Magic hats and magic hearts:

A true story about magic, science, ugliness of prejudice, and beauty of friendship

Retold for you by Eugene Matusov

(Also Known As Zhenya in Russia and Themba in South Africa), ematusov__AT__udel__DOT__edu

 

In this story, Squirrel attempts to use science to disprove a charlatan salesman but it leads to making an unusual friend, sweating, and swimming instead. 

 

Feel free to interrupt the story while reading it with friends: this is UUGR – Unsustained Unsilent Group Reading, – in a contrast to SSSR – Sustained Silent Solo Reading – practicing in many American schools. I like that this story to be read with other people so it can spark discussions about difficult issues we all face like magic and cheating, beauty and ugliness, justice and discrimination, science and prejudice, friendship and meanness.

 

Part I. Vulture’s magic hats

In which you will meet brave and popular Squirrel and his friends as well as weird-looking bird whom Squirrel did not like because the bird was very ugly and smelly.

This story occurred quite recently in one of our beautiful forests several miles away from the place I live in Philadelphia. I was told this story by one of my acquainted pigeons in Fairmont City Park who heard this story from a sparrow who personally knew Hedgehog a close friend of Squirrel, Rabbit, and Vulture. The pigeon told me this story when we discuss animals that we like and dislike and I proclaimed in disgust, “I don’t like earth worms because they are ugly! They are red, slippery, slow, sleazy… Br-rrr...” The pigeon said with sadness, “They looked ugly for you because you are not kind, just and friendly to them – you do not know them. For those who know the earth worms as friends they are beautiful… You are like Rel.” “Who is Rel?” I asked. The pigeon sat down on the park grass and said, “My friend, listen the story about Squirrel and Vulture and listen good because this story is about you…” And then the pigeon told me that story.

 

…Squirrel was a very popular in his forest. All animals like him for his humor, quickness, bravery, honesty, justice, thriftiness, and handsome. Once, brave cute Squirrel even fought Ol’ Sneak who tried to steal a little nestling from Sparrow’s nest. After this episode, Squirrel became very famous, respected, and loved among animals of that forest.

 

Squirrel (Rel)

(source of the photo http://www.scarysquirrel.org/theory/theory.html)

 

Squirrel had two close friends Rabbit and Hedgehog with whom he spent all his time playing, telling stories, and gathering food in the forest. Rabbit was as quick and smart as Squirrel. Actually, Rabbit could out-jump and out-hop any animal in the forest. But he was not as brave. (Once he was frightened by a big moth). Hedgehog was very brave but he could not jump as Rabbit and Squirrel did. The three friends had secret names that only they knew: Squirrel’s secret name was Rel, Rabbit’s secret name was Bit, and Hedgehog’s secret name was… guess what? – you are right, – Hedgehog’s secret name was Hog.

 

 

Rabbit (Bit)

(source of the photo http://members.aol.com/mchrs/)

 

Hedgehog (Hog)

(source of the photo http://hedgehoghollow.com/my_hhogs/hocus1.jpg)

 

Do you have a secret name that only your friends know? Would you like to have friends like Rel, Bit, and Hog?

 

One day a new animal came to the forest. He was a big black-grey-white bird, with long curved neck, and a sword-like beak. He ate rotten meat, smell badly, and spoke very slowly. His eyes blinked one after another. He had a strange name Vulture. “He was ugly,” judged Rel.

 

Vulture

(source of the photo http://people.ne.mediaone.net/debale/griffon.jpg)

 

Nobody might pay much attention to this strange newcomer if Vulture did not bring a new business to the forest. Vulture sold “Magic Hats.” Well, Rel never believed that hats were really magic but unfortunately, many animals did. Vulture claimed that if you put his magic hat on, close eyes and think of a wish, the hat helps to make this wish true. But what if someone wish to have summer all over the year to play on the sun and swim in the river, while another animal wants fall all the year long to have a lot of sweet and tasty fruits? Can a magic hat do it? “No, no, no!” said Vulture, “It does not make all wishes to fulfill but helps those wishes that are reasonable and good and ones you are working on. It adds luck to your efforts. If you are building a new house for your family and put all your efforts, and skills, and knowledge, and ask for advice, and invite others for assistance, and work hard – magic hat may help your new house become cozy, and hospitable, and long living.”

 

Rel did not believe a word that Vulture said. “How can a hat help to fulfill a wish?! Nonsense! Vulture just wanted to get money from naïve animals who believed him. Vulture was a crook.” This was what Rel thought. “Only stupid and naïve could believe ugly birds like Vulture.” What do you think? Would you agree with Rel about Vulture?

 

Rel did not buy a magic hat. He would have ignored this big ugly bird at all, only if his friends Bit and Hog did not… Guess what?! You could not believe it! Yes, Rel’s friends Bit and Hog bought magic hats! But more than that! They claimed that the magic hat helped them to find more and better food! In prove of that Bit showed a juicy orange carrot and Hog took from his prickly back a nice looking apple that they found in the forest after wearing their magic hats. Where could you find a carrot and apple in a forest?! Wasn’t it a miracle?! Would you buy a magic hat from Vulture?

