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Activities: Stories: The Miller, The Boy, and Their Donkey

A revision of "The Miller, His Boy and Their Donkey"

Group Size: any size
Ages: 5-adult
When or where to use activity: intergenerational service on theme of What Do UU's stand for?.
Materials needed: none

Theme: Do UU’s stand for anything?

During the Service The DRE will tell this revised version of the story “The Miller, His Boy, and Their Donkey” (see Sophia Fahs, From Long Ago and Many Lands, 96-97)

Once a man, his boy, and a donkey were traveling to a city that was very far away. On their way there, they passed many villages and met many different kinds of people who believed very different things. The man prided himself on being an open-minded person who accepted these differences among people and the things they believe, and he wanted to teach his son to accept different beliefs too.

One day, the two travelers and their donkey walked into a village where the people believed that being young was the most beautiful thing and that young people should be admired and honored. When they saw the man and his boy walk into town, they stopped them and said to the man, “You’re not taking proper care of the young boy. He should be honored and allowed to ride on the donkey instead of walking.” So the man put his boy on the donkey and they rode out of town.

On the next day, they came to a village where the people believed that the older a person is, the more he should be respected. When they saw the man walking by with his son riding the donkey, they stopped him and said “You are the eldest. You should be the one riding the donkey.” So the man lifted his son off the donkey and got on it himself.

On the next day, the three came to a village in which the people believed that animals have rights just as humans do and that they should be respected and honored just as much as humans are, if not more. When they saw the man riding the poor, tired donkey, they became angry with him and said, “The poor donkey has been doing all of the work and you have done none of it. The donkey has just as much right to ride as you do.” So the man got off of the donkey. He and his son cut a strong pole and tied the donkey’s feet to it so that they could carry him and give him a rest.

On the next day, they came to a village where everyone believed that people are the highest creatures in a world order that has been created by God, and that all other creatures should serve people as their masters. They laughed at the man and boy carrying the donkey and said that they should both ride the beast and whip him with a stick if he refused to carry them. So they both got on the donkey and rode him out of town.

The next day they arrived at a bridge just outside the city where they were going. The donkey was tired and sat down on the bridge. The man told his son to go fetch a stick to hit the donkey with to make him go, and the boy did as he was told. He stood behind his father and watched as he prepared to hit the donkey. . . but the donkey saw what was coming, and as the man raised his stick to hit him, the donkey kicked him hard, sending both the man and his son tumbling into the river below. By the time they swam to shore, the donkey had run off and left them.

Discussion of Story What do you think of the man in this story? Was he wise or foolish? Why? Do you think it was a good idea for the man to try to do what everyone else believed in? I’ve asked you this question before: What are the people in this building called? (Right: Unitarian Universalists.) Now the man in our story is a little like Unitarian Universalists in that he wanted to respect different beliefs. Unitarian Universalists think that is important too. But respecting different beliefs doesn’t mean that we should do everything that other people believe in. That’s what the man tried to do wasn’t it . . . and it didn’t work out well. We can’t be like all other people. It’s good to listen to other people and to try to understand what they believe in, but we still have to choose what we believe in. Can you think of anything that UU’s believe in?

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