It’s a simple fact, we humans communicate through stories. It has been this way for a long time, since humans established the first spoken languages. We are all much more interested in information, if the format of the information is a story format.
Humans are hard-wired to remember stories as they are one of the most reliable and efficient ways for humans to convey information across time (parents hand stories down to their children and their children etc..) and its efficient at passing information from one person too many (to all those who are within hearing distance).
From being told gossip at the coffee machine in work, friends out for a meal talking about what's happened since they last met right down to children learning about life in the real world through bedtime stories. If you hear a story, you will be much more likely to let the information being told into your brain.
So today we take advantage of our human weakness for stories and we help you learn some new English vocabulary and listen to a native English speaker while hearing a German story popular in the UK and made famous by Walt Disney.
|Once upon a time||4|
|So of course, the||3|
|He can see again||2|
|his sight is restored||2|
|for the first time||2|
Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. I hope you’re enjoying some nice spring weather – at least if you live in the Northern hemisphere. We have had the most fantastic warm weather over the Easter weekend last week in the UK. Four days of sun. Great! Just wish it was like this more often in the UK. Anyway, what shall we talk about today? How about we do some short stories in English for students today?
How about I take a children’s story and I retell it to you, in my own way, with some vocabulary explanation, like I normally do? This will be a bit different – and it will give you practice at understanding. I’ll also give you some questions at the end, so that you can check your comprehension, just like you might in an English test. So these are stories which were told to me as a child – and which I’ve also told to my children, when they were little. You might know these stories, or they may be entirely new to you. As ever listen to this podcast a number of times.
So the first of my short stories in English for students is the story of Rapunzel. That’s R-A-P-U-N-Z-E-L. Now this is a German Fairy Story – from the Grimm Brothers. You might have heard of Grimm’s Fairy Stories. Anyway, here goes. ‘Once upon a time….’ - that’s how all fairy stories begin. It’s a cliché – and ‘once upon a time’ means that it was a long time ago when this happened. So once upon a time, there was a man and his wife, who really, really, really wanted to have a baby. But try as they might, no baby came. Now the upstairs window of their house overlooked the garden of the house next door. And in this garden, grew lots of different fruit and vegetables – good things to eat. Now the garden belonged to a witch – that’s W-I-T-C-H – and in stories of this type, there are often witches. Witches are always women and they do magic, they ‘cast spells’. If you know Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, then there are the three witches right at the start.
Think also of Salem, S-A-L-E-M in the US – and the witch trials in 1692. Does that give you the meaning of the word witch? Anyway, back to the story. The garden belonged to a witch. Bit by bit, the woman who wanted a child and who was looking out at the witches garden, she develops an obsession. She is desperate to eat some of the lettuce growing there. Now, I don’t know about you, but lettuce – or salad leaves, it probably isn’t what I’d be especially keen for, but it’s possible I guess that the witch had already cast a spell on her, done some magic on this woman. So the woman starts to even become ill, because she wants so much to eat the lettuce. So the husband asks her what is wrong and she tells him. The story usually says here, ‘And the man loved his wife very much’ so he climbs into the witch’s garden and steals some of the lettuce. The wife eats the lettuce and likes it so much, that the next day, her want to eat lettuce is even greater. So the husband continues to steal the lettuce, until of course, one day, he’s caught by the witch. Now the witch in my story book is a terrifying looking woman, who’s smoking a pipe! So of course, the husband begs for mercy. He knows he’s in the wrong and the witch, being a difficult person as witches usually are, sees an opportunity to get something in return. So she tells him that he can take as much lettuce as he likes for his wife, but the child which his wife will shortly have, must be given to her, to the witch and she will bring the child up as her own. The husband doesn’t have any choice but to agree.
So of course, the witch is right and the childless couple soon have a baby. But of course, their joy is short-lived, because they know they must hand the baby girl over to the witch. Doesn’t seem worth it for some lettuce, does it? But I’m guessing that some magic must have been involved. So the witch takes the baby girl and calls her ‘Rapunzel’, which is another name for a type of lettuce, called rampion, which was growing in her garden.
So the witch brings up the girl, Rapunzel, who is of course, the most beautiful child. When Rapunzel is twelve years old, the witch takes her and locks her up in a tower, in a forest. Now a tower, T-O-W-E-R, is a building, which is much taller than it’s wide – and this tower had no door or stairs, only a small room at the top with a window. No details are usually given about how the witch gets Rapunzel into the tower, but I guess she’s always got magic and spells to solve these kind of a problems. A minor detail! Anyway, Rapunzel grows up, knowing only the witch – and the witch visits daily with food and supplies. I guess it’s an extreme situation of a parent, who wants to protect their child and not let them go! Not let them have any freedom.
