Today, rather than going too deeply into the plot of this week’s story, I wish to reflect on the essence of it. The name of this tale is “Turtle’s Race with Wolf,” and it can be found in the same compilation that I have been using and will probably continue to use throughout the year, The Girl Who Helped Thunder, retold by Joseph Bruhac, Sr. and Joseph Bruhac, Ph.D.
Because of the title, the children pick up on the plot right away. Our world is full of ancient indigenous tales about a tortoise having to outsmart some kind of bully who wants to humiliate him in a race. I’ve read tales about a wolf, a deer, and the usual rabbit that want to take a cheap shot at turtle. In all situations, the tortoise uses his cunning to defeat the bully.
I introduce this story by telling the students about the Seminole people from which the story came. Through use of their wits, intimate knowledge of their Everglade swamp terrain, and the strength of family relations, the Seminole tribe was able to survive the genocide, disease, and land theft enacted on most of the Native American peoples. Today, the Seminole Tribe of Florida is a Federally Recognized Indian Tribe, the only tribe in America who never signed a peace treaty. You can learn more about them at http://www.semtribe.com.
I personally take a lot of inspiration from this story since survival under powerful oppression is a phenomenon of heroes. The kids really enjoyed acting out this race, especially the part where we sing this taunting song,
You cannot catch me
You cannot catch me
and soon your bones
will be covered in flies.
This is a very powerful story for bully prevention. When the turtle taunts and outsmarts the Wolf by wits and banding together with his six cousins, he shines a light on how the weak banded together can be strong. There’s a feeling of justice over fear, and I love it! It is only when we are isolated and afraid that we can fall prey to a bully. This is a story which I hope will come back to my students whenever they are feeling picked on.
Speaking of which, if you could share the story of hundreds Egyptians facing mass executions for peacefully protesting with your children in your own way to let them know that there are bullies today who still need to be told that their behavior is unacceptable to people like you who embody human dignity and the right to speak one’s Truth openly, peacefully, and without reprisal.
Maybe you could make the call to John Kerry while your child is listening to model how adults speak their Truth calmly and firmly. What an opportunity to be apart of global movements and your child’s developing sense of Justice at the same time! (You can use this website to make the call and use social media to express your support for Human Rights: http://www.avaaz.org/en/egypt_call_in/?tECBFab.)
Poses I will feature in this story:
Adho Mukha Svanasana: Upward Dog- This pose will represent the Wolf in the story.
Upavistha Konasana: Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend- Otherwise known as seated straddle, this pose will represent Turtle when he and the Wolf is conversing back and forth. We will spend some time before the story starts breathing in this pose in order to prepare the hips for the story. (Note: Spending time breathing into seated straddle and butterfly pose before the story helps to open the hips. I stress to my students to only open their legs as far as feels good to them. It is important to be gentle and breath into poses in order to avoid cramping.)
Mandukasana: Frog Pose- We will use this pose at the end of the story when the seven turtle cousins gather around to sing their taunting song one last time around the collapsed body of wolf. Our hips should be fairly open in the end by all the seated straddle we will be doing.