Child_lit Listserv Discussion Archive 

Tikki Tikki Tembo and Cultural Accuracy in Folktales

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4 Jun 1998 
Shwu-yi Leu 

I hope that people realize that "Tikki Tikki Tembo" contains very INCORRECT information about Chinese culture. Naming your first child a long long name and, second child, a name of "little or nothing," is NOT TRUE at all in Chinese culture. "Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo" simply bears no resemblance to a Chinese name. People ususally have two or just one characters for their given names. In Chinese culture, it is important to understand that one needs to know the meaning of a 
character when naming a child. The length of the name has no importance. Also, "Chang" is NOT "little or nothing." The author should have done some homework before writing the story. 

What's even more disturbing is that the introduction written inside the book jacket made the story sound like a real folklore. Here's the first paragraph: 

"What's in a name? A great deal, according to the Chinese of long ago, who honored their "first and honored" son with a grand long name but gave their second sons, of little importance, hardly any name at all! This special treatment of heirs is delightfully put down by Arlene Mosel in her humorous retelling of a favorite folktale of how the Chinese came to give ALL their children short names..." 


4 Jun 1998 
Mark Matthews 

'"Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo" simply bears no resemblance to a Chinese name. People ususally have two or just one characters for their given names.' 

Wait a second! This tale is an explanation of why Chinese *do* give just one or two characters to their children. Your complaint is sort of like saying, "hey, Kipling, but elephants do have long trunks!" 

That this is not a retold folktale does amaze me. Why would the author of such a memorable tale agree to having the the words "retold by" on the cover? Marketing? Please send more evidence of this. 

And frankly, if the author did make it up, what harm is there in it? Really now! The book explains a truth--that Chinese give short names to their children. That the truth is explained with a falsehood is mere fun; mere storytelling--harming no one. 



5 Jun 1998 
Helen Schinske 

I have read this book to my children many times and have always been bothered by a few things in it. The sentence about "Her second son she named Chang, which meant 'little or nothing' " always seemed to me to contain a typo -- it shouldn't have quotation marks around "little or nothing." (I.e., I interpreted it 
as saying that the name Chang didn't have a whole lot of meaning, which I'm sure is not actually true.) I wondered about the structure of Tikki tikki tembo, etc., which sounded to me like a take-off on a Japanese name. Also, when one of the boys "bowed his little head clear to the sand" the picture shows him leaning BACKWARD! Now, you'd think Blair Lent (the artist) would know that bowing means leaning forward! 

In fact, I have meant for a long time to ask Child_Lit if this is a real Chinese story or not, so am glad this came up. It always sounded to me as if the end was changed a little, that in fact Tikki tikki tembo might have actually drowned in the well, but that's speculation. 

I think Doyle60 is right.But I don't agree that "there's no harm in it" if Arlene Mosel did just make the story up. IF she had published it as her OWN fiction, no problem at all. But I think it is wrong to say that a story is part of a particular culture, when it isn't. It's just bad history, like saying that Little Black Sambo is out of the Jakartas. I hope it turns out there is a real folktale in back of this after all. 



5 Jun 1998 
Mark Matthews 

One point in my post could have been misinterpreted, so let me be perfectly clear: 

Writing your own folktale and calling it "retold," for whatever purpose, is shameful. I have no idea if this is indeed true with Tikki Tikki Tembo. 

I thought my post was clear on that. 



5 Jun 1998 
liTtLe RicE (fairrosa) 

Morsel retold it, obviously, (even though I can't at present remember or find it) from ANOTHER collection of stories -- which claims the origin of this story. She did not make up the story. 

Just want to clarify this part. As to the NAME and the AUTHENTICITY of this tale... it needs quite a bit 
of investigation before we can blame anyone for any falsehood. 

What if the collector of folktales went to China, met an elderly person who happened to be one who MADE up stories all the time and MADE up an amusing tale about how CHINESE names are so short .. FOLKLORE does not have to mean SHARED by thousands of people or hundreds of generations, does it? 

It did bother me and I guess it still does bother me that this tale doesn't quite seem "TRUE" -- although completely amusing and wonderful in its telling. I guess I'm riding the fence on this one. 


6 Jun 1998 
Mary Oliarnyk 

I read Morsel's book to my children in the 1960's and 70's. I was delighted to find it then because my mother always TOLD the story to my sister and me when we were very young in the 40's. Her mother and aunt had told it to her when she was young. So it certainly has an oral history in our family. My grandmother's father had in fact spent some time in China in the late 19th century, but I doubt he brought the story back with him. The English (and North Americans) were fascinated by the exotic Far East at the time (Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado comes immediately to mind) and I imagine some English person just made up the tale, and of course it probably does not have any ethnic accuracy. I think people probably loved to tell the story because of the wonderful repetition of the name. I know that's what we loved as children. 

So is this a folktale? An English folktale set in China? It's certainly true that Morsel RETOLD it. 


6 Jun 1998 
Karen Ulric 

A different version of Tikki Tikki Tembo also appears in "The Frog's Saddle Horse and other tales" selected by Jeanne B. Hardendorff, published in 1968. (Same year as Mosel's book). 

Hardendorff cites another book, which I don't have :(, as her source. This is "Through Storyland with the Children" by the National Association of Junior Chatauqua Directors,introduction by Georgene Faulkner, c. 1924 by Fleming H. Revell, Co. (LC 24-22123, 153 p.) 

This version begins "A long time ago, in old Japan..." and the name is slightly different (and even longer!): "Tikki-tikki-tembo No sa rembo Hari bari brooshki Peri pen do Hiki pon pom Nichi no miano Dom boriko" 

If anyone has "Through Storyland..." let me know if there is any more source information included. 


6 Jun 1998 
Jiening Ruan 

"Tikki Tikki Tembo" is a very absurd "Chinese" story. In fact, Chang is a family name. So far as I know, there is no meaning in Chinese family names. I do think that a story as harmful if it tried to teach readers about another culture but with inaccurate cultural facts. 


7 Jun 1998 
ARIKO KAWABATA 

Dear list members; This kind of a story, of a child who has a long long absurd name, is a Japanese old folk tale. We are very much familiar with this funny story, which is made into a "Rakugo", the traditional story telling by a professional to make people laugh. The name itself is different from the that in the Chinese story in question, but in Japan too, that long name is not an authentic Japanese name. But the child was named to have a long long life and the name itself reflected the hope of his parents. Of course that name is the main source of funniness of the story. I don't know the retold version by Morsel. But it is based on a Japanese Old Folk Tale. 


6 Jun 1998 
liTtLe RicE (fairrosa) 

Um.. Chang of course CAN be a surname -- however, since Chinese is NOT an alphabetical language -- using the English notation system is never adequate to denote Chinese words. If you open a Chinese dictionary, you can see that the SOUND chang when matched with the four tones (... please note: it depends on WHICH transliteration system you're using) may represent many words meaning as varied as: "a piece" (of paper); "long"; "grow"; "a yard"; "high tide"; "prosperous"; "war"; "palm" (of the hand); "sing"; "taste" etc. I can't identify a word meaning "little or nothing" represented by this sound, though. 

And, many Chinese family names DO Have their own original meanings My family name is Hsu (pronounced more or less like SHUI) which repeated twice and combined with the word WIND, means SLOW and GENTLE. Hsu Hsu De Fong = Slow and gently blowing wind. And WONG (or WANG) is king .. 

So, you can see, how complicated this whole "Language Authenticity" business can be and it is HARD to be so well-informed ourselves when we are just gathering other people's information and pass it on. 

Thanks, Karen, that was the collection we found this story in, right? And.. yeah, it was supposed to be a Japanese tale! 


7 Jun 1998 
Mark Matthews 

'"Tikki Tikki Tembo" is a very absurd "Chinese" story. In fact, Chang is a family name. So far as I know, there is no meaning in Chinese family names. I do think that a story is harmful if it tried to teach readers about another culture but with inaccurate cultural facts.' 

But come on, here! Some incorrect details may not be harmful. For argument's sake, let's say there is no known dialect where "Chang" means "small." Yes, perhaps the author could have done better. But only through forcing your imagination with hypothetical scenarios can you make this *harmful*. Since this story was published in 1968, no harm yet. 

Many cultural details are incorrect and harmful, but some are petty and should not insult the people of that culture. If you are Chinese and you tell me you are insulted about this little fact, I would not hold any sympathy for you at all. But I would wonder about your real agenda. 

There are thousands of dialects in Chinese and this story takes place long, long ago. In this story there IS a dialect where "Chang" meant "little or nothing." This dialect is lost. 

The original poster on this topic seems to have had the facts wrong and made some pretty strong accusations. How much research was done there? Perhaps as much as Mosel did on "Chang". But Mosel was writing a story. 



7 Jun 1998 
Nancy Torok 

I'm disappointed that I can't find my children's copy of the book, because I'd like to read the relevant text. 

Perhaps we ALL ought to go back and see if the text says, or implies: 

"Chang," meaning "little or nothing" 

- OR - 

"Chang," meaning little or nothing 

The second, of course, would make quite a difference in this discussion. 



7 Jun 1998 
Debbie Reese 

A quote from Sandra Yamate, who founded Polychrome Publishing Corporation (dedicated to producing children's books about Asian-Americans and their experiences): 

"Tikki, Tikki, Tembo purports to explain Asian names but in reality reinforces the stereotype that Asian names sound like nonsense syllables. While Asian names may be distinctly different from European names, that is no reason to dismiss them as some type of gobbledygook." 

The statement is from "Asian Pacific American Children's Literature: Expanding Perceptions About Who Americans Are" in _Using Multiethnic Literature in the K-8 Classroom_ edited by Violet J. Harris. 

