A Thief Who Talked

A Chinese oral folk story translated and adapted by Ping Cui and Robert Colvin , illustrated by Stephen Axelsen

Learning intention:

I am learning about the value of generational storytelling so that I can broaden my knowledge and understanding of shared cultural traditions.


Success criteria:

  • I can explain what folk stories are
  • I can recognise the similarities in storytelling across cultures
  • I can apply my understanding by telling by creating and telling my own story.


Read the story in full, or if you have a digital subscription, play the audio version to enhance the effect of the oral retelling. Draw students’ attention to the byline (A Chinese oral folk story translated and adapted by Ping Cui and Robert Colvin). Discuss the meaning of oral folk stories and ensure students understand that these are stories that are passed down through generations within a culture by retellings.

Explain that famous fairytales such as Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood came from European folk stories, as did many fables, including The Tortoise and the Hare. All have had many retellings over centuries.

Watch the videos A Maasai Flood Story and Tiddalick the Frog. Explain that both stories are folklore from different cultures that have been used to discuss the occurrence of floods – one explaining the beginning and the cause, the other explaining the consequence and the end.

Write the following list on the board:

  • Lightning
  • Thunder
  • Clouds
  • Wind
  • Drought

Inform students that they should choose one of the weather events on the list to come up with their own folktale. Their story may be used to explain what started or ended the weather event or discuss something that happened during it. Students may wish to create a mind map or take notes for their ideas; however, they will be sharing their stories orally. Stories should be approximately 30-60 seconds long.

Once students have had time to think about their idea and develop their story, split them into small groups. Each student should have a turn telling their folk story to their group. Once all stories have been told, come back together as a whole class, and go through the list of weather events to discuss and compare the stories that were told for each one. For example, ask students who told a story about thunder to briefly explain the premise of their story to the class. Discuss the way that different students have come up with different ideas to explain the same premise, just as different cultures did with their own folk stories.