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Stone Soup retold by John Warren Stewig

Stone Soup retold by John Warren Stewig

illustrated by Margaret Tomes

copyright 1991 by John Warren Stewig and Margaret Tomes







            A 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 table.




1) What does it mean to be clever?

            A. Do you think Grethel is clever?

            B. Is being clever like being smart?

            C. Can you learn how to be clever?

                        i)Can or a book or a class teach you how to be clever?

            D. Are you clever, smart or both? Why?

2) Why does the family at the first house Grethel stops at turn her away?

            A. Would you turn away a hungry traveler?

            B. If your friend was hungry during lunch, would you share your food?

                        i) What if a strange asked for food?

                        ii) Is it good to share?

                        iii) Is it bad not to share and why?

            C. 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?

            A. What is an excuse?

            B. Is an excuse like a reason? Why or why not?

            C. Are the townspeople lying?

                        i) What is lying?

                        ii) Is lying a bad or good thing?

                        iii) It is always bad or good to lie?

            D. Is there a time when you wanted to lie but didn't and why?

                        i) Are white lies ok?

                        ii) Do you feel bad when you lie?

                        iii) 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?

            A. How do you put on a face?

                        i) Do you take off a face?

                        ii) Do you change faces?

            B) What are other ways you can look hungry?

5) Have you ever had stone soup?

            A. Can you buy it in a store?

                        i) Was Grethel really making stone soup?

            B. 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?

                        i) Was it ok that Grethel tricked them?

                        ii) 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?

            A. Why did Grethel say she cooked for the king?

            B. Does it change what the townspeople think of her?

            C. Does it make what Grethel says more impressive, like she is very important?

            D. 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?

            A. Grethel is described as an up-and-coming young lass, does this mean the same as wise? How about clever?

                        i) What does it mean?

            B. Grethel taught the townspeople how to make stone soup, could they have figured it out with her help?

                        i) How does Grethel know how to make stone soup?

                        ii) Was she taught?

            C. Is Grethel really teaching the townspeople how to make stone soup? or how to make something else?

                        i) What does she teach them?

            D. 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

(Question 1)

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 anyway?




(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