My own thoughts - 

Tikki Tikki Tembo reminds me of those martial arts movies in which actors pretend to be speaking a language other than English. They are not really speaking another language, but are reciting jibberish intended to sound like Chinese (or whatever language their characters are supposed to speak). 

So is it the case that, with this book, we are unintentionally making fun of Asian language and names? What may have been ok "once upon a time" is not really ok anymore. People from many ethnic groups are asking for respect for their customs and language. As a society, we are growing increasingly aware of the problematic ways in which we dealt with other cultures in the past. We grow, we change, sometimes reluctantly, our views shift. 

Personally, I have chosen to move this book from my list of favorites to my list of books to use as tools to teach about stereotypes. It joins Five Chinese Brothers and others. 



8 Jun 1998 
Marion 

We're talking about folktales, aren't we, tales or stories of the folk, for the folk, by the folk. I think there are very few people who sit down to write a folktale, tell a folktale or rewrite a folktale with a political agenda in mind. Folklore picks up all sorts of currents & flows on. My late grandparents were Irish yet I tell Irish jokes & my late dad told them & tales about the Irish which were amusing. Never would it have occurred to him that they were against an ethnic group. My dad was a very fairminded man & had a good 
sense of humor & was a good raconteur. I think we can get far too touchy about issues of race or ethnicity. Lets enjoy & pass on the folklore that been passed to us. 



8 Jun 1998 
Shwu-yi Leu 

If I retell a story in China saying that "Yi-gu-wu-tsu-di-da-pe'n-dan" is a name meaning a very beautiful girl in America, is it not harmful to the understanding of American culture? My original post simply 
pointed out the fact that saying length rather than the meaning of a Chinese name bears importance only demonstrates the writer's ignorance about Chinese culture. 

I did consult one of my Japanese friends and she told me that there is a Japanese folktale that has the same story line. 



8 Jun 1998 
Mark Matthews 

"If I retell a story in China saying that "Yi-gu-wu-tsu-di-da-pe'n-dan" is a name meaning a very beautiful 
girl in America, is it not harmful to the understanding of American culture?" 

Not harmful, just ignorant and not clever in the least. The name you chose for an American girl should have imatated our language: Patty-Patty-Mary-Suzy- Ellen-Terry-Besty-Karen-Keri. 

"My original post simply pointed out the fact that length rather than the meaning of a Chinese name bears importance only demonstrates the writer's ignorance about Chinese culture." 

The story states that the names were long AND had meaning. The translation is right there on the first page. Your problem seems to be with this folktale altogether and not with this adaption. The folktale itself shows ignorance, not the adaption. Is it not right for a Chinese teller of tales to make up this story (with his false but deliciously fun and amusing premise) to tell the tale to youngsters of his culture? 



8 Jun 1998 
Mark Matthews 

"Tikki, Tikki, Tembo purports to explain Asian names but in reality reinforces the stereotype that Asian names sound like nonsense syllables. While Asian names may be distinctly different from European names that is no reason to dismiss them as some type of gobbledygook." 

No, it does not purport to explain anything. It purports as much as Kipling's story purports that elephants once had small trunks. It is a story! It is for fun! I believe the original--I could be wrong--was made up by a person of the same culture years ago who invented the long name concept to entertain his listeners. 

All languages that a listener does not speak sound like gobbledygook. Chinese is a mono-syllabic language that has a particular sound which the long name imatates. It would be ridiculous not to imatate it. But mere imatation does not mean it makes fun of it. The originator of this tale most likely got a good laugh when he first spoke the boy's name. 

"My own thoughts - Tikki Tikki Tembo reminds me of those martial arts movies in which actors pretend to be speaking a language other than English." 

Don't make this book take the blame for that. Don't judge this work with that preconceived concept. 

"So is it the case that, with this book, we are unintentionally making fun of Asian language and names?" 

No. What we are making fun of here--or better, what we are enjoying here is a *long* and ridiculous name, not an Asian name. The name happens to be Asian because our characters are. What you are saying is that this story is not right for any culture because if another culture reads it, it must make fun. Think how ridiculous that is. This is a fine concept for a story and any culture. 

"Personally, I have chosen to move this book from my list of favorites to my list of books to use as tools to teach about stereotypes. It joins Five Chinese Brothers and others." 

I feel sorry for the children or others you will teach this to. And what stereotypes are these? Asian names are not long but short, like most names. Asian names sound like gobbledygook like all foreign names do. And Tikki Tikki Tembo did have a gobbledygook of a name which should be laughed at. That is the fun. That is the point. 



8 Jun 1998 
Kay E. Vandergrift 

Keep in mind that while folktales are exactly that--tales of the folk--it does not mean that they are accurate representations or that they bear continued repetition today. Once we become aware that 
something is hurtful, it seems logical to me to discontinue any use of such a tale (except for some potentially scholarly analysis of such folktales). One of the joys of a folktale is often the teaching 
contained within the story. At the same time there is the marvelous wisdom of poking fun at foibles. It is when one crosses a line that the hurt begins. Granted we don't always see the line immediately either through ignorance, bigotry, or simple indifference. Why is it necessary to perpetuate cultural mistakes written at a point in time when it appeared in the eyes of many, including the author/illustrator that they were only creating a wonderful story. Do you really want to read that story to children today? There are 
times to put things aside, knowing that we could hurt a child. This is one such time. 

And so it goes! 



8 Jun 1998 
liTtLe RicE 

I agree with Mark here -- however, let's not forget that this obviously was NOT a Chinese traditional folktale but rather a Japanese one, as someone of THAT heritage has pointed out. And, please also acknolwedge that the string of sounds really MEANS nothing but nonsense in Chinese -- and I agree that, if someone is to retell the story today, maybe they should find a string of sounds that DOES mean what the reteller in this particular version claims it to mean -- you know.. long life, prosperity, and so on and so 
forth. 

And, I do not mind that if Debbie chose to use it to demonstrate "stereotyping" using this particular book -- but please keep in mind that this is STILL quite a GREAT story! And, point out that it had a true origin in Japan. 

The one thing I can't understand is WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE FIVE CHINESE BROTHERS? I Love the story. The pictures are FINE -- are the pictures stereotypes or are they caricatures that artists CAN take the liberty to apply when they see fit? It's like, look at Quentin Blake's drawings of Anglo-Saxon people -- many of them have BIG noses and Big chins -- are we to say that since they look too "formulaic" they should be banned also? I am so comfortable with my heritage and with my identity 
that I don't think any one book or one drawing can harm my image. Please do not HARM by OVERPROTECTING. 

I'll continue to another post about another incident. 



8 Jun 1998 
liTtLe RicE 

Ok. One year we were telling stories in Central Park. One of the storytellers told a (possibly) Latin American tale featuring a NOT very bright young boy, with a common name from that culture (like Jack in the English fairy tales or Hans in German tales). After the telling of the really funny story, one summer camp group leader came to us FURIOUSLY accusing us of being racially discriminating against that culture -- and the reason is that one of the kids is called the same name and now he is going to be made 
fun of by his classmates because that in the story the boy is STUPID. 

Now. Should we, in order to not offend ANYONE, just MAKE up a story with a FAKE name? (then, someone is going to say, "Hey, how dare you use a name that means NOTHING in our culture. You are purportrating something that will be hurtful to our culture because you used a WRONG name -- (Tikki Tikki Tembo syndrom?) 

I think it is more important to teach the NATURE of folktales -- to say that, a culture that can produce stories with Simpletons is a culture with a sense of humor and a sense of wisdom -- because if you do not have intelligence and wisdom, how can you recognize the "FUN" in a silly tale? 

Think of the Juan Bo-Bo stories. Are we to avoid telling those stories because they seem to be showing the Puerto Rican people in an "inferior" light? 

If we become so cautious, what stories can we EVER tell? 



8 Jun 1998 
Ann Dowker 

It's so long since I read 'Tikki tikki tembo' that I can't comment on it; but it may be worth noting that English children's stories sometimes include an element of making fun of very long ENGLISH names. In one of Elinor Brent Dyer's Chalet School books, there is a girl whose aunts have saddled her with the 
name 'Hildegarde Mariana Sophonisba'; but who has sensibly renamed herself Polly. In another, Eustacia is unbearably priggish until she agrees to be called 'Stacie' instead. So it isn't just a cross-cultural issue. 



8 Jun 1998 
Patricia Eastman 

Coming out of long lurkdom to agree with this. Although I like the story, it makes me very uncomfortable to use it with a group of children. As an adult I can read it,and did read it, with an implicite understanding that this was not "true". I had already been exposed to many of different cultures and been "socially educated". I think that there are enough cultural stereotypes without introducing any others. Many older books are no longer politically correct and some deride what we have lost by making this distinction. Yes, there were some "good/fun" stories but if the story gives incorrect information about a group, do we have to use them as read alouds with groups of children. It is one thing to put it into an historical context as adults and quite another to present them to young children. How do we introduce such material -"What's in this story is not really true; it is 'just' a story and Chinese people do not name their children in this manner". Is that enough ? Does it make it all right to take liberties with someone's culture to make a good 
story ? This is the way we did it in the old days when acism/stereotyping was "okay" but we know better now.(!!) No simple answers. 

Just my own personal thoughts. 



8 Jun 1998 
Mei-yu Lu 

On Mon, 8 Jun 1998, Mark Matthews wrote: 

Asian names are not long but short, like most names. 

**Not ALL ASIAN people have short names. Thai's names are usally very LONG. 



8 Jun 1998 
Mark Matthews 

"Keep in mind that while folktales are exactly that--tales of the folk--it does not mean that they are accurate representations or that they bear continued repetition today." 

I agree that it does not mean that they are accurate. But I do not agree that that means they should not be told to youngsters. In the case of Tikki Tikki Tembo the premise is not to be taken as accurate in the same way that other tales used to explain things are meant to be accurate. Instead of teaching kids we should throw out such tales, teach them how people can falsely interpret them. 

