The Unluckiest Man in the World – Co-constructed Storytelling

The Unluckiest Man in the World

Once upon a time the unluckiest man in the world was sitting on a bench. ‘Why does everything I do go wrong?’ he asked himself. ‘I’ve lost my job. I’ve lost my girlfriend, I’ve lost my home – I’ve lost everything!’ Then he had an idea. ‘I’ll walk to the end of the world and I’ll ask the wise old woman how to get some luck.’

So he started on his journey to the end of the world. After walking for a while, he came to a forest and there he saw a wolf. The wolf looked very sad and very thin and very hungry. ‘What’s wrong with you?’ said the man.

‘I don’t know what to do,’ said the wolf. ‘I feel so weak and tired and hungry all the time and I don’t know why.’

‘Well,’ said the man, ‘I’m going to the end of the world to ask the wise old woman how to get some luck. If you want I could ask her why you’re so hungry.’

‘I would be very grateful,’ said the wolf, and the man continued on his journey.

After a while he came to a tree. The tree looked very small and sad, and all of its leaves were missing – even though it was the middle of summer.

‘What’s wrong with you?’ said the man.

‘I don’t know what to do,’ said the tree. ‘I can’t grow. All of the other trees get bigger and bigger but I just stay the same.’

‘Well,’ said the man, ‘I’m going to the end of the world to ask the wise old woman how to get some luck. If you want I could ask her why you can’t grow.’

‘Oh, thank you so much,’ said the tree, and the man continued on his journey.

When he was nearly at the end of the world, he came to a lovely house, and standing at the front door was a very beautiful young woman. ‘Come inside!’ she called to him. ‘You must be hungry after your journey,’ and she cooked him a wonderful meal with delicious wine and they laughed and joked together. But then the young woman suddenly started to cry.

‘What’s wrong?’ said the man.

‘I don’t know what to do,’ said the young woman. ‘I’m so sad and lonely living here on my own, and I don’t know why.’

‘Well,’ said the man, ‘I’m going to the end of the world to ask the wise old woman how to get some luck. If you want I could ask her why you are so sad and lonely.’

‘Oh, thank you,’ said the young woman. ‘You are so kind.’ And the man continued on his journey.

And finally he got to the end of the world and there was the wise old woman sitting on a cloud. ‘What do you want?’ asked the wise old woman.

‘I want to know where my luck is,’ replied the man.

‘It’s right in front of you,’ said the wise old woman. ‘You just have to recognize it.’

‘Oh, I see,’ said the man. ‘Thanks very much.’ And the man was just about to go when he remembered the questions of his friends. He listened as the wise old woman whispered the answers to him, and when she was finished he started to walk home again.

He got to the house of the beautiful young woman. ‘The wise old woman said you need to find a husband to live with you,’ he called to her. ‘Then you won’t be sad and lonely.’

‘I see,’ said the young woman. ‘Would you like to be my husband? You could live with me in this lovely house and I’ll cook for you every day and massage your feet.’

‘I’m sorry,’ said the man, ‘I have to go and find my luck. The wise old woman said it’s right in front of me. I just have to recognize it. Sorry.’

And he continued on his journey. When he got to the forest, the tree said to him, ‘Did you find out what is wrong with me?’

‘Yes,’ said the man. ‘The wise old woman said there is a box of treasure under your roots. You need to find somebody to dig it up so that your roots can grow again.’

‘Could you dig it up?’ said the tree. ‘You can keep the treasure.’

‘I’m sorry,’ said the man. ‘I have to go and find my luck. The wise old woman said it’s right in front of me. I just have to open my eyes and see it. Sorry.’ And he continued on his journey.

Soon he came to the wolf, lying on the ground, almost dead. ‘Did you ask the wise old woman for me?’ said the wolf.

‘Yes,’ replied the man. ‘The wise old woman said you are hungry because you’re not eating enough. To feel better you just have to eat the first stupid man that comes your way!’

And that’s exactly what he did!

From the excellent Memory Activities for the Language Classroom by Nick Bilborough – Cambridge University Press 2011.

To use this story in the classroom why not try co-constructed storytelling.  ‘The Unluckiest Man in the World’ is perfect because it has a lot of dialogue. You’ll need people to play the characters – in this case their are five characers: the unlucky man, the tree, the young lady, the wolf and the woman at the end of the world.

Read the play and each time there is a line of dialogue, read it and the point to the person playing the role, who should then repeat the line. It helps if you break the dialogue up into manageable chunks. Encourage the actors to enter into the spirit of the story, to try and become their character and to move about the stage accordingly. This is a very simple but effective idea for classroom storytelling.

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About The Henry Brothers

We are English teachers involved in ELT publishing in Turkey, and also touring the country giving workshops and presentations to English teachers, mainly on the use of poetry, storytelling and other lively activities in the classroom. We can be contacted by e-mail to istanbuljohnm@hotmail.co.uk.
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