RUDYARD KIPLING S JUST SO STORIES

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1 RUDYARD KIPLING S JUST SO STORIES Based on the stories of Rudyard Kipling Adapted for the stage by Gayle Cornelison A California Theatre Center Study Guide for Teachers and Students SYNOPSIS Just So Stories features stage adaptations of four famous Rudyard Kipling stories: The Cat That Walked by Himself takes place in a time when all the animals were wild, when there were no pets like today. The story begins with a man and woman moving out of the Wet Wild Woods into a cave for the first time and discovering that wood is used to make fire, not to be eaten! The dog agrees to help the man and woman by guarding their cave and helping them hunt forever in exchange for some tasty bones. The horse agrees to help the man hunt if he is fed grain three times a day. But the cat, not content to admit that someone else is

2 boss, tricks the family into letting him into the cave while still being allowed to walk by himself. How the Camel Got His Hump features the dog and horse from the previous story as they begin to work for man. While working, they notice a lazy animal that walks around the howling desert eating weeds and prickles and not doing much of anything. When asked to join them in their work for man, the camel just replies, Humph! Not an enthusiastic response. When the magical Djinn, who is in charge of all deserts, hears of the camel s laziness, he tries to get the camel to work. The Djinn fails as well, and turns the camel s humph into a permanent hump on his back which the camel will forever carry. How the Whale Got His Throat is the story of a hungry whale who has eaten almost all of the fish in the sea all but one! The final living fish, a stute fish, convinces the whale to eat a man on a raft in the middle of the sea. The whale swallows the fisherman whole, but the man, using only his suspenders and jack-knife, is able to trick the whale into letting him go while at the same time ensuring that the whale will never eat people again. How the First Letter Was Written takes place in a time before there was an alphabet or any written language of any kind. It tells the story of a girl who goes fishing with her father and then wishes there was a way she could get a message to her mother to bring them another spear. When a stranger appears who doesn t speak the same language, the girl tries to draw what she means. She ends up creating not only massive confusion, but also the first word-pictures, and thus the first letters are written! GENERAL DISCUSSION 1. Folk tales often give fun and interesting explanations of why things are the way they are or how things came to be. Did you enjoy the explanations that the play gave for why cats are less obedient than dogs, why the camel has a hump, why the whale cannot swallow people, and why we have writing? 2. Discuss what it means to walk by oneself. Do you prefer to be part of a group or to do things by yourself? What are the advantages of teamwork? 3. The horse, dog, and Djinn all think that it was unfair for the camel not to help them with their work. Do you agree? What do you think of the way the Djinn punished the camel for laziness? What are some other ways the characters could have convinced the camel to help them? 4. How did you feel about the ending of the story of the whale? Did you think it was unfair for the stute fish and the fisherman to trick the whale, or were you happy that the fisherman found a clever way to save himself? Are there times when it can be alright to trick someone?

3 5. Discuss the misunderstanding that happens in How the First Letter was Written. Why does the stranger get confused about the girl s message? What does this story tell us about the importance of clear communication? LITERATURE & LANGUAGE ARTS 1. All of these stories are, in some way, origin stories: stories that explain how something in our world came to be the way that it is. For three of the four stories, the title even tells you what it is that the story is going to explain. Why would someone write an origin story? Why do you think origin stories were written in the past, before science explained many of the answers to people s questions? a. Find some other origin stories and read them as a class. These are often myths or folktales. Compare the explanations that these stories give to the ones found in our play. b. Do Kipling s reasons for why things are the way they are make sense? How does your class think the camel got his hump? The whale his throat? Which story was the most believable? 2. Rudyard Kipling wrote many short stories and stories for children throughout his life, including the famous story The Jungle Book. Research more about Rudyard Kipling s life. How do you think the places he lived or traveled influenced his stories? a. Read some other stories by Rudyard Kipling. Do they have any similarities to the stories you saw in our play? Do they also explain how something came to be? Do they use animal characters? 3. Animal characters are frequently used in short stories and folk tales. Often, certain animals will end up having similar personalities in many folk tales, even if the stories were written by different people. (The cat, for example, is often portrayed as being cunning and loving freedom, and the dog is loyal and friendly.) Can you find any other stories that involve animal characters? What about stories that involve the same animals from Just So Stories? Are the individual animals portrayed in similar or different ways between one story and another? CREATIVE WRITING 1. Create your own Just So Stories. Try to make up a reason why something is the way it is the more creative, the better! Examples might be: why the sun shines during the day and the moon at night; why the seasons change; why dogs, cats, and mice all chase each other. 2. An epilogue is a short chapter or speech at the end of a story that summarizes what happens to all of the characters once the story is over. Write an epilogue for any of the four stories from the play. One suggestion might be