 

 “I can’t believe that,” yell Rel. “You are very smart guys – how can you be tricked by this ugly bird?! Of course, he brought a carrot and apple in the forest with him and put them in the grass for naïve animals like you to find and declare, ‘Miracle! Magic hat helped us! Thanks you Vulture for taking our money! Sell us more hats! We will give you more money!’” “Look at Vulture,” continued Rel, “He is ugly, smelly, and treacherous creature! Who can believe somebody who is so ugly?! Who can believe somebody who is so smelly?! Who can believe somebody who is so foreign?!” Would you ever believe one who is ugly? Would you ever believe one who smells badly? Would you ever believe one who is strange?

 

How do you feel about Vulture? Is he trustworthy? Would you believe in Magic Hats?

 

“But his magic hat helped Aunt Turtle to find her glasses that she could not find for months,” argued Hog. “And his magic hat made Piglet and Woodpecker friends again,” added Bit. Do you think the magic hats really help Aunt Turtle, Piglet, and Woodpecker? Why?

 

“Rubbish!” yelled Rel in replied, “Vulture sneaked to our forest a few months before and stole Aunt Turtle’s glasses. Then, after poor Aunt Turtle bought a ‘magic hat,’ Vulture brought the glasses back and put near her house so she could find them. Vulture tricked her too -- he wants to demonstrate that his ‘magic hats’ work. As to Piglet and Woodpecker, everyone knows that they are friends one day and foes another day. You do not need ‘a magic hat’ for that just wait a few days.”

 

“But other animals say that Vulture’s magic hats help them,” said Hog. “And Mr. Bear, and Fox, and even Dragonfly – everyone,” insisted Bit.

 

“’Even Dragonfly’,” teased Rel. “They are all fools! Only fools can believe in ‘magic hats’!!!” Rel suddenly jumped on a nearby tree and ran on its top. It was impolite because neither Bit nor Hog could jump and run on trees but Rel was very angry and could not stand anymore his friends. For a moment, a regret thought crossed his mind and he wanted to turn back and apologize for his impolite behavior. But he turned back and looked down from the tree; he suddenly saw not his friends Bit and Hog, not even Rabbit and Hedgehog, but tiny-binny rabbit and hedgehog: two little stupid pathetic fuzzy lumps tricked by Vulture who were not deserve Squirrel’s friendship. “You two are also little fools! Two little dummies! Go to away to your new ugly friend Vulture! I can’t stand you anymore! I don’t need you!” yelled Squirrel down to Rabbit and Hedgehog. He turned around and started jumping upper on the tree. He could not hear how Hog yelled him asking to come back and how Bit cried.

 

Jumping from branch to branch, Squirrel was thinking, “How could I, such a brave, smart, and handsome guy, have such stupid, naïve, weak, and funny-looking friends? It does not make sense! I do not need them! I do not need these stupid animals! I do not need this stupid forest!”

 

Squirrel jumped from one branch of a tree to another, from one tree to another, from one meadow to meadow to another until he found himself in another forest…

 

What do you think about Rel and his friends? What do you think will happen next with them?


Part II. Wise Owl

In which Rel bumps into Wise Owl who teaches him how scientifically test Vulture’s magic hats.

Actually, Squirrel was jumping and running until he bumped into Wise Owl sleeping in a shadow on a branch of a pine tree.

 

Wise Owl

(source of the photo http://www.owlpages.com/species/w_screech/w_screech1.html)

 

Wise Owl barely survived the collision without falling down the tree.

 

“Excuse me,” apologized Squirrel holding his breath after the run. “I did not see you.”

 

“I did not see you either,” replied Wise Owl. “I was sleeping.”

 

“I was running so I could not see you,” explained Squirrel.

 

“When one is sleeping it is understandable that she can’t see others,” reasoned Wise Owl, “But when one is running it is better that he sees what is around. Don’t you agree?”

 

“But I ran very fast,” explained Squirrel.

 

“When one runs fast it is even more important for that one to see what around and where the one runs to. Did you see anything while you were running?” asked Wise Owl.

 

“Not much. But, of course, I should see something. I do not remember,” replied Squirrel.

 

“Maybe you were sleeping while running. Maybe something that you saw was your dream?” asked Wise Owl.

 

For some reason, Squirrel liked this idea that maybe everything that happened with him so far was a dream and he could wake up and go to his friends Bit and Hog. But it was not a dream. He could hear his heart. He could feel his pain, his anger, and his sadness. He struggled finding his breath. It was real running.

 

“By the way, did you run from or to something?” asked Wise Owl.

 

This question puzzled Squirrel because he did not know what to answer. Noticing Squirrel’s hesitation to answer, Wise Owl decided to help him with another question, “Why did you run so you did not see things around you? What made you run so blindly?”

 

“I want to be in a place where everyone is smart and not stupid to be tricked by treacherous ugly birds! I want to find a place where I can make smart friends!” declared Squirrel.

 

“Ah, it seems that your past friends were not smart enough for you? Is it right?” asked Wise Owl.

 

Again, for some reason, Squirrel felt ashamed talking bad about Bit and Hog but he could not stop himself, “I used to have two friends: Rabbit and Hedgehog. But they were stupid enough to believe that ugly smelly bird called Vulture who claims that the hats he sells are magic – the hat helps to fulfill wishes. But this is nonsense, of course! I don’t like my friends anymore. They are not my friends now. I hate them.”

