Storytime with Temeka: The Story of Ferdinand

While all the other little bulls run, jump and butt their heads together, Ferdinand would rather sit under his favourite cork tree and smell the flowers…

The Story of Ferdinand Written by Munro Leaf Illustrated by Robert Lawson First published: Viking Press 1936

The Story of Ferdinand Reflect and Respond

  • What does Ferdinand love to do? What are your favourite quiet activities?

  • How do the other little bulls like to play?
    Do you like to be rough and tumble sometimes?

  • Are there quiet people and loud people… or can you be a mixture?

  • What activities make you feel the happiest? Are there any popular activities or games that you don’t really enjoy?

  • What does it mean to be different from the crowd?

  • What happens when you don't do what people expect?

Inspiration and Adaptation

Theatre makers can get their ideas from many places. An everyday experience, a piece of music, a news article or a story from a book can spark the beginning of a theatre show. This book, The Story of Ferdinand, helped to inspire the early development of I Wish…

Ferdinand is different from the other little bulls. He behaves differently and he enjoys different activities. The Patch creative team started thinking about all the ways that humans can be different from each other, too.

This book is featured in the I Wish… Education Resource as part of the themed reading list People are made of stuff: Identity, Difference and Individuality.

Ferdinand in History

Pacifism

Pacifism means the opposition to war or violence. Pacifists believe that all conflicts should be settled peacefully

- Britannica Kids

Ferdinand is a placid young bull who does not like to fight. You may think this is a sweet, simple story that couldn’t possibly cause a fuss. But in fact The Story of Ferdinand is one of the most influential (and controversial) children’s picture books ever published.

Peace Pledge Union sandwich board placard, 1937 © The Peace Museum.

  • While The Story of Ferdinand is set in Spain, the book’s author, Munro Leaf, was American. He chose the setting simply because he had never seen a picture book about bull fighting.

  • Unfortunately, civil war broke out in Spain in 1936 - the same year that Ferdinand was published. This war lasted three years and resulted in a military takeover of the country.

  • World War II also began not long after the book’s publication, in 1939. Germany was a major aggressor in this war.

  • With war raging all over the world, many grown-ups saw quiet, peaceful Ferdinand as a symbol of Pacifism.

  • The book was banned in Spain for over 30 years following the Spanish Civil War.

  • In Nazi Germany, the book was burned as ‘degenerate propaganda’ along with countless other books and works of art.

  • When World War II ended, the British Air Transport Auxiliary used the phrase ‘Ferdinand the Bull’ as their call sign, to signal to European air controllers that they came in peace.

  • 30,000 copies of the The Story of Ferdinand were distributed throughout Germany immediately after the war.

  • In America, the book was interpreted by some as communist propaganda - but beloved by many others, including President Roosevelt who requested an official copy for the White House.

  • Stalin granted the book special status as the only non-communist children’s book allowed in Poland.

Inspiration

I Wish…

If you have seen I Wish…

  • What does it mean when something is inspired by something else?

  • What are some ways that the performers were different from each other - just like Ferdinand was different from the other bulls?

  • What about ways that they were similar?

  • Did the performers behave like Ferdinand…
    … or more like the rough & tumble little bulls?

Think about the idea of ‘fitting in’.

  • What does it mean when you fit in?

  • What does it feel like when you don’t?

  • Do you think Ferdinand felt like he fit in?

  • What about Green from I Wish…
    did he always fit in with the others?

Adaptation

1. Ferdinand the Bull, Walt Disney Studios, 1938

Two years after The Story of Ferdinand was first published,
the book was adapted into a short animated cartoon by Walt Disney Productions. An adaptation is a new version of the same story.

After watching Ferdinand the Bull (1938) …

  • In what ways is is this adaptation the same as the original book?

  • In what ways is it different?

  • What elements are new in this version?
    (Music, sound effects, full colour…)

  • What elements are unique to the book?
    (Page turns, bold colour scheme…)

2. Ferdinand the Bull,
Darwin Symphony Orchestra, 2020

In 2020, Darwin Symphony Orchestra presented a musical adaptation of Ferdinand the Bull for Solo Violin and Narrator.
The music was composed by Alan Ridout.

After watching the recording of Ferdinand the Bull (2020) …

  • In what ways is is this adaptation the same as the original book?

  • In what ways is it different?

  • What elements are new in this version?

Visit Darwin Symphony Orchestra for more activities:

FERDINAND RESOURCES FROM DARWIN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

Ferdinand’s story was adapted again in 2017 by Fox Family Entertainment. Have you seen this version?
What other famous stories can you think of that have been adapted and retold in many different ways?

More activities to try
Galaxy Jar Create your own miniature galaxy in a jar.
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Storytime with Temeka: All the Ways to be Smart Find a comfy spot to share the affirming and award-winning Australian picture book All the Ways to be Smart with Patch pal Temeka.
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Flying Mirror Bird Activity Draw a bird and send it on an adventure around your home.
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