Anyway Rapunzel grows up. And she has the most beautiful, long, golden hair. So long in fact that it reaches the bottom of her tower. And every day, when the witch visits the tower, she says ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair’ and then the witch uses the golden hair to climb up.
A photograph of a man holding a baby you cannot tell the gender of the baby. Used to help explain English grammar she, he and they.
Now of course, we’re in a fairy story, so inevitably there is a young, handsome prince. A prince is the son of a king. And ‘handsome’, H-A-N-D-S-O-M-E is another word for good-looking – it’s used more often of men than women. Princes in stories like this are always handsome, just as the women are always beautiful. So of course, the prince rides past the tower in the woods on his horse one day – and he hears the beautiful voice of Rapunzel, who is singing in the tower. So he is curious and he returns to the tower, several times more – wanting to know who is in there, who is singing. On one of these occasions, he sees the witch coming and hides and watches. He then sees the witch calling ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair’ and he sees how the witch climbs up and enters the tower through the window.
Now of course, the prince waits for a time when the witch is not there – and then he calls out to Rapunzel in the same way. ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair’ - and duly the long golden hair is let down. No doubt Rapunzel would have been a bit frightened for the first time the prince climbed up – apparently, she’d never seen a man, before. Pretty confusing for the young girl, I would imagine! But of course, beautiful Rapunzel and the handsome prince fall in love and he starts to visit all the time and spend lots of time in the tower with Rapunzel.
Of course, you can see how this is going to end. Badly, of course. One day Rapunzel says to the witch, without thinking ‘How is it that you climb so slowly up the tower? The prince is much quicker than you!’ And the secret is out. Of course, the witch is full of rage – that’s anger, extreme anger. The witch takes some scissors and she cuts off Rapunzel’s long hair. Then she banishes Rapunzel to a far away land, to a dessert. But the witch is a crafty old thing - ‘crafty’, C-R-A-F-T-Y means that she’s skilled at tricking people. So she goes back to the tower and waits for the prince to come.
And when he calls ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair’, the witch takes Rapunzel’s hair, now tied to a hook – and she lets it down for the prince to climb up. Of course, as soon as the prince enters the tiny room at the top of the tower, he’s in for a big shock, a nasty surprise. The witch is again enraged and she tells the prince that he will never see Rapunzel again. The prince jumps from the tower and as he jumps – and this is perhaps the witch’s magic again – the thorns, the prickles on the trees that he falls through, scratch his eyes and he is blind. He has no sight – he cannot see.
So the prince wanders then for several years, blind and desperate. However, this is a fairy story, so there must be a miraculous ending. One day, he is wandering and he hears a beautiful voice. As he gets nearer, he recognises the voice as Rapunzel’s. So they come together and as Rapunzel’s tears – she’s crying – the tears touch the eyes of the Prince, his sight is restored! He can see again! So Rapunzel and the prince – we’re never told his name – then go back to his kingdom. They’re married and they live happily ever after. ‘Happily ever after’ is the phrase which is always used at the end of the story – it mirrors ‘Once upon a time’. And I guess ‘happily ever after’ means the same as ‘for the rest of their lives’.
So short stories in English for students – shall I ask you some questions to check that you understood the story? Here goes.
- What did the woman see in the witch’s garden that she wanted to eat?
- Why did the witch call the baby girl Rapunzel?
- What is another word in English for the colour of Rapunzel’s hair?
- How did the prince first become curious about the tower?
- How does the witch find out about the prince?
- How does the prince recognise Rapunzel the second time?
- How is the prince’s sight restored – how is it that he can see again by the end of the story?
- Where do they go to get married at the end of the story?
Answers are going to be in the transcript. So if you want to look at the transcript to check whether you got the answers right, go to adeptenglish.com and have a look.
Well, there you are – short stories in English for students. Let us know via Facebook or email us at [email protected], if you like this – if you like the idea also of having question to test yourself at the end.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
- Rapunzel is apparently another name for the type of lettuce, called rampion,
- He heard a beautiful singing voice and wanted to know whom it belonged to.
- Rapunzel accidentally speaks of him, when commenting on how slowly the witch climbs up the tower.
- Again because he hears her singing.
- When Rapunzel’s tears touch his eyes, his sight is restored and he can see.
- They return to the kingdom of the prince.