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The Chief and the Wanderer

by Michael Berman

Level: Pre-Intermediate / Intermediate
Target Audience: Adults
Language / Skills Focus: Listening, Speaking & 2nd Conditional
Materials: Photocopies of the worksheets to hand out after the storytelling.

IN CLASS

Pre-listening: You could start with a brainstorming session to find out what the learners know about the place where the story comes from. The learners could be asked to prepare this in advance of the lesson, and they could do so by carrying out an internet search.

Post-listening: Hand out the worksheets. The learners can work on the activities individually, and then pair up or get into groups to compare their answers.

Reconstruct the story by putting the following sentences in the correct order: 1-a / 2-f / 3-h / 4-d / 5-g / 6-b /7-c / 8-e

COMMENTS

The Chief and the Wanderer is a traditional Dargi folktale. Known as the “land of the mountains,” Dagestan lies immediately north of the Caucasus Mountains, and stretches for approximately 250 miles along the west shore of the Caspian Sea. It has been described as “the tip end of Europe. The Caucasus range is the boundary between the two continents, … and the wall of separation between the Christian and the Mohammedan worlds” (Curtis, 1911, p.228). Today, however, the situation is of course not so clear cut. With its mountainous terrain making travel and communication difficult, Dagestan is still largely tribal and, unlike in most other parts of Russia, the population (2,576,531 in 2002) is rapidly growing. There are 31 distinct ethnic groups, each with its own language, and Avar is the most widely spoken with about 700,000 speakers. To give some idea of the problems caused by the linguistic mix, despite the fact that Dargi and Avar are neighbours they are in fact mutually incomprehensible languages (see Chenciner et al, 1997, p.9).

THE STORY

A tribal chief met a wanderer.

The chief said: “You’ve been to a lot of places, you’ve met a lot of people, tell me a good story.”

“There’s no better story on earth than about man’s death,” said the wanderer.

“That’s not the kind of story I want to hear” said the chief in anger. “Tell me another one,” said the ruler.

“The fact that a man who dies doesn’t return for a second time is a good one too,” said the wanderer. But this story didn’t make the chief happy either.

“Leave my house, for you’ve told me nothing but bad stories – stories that nobody would want to hear,” said the chief.

“Let me stay until I tell you another story,” said the wanderer. “Listen boss, if the people didn’t die, then all the chiefs born before you would still be here. And if they were present, where would you be then? For if all the dead rulers came back to life again, they would surely rise up and wouldn’t let you carry on being in charge as you are – instead they would probably try to destroy you.”

The chief became happy when he heard this and let the wanderer stay in his house for as long as he wanted to – now that he understood how lucky he was!

THE CHIEF AND THE WANDERER: WORKSHEET

Reconstruct the story by putting the following sentences in the correct order:

a) A tribal chief met a wanderer.

b) “Leave my house, for you’ve told me nothing but bad stories – stories that nobody would want to hear,” said the chief.

c) “Let me stay until I tell you another story,” said the wanderer. “Listen boss, if the people didn’t die, then all the chiefs born before you would still be here. And if they were present, where would you be then? For if all the dead rulers came back to life again, they would surely rise up and wouldn’t let you carry on being in charge as you are – instead they would probably try to destroy you.”

d) “That’s not the kind of story I want to hear” said the chief in anger. “Tell me another one,” said the ruler.

e) The chief became happy when he heard this and let the wanderer stay in his house for as long as he wanted to – now that he understood how lucky he was!

f) The chief said: “You’ve been to a lot of places, you’ve met a lot of people, tell me a good story.”

g) “The fact that a man who dies doesn’t return for a second time is a good one too,” said the wanderer. But this story didn’t make the chief happy either.

h) “There’s no better story on earth than about man’s death,” said the wanderer.

1 _____ 2 _____ 3 _____ 4 _____ 5 _____ 6 _____ 7 _____ 8 _____ 9 _____

Work in groups. Discuss the following questions, then choose a representative to report back to the rest of the class with your findings:

a. Who do you know who has lots of stories to tell?
b. Why do you think that is?
c. What’s the secret to being able to tell a good story?
d. What story have you heard recently that perhaps led to you re-evaluating your life? Tell the person sitting next to you about it.

Continue the following line of speculation:
If people didn’t die, the world would be overcrowded. If the world were overcrowded …

Now do the same with the following:
If people didn’t die, we wouldn’t miss them. If we didn’t miss them…

When you have finished, in groups of four, compare your endings with the endings of the others in your group

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