 

“Why do you think that the hats are not magic?” Asked Wise Owl, “Did you try it yourself?”

 

“No. Why should I?! Because… Because there are no magic hats. Who can believe someone who is as ugly, and smelly, and unpleasant, and strange as Vulture?” Asked Squirrel with a laugh.

 

“Apparently your friends did believe,” argued Wise Owl.

 

“Because they are naïve fools! They are two little dummies,” explained Squirrel.

 

“Ah, that is why,” understood Wise Owl. “You do not believe in magic hats because you do not believe that who sold the hats. And those who believe that the hats are magic are fools. Is that what you are trying to say?”

 

“Would you believe Vulture? Would you buy his ‘magic hat’ from him?” asked Squirrel.

 

“Is Vulture the bird who sells magic hats?” asked Wise Owl.

 

“Yes, Vulture is that ugly, unpleasant, smelly, rotten meat eating bird who sells the hats. He came from another forest recently. Do you know him? Would you believe such fellow? Would give your money for his ‘magic hat’?”

 

“No, I don’t know him,” replied Wise Owl. “I don’t know if I believe or not believe him. But for sure I would test his magic hats in order to save my friends and learn myself. On the one hand, it would be foolish to pass by an opportunity of getting a magic hat that helps to fulfill my wishes. On the other hand, it would be foolish to pay money for a fake hat. It is also foolish to lose your friends over this dispute. No, I would definitely test the hats that Vulture sells.”

 

“Test? How?” Suddenly Squirrel felt that there was something really good that might come out of this conversation with Wise Owl.

 

“Well, you can do a scientific test of whether the hats are magic,” explained Owl.

 

“Wow, a scientific test! How? Tell me, please,” begged Squirrel.

 

“When scientists do not know if something true or not they often do a scientific test,” started explaining Wise Owl. “First, tell me, Squirrel, what Vulture told about his magic hats – how do the hats work?”

 

“Vulture said, and do not believe him, of course, that if you put his ‘magic hat’ on your head and make a wish, the hat helps to fulfill this wish,” explained Squirrel.

 

“Any wish?” asked Wise Owl.

 

“Not any, but some of those that are reasonable and for which you put your efforts and skills and knowledge. But this is nonsense, of course. It can’t be true. Although many animals claimed that the hats work, they are fooled by Vulture and by themselves. They want to believe in the hats to feel more powerful themselves. The hats are fake!”

 

“You can check it,” replied Wise Owl, “if you do a scientific test. Listen carefully how to do a scientific test. You can buy two hats…”

 

“No, no, I won’t do it. I won’t give my money to Vulture for his fake hats!” protested Squirrel.

 

“Do not interrupt me, please, because otherwise I will get back to my dreams.”

 

“I won’t, I’m sorry,” promised Squirrel.

 

“You will buy two hats. One hat you will buy from Vulture, the hat that he claims is magic. The other hat you will buy in a regular store. The magic and regular hats have to be looked absolutely the same. Exactly the same! It is very important that nobody can distinguish them. Can you buy such hats?”

 

“Oh, yes,” replied Squirrel, “I know a store of Aunty Boar where you can buy the same hats that Vulture sells but cheaper because nobody claims that those hats are magic.”

 

“Very good. You can ask a salesperson, what’s her name? – Aunty Boar?, to mark the regular hat with a small, barely visible, white mark inside of it so you tell which hat is regular and which is regular. But do not tell anybody which hat you marked until the end of the scientific test.”

 

“What about Aunty Boar. She will know,” asked Squirrel.

 

“Yes. You are right. But you can ask Aunty Boar to keep that secret,” explained Wise Owl. “Now, call your friends and other animals. Tell them that you will make a scientific test to check if the hats Vulture sells are magic.”

 

“Of course, they aren’t!” exclaimed Squirrel.

 

“I haven’t finished yet,” said Wise Owl.

 

“I’m sorry. I’ll keep my mouth shut. I promise. Please continue,” begged Squirrel.

 

“You will ask each animal to wear one day one hat and another day another hat. At the end of the second day each animal has to tell you whether the hat he or she wears is magic. You will write the animals’ answers into a tally,” explained Wise Owl.

 

“What’s a ‘tally’?” asked Squirrel with interest.

 

“Tally is a table like that…,” and Wise Owl flew down to earth (Squirrel had to run down as well to follow her), pick up a dead branch from the pine tree and drew a picture of tally like this:

 

Tally for a scientific test

Animal names

Vulture’s hat

Store hat

Animal 1

 

 

Animal 2

 

 

Animal 3

 

 

Animal 4

 

 

 

“If an animal, let’s call her Animal 1, claims that the hat that you bought from Vulture is magic you can write the word ‘magic’ in the cell under the “Store hat” column:

 

Tally for a scientific test

Animal names

Vulture’s hat

Store hat

Animal 1

magic

 

Animal 2

 

 

Animal 3

 

 

Animal 4

 

 

 

“However,” continued Wise Owl, “if the Animal 1, says that the hat that you bought from the regular store is magic you will write the word ‘magic’ in the cell from the next column:

 

Tally for a scientific test

Animal names

Vulture’s hat

Store hat

Animal 1

 

magic

Animal 2

 

 

Animal 3

 

 

Animal 4

 

 

 

You will continue testing the hats until all animals provide their answers and you will put their answers in the tally. If all “magic” answers are in the “Vulture’s hat” column and all “non-magic” answers are in the “Store hat” column like this:

 

Tally for a scientific test

Animal names

Vulture’s hat

Store hat

Animal 1

magic

non-magic

Animal 2

magic

non-magic

Animal 3

magic

non-magic

Animal 4

magic

non-magic

 

it means that Vulture’s hats are truly magic,” explained Wise Owl.

