Soup retold by John Warren Stewig
by Margaret Tomes
1991 by John Warren Stewig and Margaret Tomes
young girl, Grethel, and her mother love each other very much, but they are
very poor and have a hard time finding enough food to eat. Grethel decides to
venture out on her own for a few days and see if she can find a solution to
their food shortage. She comes to one town where all the people are very
stingy. She asks if they have anything to spare, but they pass the word she is
near and hide all their food, making excuses for why there is no extra for her.
Grethel comes up with an idea: she picks up a stone and declares that she will
make a huge pot of stone soup. She asks for a large cauldron and water, which a
towns person provides. Ingredient by ingredient, Grethel asks the townsfolk for
carrots and milk and barley until
there is a hearty soup sitting in the town square. She then has the
whole town feast on the supposed "Stone Soup" and stay up dancing and having
fun. The town thanks her and ends her home after she gives them the stone and
she heads home with new knowledge of how to keep food on her and her mother's
1) What does it mean to be clever?
Do you think Grethel is clever?
Is being clever like being smart?
Can you learn how to be clever?
or a book or a class teach you how to be clever?
Are you clever, smart or both? Why?
2) Why does the family at the first house Grethel stops at
turn her away?
Would you turn away a hungry traveler?
If your friend was hungry during lunch, would you share your food?
What if a strange asked for food?
Is it good to share?
Is it bad not to share and why?
Why do the townsfolk hide their food?
3) Is it ok to be "stingy" if you have a good reason, like
a lot of mouths to feed?
What is an excuse?
Is an excuse like a reason? Why or why not?
Are the townspeople lying?
What is lying?
Is lying a bad or good thing?
It is always bad or good to lie?
Is there a time when you wanted to lie but didn't and why?
Are white lies ok?
Do you feel bad when you lie?
Do you feel better when you tell the truth?
4) What's a long face and why do the townsfolk put one on
to look hungry?
How do you put on a face?
Do you take off a face?
Do you change faces?
What are other ways you can look hungry?
5) Have you ever had stone soup?
Can you buy it in a store?
Was Grethel really making stone soup?
By the end of the story it really seemed like the town had enough food to share
with each other. Did Grethel trick them into sharing?
Was it ok that Grethel tricked them?
The town had a great night and a great soup, was the trick a good thing?
6) Grethel says that if they had some barley and milk "then
this soup would be good enough for the king himself. Indeed when last we dined,
he complimented me on just such a soup." Do you think Grethel really cooked
stone soup for the king?
Why did Grethel say she cooked for the king?
Does it change what the townspeople think of her?
Does it make what Grethel says more impressive, like she is very important?
Is Grethel's bragging ok? Why or why not?
7) Is it the stone soup that brings the townspeople
together for the feast or is it Grethel?
Grethel is described as an up-and-coming young lass, does this mean the same as
wise? How about clever?
What does it mean?
Grethel taught the townspeople how to make stone soup, could they have figured
it out with her help?
How does Grethel know how to make stone soup?
Was she taught?
Is Grethel really teaching the townspeople how to make stone soup? or how to
make something else?
What does she teach them?
How does Grethel plan on keeping food on her and her mother's table?
Good v. Bad
This story deal with the notions of generosity and
community, local as well as global. Throughout the story, Grethel uses her
cleverness to trick the townsfolk into getting them to do what they said they
didn't to do. The moral question arises, is is fine for Grethel to trick them,
morally bad, knowing that they will benefit more from having the experience?
And in that case, is it ok to do bad things if they end will be better than
whatever bad thing happened or was lost?
Clever as a Fox
This question discusses the words used to describe Grethel
and the type of character she sets out to be. Clever has the connotation of
being tricky, like the coyote or fox in fables. They are the trickster who will
get you into trouble if you aren't careful. In society, we are told to trust
smart people and doubt clever people, because clever people are always working
a personal angle. However, in this story, the personal angle Grethel works is
also good for the town, morally and physically.
Stingy is as Stingy Does
(Questions 2 and 3)
Being stingy is a morally "wrong" thing. But stingy denotes
that there is a choice between being stingy and being generous where stingy
wins. This question deals with whether there is ever any right, or just, time
to be selfish. If there is a time,
when is that time? And even if it is ok, should you still try to be generous
(Questions 4 and 5)
These questions both deal with metaphors. A long face is a
metaphor for hunger and stinginess while stone soup is a metaphor for
generosity. Stone soup is a tricky metaphor because it is also a solid thing
which the townsfolk eat together. These questions are meant to get at the
subtle meanings behind the written word and illuminate what is really going on
underneath the surface.
(Questions 6 and 7)
These deal with the towns people's changing view of Grethel
and her place in their eyes. She is shunned on first arrival, then step by
step, helped with the soup, and then revered for her soup making abilities and
ties to the king. Question 7 is supposed to get at the heart of the story, of
the underlying character of the town and Grethel. To examine the effects of her
challenge and how the town rose to meet it. These are priceless lessons in the
formula of human consciousness and how people want to help each other, but
sometimes need a reason.
by Alissa Fitzgerald