Ideas for Reports and Papers
1. Most of these stories take place in winter. Are they "winter's tales" in the sense that Shakespeare uses the term in his play The Winter's Tale?
2. Compare the use of fantasy and reality in these stories. Does the use of fantasy cancel out Singer's use of realistic detail? If not, how does it work in the stories; that is, what purpose does fantasy serve?
3. Read some of the stories in The Fools of Chelm and Their History. Do any of the characters or situations there resemble those in this collection? Discuss their main traits and Singer's obvious fascination with such people.
4. Define the heroic qualities that some of the characters in these stories share. Are they qualities that children or adults today have? Who do you know that has such qualities?
5. Why do the Elders of Chelm have a great reputation for wisdom? Is it deserved? If not, why do the villagers keep asking them for advice?
6. The game of dreidel is mentioned in several stories, and a dreidel appears in some of Sendak's pictures, such as the one facing the title page of "Grandmother's Tale." What is a dreidel, and how is the game played? Why is it important in "Grandmother's Tale"? Why do the children love the game?
7. How wicked is the devil in these stories? Is he really fearsome, or is he a figure of fun? Do the children in the stories believe in the devil? Why?
8. Can you derive a definition of the word shlemiel from the story called "The First Shlemiel"? Is Lemel in "The Mixed- Up Feet and the Silly Bridegroom" a shlemiel? If so, explain why.