Vermont Folklife Center

Reader Activities:

Animal Tales

Family animals—dogs, cats, horses and others—often hold places of special importance in the families they live with. Some of these animals are pets, loved almost as family members. Others, like Tom in John and Tom, are work animals, valued for their intelligence, strength and reliability. Just like the humans in their lives, all of these animals can be the sources of wonderful stories—stories that can be told and passed on to younger generations.

How about you? Do you have stories about your pets, past and present? What about your parents, grandparents and other family members? Do they have animal stories?

Do this: Ask older friends or family members to tell you a tale about an animal from their past. To get the storytelling started, you might want to ask the person questions like these:

  • Did your family have animals when you were a child? What did you have, and what were they like? What kinds of chores did you do for your animals?
  • What were some of the memorable things you and your pet did for fun?
  • Did you ever have any adventures together?
  • Did any of your animals ever do something amazing, heroic or funny?
  • What about hunting and fishing stories? Or encounters with animals in the wild. Do you have any of those tales?
  • Were there work animals or barn animals in your life when you were young? What did they do? How were they important to the families that had them?

Later you might want to start an animal scrapbook and write in it some of the animal stories you’ve heard. Paint or draw pictures to go with the stories. Add tales and pictures of your favorite pet or animal.

Give it a try. Become a collector, or archivist, of your family’s animal tales!

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