No, this is not one such time. You wrote well and demonstrated how sensitive you are. But what have you taught us? Just because you can purposefully misinterpret the story like so, some one else can, hence; we should ban the story. 

Instead of banning stories such as this, we should teach kids how to interpret stories correctly. All we are teaching them today is how we do not trust their intelligence to do so. 



8 Jun 1998 
Maude Hines 

There *is* a story like this with an American name, and it's a l-o-o-o-n-g song, called "Eddie Cootcha Catcha Camma Toastinary Toastinoca Samma Camma Whacky Brown." Believe it or not, I'll type the whole thing below: 

Eddie Cootcha Catcha Camma Toastinary Toastinoca Samma Camma Whacky Brown 

He fell into the we-ell, fell into the we-ell, fell into the deep dark well. Susie Small 
Milking in the barn 
Saw him fall 
And ran inside to tell her mom that 
Eddie Cootcha Catcha Camma Toastinary Toastinoca Samma Camma Whacky Brown 
He fell into the we-ell, fell into the we-ell, fell into the deep dark well. 
Susie's mom 
Making cracklin' bread 
Ran outside 
To tell old Joe that Susie said that 
Eddie Cootcha Catcha Camma Toastinary Toastinoca Samma Camma Whacky Brown 
He fell into the we-ell, fell into the we-ell, fell into the deep dark well. 
Joe got up 
And laid his plow aside 
Grabbed for his cane 
And hobbled into town to say that 
Eddie Cootcha Catcha Camma Toastinary Toastinoca Samma Camma Whacky Brown 
He fell into the we-ell, fell into the we-ell, fell into the deep dark well. 
Everyone 
Hurried to the well 
Oh, what a shame 
It took so long to say his name that 
Eddie Cootcha Catcha Camma Toastinary Toastinoca Samma Camma Whacky Brown 
Who? 
Eddie Cootcha Catcha Camma Toastinary Toastinoca Samma Camma Whacky Brown 
Who? 
Eddie Cootcha Catcha Camma Toastinary Toastinoca Samma Camma Whacky Brown 
Drowned. 



8 Jun 1998 
Shwu-yi Leu 

That's exactly my point, if one wants to retell a story about making fun of Chinese names, one should at least imatate the Chinese language for names. Tikki tikki tembo..., as I stated before, has no resemblance at all to a Chinese name and its meaning in the book, of course, is a made-up rubbish. 

I don't have a problem with the folktale itself, but I was troubled by its claim in the book jacket that this was what happened in China. 



8 Jun 1998 
Perry Nodelman 

I am distressed by the apparent unwillingness expressed here to consider that the feelings and perceptions of other people are authentic or that they are to be respected and taken seriously in our dealings with those other people. It is, obviously, possible for each of us as an individual to believe that "little facts" that don't personally distress us are not, or ought not to be, significant. But it does not follow that we should then dismiss someone who feels otherwise, who does in fact find the same "little facts" not so minimally insignificant at all, and who is, in fact distressed by them. 

To identify someone with different feelings about such matters than our own as overly-touchy; to assume that people who say they see things differnetly are not being truthful about their perceptions and are in fact hiding some nasty secret agenda; to reserve the right to determine which particular ones of our utterances and activities we will allowed to be considering insulting by other people--these strike me as expressing a dangerous lack of faith in the reality of other people's feelings and viewpoints. 

A main point of our current concern for and about multicultural representation in literary texts is that we, children and adults, work to become a community aware of and with a regard for the differing viewpoints of the community's various members. To tell people--especially those from traditionally marginalized backgrounds--that their perceptions are inaccurate and their feelings therefore simply wrong--seems to replicate our species' long, sad history of preferring (and privileging) our own distorted perceptions of others to the perceptions those others have of themselves. 

About Tikki Tikki Tembo and cultural arrogance: it intrigues me that his "Chinese" story should in fact have its origin in a Japanese tale. Back in the sixties, apparently, it was perfectly acceptable for a mainstream American writer and publisher to blithely confuse two quite different countries and cultures--they were all just similarly oriental and cutely exotic, right? And also, apparently, it was okay 
back then to make fun of foreign-sounding names--for "retelling" this possible Asiatic story for an audience inevitably conceived of as centrally white, European and middle-class changes the dynamics of the relationship between the reader and the characters. A Japanese child hearing the Japanese tale is not being invited to laugh at the characters exactly because of their differerences form him or herself (what one contributor to this discussion called the goobledygook" of foreign languages); a white, middle class 
European child is being invited to laugh at exactly that. 

If this is indeed still a good story when separated from its stereotypical ethnicity--and if it is, as a genuine folktale, capable of endless retelling and transmutation, then surely it can be retold less offensively without the stereotyped content--maybe it is indeed time for a new story about Justinspikeconradmobuturodriguezhuangtwerwilligerthethird. And if we insist on telling the story as it is, or even defending it as it is, we must surely, then, acknowledge, accept responsibility for, and attempt to better understand the authentic negative responses and feelings of hurt it engenders in others? We might still then want to retell or defend the story--but we would have to find a way of doing so that did not dismiss as irrelevant the feelings of other readers and listeners. 



8 Jun 1998 Mark Matthews 

"That's exactly my point, if one wants to retell a story about making fun of Chinese names, one should at 
least imatate the Chinese language for names. Tikki tikki tembo..., as I stated before, has no resemblance 
at all to a Chinese name and its meaning in the book, of course, is a made-up rubbish." 

Yes, I sort of agree with you here and for further comment I would have to research the origin of this 
tale. 

I do think, however, that the name--made up rubbish or not--does not have any effect on the readers. If 
the name had a great rhythm and a true meaning in an old chinese dialect, what difference would it make 
as far as a child reader is concerned? That reader would come off with the same thoughts. So this is not a 
point for banning the book like others are claiming. 

By the way, the phrase "making fun of Chinese names" is yours. I prefer to say that this story has fun 
with a long name that happens to be Chinese. The rhythm is enjoyable and fun. 



8 Jun 1998 shwu-yi leu 

Thank you so much!!! (Re Perry's earlier post... fcl) 



8 Jun 1998 Kay E. Vandergrift 

George Eliot wrote: 

"Ignorance gives one a large range of probabilities." 



8 Jun 1998 Holly Willett 

To emphasize points that Perry and Kay have made about human groups privileging themselves: It should 
be kept in mind that the "folk" who told their stories orally had many motivations for composing and 
telling their stories, and entertainment was not the only intention, nor were the stories always meant for an 
audience of children. Sometimes people are and have been xenophobic. For example, the Grimm Bros. 
collected a few tales with anti-Semitic themes and these stories were part of the Nazi school curriculum. 
We no longer think these stories are worthwhile reading for children, tho' we may discuss them in college 
courses as examples of how groups portray the Other. 

My Grandfather Willett, who lived all his life in Maine, was a wonderful story teller, but he had acquired 
a prejudice against French Canadians. It was not an uncommon prejudice in Maine at the time; I cannot 
speak for the present, but it perhaps relates to historical antagonisms between the British and the 
continental French. Tho' I loved my grandfather's stories, I don't have any reason to pass on those 
anti-French Canadian ones. They aren't funny to me and don't reflect my values or experience. They only 
serve as examples in an academic setting. 

As for Tikki-Tikki-Tembo, it would be interesting to know if the Japanese story was about Japanese 
names or Chinese names. If it was a story the Japanese told about the Chinese, then Japanese listeners 
might indeed have been encouraged to make fun of the Chinese. 



8 Jun 1998 Karen Ulric 

I am curious about one thing: 

In all of this discussion, we seem to have forgotten the reaction of children themselves, rather than 
pc-sensitized adults. Has anyone actually encountered a child who felt hurt, embarrassed, or otherwise 
wounded by hearing or reading this story? I have told this story to diverse groups of children for a couple 
of years now, and have never had a child express reluctance about it - they all, regardless of ethnicity find 
it a funny story, with a refrain worth joining in on. Any other comments on actual responses from 
children? 



8 Jun 1998 Kay E. Vandergrift 

"Has anyone actually encountered a child who felt hurt, embarrassed, or otherwise wounded by hearing 
or reading this story?" 

Yes 

"I have told this story to diverse groups of children for a couple of years now, and have never had a child 
express reluctance about it -" 

Perhaps because young children often are compelled to side with the peer group for fear of attack by 
others. Not many children have the inner centeredness and confidence to argue with an adult figure who 
is in charge. Recall what happened when Debby's young daughter challenged the teacher reading the 
Jeffers book. Read the autobiographies of any number of men and women who as children have suffered 
from name calling and facing a hurtful or damaging set of words or story and ask why would we want to 
continue this. Thus, it places a heavy responsibility on each of us who work with children or those who 
will work with children. It is not easy to examine this issue from the standpoint of a young child. 

I will add more here--I find "sensitive adult" acceptable but not "PC-sensitive adult" --it is as if one can 
dismiss the thoughts and words of others by placing a pejorative term in place. 

And so it goes! 



8 Jun 1998 Ann Dowker 

All this discussion has reminded me of an animal fable that I encountered as a child, where a peacock 
with a name several lines long (beginning 'Beautiful is his tail...") gets eaten by the fox, while a plainer bird 
with a monosyllabic name is rescued in time. Does anybody know this fable, or where it originates? 



8 Jun 1998 liTtLe RicE 

Before I say anything more -- Just want to point out that I do think maybe it IS time to clarify the true 
origin of the story and maybe someone can retell the story again...? It IS such a good story! But I can see 
where the concern has come from. 

I do,however, has a disagreement with Perry's point here: 

"A Japanese child hearing the Japanese tale is not being invited to laugh at the characters exactly because 
of their differerences form him or herself (what one contributor to this discussion called the 
"goobledygook" of foreign languages); a white, middle class European child is being invited to laugh at 
exactly that." 

