ECOLOGY STORIES AND SOURCESOnce there was a wise old man. He was so wise he could answer any question anyone ever asked him, no matter how difficult. One day, two young people were talking and they said, “We're going to fool that old man. We'll catch a bird, and go to the old man, and say, 'This that we hold in our hands today, is it alive or is it dead?' If he says 'Dead,' we'll turn it loose and let it fly, and if he says 'Alive,' we'll crush it.”
So they caught a bird, and they carried it to that old man, and they said, “This that we hold in our hands today, is it alive or is it dead?” And that wise old man looked at those young people and he smiled. And he said, “It's in your hands.”
Susan Griffin pointed this story out to me in a book of speeches by women. Fannie Lou Hamer had ended a speech with it at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Institute in 1971. As I tell it around, people tell me that they have found it in other sources as well. Ms. Hamer was talking about “The Special Plight and the Role of Black Women,” but the story can apply to any problem, any choices people need to make. I have been using it in ecology programs, along with some of the following stories:
All God's Critters Got a Place in the Choir, words and music by Bill Staines, illustrated by Margot Zemach. Dutton, 1989.|
A joyous celebration of all animal and human life. All ages.
Animalia by Barbara Berger. Celestial Arts, 1982.
Buffalo Gals and other Animal Presences. LeGuin, Ursula. ROC Fantasy, 1990. [c. 1987, Capra.]
“Come Again in the Spring” in Richard Kennedy's Collected Stories. Harper, 1987.
“Coyote at the Movies” in Coyote's Journal, edited by James Koller and others, illustrated by Harry Fonseca. Wingbow, 1982.
“The Crocodile in the Bedroom” from Fables by Arnold Lobel. Harper, 1980.
Crow Boy by Taro Yashima. Viking, 1955.
Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep by Eleanor Farjeon, illus. Charlotte Voake. Candlewick Press, 2000.
Flossie and the Fox by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by Rachel Isadora. Dial, 1986.
“The Golden Earth” from Fire on the Mountain and Other Ethiopian Stories by Harold Courlander and George Herzog. Holt, 1949.
Hamanaka, Sheila. Screen of Frogs: An Old
Tale. Orchard, 1993.
Her Seven Brothers, retold and illustrated by Paul Goble. Bradbury, 1988.
Hidden Stories in Plants: Unusual and easy-to-tell stories from around the world together with creative things to do while telling them, by Anne Pellowski. Macmillan, 1990.
The Invisible Hunters/Los Cazadores Invisibles by Harriet Rohmer, Octavio Chow, and Morris Vidaure, illustrated by Joe Sam. Children's Book Press, 1987.
“Justice” from The Devil's Other Storybook by Natalie Babbitt. Farrar, 1987.
Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children by Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac. Fulcrum, 1988.
The Legend of the Bluebonnet retold and illustrated by Tomie de Paola. Putnam, 1983.
“The Lion-Makers” from the Panchanantra, translated by Arthur Ryder. Also in More Best-Loved Stories Told at the National
Storytelling Festival. National Storytelling Press, 1992.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. Viking, 1982.
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe. Lothrop, 1987.
Nine-in-One Grr! Grr! told by Blia Xiong, adapted by Cathy Spagnoli, illustrated by Nancy Hom.
Ntombi's Song, by Jenny Seed, illustrated by Anno Berry. Beacon, 1989.
The People Who Hugged the Trees: An Environmental Folk Tale, adapted by Deborah Lee Rose, illustrated by Birgitta Saflund. Roberts Rinehart, 1990.
“The Rice-Puller of Chaohwa” from The Tiger's Whisker and Other Tales from Asia and the Pacific by Harold Courlander. Harcourt, 1959.
Save My Rainforest by Monica Zak, Volcano Press, 1992.
“Slower Than the Rest” from Every Living Thing by Cynthia Rylant. Bradbury, 1985.
Song of the Trees by Mildred D. Taylor, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Dial, 1975.
“The Strange Folding Screen” from Men from the Village Deep in the Mountains and other Japanese Folk Tales compiled by Molly Bang, translated and illustrated by Garreth Bang. MacMillan, o.p.
“The Tailor” in the introduction to Just Enough to Make a Story by Nancy Schimmel. Sisters' Choice, 1982.
The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks retold by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Dutton, 1990.
“Talk” from The Cow Tail Switch by Harold Courlander and George Herzog. Hold, 1975, c. 1947. Also in Best Loved Folktales of the World, edited by Joanna Cole. Doubleday, 1982.
“Umai” from The Inland Whale by Theodora Kroeber. University of California Press, 1959.
“Werburgh and the Troublesome Geese” from The Giant at the Ford and Other Legends of the Saints by Ursula Synge. Atheneum, 1980.
The Wounded Wolf by Jean Craighead George. Harper, 1978.
Why the Sky is Far Away by Mary-Joan Gerson. Little, Brown, 1992.
Ecology Stories to Tell is updated from Just Enough to Make a Story: A Sourcebook for Storytellers by Nancy Schimmel (Sisters' Choice, 1992) and may be reproduced in its entirety only, including introduction and credits, by any library, school or other non-profit organization, without permission. (Remember to use recycled paper.)