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Two Strangely Similar French and English Folktales

Blog Type:  Preschool
Date Posted:  Tuesday, February 12, 2019

By now, you must have heard about Roule Galette! It’s the story of an old peasant couple who decide to bake a cake, the “galette.” However, as it cools down by the window, the sneaky pastry decides to take off and rolls through the forest. It encounters several animals that want to eat it but always manages to escape, until it meets the fox… You can listen to the book read in French in this video.

With their English teachers, students were able to draw parallels between the characters of Roule Galette and The Gingerbread Man, which are very similar.  The Gingerbread Man is also baked by an old couple. The Gingerbread Man escapes when the oven opens. While running, he meets a cow, a horse and a pig who want to eat him as well. He runs and meets a fox who tricks him and eventually eats him.  You can listen to the book read in English in this video.

Connecting food and literature

All Preschool and Kindergarten students sang, read and studied Roule Galette and The Gingerbread Man over the past month. It is particularly timely for French culture because during Epiphany the traditional galettes des rois, or King’s Cake, is eaten in January all over France. You may even have had the chance to taste some galettes baked by your child in Moyenne Section.

Throughout history the stories of Roule Galette and the Gingerbread Man have been altered. The earliest versions that appear in print aren’t with galette or gingerbread, they are with pancake. One is “The Pancake” that originated in Norway in the 1800’s and the second was “The Thick, Fat Pancake” from Germany from the same time period. The most popular version in Europe in the 19th century was “The Fleeing Pancake.” The Gingerbread Man became popular in the United States at that time while Roule Galette became popular later in France around 1950.

The story of Roule Galette, like many other famous French and English folktales, is constructed in a repetitive manner: the galette meets a rabbit, then a wolf, then a bear, and finally a fox. The same thing always happens, until the end. The child can start guessing and even anticipating what is coming next, because it is predictable. And, as you’ve probably seen yourself, children love to see the galette eaten by the fox and are always excited, even if they’ve read the story many times!

A story that follows a repetitive pattern

Roule Galette, La Petite Poule Rousse, Gros Navet, La Moufle, De la Petite Taupe qui voulait savoir qui lui avait fait sur la tête, Le Petit Bonhomme de pain d'épices… these are some examples of stories that follow this same sequencing pattern meant to ease young children into reading.

In English we also have plenty of predictable stories that follow a pattern such as The Gingerbread Man, The Three Little Pigs, Goldilock and the Three Bears, The Little Red Hen, and The Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Through both of the stories of Roule Galette and The Gingerbread Man, children discovered bilingually the words for all the forest animals mentioned in the story and started practicing storytelling using simple paper puppets, puppets and other artifacts. Students were able to draw parallels between the characters of Roule Galette and the Gingerbread Man, which are very similar. They also read different versions of those stories, and compared and contrasted the elements (characters, setting, plot). Make sure to ask your children to tell you the story!