I would think that a Japanese child WAS definitely INVITED to laugh at the silly name -- because that's a 
MAIN point of the story. Why, Perry, do you think that the Japanese child would not have found the 
nonsensical name funny? Does the child lack the sense of humor? I'm puzzled. 



8 Jun 1998 liTtLe RicE 

On Mon, 8 Jun 1998, Holly Willett wrote: 

"As for Tikki-Tikki-Tembo, it would be interesting to know if the Japanese story was about Japanese 
names or Chinese names. If it was a story the Japanese told about the Chinese, then Japanese listeners 
might indeed have been encouraged to make fun of the Chinese." 

WAKE UP EVERYONE -- The STORY IS NOT ABOUT MAKING FUN OF THE CHINESE 
NAME!!! It's about the FUN of the SOUND of that LONG and pretty USELESS name -- where is all 
this notion of anyone MAKING FUN of anyone else coming from? 

Can anyone EXPLAIN how this story can be used to STEREOTYPE the CHINESE? WHERE IS THE 
STEREOTYPE? That Chinese people do NOT have long and nonsensical names? What's the HARM in 
that stereotype (or.. actually -- THE TRUTH, the FACT, the REALITY???) 

You can see.. I'm getting frustrated! 



8 Jun 1998 liTtLe RicE 

Kay: can you tell us where/when/how of this incident (or several incidents?) Thanks. 

(And.. don't forget, there are parents who want to BAN Where the Wild Things Are because their young 
children are frightened by the images...) 



8 Jun 1998 Waller Hastings 

"If I retell a story in China saying that "Yi-gu-wu-tsu-di-da-pe'n-dan" is a name meaning a very beautiful 
girl in America, is it not harmful to the understanding of American culture?" 

"Not harmful, just ignorant and not clever in the least. The name you chose for an American girl should 
have imatated our language: Patty-Patty-Mary-Suzy- Ellen-Terry-Besty-Karen-Keri." 

All right, then, but let's be consistent. The objection raised to "Tikki Tikki Tembo" was not just that the 
idea of long names was wrong, but that the name that was made up has no similarity to anything in 
Chinese. I hesitate to claim great knowledge of the language based on a one-semester course in Mandarin 
Chinese, but the name in this story does not, in fact, resemble anything I have ever heard or seen (and I 
have taught some Chinese stories in my adult-lit classes). In other words, the name chosen in the story is 
*not* at attempt to imitate the language, so it would be, in the terms given above, "just ignorant and not 
clever in the least." I don't believe the story is very harmful because I can't see anybody, child or adult, 
accepting it as a factual representation of Chinese culture -- but that doesn't mean that criticism of this 
cultural representation is out of place. It seems to me, however, that a more significant question is what 
children's literature *does* give an accurate understanding of this culture, which most people in the West 
still find rather mysterious. If an author makes an error in his/her depiction of American culture, there are 
hundreds of readers and critics ready to pick up on the mistake and tax the writer with it; if a mistake is 
made about Chinese (or Nigerian, or Indonesian, or any of a multitude of other cultures), there are far 
fewer Western readers prepared to recognize and correct the errors. 



8 Jun 1998 Holly Willett 

Roxanne--Yes, the main point of TTT is the humorous sound of the name, but all literature has many 
more points than simply the main idea. And authors sometimes have intentions in their writing and telling 
of which they may not be entirely aware. TTT's text and the illustrations specifically say that the setting is 
Chinese and suggest that the Chinese had the custom of giving their children long names. Which as you 
have said yourself, they never have had. At the very least, then, the story is inaccurate, and it's asking a 
lot of preschoolers through grade 3 to determine for themselves that the story is "just a story". 

I have known many children (Anglo and Hispanic) when confronted with a story (or other object) set in 
Japan or China, to react by pulling their eyes out to the side with their index fingers and mouthing 
nonsense syllables that they think sound like Chinese or Japanese. They think they are being funny by 
implying that Asians look "funny" or talk "funny"--they are not really ready to see people of other races as 
humans like themselves. Because it's been several years since I've used this book with kids--I stopped 
about 12 years ago--I can't recall if TTT received that reaction among preschoolers or primary children. 
Some children do react to differences by mocking them--I have vague and uncomfortable recollections 
that I may have done so myself as a child! We can accept this as childhood discomfort with the 
unfamiliar, but we don't encourage it. We help them become familiar with the new. As Kay said, small 
children are in a difficult position with regard to expressing disagreement or unhappiness with the choices 
made by adults, and they are also not aware fully of their own reactions. 

You appear to find TTT completely funny and acceptable. Would you/do you present it to children (read 
it aloud), and how do you deal with the inaccuracies (if you do)? 



8 Jun 1998 Perry Nodelman 

What I meant was that the Japanese child might well find the name funny, but would not see the source 
of the humour in its (real or purported) Japanese-ness, only in its being nonsensical. But a non-Japanese 
child who knew little about Japan might well believe that the name is funny and nonsensical because it is, 
or purports to be, Japanese. I apologize for the unclarity. 



8 Jun 1998 Violet Harris 

Hello Folks: 

Here are some of my thoughts.... 

I read the responses to Shwi-yi's posting with mild amusement, anger, dismay, and perhaps a little hope. 
Thank you Perry, Kay, Holly, and Debbie for your postings. Your responses remind us that, yes, many 
readers, child and adult, respond to "stories" such as Rikki-Tikki as entertainment. Equally important, 
your comments reflect the cultural issues/debates surrounding literature for children and youth and the 
positive and insidious functions literature can serve. 

I do not claim to have read the majority of children's and young adult literature written by people of color 
in the U.S; however, of those I have read, they tend not to create pernicious, harmful stereotypes of 
European Americans. Can anyone think of books containing stereotypes of Europeans, European- 
Americans, or pseudo Whites (meaning literary mixtures comparable to Rikki) created by people of color 
? I attempted to create summaries of stories that would be funny and engaging but stereotypic such as 
"Dago in a Winnebago," an Irish one about a long-suffering Irish lass who must drag her father from the 
local tavern, and so on. I shared them with a mostly White audience and the laughter seemed forced and 
people were uncomfortable. Would any publishing company dare publish Dago in a Winnebago? I doubt 
it. If it were published, I doubt if it would become a classic, included in curricula, and shared over several 
generations. The work which comes to mind and that parodies some of the texts regarded as stereotypic-- 
such as L. B. Sambo, Rikki Tikki, and Five Chinese Brothers-- is a book published by the Oyate group. 
The behavior of Whites, for example, the cult of grilling or barbecuing is pilloried. 

These stories can create harm because, coupled with images, etc. in other cultural institutions, artifacts, or 
processes, they represent the only "contact" that some will have that is cross-racial or cross-cultural. For 
instance, many of my Asian students tell me that they believe that Blacks are violent, criminal, drug 
addicted, etc. They acquired most of these perceptions from the images conveyed in print and electronic 
media. Some are fearful of interacting with Blacks. Stories can result in this type of "learning." Many 
Blacks talk and write about the daily micro-insults we face because of the stories, films, figurines, toys, 
games, textbooks, research, etc. that depict us in stereotypic fashion. Here's an example of a micro-insult: 
I am in a business supply store buying ink cartridges for my printer. As I proceed to the checkout counter, 
I noticed that a White woman is checking out and has placed her purse on the counter. Quite deliberately, 
I stand more than 3 feet back because she might think I will snatch her purse. Am I thinking 
stereotypically? Perhaps so but the realities of living prove more often than not that the woman will 
perceive of me as a potential thief and she will immediately respond in such a manner. True enough, the 
woman reacts in that fashion. She turns and looks at me and gasps a little bit and grabs her purse. Alice 
Childress and Langston Hughes capture this stereotypic perception that all Blacks steal in bittersweet short 
storiess. Neither author resorts to hurtful or harmful images of Whites in order to do so. They illustrate 
that it is possible to write about the perceptions and fears that are held by individuals without denigrating a 
group. 

The author of Bein' With You has a fascinating article in the current Horn Book magazine in which he 
writes about the ways in which the bigoted comments and actions of his family and community members 
shaped his thinking about Blacks and Mexican Americans. Further, he explains the behaviors that caused 
him to change his attitudes and perceptions, freeing him from his own bigotry. By the way, some of that 
bigotry emanated from nursery rhymes he heard such as "Eenie, Meenie,. . . catch a N______ by the toe. 

Last semester an undergraduate student completed an author study of Elizabeth F. Howard. Quite 
candidly, she told me that she never believed that there were upper middle and upper class Blacks. 
Thanks to Howard's books, her thinking had been changed. Granted this is anecdotal but this 
demonstrates, too, one effect of reading books. 

Rikki, Tikki... may cause children to laugh and repeat lines, but it may also cause other images to take 
root that are negative. 



8 Jun 1998 Saad, Shahnaz 

Elephants are not likely to feel offended if humans bandy about misinformation about pachyderms, but 
humans are likely to have hurt feelings when misinformation about their culture is passed around. I am 
therefore getting a little tired of the Kipling comparison. 

Furthermore, US citizens (and I assume that "Doyle60," like me, is a US citizen) are particularly 
insensitive about the fact that people with names other than John Smith or Mary Jones like others to at 
least make an effort to learn, pronounce, and understand their names. 

My first name is Shahnaz, but I generally go by my middle name because I got tired of hearing people 
with names like Ann Brown comment on how 'weird" my name is. 

Chris (a.k.a. Shahnaz Christine Saad) 



8 Jun 1998 liTtLe RicE 

On Mon, 8 Jun 1998, Hastings, Waller wrote something about the Chinese language -- I just want to 
remind everyone on the list to read my message about the characteristics of the Chinese language. 