4 to write an epilogue from the point of view of the camel or the whale discussing how they feel about being tricked. VISUAL ARTS 1. Make up your own alphabet. Can you draw pictures that represent meaning? Can you tell a story using picture-letters? Try to interpret each other s letters and see how close you can get to guessing the meaning. a. Try and write your own version of the message in How the First Letter Was Written. How clear are the alphabets that you and your classmates come up with? 2. Pick one of the animals from the play and draw a picture of what you think that animal looks like. Does anything in your drawing resemble the costumes of the actors onstage? Was the animal costume the same color as your drawing? Did it have the same features, such as whiskers, ears, or a tail? a. In The Cat Who Walks by Himself, the man and woman move to the cave to find shelter from the Wet Wild Woods. Imagine what the Wet Wild Woods might have looked like, and what the world might have looked like before there were houses and other buildings. DRAMATIC ARTS 1. This play features many actors playing animals. What did the performers do to make it clear to the audience that they were not playing human characters? Were there specific things that they did with their voices or bodies? a. As a class exercise, have everyone try and see how they would move if they were pretending to be a certain kind of animal. Have them go through a full day as their animal: waking up, eating, wandering around their favorite place, and going back to sleep. If you have volunteers, have each student show their routine and see if the class can guess what kind of animal they were pretending to be. 2. This play involves the same group of actors playing a number of different roles. Were you able to recognize the same actor appearing multiple times? How did they make each character different? 3. Acting involves using both your voice and your body to communicate and tell a story. One way of telling a story through movement is called mime, which means acting something out without making any noise. Try and see if you can communicate a message like the one in How the First Letter Was Written without using any words or sounds. SOCIAL STUDIES 1. These stories take place in very different settings: the Wet Wild Woods, the desert, the ocean, and a jungle river. With your teacher s help, find real

5 forests, deserts, oceans, and jungles on a map or globe and discuss what you think life would be like in that environment. 2. Rudyard Kipling traveled a great deal in his life, living for large amounts of time in India, England, and the United States, as well as traveling to countries such as Japan and South Africa. Look up some information about these countries. Can you imagine how any of these places might have inspired some of his stories? In which of these countries would he be most likely to find a desert? A jungle? A forest? 3. One of the biggest reasons for the confusion in How the First Letter Was Written is that the stranger and the young girl do not speak the same language. How many people in your class know some words in another language? Does anyone speak another language fluently or know someone who can? How many languages can your class come up with? SCIENCE 1. In How the Camel Got His Hump, Rudyard Kipling suggests a very fantastical reason for why camels have humps. Do some research and find out the scientific reason for having a hump. How does having a hump actually help the camel do its work? a. There are two different types of camels with different names, depending on how many humps they have. Can you find the names of these two types of camels? 2. Many whales really do have something in their mouth that resembles the fisherman s invention. It is called a baleen. Look up what a baleen is and how it affects the way whales eat and as the play demonstrates what they can or cannot eat. Research a few different species of whale. How many of them have a baleen in their mouth? Do baleen whales tend to be larger or smaller than toothed whales? WRITE TO CTC! After watching the play, write us a letter about it. Tell what you liked or disliked about the story, the characters, costumes, set, or anything else you observed. Support your thoughts with examples and reasons. (Teacher s comments are also appreciated!) Mail to: CTC P.O. Box 2007 Sunnyvale, CA 94087

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