In most folktales, science never plays a role. The characters’ problems take place because they don’t understand the world around them. Understanding the world means thinking like a scientist. Scientists analyze events; they look for cause and effect. And they make changes to prevent repeating mistakes. A scientific attitude can make the
difference between being frightened and feeling confident. A scientific approach to life enables people to learn and adapt, rather than live in fear. Perhaps, science could be used as a solution to some folktale problems.
In the original folktales, Chicken Little felt something land on her head and became frightened that the sky was falling. Goldilocks became frightened when the Three Bears found her sleeping in their house, after she had eaten their porridge and broken their furniture. The Three Little Pigs were afraid that the Big Bad Wolf planned to eat them.
What if Chicken Little did an experiment to find out if the sky was falling? What if Goldilocks knew how to repair the things she broke? What if the Three Little Pigs knew how to build wolf-proof houses? And better yet, what if they knew how to make good use of all that huffing and puffing?
Do you ever wonder how folktales would come out differently if the protagonists knew some scientific principles?
Let’s Think about Science in Folk Tales
Chicken Little thought the sky was falling because an acorn fell on her head. Her friends all went to tell the king this scary story. But on the way to the King’s palace, Foxy Woxy caught them and tricked them – because they didn’t know about foxes or how to avoid their foxy tricks. But what if Chicken Little was a scientist? What if her friend Henny Penny liked to do experiments? What if their other friends, Goosey Loosey and Turkey Lurkey did experiments, too? And what if they discovered how gravity works? Could they use their new knowledge to defeat Foxy Woxy? Would Chicken Little become the next Sir Isaac Newton?
Goldilocks walked into the Three Bears’ home while they were out for a walk. She ate their porridge. She broke their furniture, and then she slept in one of their beds. She’s just a child. Maybe she didn’t know better. But what if she knew how to cool the hot porridge? What if she knew how to use a screwdriver to repair the chair she broke? What if she left the Three Bears’ home better than she found it? And best-of-all, what if she could help Baby Bear with a problem, when the bears came back from their walk?
Knowing how to use the six simple machines can make a real difference in the quality of life.
Goldilocks could become a welcome guest in the Three Bears’ home.
In the original version of The Three Little Pigs, only one pig knows how to build a wolf-proof house. Suppose all three of the little pigs had been to architecture school and all three built safe sturdy wolf-proof homes? Then, when the wolf came by and did his huffing and puffing, he couldn’t blow any of their houses down. Still, none of the three pigs could go out of their houses, because without walls and a roof to protect them, the wolf could eat them. In this situation, safe houses aren’t enough. The pigs still need more science. Now we have three
hungry pigs and one hungry wolf. And none of them are going anywhere to solve their mutual problem. But there’s still all that huffing and puffing to deal with. That huffing and puffing has to be good for something. Can our story characters use the huffing and puffing to make food for them all to eat? Can it enable them
all to become friends?
Folktales present characters with problems they need to solve…
Often the solutions in the original stories are violent. Violence is not something we want to teach our children. Violence is not a good solution to life’s problems. Wolves shouldn’t get to trap foolish animals, just because they made a mistake and thought the sky was falling. Goldilocks shouldn’t be chased away from the Three Bears’ home as if she was a criminal. And that hungry wolf shouldn’t become stew for the three little pigs to eat. Peaceful solutions for these problems do exist. Science can provide us with answers.
Chicken Little and her friends can discover how gravity works.
Goldilocks can learn to use the six simple machines to fix what she breaks.
The Three Little Pigs can figure out that what seems to be a problem is often just a resource out of place. That huffing and puffing can be used to grind wheat and feed them all. I’ve created a series of Science Folktales. All of them have peaceful, productive solutions. And readers can learn some scientific principles as they watch the
characters solve their problems in ways that benefit everybody. A scientific attitude prevents the need for violence, and opens up new peaceful solutions to once scary problems. You can probably think of folktales that you would like to see have happy endings, solutions that are mutually beneficial for all the characters.
Lois’s Books are:
Chicken Little Investigates
Huff…Puff…Grind! The 3 Little Pigs Get Smart
Fee, Fi, Fo, Grow! The Real Magic of the Beans (a retelling of Jack and the
Goldilocks and the Six Simple Machines
Little Red, The Detective (a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood)
And soon to be published:
The Fairest of the All (a retelling of Snow White)
Saving the Gingerbread House (A retelling of Hansel and Gretel)
Is That the Wrong Egg? (A retelling of The Ugly Duckling)