And, Monica just reminded me to CLARIFY that I am a 100% Chinese person (although now married to 
a Jewish guy!) I was born and raised and educated under complete Chinese (although, not mainland 
China, but Taiwan) environment. When I was little, there were even more outlandish stories to read and 
to listen to and all I thought was, "what interesting story" and not that any story bore any "cultural" 
significance. 

Same thing about reading WESTERN folktales. I read all the Grimm, all the Andersen, Norse tales, 
Arabian Nights, Greek and Roman Myths, etc. As a child in Taiwan, I NEVER thought that I would be 
able to IDENTIFY a Swedish guy or that I understood Arabic cultures because I read STORIES about 
them -- especially fairytales that involved magic and uncommon happenings. 

Folks, let's stop thinking of folktale as textbooks teaching a culture, would you? 

I will be quite offended if ALL children are learning in school about China is through Folktales (White 
Wave, Yeh-Hsien, Lon Po Po, Seven Chinese Brothers, etc.. just to name several WONDERFUL stories 
that really have NOTHING to do with the Actual CULTURE or HISTORY of that VAST land of my 
parents' heritage.) Unfortunately, when you make that strong connection between culture and its folktale, 
many think that to plan a "multicultural" curriculum is to introduce FIVE different folk stories from five 
different cultures. This, quite frankly, disgusts me! 

If you want to learn about Chinese culture -- talk about the Dynasties, talk about the wars, talk about the 
women's roles, talk about Confusianism, talk about the BEAUTY of the poetry, talk about the Drama, 
talk about the LAND, talk about the emperors and their concubines, talk about WWII when the Japanese 
invaded China and massacred millions of Chinese, talk about the Revolution, and the Culture Revolution, 
talk about Hong Kong and the current relationship between China and Taiwan. Talk about Chinese Pop 
Music (yeah, we have our version of Rap and Rock.. you know..) and talk about HOW westernized we 
all are -- I grew up with Joan Baez, the Beatles, and Paul Simon -- and The Brady Bunch, and 
Bewitched, etc. 

Ah. I'm very excited over this whole thread. 



8 Jun 1998 Jiening Ruan 

Thank you for reminding everybody that CHANG can be a surname. In that case, most likely, it implies 
"LONG". I think that might fit with the common sense and context too. 

I think we might have to do some more research about that. I do agree that if Hsu is repeated twice in 
Chinese, it could mean SLOW and GENTLE. 

I am not sure if Hsu stands by itself as a family name, it could be explained like that. Will someone else 
clarify it for us all? 

8 Jun 1998 Saad, Shahnaz 

I will follow up my last email by pointing out that I was 13 years old when I "changed" my name to Chris 
because I was tired of dealing with comments about my first name, Shahnaz. 

I still, however, deal with comments, since Shahnaz is still my legal first name. When I was a child, the 
comments came from other children. Now they come from adults. 



8 Jun 1998 Violet Harris 

Folks, 

Please note that my comments refer to Tikki Tikki Tembo and not Kipling's poem. I am sorry about the 
mistake but I was talking with someone about both and mixed them up. 



8 Jun 1998 June Cummins 

Sorry, Fairrosa, I can't oblige you here. Folktales may not be written in textbook format, with Tables of 
Contents, Figures, and Appendices, but they are in effect a kind of textbook. Very often children are 
taught about culture through folktales, and I think the biggest case in point is the American culture. Until 
fairly recently, I would wager, children in the United States mostly heard the Grimms' version of fairy 
tales. These fairy tales, as Jack Zipes so persuasively argues, were adapted by the Grimms from oral 
literature to reflect the brothers' own political and social ideologies, which were basically those of the 
19th-century German bourgeoisie. To offer a brief but pithy example, the Grimms adapted their version 
of Snow White to expand and emphasize the focus on *housecleaning.* In the oral version they first 
wrote down, very little was said about what Snow White needed to do keep up her end of the bargain. 

This is what the 1810 version said: "The dwarfs took pity on her and persuaded her to remain with them 
and do the cooking for them when they went to the mines. However, she was to beware of the queen and 
not let anyone in the house." 

This is what the 1812 version, the one the Grimms published, said: "So the dwarfs took pity on her and 
said: 'If you keep our house for us, and cook, sew, make the beds, wash and knit, and keep everything 
tidy and clean, you may stay with us, and you will have everything you want. In the evening, when we 
come home, dinner must be ready. During the day we are in the mines and dig for gold, so you will be 
alone. Beware of the queen and let no one in the house." 

Sure, you could argue that the Grimms were merely trying to enhance the story by making it more 
detailed. But how can we overlook the details the Grimms decided to add, and how can we not see these 
as reflecting, if not shaping, cultural values? Think forward 100 or so years to the Disney film. What is 
one of the most memorable songs from that movie? "Whistle While You Work," which is all about 
enjoying labor, both mining and housework. I am sure that many Americans have firmly fixed in their 
heads the images of Snow White cleaning the dwarfs' cottage. Don't children learn the "value" not only of 
a clean house but what "women's work" is through hearing or seeing versions of Snow White with this 
emphasis? Doesn't Snow White essentially become, if not questioned and actively countered, a textbook, 
of sorts, of not only 19th-century German but 20th-century American cultural values? 

Yes, yes, folktales are "fun" (although I must question why Mr. Doyle always insists that children's 
literature is just supposed to be "fun" as if that's the final word anyone should say about it--what exactly 
do you mean by "fun," anyway?). But no, they don't stand alone with no connection to what children 
think of the cultures they come from. As an example, this discussion of the confusion of sources of Riki 
Tiki Tembo--whether it's Japanese or Chinese--has been fascinating to me. It's hard for me to admit this, 
but until I got to college, I had no clue what differentiated these two cultures. I think it slowly dawned on 
me when sushi became popular in the United States that there must be some differences. Over time, of 
course, I learned much more about a wide range of Asian cultures (although what I've mostly realized is 
how much I don't know). But I would not hesitate to agree that stories and folktales like Riki Tiki Tembo 
and Five Chinese Brothers had much to do with my stereotypical and generalized views of "oriental" 
culture. 

"I you want to learn about Chinese culture -- talk about the Dynasties, talk about the wars, talk about the 
women's roles, talk about Confusianism, talk about the BEAUTY of the poetry, talk about the Drama, 
talk about the LAND, talk about the emperors and their concubines, talk about WWII when the Japanese 
invaded China and massacred millions of Chinese, talk about the Revolution, and the Culture Revolution, 
talk about Hong Kong and the current relationship between China and Taiwan. Talk about Chinese Pop 
Music (yeah, we have our version of Rap and Rock.. you know..) and talk about HOW westernized we 
all are -- I grew up with Joan Baez, the Beatles, and Paul Simon -- and The Brady Bunch, and 
Bewitched, etc." 

Yes. Absolutely. All of this must be taught in schools (and I never heard of a word of it until college). 
Unfortunately, I bet this is NOT what young people in the U.S. are generally learning--what they get are 
the "multicultural" folktales. So how can we balance the folktales with history? And can we ever make 
connections between a folktale and the culture from which it derives? 



8 Jun 1998 B.Deahl~J.Ogburn 

There does seem to be evidence ( antedotal and minor) offered on the list that this is a folkloric story, i.e. 
one that can be retold in many different variations, and still be effective as a story. Maude Hines 
"American" version has an unhappy ending, but the same structure and basic plot. 

It also makes more sense to me as a Japanese tale, because as someone pointed out, the sound of the 
parts of the name are more in keeping with the Japanese language. 

And yes, there is a difference between folktales told among the group of origin, and those told outside it. 

Still tossing out the book although seems extreme. Is it still hurtful if identified as a Japanese folktale? 



9 Jun 1998 ARIKO KAWABATA 

A Japanese version of this story told about Japanese Name off course. It is nothing to do with China at 
all. The Name begins with "Jugem Jugem Goko no Surikiri ...." about the rest part I don't remember 
exactly, but almost all the Japanese know at least "Jugem" Which means originally, "limitless life". This 
name is not like a real name but sounds like some phrases from Buddhist scripture. 



8 Jun 1998 Mark Matthews 

Some think I need a lecture on the importance of cultural sensitivity. I don't. I banned a few books. I am 
simply arguing that this book should not be one of them. Most posters who want to ban this book use the 
defense of the importance of cultural sensitivity and not the facts of this particular case. 

Another post accused me of not being able to understand a different culture's view. Hence, I am not 
sensitive to it. When a person of a culture complains about a certain work, we should not just say "OK, 
ban it." We must look into the claim. We must try to understand it from their point of view. I can see a 
situation where I cannot *feel* their claim but can *believe* it. 

Is it so hard for you to imagine a situation where such a claim is invalid and weak? Or must all claims be 
valid? I just come out on the other side. The side that is more dangerous, risqué. No politician would 
argue my side. I am so completely unprejudiced and sensitive to such issues that I am not afraid to argue 
it one bit. 

Another post was sick of my Kipling reference. Yes, I used it too many times. Besides analogies are a 
weak form of argument. Tikki Tikki Tembo is a tail of explanation and I cannot think of another with 
humans. But the analogy was used for only one point. The point that the tale is not historically accurate 
(Chinese never used such long names). Sometimes stories are stories. 

The book is a mess of a publication. I grant you that. The inside flap DOES state that the premise of this 
story is fact. 



8 Jun 1998 liTtLe RicE 

When it is the family name, it's just that - a family name. What I was trying to explain is that CHANG 
(just the transliteration) really doesn't tell the reader what CHARACTER (or WORD) it stands for. 

Got it? 