 

“It is impossible!” exclaimed Squirrel but then immediately covered his mouth with his arm after Wise Owl gave his a dirty look.

 

“However, if the animals participating in the scientific test give different, contradicting answers like this:

 

Tally for a scientific test

Animal names

Vulture’s hat

Store hat

Animal 1

non-magic

magic

Animal 2

magic

non-magic

Animal 3

non-magic

magic

Animal 4

magic

non-magic

 

It means that all hats are regular and they make no difference for fulfilling one’s wishes. Do you get it?” asked Wise Owl.

 

“I think I did,” replied Squirrel with excitement, “If there are no magic hats, – which I believe is true, – the animals will choose randomly which hat is magic and which is not. Now know how I can prove that the hats are fake and Vulture is a crook!”

 

“Or may the scientific test will prove that Vulture is honest,” mysteriously said Wise Owl and flew back to the pine branch back to her sleep.

 

“It can’t be so,” thought Squirrel, “Vulture is too ugly to be honest. The scientific test will prove that. Everyone will see that the hats are fake and Vulture is a crook. I’ll make Bit and Hog my friends again. I miss them…” With these thoughts, Squirrel was rushing back to his forest.

 

What do you think will happen next? What do you think the scientific test will show? Why do you think that?


Part III. The scientific test

In which Rel with help of Mrs Boar makes a scientific test of ‘magic’ hats, gets unexpected results, and accuses Mrs Boar of cheating.

The three friends Bit, Hog, and Rel were glad to meet again – they missed each other very much. Bit and Hog wanted to invite Rel to a feast. They recently found wild grapes full of sweet juice in the forest. They thought that magic hats that they bought from Vulture helped them. However, they knew that Rel might become upset learning that Bit and Hog believe in the magic hats so they did not tell to Rel that Vulture’s magic hats helped them to find the wild grapes. They also did not tell to Rel that became acquainted well with Vulture and that they like him.

 

While the friends ate juicy grapes, Rel told them about the scientific test that he had learned from Wise Owl. Bit and Hog liked the idea of testing the magic hats that Vulture sells because they hoped that it could be fun and could help to resolve their past conflict about the magic hat. “We’ll become good friends again,” thought Hog. Bit was also excited about this idea of the scientific experiment although he did not fully understand about making tally so he decided that he would learn by participation in the scientific test and observation of what Rel and Hog would do.

 

“However, friends, I want to ask you for a favor,” started Rel. “Please, won’t be upset and mad at me when the scientific test proves that the magic hats are fake, OK?” Rel worried that the scientific test might undermine their friendship again when the test would prove that Bit and Hog were wrong about their belief in Vulture’s magic hats. To Rel’s surprise, both Bit and Hog eagerly promised that they would not become upset or mad at Rel if the scientific test proves that they were wrong. Bit and Hog were curious of how the scientific test would turn out and they did not feel that they had to choose between their belief in magic hats and friendship with Rel.

 

So, Rel, Bit, and Hog enthusiastically went to call other animals to participate in the scientific test. The animals who came were Piglet, Woodpecker, Aunt Turtle, Mr. Bear, Dr. Fox, and Dragonfly. Rel ran to a hat store of Aunty Boar to buy a hat that looked like the same that Vulture sold, while Bit volunteered to give his magic hat for the scientific test. As Wise Owl had told, Rel asked Aunty Boar, the salesperson, to make a small, almost invisible, mark on the regular hat so they could distinguish which hat was regular from the hat store and which was “magic” from Vulture. Rel did not invite Vulture to participate in the scientific test but Vulture came anyway to observe from a distance.

 

Bit and Hog also wanted to participate in the scientific test and Rel let then in. For eight days, Sel ran the scientific test. Each day two animals wore hats: one animal wore the regular hat bought in the hat store and the other animal wore “magic” hat bought from Vulture. Only Rel and Aunty Boar, the hat salesperson, knew which hat was magic and which was regular. At the end of each day of the scientific test, two animals wearing hats came to Mrs. Boar to report whether they thought the hat they were wearing for the day was magic or not – whether the hat helped them to fulfill their wishes that they had made at the beginning of the day. Mrs. Boar put all their answers in the tally that Rel drew on the ground with a branch of an oak tree:

 

Tally for a scientific test

Animal names

Vulture’s hat

Store hat

Rabbit

 

 

Hedgehog

 

 

Piglet

 

 

Woodpecker

 

 

Aunt Turtle

 

 

Mr. Bear

 

 

Dr. Fox

 

 

Dragonfly

 

 

 

On the morning of the ninth day, Rel, Bit, and Hog called all the animals, even those who did not participate in the scientific test. Rel even asked Vulture to come expecting with joy how mad Vulture would be to learn that scientific test proved that his hats were not magic but fake. Almost all animals who could come came. The animals surrounded Mrs. Boar who showed them the tally results:

 

Tally for a scientific test

Animal names

Vulture’s hat

Store hat

Rabbit

magic

non-magic

Hedgehog

magic

non-magic

Piglet

magic

non-magic

Woodpecker

magic

non-magic

Aunt Turtle

I don’t know

Mr. Bear

magic

non-magic

Dr. Fox

magic

non-magic

Dragonfly

magic

non-magic

 

What do you think the scientific showed? How do you know that?
 

