Tag Archives: lesson

The Empty Pot

This story, The Empty Pot, takes place in a town in China where the emperor was seeking a successor.  The emperor organized a competition where every kid in the village received flower seeds, and whoever grew the most beautiful flower would be named the next emperor. Everyone was watering their plants and making them grow and everyone’s flowers were blooming except one. On the day of the end of the competition, this boy’s flower hadn’t grown at all and everyone else had these beautiful blooming flowers. Even though his seed hadn’t bloomed, he brought it to the emperor anyway. It turned out that the seeds the emperor had given all the children had been burnt, so they weren’t supposed to grow. Everyone else had grown these beautiful flowers because they did not use the seeds that they were given and cheated by using their own seeds. This boy then became the next emperor because he had been honest.

This was a story my informant (JL) and her brother were told by their parents when they were growing up. She said her parents loved story time in general and it was a large part of her upbringing. This story in particular stuck with her the most, largely because the characters were Asian but also because the lesson stood out to her.  

There’s a clear lesson in this story about honesty, in a creative format that can clearly stick with people throughout their lives. My interpretation of this story is quite similar to that of my informant. I enjoy seeing diverse representations of culture in the media that I consume, especially when it relates to my identity. I think, like my informant’s experience, that this story is a very easily digestible and successful way to teach children a valuable lesson through an engaging story.

Judgement Day (Yawm Al-Qiyaama)

Original Text:

“يَوْم القِيامةِ”


Yawm Al-Qiyaama


Day of Judgement (Rising)

My informant has been raised in an Islamic pillared family in Lebanon that has not entirely followed all the beliefs that are enforced but has been taught the knowledge about the religion and the information regarding faith and the afterlife.


Judgement Day is known to be one of the most feared moments in Islam as it is also referred to as “The Day of the Rising”, “The Day of Regret” and “The Striking of Calamity.” My informant has stated that this is “the end of all life in our world when the living is stopped, the deceased come back from the dead state they resided in and are put on trial for their time on earth to decide whether they should be sent to the heavens or hell. Some signs of the day of judgement coming are when events such as “phenomena in the Qur’an, the book of Islam, coming to fruition and if satanic entities or ‘the jin’ were to appear on earth.” This allows Muslims to prepare to be judged for their sins and determine whether they are faithfully good. ‘Allah’, otherwise known as their god, will decide if those who are dead will live in everlasting torment and “if those who have performed his tasks may live freely to fulfil their own duties without punishment” for their sins. It is a day that they “fear, but must accept as it the way that god had intended for the world to progress and end” This is depicted as the beginning of the end in Islam and is the moment that all Muslims stay faithful for as it plays a role in whether they will continue to be blessed for their efforts or punished for their sins.


It is believed that Judgement Day within Islamic culture and religion is a pivotal part of their upbringing. Although it is “one of the most important parts of our religion and is an extremely important and heavy topic, [they] usually tell the children of the family when they reach a certain age to begin to teach them about Allah and how to be a devoted Muslim” They have also described that this topic is not brought up amongst other adults much unless “it is in a religious setting or during prayer, to remind [themselves] what [they] are performing good tasks for” as it is seen as a religious conversation that exists within every individual’s mind but is not spoken. They must remember that they are living to be a good person and will be punished otherwise, therefore, the children are taught at a young age to understand the complexity of the event and the importance that is tied to being a good person. 


Although the day of judgment is a religious sacrament and piece of information that exists in texts centuries old, it plays a pivotal role in not only children but adults’ thinking and actions. It allows each individual to perform in a morally good and generous manner that benefits their culture and the way they interact with the rest of society as a whole. The manner in which it is presented may be harsh and present divine and satanic work, but it gives humanity the chance to present themselves in a moral manner to live out the rest of their lives in prosperity and hope that they gain the judgment of a good being by staying faithful to their god and the entirety of society. The idea of those rising from the dead appearing as well brings the concept of ‘nobody is safe’ as it is a state of vulnerability that they are placed in on the day that wreaks havoc, crushing any hope for those whose sins have outweighed their good. It presents the idea of gratitude and allowing those who are fortunate to be grateful for their privileges, which can also be seen in other Islamic holidays such as the month of fasting of Ramadan when they do not eat to be more empathetic to those that are less fortunate and do not have the privilege of eating comfortably.

Laila and The Wolf

Original Text:

ليلى والذئب


Laila Wil Th’ib


Laila and the Wolf

My informant is from Lebanon and has experienced this narrative many times throughout her childhood and has passed it on to her own children.


