The Soldier's Tale Language Arts Curriculum Guide
The Soldier's Tale is not the only one of its kind. There have been numerous stories told and retold, stretching back thousands of years, with characters who are tempted by the devil to give up something important to them for something else they desire. Here are some examples (these are stories with serious and difficult themes not appropriate for younger children):
- The story of Job in the Bible chronicles the suffering of one man, a faithful servant of God, as the devil tries to turn him from his righteous ways and instead curse God. In this tempter-temptee story Job actually does not fall victim to the devil's schemes and God blesses his life after his suffering.
- Faust- German poet and playwright Johann von Goethe wrote this play that has had much influence on literature, art and music over the past 200 years. In the story of Faust, the devil (Mephistopheles) makes a bet with God that he can turn Faust away from righteous pursuits (similar to the biblical story of Job). The devil succeeds in this story by tempting Faust with all manner of divine knowledge. Things don't end well for poor Faust. He ends up in Hell, a servant of the devil.
- In The Devil and Daniel Webster (a Faustian story itself), a farmer sells his soul to the devil (who is in the form of a stranger named "Mr Scratch") in exchange for seven years of prosperity. When the time is up, he bargains for another three years, but at the end of those years the devil comes to collect. The farmer instead takes Mr. Scratch to court, and after a long court battle, wins. Daniel Webster is the attorney trying the case.
- The story of Orpheus and Eurydice is a bit different, but it still involves temptation and the bartering for important things. Read the kid-friendly version of the story here. The full version is here.
- Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice is an opera based on the myth. Here's the opera synopsis (a slightly different version than the myth) and here is a video of a scene from the opera. In this scene, Orfeo leads Euridice through the labyrinth out of the Underworld but can't look at her. As is common in opera, Orfeo, a male character, is played by a mezzo-soprano (low-voiced female singer) in a role called a "pants role".
- Divine knowledge, prosperity, a lost love, a book which holds the secrets to untold wealth... What about you? Can you think up a story in which the main character, driven by a strong desire for something, makes a deal with the "devil"? What form would the devil take in your story? How would he try to woo the character into making this deal and what would the character have to give up in exchange? Would the devil win, or the human?
QUESTIONS & ACTIVITIES
- What do these stories say about humankind? Why are these things- knowledge, power, wealth- so desirable? Are those the things that make us truly happy? Discuss.
- Write letters, and send care packages, to active troops. There are many websites you can use to find information such as Any soldier and million thanks.
- In Flander's Field is perhaps one of the most famous poems associated with World War I. The poet was a military doctor and artillery commander, Major John McCrae. Learn more about this poem.
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