Mrs. Boar announced that all animals participating in the scientific test except Aunt Turtle chose Vulture’s hat as magic even though they did not know by its appearance which hat was magic and which was regular. Aunt Turtle could not decide because she slept both days when she wore the hats. Mrs. Boar concluded that the scientific test established that the participating animals could separate the hats; which meant that the hats that Vulture sold were authentically MAGIC!

 

Squirrel could not believe what he was hearing. He started yelling, “It can’t be so! It’s a mistake! Vulture’s hats can’t be magic! Nothing good can come from such an ugly, smelly, and treacherous bird! Vulture, go away! Let’s expel Vulture from our forest! It’s a conspiracy. Mrs. Boar misplaced the animals’ answers in the tally! She did it because she and Vulture are both in the business of selling hats! They were cheating together! Let’s expel the cheaters!” Bit and Hog felt embarrassed for their friend Rel and they moved him away. The other animals joined Vulture and Mrs. Boar to support them.

 

The friends went to the raspberry meadow, their favorite place for play. Bit suggested, “Let’s forget all this business about magic hats.” Hog agreed, “Let’s play!” Rel felt bitter seeing that this friends what to support him but he could not simply accept the conclusion of the scientific test.

 

“Listen,” Rel started, “I was wrong about accusing Mrs. Boar in cheating the tally. It was simply wrong. I’ll go now and apologize to her. She helped me a lot – it was very unfair to blame her for the test’s results. However, the scientific test did not convince me that I was wrong yet. Think yourself. Seven animals…”

 

“Eight,” interrupted Bit.

 

“No, seven. Aunt Turtle should not be counted because she slept over the test,” explained Hog.

 

“Ah, yes, seven,” agreed Bit.

 

“So, seven animals said that Vulture’s hat was magic. Right?” asked Rel.

 

“Yes,” replied Bit and Hog.

 

“Seven animals said that Vulture’s hat was magic. What does it prove?” asked Rel intriguing voice to show that it was not a real question. “Absolutely nothing!” announced with pride Rel. “Wise Owl was not so wise after all…”

 

“How come? Why?” asked Bit and Hog who felt that Rel was about to tell them something very important.

 

“Well, look,” invited Rel. He took a penny coin from his pocket. “What will come out after I flip the coin?” asked Rel.

 

“I do not know,” said Bit.

 

“Maybe head or maybe tail,” elaborated Hog.

 

“Exactly ‘maybe’ – we do not know,” victoriously announced Rel. But Bit and Hog could not understand what it led to. Rel flipped the coin. It was head. He continued, “It’s head. What will come out when I flip it another time?”

 

“Head?” asked Bit.

 

“Tail?” suggested Hog, “We do not know.”

 

“Exactly, ‘we do not know.’ We do not know because the coin ‘does not remember’ how it was flipped out before.” Rel flipped the coin again; and again head came. Rel asked, “What do you think will turn out when I flip it the third time?”

 

“Head?” suggested Bit but his voice did not show much confidence in his suggestion.

 

“Wait a minute,” interrupted Hog, “I think we still do not know because as you Rel said, ‘the coin does not remember how it was flipped out before.” It can be head or tail.”

 

“You got it!” exclaimed Rel and flipped the coin again. It was tail this time. “Two times – head and one time – tail. What does it prove about the coin?”

 

“I don’t know,” confessed Bit. He was losing the point.

 

“OK,” started Rel. “If coin comes only with heads will you suspect that there is something wrong with the coin and it may be fake?”

 

“Yes,” replied Bit and Hog.

 

“Well, we have two heads in a row. Does it mean that coin is fake?” asked Rel.

 

“No, because then we got tail on the third flip,” said Bit.

 

“What if we had three heads in the row – would you conclude that the coin is fake?” asked Rel.

 

“No, because of the fourth flip it may come tail,” replied Bit.

 

“What if we had seven heads in the row – would you conclude that the coin is fake?” asked Rel.

 

“No, because of the eight flip it may come tail. Although seven heads in a row is very unusual,” replied Bit.

 

“Exactly, seven times in a row is a bit unusual but still possible that the coin is normal and not different from other coins,” supported Rel.

 

“I got it!!!” exclaimed Hog who was silent listener for awhile. “From the fact, that seven animals in a row identified Vulture’s hat as magic does not mean that eighth animal will do the same. Piglet, Woodpecker, Aunt Turtle, Mr. Bear, Dr. Fox, and Dragonfly might not have magic hats they just might guess correctly which hat came from Vulture. It is like guess correctly that a coin turns to be tail seven times in a row. The scientific test did not prove that Vulture’s hats are magic!!! Now I agree with you, Rel!”

 

“You both lost me,” confessed Bit.