8 Jun 1998 liTtLe RicE 

On Mon, 8 Jun 1998, June Cummins wrote: 

"Sorry, Fairrosa, I can't oblige you here. Folktales may not be written in textbook format, with Tables of 
Contents, Figures, and Appendices, but they are in effect a kind of textbook. Very often children are 
taught about culture through folktales, and I think the biggest case in point is the American culture." 

That's exactly what I meant -- that we can't equate reading or sharing folktales to "learning about a 
culture" which is what many educators are doing nowadays -- it puts unfair pressure upon folktales that 
were TOLD to just the FOLKS of that culture hundreds or thousands of years ago -- they weren't meant 
to be used to "spread" the custom of a culture to outsiders. 

So, don't do it now! 

"bourgeoisie. To offer a brief but pithy example, the Grimms adapted their version of Snow White to 
expand and emphasize the focus on *housecleaning.* In the oral version they first wrote down, very little 
was said about what Snow White needed to do keep up her end of the bargain." Point taken -- but -- The 
Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe was written with VERY specific Message in mind, and children still can 
enjoy the tale without having to be TAUGHT all the Christian references. Children can and will enjoy 
Cinderella and Snow White without all these "enlightenment" and we are doing a lot of children disservice 
if we are trying to find all those "hidden messages" in most tales (which I believe, can be done easily) and 
either caution them or simply DROP sharing those tales. 

" know). But I would not hesitate to agree that stories and folktales like Riki Tiki Tembo and Five 
Chinese Brothers had much to do with my stereotypical and generalized views of "oriental" culture." And 
right now, we have many more tales and many more books on those cultures -- so we should be a bit 
more relaxed right? Let's do that. What stereotypes did you get from The Five Chinese Brothers? Pray 
tell. 

""multicultural" folktales. So how can we balance the folktales with history? And can we ever make 
connections between a folktale and the culture from which it derives?" 

I'd love to have people teach FOLKTALES accompanied by a LOT of real cultural information about the 
culture. I recently shared with my library classes (5th graders, mostly) the traditional poem that "inspired" 
the new Disney movie -- MULAN -- I read to them the original Chinese poem, accompanied by English 
translation. I asked the students to listen to the rhythm and the rhyming of the poem. Then, we discussed 
the "plot" of the poem (story) then we talked about what Disney might DO to this story -- and then we 
talked about that whole having a Friendly Little Dragon business in the movie -- and a little bit about what 
Dragons stand for in Chinese culture. The kids are very capable of distingushing the DEVICES Disney 
employs and the Bare Bone structure of the ancient Chinese legend. 

That's done in a half-hour session. And I think the kids learned quite a bit about the culture -- not because 
of the STORY itself -- which serves as a good jumping board, but because of my knowledge and their 
own logical mind. 

I'm not saying that this was a fantastic class session that everyone should applaud me for -- but I do think 
if people are USING folktale to show CULTURAL elements, they have to enrich the content of their 
lessons. 



9 Jun 1998 Mark Matthews 

Almost everything in life is a kind of textbook. So your argument runs flat. Folktales may be closer to 
textbooks than reruns of Pettycoat Junction but that doesn't mean they should be more textbook-like, that 
is, factual. Stories can be fantastic, ridiculous, made-up. (I deleted the word fun.) 

"Very often children are taught about culture through folktales," 

Than stop doing it and teach children that these stories are not textbooks. Is it easier to ban than to teach? 
Yes, but how sad and lazy that is. 

If educators are using these books as textbooks than they are wrong for doing so, not the books wrong for 
existing. If I hold up the "Rumplestiltskin" and say this really happened children, come listen, should you 
ban the book because it didn't really happen or ban me from teaching kindergarten? (Oh, another lousy 
analogy, but it's late). 



8 Jun 1998 June Cummins 

I never, never said that Tikki Tikki Tembo should be banned. I just want that to be clearly understood. 

And only lousy analogies are weak forms of arguments. Strong analogies are often quite useful. 



9 Jun 1998 Martha Grenzeback 

Hear, hear! By the way, I personally felt fairrosa's comments to be a nice combination of sensitivity and 
SENSE. In the pursuit of an admirable ideal, we are sometimes in danger of throwing out the baby with 
the bathwater... 

Another story with basically the same theme (though in a slightly different form) is "Master of All 
Masters," which is of Scottish and/or English origin, about a man who is not satisfied with simple 
language. Does anyone know it? 



9 Jun 1998 B.Deahl~J.Ogburn 

As Ariko Kawabata informed, 'Jugem=the beginning of a looong $B#n (J $B#a (Jme' is one of our most 
favourite stories told as a delicious starter (J of Rakugo performance(traditional, classical 
one-man-talk-show, from 400 years ago). The long name is consisted of all the 
good/congratulatory/happy words, which are not names. Jugem is $B#a (J simple (J story, and its purpose 
is to let the audience enjoy the sounds of all the happy words and get ready to the main program. 
Whether you can identify Tikki tikki tembo as a Japanese tale or not should be judged by those who have 
$B#s#e#e (In the book. Does it have (J illustrations? 

Yuriko Momo Takeuchi 



8 Jun 1998 monica edinger 

I promised my colleague, fairrosa, to post to this thread last night. But I was just too tired after overseeing 
my class's final exhibition (they gave me an adorable class picture which a parent had doctored with 
illustrations from all the literature we studied this year. My class now includes Alice, Cinderella, Dorothy, 
Charlotte, Wilbur, and many more!) So, here I am,at my usual sunrise time. 

First of all, as some others have mentioned, we are asking for trouble when we use folktales to instruct 
children about a culture. However, as others also have noted, that is commonly the case in schools these 
days. Teachers, with all the pressure to teach a range of cultures for a range of reasons, find folktales a 
way to combine reading/writing instruction with teaching about other cultures. It is something I've railed 
about before. In my book on fantasy literature I point out the pros and cons of a focus on 
multiculturalism. Too often what is being presented as the ways of a culture is not. It may not be a 
situation like generalizing about Asians (Chinese/Japanese as in the current thread), but an 
Americanization of a story from another culture. The one I often worry about is "Mufaro's Beautiful 
Daughters" which is John Steptoe's homage to Zimbabwe. It is not a story commonly told there, 
something he took from a 19th century folklore collection from the region. It is John Steptoe's work, not 
something to didactically use to teach about Africa. Yet whole curricula have been created around this 
book to do just that. I do a unit on Cinderella every year where I present the children with an enormous 
range of versions. Certainly, we consider cultural differences, but I don't make it the focus. A colleague 
did the unit this year and told that if he did it again he would build it around multiculturalism. As others 
have noted, that isn't the point of folklore. Certainly we can and should use it when teaching about a 
culture (I feel it is incredibly important to note the way many cultures use stories to tell history, especially 
those who don't have written traditions. For kids to see that oral tradition is a valid a way of keeping 
history as are written records.) But I am very troubled with a focus on folktales primarily as a way of 
learning about a culture. The other point I want to make is one that Marc Aronson brought home to me 
during our last go-around with Susan Jeffers. He pointed out that Jeffers was an artist and her book a 
work of art. That we expected too much of books in the way children interact with them and learn from 
them. I thought Marc's point was very important. I'm not sure I could totally buy it with Brother Eagle 
Sister Sky" because it is being used as an informational source, not just as a illustrated prose poem. 
However, it seems to me that folktales done as children's books are really works of art - wasn't that the 
purpose of Tikki tikki tembo? Was the author trying to teach about Asian culture with the story? It sounds 
like there are many who still love the story for its storytelling qualities. Isn't that art? Shouldn't we try to 
recognize that even as we worry about children being hurt or being misinformed by the story? 

I hope this helps the conversation. I certainly hope I haven't inadvertently alienated any recent contributor 
to this thread. It all has been fascinating! 

Thanks 



9 Jun 1998 Mary Oliarnyk 

"I never, never said that Tikki Tikki Tembo should be banned. I just want that to be clearly understood." 

This is not the first time I've seen posts about "Tikki Tikki Tembo". I expect that within a day or two 
we'll be debating whether this was a story about a boy who fell down a well in India, or a mongoose with 
a very long name. Is this where Kipling comes in? Now about Mowgli... 



9 Jun 1998 Marc Aronson 

When you watch a basketball game, what the refs consider a foul changes from quarter to quarter, 
situation to situation. At times they "let them play," at times they blow a whistle over nothing, or if you 
cleverly "flop" as if you had been fouled. I think that is what is going on here. I don't know anyone who 
was here at Holt when we published Tikki Tikki Tambo, but I suspect at the time people were quite 
careless about folklore. Origins and authenticity were just not the issue they have become. Since then, our 
whole view of folklore has shifted, in part because teachers use our books in classrooms in a fashion that 
was not envisioned when they were created -- and for which the author and illustrator and not 
responsible. 

The split we are seeing here -- the book is inaccurate, stereotypical therefore harmful versus the book is a 
folktale, not useful for a discussion of culture -- except for the American culture which created it -- and 
thus should be judged as folklore, tracks a series of historical shifts in our views. The book is bad or good 
depending on what we believe when we look at it. 

Which then returns me back to us. As Monica said, I do think we are much too preoccupied with the 
content of children's books, and vastly too unconcerned with them as aesthetic creations. Just think, 
everyone on this list, how much time we have all spent on issues of accuracy, authenticity, and supposed 
harm. And how little time, actually almost no time at all, on discussions of aesthetics: how authors and 
artists create their art. 

Just as players get angry when refs call too tight a game, I feel that we are being way too limited in our 
consideration of books. A book is not its use in classrooms or in homes, a book is not its possible effect, 
for good or ill, on children, it is literature, and or, art. Can't we stop blowing the whistle and arguing over 
fouls and get back into the game? 



9 Jun 1998 Janice Del Negro 

As I am in the somewhat ironic position of agreeing on the one hand with June Cummins and on the other 
hand with fairrosa, I'd like to gently offer some questions I've spent a substantial amount of time 
pondering. 

