Mabela the Clever

by Vicky on March 30, 2012

It was high time to do some spring cleaning, so I’m just now posting photos from last week’s story time, which featured the tale, Mabela the Clever (retold by Margaret Read MacDonald and illustrated by Tim Coffey).

I like telling MRM’s stories, because her versions always include a lot of audience participation, which kids love. Mabela the Clever also has a great opening line:

In the early times, some were clever and some were foolish.
The Cat was one of the clever ones.  The mice were mostly foolish.

But the tiny mouse named Mabela was different.  She had been taught cleverness.

Mabela’s father teaches her that when she is out and about, she should 1) keep her ears open and listen; 2) keep her eyes open and look around her; 3) pay attention to what she is saying; and 4) if she has to move, move FAST!

The Cat comes to the mice village and announces that the cats have voted to allow the mice to join their secret society.  They are to show up at the Cat’s house on Monday morning to be learn the secret cat lore and be initiated.

The Cat teaches the mice the Cat Society’s secret song:

When we are marching, we never look back.
The Cat is at the end, Fo Feng! FO FENG!!

The mice line up with the smallest (Mabela) at the head of the line, and march singing into the forest.

Suddenly, Mabela notices that the singing doesn’t seem quite as loud as at first, and she remembers her father’s instruction to keep her ears open and listen.  Hmm…definitely softer!  And then Mabela remembers her father’s second instruction to keep her eyes open and look around.  She sneaks a glance back out of the corner of her eye and notices that the line is much shorter. 

That reminds her of her father’s third admonishment: “Mabela, when you are speaking, pay attention to what you are saying.”

The Cat is at the end…

Who is watching the Cat?

Suffice it to say that Mabela remembers her father’s last piece of advice in time.  She dodges the Cat, who gets tangled up in a bramble, and all of the mice escape from his backpack.

I love the ending of this story, which comes to us from the Limba people of South Africa.  Limba grandparents tell their grandchildren:

If a person is clever, it is because someone has taught them their cleverness.

After the story, we played the fo-feng game.  The kids sang and marched while marched at the end wearing the Cat mask and fo-fenged the last person in line until I made it to the head of the line.  Then the kids made their own Cat masks and mice paperdolls so they could re-enact the puppet play for themselves.

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