 

“Listen, Bit, our scientific test with hats was like flipping a coin. We, you and me, and the rest of the animals but Rel, thought that two hats were different: one was magic and one was regular. However, Rel thought that the hats were the same: they were both regular and non-magic. It is like we have a coin, but you Bit and me think that one coin is different from other coins, but Rel thinks all coins are the same. So, we flipped the coin seven times; and for seven times, it came with head. We all but Rel concluded that the coin was different – Vulture’s hats are magic. However, Rel says now that from the fact that seven times the coin came out with head it does not mean that the next, eighth, time it would not come with tail. Similarly, from the fact that seven animals in a row said that Vulture’s hat is magic, it does not mean that the next, eighth, animal it would not come with a different answer. Got it?” asked Hog.

 

Do you understand why Rel thinks that the scientific test did not prove anything? Do you agree with Rel?

 

“Well, not exactly. I understand about a coin but I can’t see what coin to do to magic hats. When I had Vulture’s hat three out of four of my wishes were fulfilled that day. However, when I wore the hat from the hat store that Mrs. Boar runs, only one of my five wishes were fulfilled that day. What is the connection?” asked Bit.

 

“It might be a coincidence that your three wishes were fulfill while you were wearing Vulture’s head. You know perfectly well, that there are more lucky days than others. It was just a coincidence that you were wearing Vulture’s hat in your lucky day,” explained Rel.

 

“It seems to me too many coincidences for seven animals in the scientific test and much more coincidences for this month when we started wearing Vulture’s hats,” insisted Bit. “Why don’t you try magic hat by yourself, Rel?” suddenly suggested Bit.

 

Hog supported Bit’s idea, “It is a great idea to run the scientific test on yourself! Rel, you can feel yourself if Vulture’s hat is magic.”

 

“You know by now that it would not prove anything even if I feel the difference between the hats – eight heads in a row still do not prove that the coin is different. It still can be a coincidence,” reasoned Rel.

 

“But it will be one of too many coincidences. I agree it’s possible that Vulture’s hats aren’t magic but it’s highly unlikely. There would have been too many coincidences in our forest if the hats are not magic,” argued Bit. “Your additional test will increase our confidence that Vulture’s hats are magic. Please try it.”

 

“Ok, ok, I’ll try it but only for you, guys. Since the scientific test can’t prove for sure once and for all if Vulture’s hats are magic, I will be still unconvinced that they are magic. It does not much matter for me what will be the result of the scientific test.”

 

Rel asked the friends for one of two hats left from the scientific test to start a new test. They gave him a hat. Incidentally, the first hat they gave Rel to try was Bit’s hat that he bought from Vulture but Rel did not know about that. Rel did not know which hat he put on his head: one that was bought from Vulture or one that was taken from the hat store of Mrs. Boar. Rel thought about three wishes for the day. The wishes were: 1) to make peace with Mrs. Boar, 2) to regain respect of the animals in the forest, 3) to learn if Vulture’s hat is really magic. Rel decided to go to Mrs. Boar and apologize for his unjust accusation of her cheating with the tally. Bit and Hog praised and encouraged Rel to go to Mrs. Boar and apologize. They were really proud for Rel that he found strengths in himself to acknowledge that he was wrong and unjust. He said goodbye to his friends and left the raspberry meadow.

 

Do you think that Mrs Boar will forgive Rel?


Part IV. Mrs. Boar

In which Mrs Boar explains why children are always beautiful for their mamas and Rel is unfair.

When Rel came into the hat store of Mrs. Boar, he noticed that Mrs. Boar did not want to look at him. Rel knew that Mrs. Boar was mad at him for unfairly accusing Mrs. Boar in cheating during the scientific test. Rel came up directly to Mrs. Boar who was shuffling hats at a counter and said, “Good morning Mrs. Boar. I came to apologize for wrongly accusing you in cheating during the scientific test. I was wrong. I should have thanked you for all great help that did in running the scientific test with me. I was just too upset with the result of the scientific test that I lost my temper. It will never occur again, please, believe me. Now, I know that the result of the scientific test that we made does not prove much – even if the seven animals pointed at Vulture’s hat as magic, it does not mean that the eighth animal will do the same. It still can be that all seven animals did it by chance and not because the hats are really magic. But of course, all this does not excuse my behavior. I was simply wrong and unjust to you. Please, excuse me!” 

 

Mrs. Boar

(source of the photo http://www.ecn.mb.ca/~iwbc/raising.htm)

 

Mrs. Boar looked at Rel and said, “I know that you’re a good boy and have a kind heart. But you were unfair and unjust not only to me but also to Vulture. Actually, you were unjust to me only BECAUSE you were unfair and unjust to Vulture. And you are still unfair and unjust to him. That is what makes me sad.”

 

Rel tried to explain himself, “But I still do not believe in his magic hats. Why should I believe in magic hats to be just and fair?! Is it only because the rest of animals believe in his magic hats?!”

 

Mrs. Boar replied, “I’m not talking about magic hats. It’s up to you to believe or not believe in them. Not believing in magic hats doesn’t make you unjust. What makes you unjust and unfair is that you judge Vulture as bad without him doing anything bad. It is called ‘prejudice.’ Prejudice is very bad and unfair.”

 

Rel disagreed, “But he sells fake hats claiming that they are magic. He is a crook”

 

Mrs. Boar replied, “Maybe his hats are magic, maybe not. But admit, deeply in your heart you felt bad about Vulture even before you learned that he sells magic hats. Am I right?

