
Kellogg, Steven. Paul Bunyan 20 th Anniversary Edition. New York: Harper Trophy, 1984.
The Legend of Momotar ō . Okayama Prefecture Webpage. http://www.pref.okayama.jp/kikaku/kokusai/momo/e/momotarou/momotarou.html
Matsutani, Miyoko. Momotar ō , the Peach Boy . Eigoro Futamata, illustrator. Donna Tamaki, translator. New York: Kamishibai for Kids, n.d. http://www.kamishibai.com
McCarthy, Ralph F. The Adventure of Momotarō , the Peach Boy. Ioe Saito, illustrator. New York : Kodansha International,1993.
Paul Bunyan. American Folklore.net. 2008. http://www.americanfolklore.net/paulbunyan.html
Paul Bunyan: The Giant Lumberjack. Brainerd, MN: Paul Bunyan Trail. 2005. http://www.paulbunyantrail.com/talltale.html
References for Teacher Background
Japanese Folklore. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_folklore
Kahara, Nahoko. “From Folktale Hero to Local Symbol: The Transformation of Momotar ō (the Peach Boy) in the Creation of Local Culture.” Waseda Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 25, 2004, pp. 35-61.
Kelley, Jane E. “Analyzing Ideology in a Japanese Fairy Tale.” The Looking Glass, vol. 10, no. 2 (April 2, 2006). http://www.lib.latrobe.edu.au/ojs/index.php/tlg/article/view/101/97
Momotarō. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momotar%C5%8D
Paul Bunyan. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Bunyan
Tall Tale. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tall_tale
The Program for Teaching East Asia at the University of Colorado gratefully acknowledges the support of the Freeman Foundation and Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership in the development of Texts and Contexts: Teaching Japan Through Children's Literature.
Copyright © 2010 Program for Teaching East Asia, University of Colorado. Permission is given to reproduce these lessons for classroom use only. Other reproduction is prohibited without written permission from the Program for Teaching East Asia.