The Mermaid’s Muse: The Legend of the Dragon Boats

A poet named Qu Yuan, advisor to the King of Chu, is falsely banished to a far off island where the inhabitants really respect his wisdom. A dragon falls in love with him, and changes to a young woman, who asks him to come and live with her under the sea. The villagers assume, when they see him on the dragon, that he is going to be killed and they row out in their boats to save him, banging on the water to scare the dragon, throwing in rice cakes to distract the dragon, and attacking. The dragon refuses to fight back. The poet eventually changes himself into a dragon and says, “Do not believe everything your eyes will tell you.” After that, each year, the villagers celebrate the two dragons, and eventually come to celebrate with their own dragon boats.

David Bouchard, Raincoast Books, 1999, ISBN 9781551922485

Author: Dave Bouchard
Dave Bouchard is a former school administrator and teacher in BC. He has a school named after him in Ontario. He has received the Governor General’s medal and written many books. Three of his books are of Chinese folktales: The Mermaid’s Muse, The Dragon New Year, and The Great Race. Nine of his books reflect his Metis heritage which he discovered as an adult including I am Raven (click for teaching ideas).

Pourquoi Stories: How Things Came To Be
Pouquoi is French for “why”. This is a pourquoi story of how it came to be that there are dragon boat races and festivals around the world. Students could be asked to write their own imaginative, “how it came to be” story. One possibility is how the name of their school came to be, or the name of their town. Another is just an ordinary object such as an orange and how it came to be. Most pourquoi stories have a humorous element.

For example, I went to General Currie Elementary School in Richmond in grade one. We children believed that it was named after an American General (because that seemed more possible than a Canadian General) who had retired in Canada after the American Revolution. As an adult I discovered that he was the first Canadian commander of an all Canadian military division.

Art: Drawing the Dragon
There are many YouTube videos to teach students to draw important Chinese symbols, including the dragon. One I particularly like is How to Draw a Chinese Dragon by Paolo Morrone (below). Be prepared to stop the video at regular intervals so that students can catch up.

For more creative writing ideas, click The Mermaid’s Muse to download.

I am Raven

I Am RavenA great chief of the Pacific Northwest is creating his totem. The animals (beaver, bear, wolf, owl, eagle, frog, killer whale, otter, thunder, and raven) each present a quality that the chief might have that would lend itself to creating his totem.  Each tries to persuade him to include them.

Andy Everson, MTW Publisher, ©2007, 978-0-9784327-0-6

Build Your Own Totem

The entire book is built around the premise of finding the totem that symbolizes you. First, read the book to the students. At a second reading, as a listening skill, students can listen for those qualities each of the animals presents to the chief. The attached page includes a black line master for listening. After the discussion, ask students to use the little sketches to create a totem with 4 qualities that they would like to have.

The back of the book has a double-page spread with additional possible qualities including: hummingbird, duck, dragonfly, Canada goose, swan, loon, kingfisher, beetle, moon, and sun. Students might want to think about these qualities as well…although it makes the project even more complicated.

If You’re Not From BC

David Bouchard once was a principal in North Vancouver, BC. Since becoming an author and discovering his roots as an aboriginal, he has become one of the most evocative writers in the field. Author of over 50 books, he is a recipient of the Order of Canada.

My favourite from Dave Bouchard is If You’re Not From the Prairie… which is a lyrical praise of growing up in the prairies:

  • The sun is our friend from when we are young
  • If you’re not from the prairies, you don’t know the sun.

A good assignment might be for students to write an “If You’re Not from BC…” book.

For 4 creative writing ideas, click I am Raven to download.