 

Rel thought for awhile and said, “Well, yeah, I knew he was a crook even before.”

 

Mrs. Boar asked, “How did you know that?”

 

Rel explained, “Because he is ugly, smelly, dirty, and came from another forest! That is why! My mom always told me to stay away from those who are dirty, smelly, and unfamiliar.”

 

Mrs. Boar sighed, “Your mom could be wrong. Adults are sometimes wrong. Do you think that Vulture’s mama thought about her son as ‘ugly, dirty, and smelly’? No, I don’t think so. I think she thought about her son as a precious little baby as your mama thought about you. All mamas are the same.”

 

Rel insisted, “But he is ugly, dirty, and smelly!”

 

Mrs. Boar replied, “Not for his mama, not for his friends, not for the other animals who appreciate his magic hats.”

 

Do you think that Vulture looked beautiful for his mother and his friends?

 

Rel argued, “They are just wrong about magic hats. Nobody can convince me that Vulture is not ugly, not smelly, and not dirty!”

 

Mrs. Boar replied, “So what? If you get sick and you face and body become unpleasantly looking, you get bad smell, you become dirty, should we stop liking you?”

 

Rel was confused, “Well, may be not… But admit that many animals would like me less if I become ugly, dirty, and smelly!”

 

Mrs. Boar said, “But is it good? Is it right to do? Would animals who try to help you and care about you and sympathize to you and love you even more when you are in trouble be more right and kinder than those who would turn away from you when you need them most?”

 

How do you feel about people how are not pleasantly looking?

 

Rel felt now that Mrs. Boar was right but it was so new for him and so strange that it was difficult for Rel to accept, so he raised more doubts, “But Vulture is not sick, he is not in trouble, he could have take care of himself and, at least, to get rid of that terrible smell. He does not need our help.”

 

Mrs. Boar replied, “Vulture DOES need our help. Everybody does. He is our neighbor. He came to our forest, which is an unfamiliar place for him. He is here without his friends and family. You are very hostile to him. Nobody talks with him. What do we know about him or even about his smell? Did anybody talk with him? Did anybody invite him for a party? He is so alone. Yes, I think he is in trouble and needs our help. I better go to check on him this weekend when I’m not busy with my store.”

 

Rel asked with hesitation, “Do you think Vulture would be happy to see me and talk with me after all bad things that I said about him?”

 

What do you think? Do you think that Vulture can forgive Rel for his injustice? Would you forgive Rel if you were Vulture? Do you think that Vulture would like if Rel comes to him and apologize?

 

Mrs. Boar replied, “Especially you. Without you talking with him, Vulture will never feel completely happy in our forest.”

 

Rel thought for a while. Then he thanked Mrs. Boar who was not mad at Rel anymore and left her store. He wanted to see his friends Bit and Hog.

 


Part V. Ture

In which we learn that friendship is beautiful.

Before Rel saw his friends, Bit suddenly jumped from bushes with excitement. Hog followed him. Bit exclaimed, “I think I know why Vulture smells so bad – because he is sweating! He works hard on doing the magic hats for sell. His heavy feathers make him sweat in this hot summer weather. Hog and I observed him hiding in bushes near his workshop and found that he almost does not smell in the morning but smells really badly in noon when the sun is high and in evening of course when he had so much sweat on him!”

 

Rel said, “I wanna see Vulture and talk with him. Are you going to go with me?” Bit and Hog looked at Rel and then at each other in surprise and disbelieve. “Rel wants to see and talk with Vulture?! Unbelievable!” Rel told the surprised friends about his conversation with Mrs. Boar.

 

The three friends went to Vulture’s workshop. Before seeing Vulture, Rel smelled unpleasant odor from Vulture but he did not turn away. Rel was thinking, “I also sweat when I work hard – I should not be disgusted with it.”

 

When Vulture saw Rel, Bit, and Hog he almost inhaled himself to make smaller because he expected unpleasant confrontation. Rel noticed that thinking that Mrs. Boar was right that indeed Vulture needed help from them. Rel started, “Hello Vulture. Please do not be afraid of us. We won’t hurt you. We came just to say hello to you and talk. My name is Rel and these are my friends Bit and Hog. How are you doing?”

 

Vulture replied, “I’m doing fine working on these magic hats. I was thinking how I can make them more beautiful but I did not come with a good idea.”

 

Bit jumped, “Can we help you? We can think of ideas. Can you teach us how to make magic hats? We want to try!”

 

Rel did not like that Bit was speaking on his behave. Rel was afraid if he started working on making hats he would also start sweating and smelling unpleasantly. On the other hand, he wanted to try making magic hats. As if listening to Rel’s thoughts, Hog added, “That is great! We can work on hats for a while then we can go to swim in the river! What do you think?”

 

Vulture replied, “Oh, this would be really nice. You can come any time and I’ll teach you how to make magic hats – it is not very difficult. Since you will help me with making hats, I’ll have time for swimming and playing. I did not know that there is a river in this forest.”

 

Bit smiled, “You do not know about many things in this forest. We’ll show and tell about them.”

 

Rel added, “We’ll show our secret raspberry meadow where we usually play. Why do you have so much on making hats?”