The story describes Laila, the little girl, “preparing Kaa’k, a Lebanese type of bread and Shaye, a certain Arabic tea to take to her grandmother’s home as she is not feeling well” Once Laila is lectured by her mother about the rules of arab generosity and taught that she “must not listen to the words of others, specifically, not family” as they do not have the same values as their household and may hurt her” Laila is at an intersection in the path and has to choose whether to go down one covered with beauty and the other with darkness. “A hyena emerged from the bush and told Laila to take the path of darkness because there will be a surprise and that she must listen to her elder.” Yet, she continues to her sick grandmother in hopes of curing her with Laila’s love. Once she arrived, Laila had approached her grandmother’s bed and “kissed her forehead to show her love, but noticed it was fur, and that she had big eyes and ears.” Laila uncovered her ‘grandmother’ and revealed a wolf that had eaten her grandmother whole. Once Laila screamed, she alerted a watchman who then killed the wolf and cut open his stomach to save her grandmother” However, the hyena was the wolf’s friend a watched all this, as he planned how he was going to get Laila next”


This tale is merely an oikotype of the famous story of ‘Red Riding Hood’ and presents the tale with some changes such as the introduction of a hyena to the narrative in order to present more lessons in the story. The story was mainly “told to children at a very young age so that they could learn how to effectively live independently in a safe manner” as it has many rules such as ‘don’t listen to strangers’ and ‘respect your parent’s wishes’ or else worse will occur. It places an emphasis on the child being told the narrative as it serves as a lesson for when they are being dealt with “a similar situation to the one being told in the story.” Usually parents, specifically the mom would tell this story “before bed so that the children remember and dream practising it or at the beginning of the day, before they leave the house, especially to families who live in the city” because of the many incidents that occur there.


The mention of a hyena being part of the story reminds children that they must always be aware and stay safe because anyone may wish to hurt them. Although this may traumatize some children, it allows them to gain a harsh understanding of reality and ‘the way the world works’. When presented with the tale, I noticed a few differences between this and the Western-typical story. The changes in the story when speaking of the house customs, the food had been altered to fit the culture and Lebanese standard so that children have an easier time relating it to their own experience and point of view, presenting a more efficient approach to storytelling and lecturing. The middle east is seen to be more transparent in the manner that maturity is approached, they give children the chance to view the world in the brutal form that it is. Some countries are not blessed with the same safety as most of the Western world. This is presented through the violence and gore in the story of the wolf eating the grandmother as it prepares the children for the world they are going to be forced into.

Bake Your Own Cookie

Background provided by NN : NN was born and raised in Southern California. They were raised in a Chinese-American household and experienced many different forms of folklore. 

Context: NN was approached about folklore, they conveyed it through a telephone call. NN says that her father tells this tale whenever they are lazy. They also revealed that this particular folklore had evolved to be a joke after they learned how to cook and bake. 

Main Piece Transcription of interview (contains the context of particular performance and additional background information):

NN: “ So … like … my dad tells me this story … ALL the time. He usually tells me … when he thinks I am being … lazy, or whatever. The story kinda … always begins … with “There was once a rich man” (accompanied by air quotes) who had … like everything done for him. He never had to … umm … lifted a finger … like AT ALL. Servants … wiped his butt, like … fed him,  they did everything for him. (Pauses for effect) One, day, after he got married his, ummm … wife had to … like … uhh … visit her family for the … the … holiday. She baked her husband  a large cookie, and like put in on … a … string  and put it on around his neck. AND she left to visit her family … for … like a week. When she came back home,  she …  her husband was dead.  Like … he was in the same position … like when she left him … and like the cookie around his neck was not eaten. He was too lazy … to even lift the cookie … to like … eat … so he died. My dad would always say something, like … (deepens voice to imitate their father) “See … work won’t kill you, but being lazy will. Do you want to have someone bake your cookie for you … or what.” 

Analysis: This particular short story is has morbid humor. The laziness of the man is obviously dramatized to highlight the importance of hard work. It seems like the story is told orally and had even evolved into a joke amongst close family members. The moral of the story remains despite the context of the perfomance. It also acts as a representation of Chinese values. The lazy man can also be interpreted as subtle commentary on the partriarchal society. The wife had provided substance for her husband, but his choice led to his own demise. Another interesting layer to this tale is the financial component; the lazy man had never done anything for himself because he had the financial means to outsource all his tasks. This tale could have originated from the working-class as way of encouraging their chidren to embrace work instead of focusing on the scarcity of money.

Even Monkeys Can Fall from Trees

Original Phrase: 원숭이도 나무에서 떨어진다
Translation: Even monkeys can fall from trees.

K is a Korean American whose parents are of Korean ancestry. He is currently in college. He says that he had heard this proverb from his parents. This piece is memorable to him because he tries to take this message to heart when it comes to doing anything.

Context: This proverb came up in a discussion about proverbs. There was a back and forth between interesting proverbs and what they meant before this piece came up.

This proverb is very similar to other childhood proverbs in that it uses animals to teach children an important lesson in life. This lesson is that even the best, most specialized people can still fail. So do not be over confident. This is because monkeys are typically seen as adapted to living in trees. They spend all their time swinging from tree to tree, often looking like there isn’t a care in the world. In reality, however, these monkeys will still miss and fall from the tree. This message is pretty important to children as it teaches them to be humble about their skills. If you become arrogant and comfortable with your skills without being sufficiently cautious, you can still fail.