4—Messages from the hero’s journey
By now students should have finished reading The Killing Sea and completed the activity to reflect on Ruslan’s life.
Use the text and images in 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami – revisited to imagine they are actually images of Ruslan’s hometown, two weeks and then two years after the tsunami. Have students write entries for two weeks and two years after, as if from Ruslan’s point of view in his diary.
The hero’s journey for Sarah
The second objective for students reading The Killing Sea was to develop their talk on ‘The hero’s journey’ for Sarah. The focus here is on the ‘message’ about intercultural understanding and the bias of the Western media that Sarah has brought back from her experience. The following key references may assist in teaching — some are from Ruslan’s point of view but help in understanding the realisations that Sarah makes.
Students are to write a persuasive text, of 1–2 pages in length, making close reference to the text of The Killing Sea to be presented as a talk: ‘The hero’s journey’. The aim is to persuade the reader that Sarah’s journey of discovery was akin to the hero’s journey as described by the Joseph Campbell quote:
‘One is the physical deed, in which the hero performs a courageous act in battle or saves a life. The other kind is the spiritual deed, in which the hero learns to experience the supernormal range of human spiritual life and then comes back with a message.’
… that Sarah came back with a ‘message’ which is a valuable one for all of us to understand.
Hands Across the Water
Have students listen to parts of an interview with Peter Baines about the aftermath of the tsunami in Thailand, and read related excerpts from his memoir Hands Across the Water, to write answers to the following questions.
As a point of reflection for discussion: Is Peter Baines a hero? Why?
Makato and the Cowrie Shell
Folk tales often involve poor people or peasants struggling with overcoming difficulty or hardship in everyday life — they invariably have a strong moral, a lesson to be learned about the consequences of human actions. While there are many similarities in folk tales from around the world because they deal with universal themes, folk tales also provide insight into the values of the culture the stories come from.
The traditional Thai folk tale ‘Makato and the Cowrie Shell’ (.pdf 434 kB is about a young Thai orphan who must support himself. He rises high up in society by hard work, ingenuity and showing respect to his elders and the king.
In England in the nineteenth century, Joseph Jacobs (who was born and lived in Australia until he was 18) collected and wrote down many English folk tales including ‘Dick Whittington and His Cat’, about a young English orphan.
Have students read ‘Makato and the Cowrie Shell’ and Jacobs’s version of ‘Dick Whittington’ and in groups compare and contrast them. The stories are set in a similar time period, so the values of the two cultures can be compared. Students may notice how no one is unkind to the orphan Makato, though he is expected to fend for himself, while nearly everyone is cruel to the orphan Dick, who is also expected to work to support himself. In European folk and fairy tales, orphans are invariably treated cruelly. There is no evil character in ‘Makato’. However, hard work and ingenuity is the answer to both boys’ problems.
How similar would the experience today of a Thai orphan be to Makato’s experience? How true would the experience of a contemporary English orphan be to Dick’s experience? As students have learned from Peter Baines, in Thailand orphans without extended family are tragically still left to fend for themselves — might the folktale of ‘Makato and the Cowrie Shell’ still ring true today?
In their learning journals, students respond to these questions, referring to previously read extracts from Hands Across the Water (mid page 139 to mid-140, mid page 191–92): Do you think that a Thai child in one of the Hands Across the Water orphanages might relate to and find comfort and inspiration in the story of ‘Makato and the Cowrie Shell’? Why?
Global citizenship in action
Watch the video ‘What do you really need?’. Students might research an aid and development organisation that works to address disasters in our neighbouring Asia-Pacific countries. Have the students organise a presentation to the school about the disaster and conduct a fundraiser to support this work. Invite a speaker from the aid and development organisation to address the school.