 

Vulture replied, “I have many orders from animals and plus I need to save money for my mom’s new house and send money to my grandma for medicine and food – she is sick with rheumatism and because of it she can’t hunt for food anymore. Besides, I really like to work hard and make magic hats. I also like to earn money from sells. I like to buy candies and have parties with my friends.”

 

“What is ‘rheumatism’?” asked Rel.

 

“I don’t know much, but she complains at pains in her back, wings, and legs when she moves.”

 

Rel felt ashamed that he thought badly about Vulture who was such a nice guy after all. Rel remembered the new word “prejudice” that Mrs. Boar mentioned to him when they walked in the store. He said, “Ture, please, excuse me for my prejudice. It was very unfair, wrong, and unjust for me to think and talk bad things about you. I’m very sorry!”

 

Ture looked at Rel with smile, “Rel,” asked Ture, “is it my hat on you?”

 

Who do you think Ture is? Why did suddenly Ture appeared? Why now?

 

Rel forgot about the hat he supposed to test. He did not know if it was Ture’s hat or not because Bit had not told him. “Yes, it is!” Replied Bit for Rel.

 

“Did it help your wishes?” asked Ture.

 

Rel thought that he had three wishes this day: 1) to make peace with Mrs. Boar, 2) to regain respect of the animals in the forest, 3) to learn if Ture’s hat is really magic. Rel said, “I had three wishes two of which, I think, are fulfilled by now. Maybe even the third wish is fulfilled… But I’m not sure if it is because of your hat or just a coincidence.”

 

Do you think that Ture’s hats are really magic? Why?

 

Suddenly Bit said, “If a coin flipped heads three times in a row it does not prove that it is a fake coin because in the forth time it may flip tail!” Hog, Rel, and Bit started laughing. Vulture could not understand why they were laughing but he joined laughing with them anyway. They reveal him their secret names: Rel, Bit, and Hog and gave him a secret name Ture. While Ture was teaching the friends how to make magic hats, Rel noticed that how nice, kind, and… beautiful Ture was. “How didn’t I notice that before?” thought Rel.

 

Why do you think Rel did notice Ture’s kindness and beauty before? Do you think Ture is beautiful?

 

Ture, Rel, Bit, and Hog became very good friends and lived happily ever after.

 

The End.
 

Do you have friends who think that some other people are ugly and because of that your friends are unjust and unfair to those people? If so, how do you think you can help your friends to see that they are unjust and unfair?

 


Afterwards

I liked Pigeon’s story and understood why Pigeon said that I was like Squirrel because like Squirrel I’m prejudiced against earth worms. I wonder how I became prejudiced against earth worms. Where did I learn it and who taught it to me? Where did Squirrel learn to be prejudice against Vultures and creatures like Vultures? Who and how taught Squirrel the prejudice?

 

I’m also confused about science. Can science prove that hats are magic or not? Rel seemed to show that science cannot prove for sure that hat were magic because even if 1,000 animals determine correctly the “magic hats”, they still can do it be correct guessing and not because the hats are really magic. What do you think?

 

Finally, I did not get how Vulture knew that his hats were magic. How did he learn it that the hats were magic for the first time? What made them magic?

 

I wished I could ask all these questions to the animals in the story… But maybe YOU know the answers? If so, please, let me know by emailing me at ematusov__AT__udel__DOT__edu Thanks!

 

Eugene Matusov, November 29, 2002, Philadelphia

 


How this story was written…

 

In 1994 or 1995 I went for a conference on learning sponsored by the McDonnell Foundation. Researchers and educators from Vanderbilt University presented the following story:

 

 

Little Planet and the Magic Hats

In this story, the characters on the little planet are visited by a stranger named Wongo. Wongo convinces the animals that they need to buy his “magic” hats if they want to use their imaginations and tell good stories. All of the animals are taken in by his pitch, except for Ribbit. As the story progresses, Ribbit learns to use components of the scientific method to test whether the hats really are magic. With these tests, all the animals soon discover that they've been duped. They get their money back from Wongo, but they learn that he plans to take his hats to other parts of the planet. This leaves the animals with a challenge: How can they prevent other animals from being tricked by Wongo? The answer, of course, is to write a book, and the animals enlist the aid of children in the classroom. (http://peabody.vanderbilt.edu/ctrs/ltc/WilliamsS/yklp/Webs/YKLP/ribbit.htm)

 

I liked the story presented as a cartoon on the CD-ROM because it introduces the concept of science to young children in a very articulate and appealing form but I was a bit upset that in the story the science is presented as a tool of persuasion of others in one’s own prejudice of “cutism” (from the word “cute,” – pleasantly looking creatures are good while unpleasantly looking creatures are bad). In the story, Wongo, depicted as vulture was very unpleasant and appealing character besides being a stranger (you can’t see Wongo on the picture). Thus, Ribbit used the science merely to convince others that ugly appearing creatures are indeed crooks. In my view, the excitement of the science is about to be surprised, to be changed, and learn something new about the world and yourself.  So, I decided to re-write the story. I appreciate the collective of talented people at the Learning Technology Center, Peabody College of Education, University of Vanderbilt.

 

Which of the two stories do you like better and why?


Guest book to add you comments about the story

Email to: ematusov__AT__udel__DOT__edu

 



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