At what point did folktales, either in collection or picture book format, become folklore as opposed to 
stories? 

That is, at what point did we begin to demand, as a professional culture, that what used to be storybooks 
(and I use the term loosely) meet the recognized academic criteria for authentic folklore? And is it fair or 
reasonable to expect it to do so? 

Historically, librarians and librarian-storytellers have thought of folktales as a way to connect children to 
books, to stories, to cultures, either their own or others. At some point, the authenticity of the material 
became an issue. Looking at the library literature over time, it isn't that it was ever a non-issue, exactly, 
but when did it become such a crucial, quality-defining one? 

Betsy Hearne did two articles for School Library Journal ("Reducing Cultural Chaos" and "Citing the 
Source", I believe- I can look up exact citations if anyone is interested) that articulate a number of these 
concerns. One of the points she mentions is the quality of the source note (an aside: this is something 
librarians have been lobbying for in all types of non-fiction). 

Very broadly speaking, folktales have been retold from teller to teller, culture to culture, with a dash of 
this and a little of that, leaving some of the other behind. How is it possible to develop criteria or 
guidelines for evaluation of a form that is, by its traditional definition and nature, fluid? Is it possible, or 
even desirable? Is a detailed source note part of that criteria? And what about the oft-whispered about but 
never vigorously discussed issues of artistic freedom, inspiration, and expression? 



9 Jun 1998 Karen L. Simonetti 

I don't have the time right now to follow up to Janice's excellent post and thought-provoking questions, 
but I do have the cite for one of Betsy Hearne's articles. 

Hearne, Betsy. "Cite the Source: Reducing Cultural Chaos in Picture Books, Part One." School Library 
Journal, July 1993. pp. 22-27. 

If you all haven't read it, go get it! 



10 Jun 1998 Saad, Shahnaz 

I too took a close look at TTT today, and I laughed out loud as I was reading it. It is a warm and funny 
story. 

Perhaps I missed something, but I did not notice anyone who had reservations about it saying they were 
going to ban it or comparing Mosel to Hitler. I did notice that many of TTT's proponents were sounding 
awfully defensive and unwilling to listen to other points of view. 

I am not sure that most of us disagree. It seems to me that a lot of the people who have spoken about 
TTT think it's a fun story but also think that it should not be used to represent Asian culture. And some 
people have expressed concern that some Asian children might feel uncomfortable reading the story. 

So what's the problem? Does anyone really disagree with these viewpoints? 



10 Jun 1998 Karla A Walters 

I have followed the discussion of "Tikki Tikki" with great interest, as well as the discusison of historical 
fiction and its role in children's literature. I think we miss the subtle point that all literature "informs" in 
some sense--whether it is based on historical fact, folklore, myth, or imagination. WHAT it informs about 
is the issue. Take a folktale that has been "retold" from the original culture. Can it be said to "inform" 
about that culture, or is its "information" more something in the form its retelling takes? How about a 
piece of fiction written thirty years ago. In what sense does it "inform" children about a time prior to their 
birth differently than a text of genuine "historical" fiction (using Walter Scott's definition of "sixty years 
ago ")written by someone who never lived in the time depicted? 

We definitely use literature to help broad children's awareness of other times and places and other 
cultures. That is a reality of every classroom in the world. Literature has a didactic effect even if not used 
for that purpose. 

We do have an obligation to confront children with the differences between fact and fiction--the imagined 
work of art is not the same as history--yet even non-fiction historical accounts have their individual bias. 

I believe it is impossible to present children with reading materials that are "bias free. " Instead, we need 
to engender the ability to detect the "bias" of every work of literature children read. "Bias" may be 
something as innocent as the ways in which an author is influenced by his or her own time and place. An 
illustration is Rudyard Kipling's jingoistic view of British colonialism--he sincerely believes English culture 
is "more civilized" than India's, yet he is attracted by the "otherness" of India. Our chidren are capable of 
grasping this ambivalence, if we lead them to perceive it. 

In our own professional respect for literature and our enthusiasm for spreading literacy, we should not 
forget that the truly literature person is able to see the shortcomings and bias of what they read. NO work 
of literature is exempt from some kind of bias. 



14 Jun 1998 Rita Auerbach 

I agree with Monica about the dangers of drawing conclusions about cultures based on folktales. Given 
the complicated provenance of the tales available to us, any generalizations about a people based on 
folktales would certainly be questionable. When students look at a culture, however, I would include 
folklore as well as literature about the people today. What a look at folktales from many cultures does 
reveal is the mysterious commonality among human beings which unites us in spite of our many 
differences. 

9 Jun 1998 
Marc Aronson 

 When you watch a basketball game, what the refs consider a foul changes from quarter to quarter, situation to situation. At times they "let them play," at times they blow a whistle over nothing, or if you cleverly "flop" as if you had been fouled. 

I think that is what is going on here. I don't know anyone who was here at Holt when we published Tikki Tikki Tambo, but I suspect at the time people were quite careless about folklore. Origins and authenticity were just not the issue they have become. 

Since then, our whole view of folklore has shifted, in part because teachers use our books in classrooms in a fashion that was not envisioned when they were created -- and for which the author and illustrator and not responsible. 

The split we are seeing here -- the book is inaccurate, stereotypical therefore harmful versus the book is a folktale, not useful for a discussion of culture -- except for the American culture which created it -- and thus should be judged as folklore, tracks a series of historical shifts in our views. The book is bad or good depending on what we believe when we look at it. 

Which then returns me back to us. As Monica said, I do think we are much too preoccupied with the content of children's books, and vastly too unconcerned with them as aesthetic creations. Just think, everyone on this list, how much time we have all spent on issues of accuracy, authenticity, and supposed harm. And how little time, actually almost no time at all, on discussions of aesthetics: how authors and artists create their art. 

Just as players get angry when refs call too tight a game, I feel that we are being way too limited in our consideration of books. A book is not its use in classrooms or in homes, a book is not its possible effect, for good or ill, on children, it is literature, and or, art. Can't we stop blowing the whistle and arguing over fouls and get back into the game? 


9 Jun 1998 
June Cummins 

 Marc, 
I couldn't agree with you more that we need to consider the aesthetics of children's literature as much as the content. I would argue, however, that you are making somewhat of a false distinction between these two qualities. Aren't we also discussing aesthetics when we consider in minute detail the sounds and arrangements of the various parts of Rikki Tikki Tembo's name? Even if we are doing that for political purposes? On the other hand, I would like to see more discussion, upfront, of what makes certain illustrations powerful and beautiful, and why certain authors use language more effectively than others, and how they do that. Yet how can we consider those issues without also thinking about what you are calling "content"? 

I can't agree with you that we should describe literature as "art" and therefore make secondary its content and thus its social or political implications. If people did not consider content in that way, what you describe as happening here, that our whole view of folklore has shifted, would not have happened. If people don't question and confront, change does not happen. The fact is that children's literature is enriched by debates such as these. If we end up with a curriculum more like the one Fairrosa advocates, we do so only because we stopped and challenged the "accepted" forms of teaching about "other cultures." 

I can see why some of you get tired of these endless discussions of accuracy, authenticity, and possible harm. I understand that not everyone is going to consider these issues to be as important as some do. But to try to hush the debate seems to me dangerous and perhaps disingenuous. While books in and of themselves may not be as influential as they once were (because of the advent of other forms of media), narrative does remain one of the most pervasive ways through which children learn about society. Enlightened children are those who can understand and evaluate how narrative operates, both aesthetically and politically. Monica has shown us time and again that it is possible to give children these tools. What I am advodating here, and I think that Fairrosa would agree, is not that we ban books like Rikki Tikki Tembo, but that we expand the curriculum to consider not only alternatives but the impact of seeing such books as representative of other cultures. 


9 Jun 1998 
Torrie Hodgson 

 "The book is a mess of a publication. I grant you that. The inside flap DOES state that the premise of this story is fact." 

*Sigh* I told myself I would stay out of the Tikki Tikki mudslinging. However, I think an important fact is touched upon here. Much of the judging of the authenticity of this story revolves around the advertising copy in the jacket flap. THE AUTHOR HAS NO CONTROL OVER PUBLICITY BLURBS including the jacket flap. Most likely a publisher's marketing department just decided to push the book as an old, time-honored tale. 

If we do want to trust the jacket flap (I have it here in front of me), Arlene Mosel's bio is extremely interesting: 

"Arlene Mosel, the mother of three and Assistant Professor of Library Science at Case Western Reserve University, first heard _Tikki Tikki Tembo_ as a child. Since then Mrs. Mosel has told this wonderful tale to countless numbers of children, including her own. Because so many children responded enthusiastically to it, she decided to put down her own special version for all young listeners to share--her first book for children. A native of Ohio and graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, Mrs. Mosel and her family live in Cleveland." 

"From this I gather, 
1. Mrs. Mosel does know how to do scholarly research. 
2. She did indeed hear this tale in a storytelling, if not folkloric venue. 
3. She was (or is) working with children, and has tested the story's effectiveness in actual practice with them. 

Let's stop comparing Mrs. Mosel to Hitler, and instead blame the unknown storyteller who told this story in the first place. Or let's not blame anybody (even better), at least until we hear Mrs. Mosel's side of the story. 

I cannot speak to the political correctness of the story. I have just re-read it. I have heard it since I was a small child. It never occurred to me that the wacko names really meant what they said in the book. To me, the beginning "Once upon a time, a long, long time ago,.....In a small mountain village...." doesn't sound any more like a real setting than "Once upon a time, in a small kingdom in the mountains..." Or at least it didn't at library time in kindergarten where I first encountered it. 

