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17.8 From Personal to Public Writing: Fun With Writing

The Fictionary Game

Here are two folk tales about how mosquitoes came into the world. One is Vietnamese and the other is Tlingit (Native culture of the Pacific Northwest). Both are presented incomplete, requiring you to write the endings. Pick one of the tales and, working alone or in pairs, follow these steps:

1. Read the tale and imagine how it might end. Remember that it must explain something about the origin of mosquitoes. Write one paragraph to complete the tale.

2. Don't show your paragraph to anyone else. Print out your ending and put it face down in a pile with other students' endings.

3. Get a teacher or monitor to look up the original ending to the story, copy it onto the same word processing program that the rest of the class is using, and print it out, shuffling it into the pile with all the others.

4. When all entries are in, the monitor reads them aloud and students vote on which one is the best ending. The ending that gets the most votes wins. Try to beat the original ending.

(ALTERNATIVE step 4) When all entries are in, the class goes on to other activities and the monitor prepares a hand-out for a later session. The hand-out includes a printed version of the first two paragraphs of the tale, followed by all the endings (including the original one mixed in). By cutting and pasting so that 3-6 endings fit on each sheet of paper, the monitor can keep the packet light for copying. After a week or so, the monitor distributes copies of the packet to students, who reread the tale and examine all the endings before voting.

Vietnamese Tale
Long ago Ngoc Tam and his wife Nham Diep lived on a small farm where they raised rice and silkworms. But Diep hated to work. She dreamed of living some day in a grand house with many servants, where she would wear silk instead of caring for worms. One day, when Tam was out in the rice fields, Diep became ill with a disease that moved quickly through her body. By the time Tam got home, Diep was dying, and Tam's prayers couldn't save her. But as Diep died, a voice spoke to Tam, telling him to take Diep's body to the magic mountain in the sea. So Tam put Diep's body in an old boat and rowed for days to the mountain. He carried her up a steep path and laid her down in a cool field. As he knelt by her body, a very wrinkled old man with bright eyes appeared and told Tam to prick his own finger and let three drops of blood fall onto Diep's pale face. As Tam obeyed, Diep's eyes flickered open, and she smiled up at him, alive and well.

The old man explained to Diep that in her new life she must be faithful and hard-working, and then he disappeared. Tam and Diep ran happily down to the boat, and Tam rowed with new strength toward home. At the village on the shore, Tam went to buy supplies. Diep waited by the lake and watched a great, elegant boat come in to the dock. The rich merchant who owned the boat was charmed by Diep's now rosy cheeks, and offered her a cup of tea aboard his boat. She sang for him and he fell in love, offering to marry her and take her to fine places. This was what Diep had always dreamed of, and she accepted immediately. They were gone when Tam returned. An old fisherman told Tam what had happened, and Tam traveled for days to find the merchant's elegant house. In the garden, he found Diep dressed in silk and cutting flowers. She told him how happy she was, and that she would never leave her new life as the merchant's wife. . . .

— "Cherry Blossoms" by Lê Tri Dung

Tlingit Tale
Long ago there was a giant who loved to eat human flesh, especially human hearts. When he was thirsty, he slurped down human blood. The people fled at first, but then they realized they had to make a plan for getting rid of this terrible threat. They called a council and talked all night. Finally one man said, "I have an idea. Leave this to me." He went alone to the field and lay down, pretending to be dead.

Before too long the giant came by and couldn't believe his luck. He leaned down and touched the man, pleased to see that the body was still warm and fresh. He licked his lips, thinking of the tasty heart he'd soon be chewing and the blood he could sip, so he threw the man over his shoulder and took him home to the giant fireplace in his cave. But there was no firewood.

Grumbling, the giant left the man on the floor and went out for wood.

Immediately the man lept up and grabbed the giant's skinning knife, and just in time, because the giant's son arrived at the door of the cave, bending down to enter. The man thrust the huge knife high over his head and just touched the tender skin of the child giant's neck, shouting, "Where does your father hold his heart?" The giant boy was frightened, and answered, "In his left heel." Hearing the giant's footsteps approaching, the man let the boy run away and aimed the great knife toward where he knew the ugly left heel would appear in the doorway. . . .

For MONITORS only: Vietnamese Tale || Tlingit Tale

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