Truthfully, I would hate my daughter to think that taking a trip to China would be like Tikki Tikki Tembo. I would hate for the Chinese to think that we are all gluttonous consumers with no morals or loyalty, like those who encounter our television soap operas might believe (I am not sure that they do encounter soap operas there. I know Dallas re-runs were incredibly popular in France several years ago, and they were astonished that my mother was not rich or devious when she went to Nice to study). The key I think is exploring literature with parents and teachers (and storytellers and librarians), and explain that this is a story meant to explain a certain concept--ostensibly why the Chinese have short names. I remember dissecting my first pourquoi stories in class in third grade, and then having to write my own about why the rainbow appears on trout. (It was a literary masterpiece of thirty words, but that's beside the point.) Children have much more intelligence than we give them credit for. Many of them are serious skeptics. If you have concerns, give them the story and the concerns, and they can puzzle it out themselves. 

If you are deeply bothered by its setting in China, tell it your own way. Sing Eddie Kootcha Katcha Kama..., research and tell the traditional Japanese version, or take the basic plot elements and weave your own story. Take a class of kids, and divide them in two. Let Amy keep her own name, and give the other kids' names to another child. Let them act out the narrative, while Dylan-Marcie-Tommy-Billy-Rachael-Jennifer-Latesha-Zorah-David falls into the (insert-your-local-body-of-water-here). Then all the kids can run to the water, forming a chain to drag Dylan... out, alas too late. (Or just in time) 

I am not removing this story from my library shelves. I am also not removing _Pink and Say_, _Mommy laid an egg_, or Susan Jeffers' work which may or may not reflect the speech given by Chief Seattle. I will, however, try to locate a good copy of the variants of Tikki Tikki, and other related sources to all the other books that receive challenges in my library. This story may be insensitive, I cannot tell. I hope it isn't. I provide the information, and what the patrons (or the audience) does with it is up to them. If I am comfortable with the story I will tell it. If I am not, I will change it or not tell it. I am not and cannot be the world authority on information of all types---I can provide as many alternatives and related items as it is humanly possible to do. 

*Whew* I had no idea this thread was making me so annoyed (and verbose *laugh*) Thank you for discussing tough issues, it really makes me think out my positions and see if they're worth keeping or discarding. 


9 Jun 1998 
Torrie Hodgson 

Sorry to post again about my own post. It seems the Hitler discussion is actually on the Storytell list. (This story has been batting a bit between the two, or I'm just getting crazy with lack of sleep.) 

However, the sentiment still stands. Let's stop slamming an author who is unaware of the battle. Perhaps someone should ask her to come to her own defense. 


9 Jun 1998 
Carolynne Lathrop 

Of course you are right, Roxanne, about teaching Chinese history and culture more directly. But whether we like it or not, don't we learn something about a culture from its folktales? For example, what do children learn about European's view (and by extension our own view) of homely, unmarried, or older women from the story Cinderella? What do we learn about our culture's view of relationships between men and women from Snow White? What do we learn about Jewish culture from Schlemiel stories? What do we learn about the British from Jack and the Beanstalk? You're right--this is an exciting thread. 


9 Jun 1998 
Marc Aronson 

 Hush the debate? Not at all. Rather I have simply pointed out that if any of us were to review that last three years of discussing book (I think thats as long as I've been around to notice) we'd see a wild skewing of our interests. 

We are totally, totally, totally alert to any political issues, and totally uninterested in purely aesthetic matters. I say that, because this is a list where anyone is free to say any intelligent thing on the subject of the list. And no one has ever felt that the most important thing to talk about is an art style, an interesting development in narrative structure, the evolution of an author's work, the new kinds of materials a painter has chosen, etc. 

To note a terrible imbalance is the opposite of hushing, it is to notice a complete silence that has reigned unchallenged. So for all the good that comes in debating and questioning politics as they relate to books, I would like us to make room for very different questions. Not in the interest of making us less critical of political issues, but in the interest of appreciating books as works of art, not ideological tools. 


9 Jun 1998 
GraceAnne A. DeCandido 

 "some of Marc's comments cut" 

Dear Marc and all, 
As a reviewer, I know all too well how easy it is to seize upon a factual error or errors, and say, 'This is bad.' I also know that it matters more in some books than in others. It's important to talk about how the wonders of a text might sometimes outweigh an error; or how sometimes a raft of errors might drag down a text that doesn't sing anyway. 

The thing I try to do *most* in my book reviews is to describe how it feels to read the book, and in picture books, how the art connects to the reader and to the text. 

Sometimes I find it frustrating that so many books for young people are OK -- not bad, just unimaginative and unexciting. it is finding something that moves and quickens the reader, that makes you want to give a book to all your friends and colleagues, that reminds us why we read. How do we talk about that? How do we find those descriptions? 

I love that Marc has thrown us a challenge, here, in a way, to talk about ART as a living creature. Shall we begin? And how? 


9 Jun 1998 
June Cummins 

"We are totally, totally, totally alert to any political issues, and totally uninterested in purely aesthetic matters. I say that, because this" 

I'm sorry, Marc. I think you are forgetting several discussions that would fall under the umbrella of what you are calling aesthetic. 

"is a list where anyone is free to say any intelligent thing on the subject of the list. And no one has ever felt that the most important thing to talk about is an art style, an interesting development in narrative structure," 

I remember a lengthy and interesting conversation about narrative trajectories. I also remember an enriching discussion of intertextuality and allusion. 

"the evolution of an author's work, the new kinds of materials a painter has chosen, etc." 

Haven't we talked about the art form in _Smoky Night_? And I think there have been other discussions about illustration techniques. 

"To note a terrible imbalance is the opposite of hushing, it is to notice a complete silence that has reigned unchallenged." 

I think "complete silence" is overstating it. I do see your point, and again, I agree that we could be much more engaged with aesthetic questions, but I must reiterate: I think it's difficult, if not impossible, to *separate* the aesthetic from the content. That is why, in my opinion, we haven't achieved what you ask for here: 

"So for all the good that comes in debating and questioning politics as they relate to books, I would like us to make room for very different questions. Not in the interest of making us less critical of political issues, but in the interest of appreciating books as works of art, not ideological tools." 

We can't talk about books as just works of art, because, to put it simply, the message is the medium, and vice versa. But let's do talk more about the medium. Would you like to get a topic going? 


10 Jun 1998 
Hilary Crew 

 Marc, I, too , would like to see more debate about art-work in children's books-but I would pose the same question as Jane about in considering picture-books just how much can you separate art from context of the text--particularly in relation to folk-tales. Some-one on the list has already referred to Betsy Hearne's excellent articles on the source of folk-tales but I also like what Betsy Hearne has to say about art and folk-tale--the questions that arise when you take art of out context with the text-- "Respect the Source: Part Two (SLJ August 1993). I do not know how one can step outside, as it were, and say how powerfully illustrations affect us and why we enjoy them without considering culture etc. I was watching a program about australia the other evening in which an artist was explaining the importance of the colors ochre, white, black, and yellow meant for aboriginal art--where the colors were obtained and their meanings for the aboriginal people. Are we not always involved anyway in talking about culture, history, etc. etc. in talking about art? Understanding and evaluating art also depends on, not only appreciating the aesthetics and the art but understanding the cultural and historical significance of that art. I had a wonderful art teacher in secondary school whose talks on artists and their works remain with me now. It was her placing art in cultural context that helped me appreciate Rembrandt and Van Dyke--and color and shape and line. And don't we value and appreciate picture books for the way text and art are integrated to bring us that feeling of wonder, joy, and surprise? Well--a few thoughts anyway! However, one thing that was not discussed in relation to Tikki was the art-work and its relation to context of story. Hilary 


10 Jun 1998 
Resa Matlock 

 Of course Marc is correct in stating that most of our discussions have to do with the political and moral ramifications of depicting wet babies in bathwater and the tossing out or about thereof. We mostly don't get around to talking about how best to convey the slickness of moss on the rocks of a riverbed when your feet are bare, but this should come as a surprise to no one. Why, only 3 weeks ago, someone wrote about the research done regarding the dinnertime conversations of your typical U.S. family, and how these tend to bog down in the details of the nutritional merits of broccoli or the number of fat grams in near-butter; unlike, say, the dinner table talk of your typical Italian family, in which one is more likely to hear the word succulent used as a verb. 

U.S. society was founded upon 2 premises: one being that a dead fish head planted in close proximity to a corn seed will yield a bumper crop of maize, to which bit of history some small boy paid such close attention that he subsequently grew up to invent fertilizer. The second premise had to do with the belief that children were put here for the hounding. If it wasn't the back 40 that needed hoeing, it was the peas that needed podding, and we were not to take time out to admire the sunset or run naked through the rain, for soon the chilling blasts of winter would be upon us, and what good then all those fond memories of mud between one's toes or how it felt to discover that 20 rainbows would fit inside a puddle. 

So blame it on the weather, throw in all those natural resources that made it possible for us to domesticate the microchip, and nota bene that now in place of roots we have ventilators whose suction tubes are more often than not our final tie to Mother Earth. And yes, other cultures still have rites, rituals, meals, books and discussions, most of which continue to pay homage to the past and a more graceful way of viewing things. But let us not lose sight of the fact that those are less technologically advanced cultures, with fewer TV channels, and let us take pride, stand tall, and declaim loudly that oh, yes, there is too beauty of an absolute sort in those seashells that someone glued into the shape of a pelican. 


In August, 2003, a visitor to the FCL wrote:

in regards to the discussion of tikki tikki tembo....... as a child I
learned the story verbally and the names were different. It was more like (Icki sticki stambo nosa rambo hadi bodi basco ickinam nosaram combashin.) the younger brother's name was toy. I don't know if any of the spelling makes sense. He also dies in the story. There is no ladder and the only other people in the story are his brother and mother.

21 March, 2004
Last Updated

March 21, 2004