Bibliographic Information (best version for telling):
Slobodkina, Esphyr. Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys, and Their Monkey Business. New York: Harper Trophy, 1940, 1947, 1968.
Possibly middle or eastern European
Approximately 5 mins.
1. The peddler’s building weariness with walking to the village and making no sales along the way.
2. The peddler’s increasing frustration with the monkeys that culminates in his throwing his cap to the ground.
3. The monkey’s trickery and mischievousness.
The peddler and the monkeys
· Opening description of the peddler and the hats.
· The peddler begins his journey through the countryside on his way to the village.
· The peddler becomes tired and rests under a tree.
· The peddler awakes to find his caps missing.
· The peddler discovers the monkeys with his caps and urges them to return them.
· The peddler obtains his caps and goes about his way to the village.
(Note: My telling mostly resembles Slobodkina; however I have included elements of Daikite’s and Cabral’s telling as well.) A peddler who sells hats begins a trip to a local village to sell his hats. He carries his hats stacked upon his head. He walks through the countryside surrounding the village calling out to houses along the way. He becomes tired and takes a rest by a large tree. When he wakes up, his caps are missing from the top of his head. He searches for his caps everywhere until he notices that there are several monkeys in the tree and each is wearing one of his hats. He calls out to the monkeys repeatedly to return the hats, but the monkeys only mock him. Finally, in resigned frustration, he throws his hat down and the monkeys, in imitation of him, throw their hats down. The peddler retrieves his hats, stacks them upon his head, and continues to the village.
· “Caps, caps for sale. Fifty cents a cap!” (Since I am altering the story a bit by incorporating hats with feathers and such as mentioned in Cabral’s telling, this phrase will change to “Hats, hats for sale. Fifty cents a hat!”)
· The repeated ordering of the hats on his head – “… then a bunch a gray caps, then a bunch of brown caps…” (Again this will change because I will not be using blue, brown, etc. caps.)
· “… on the very top..” (The last set of caps on his head are “on the very top.”)
· “…slowly, slowly, so as not to upset [disturb] his caps.”
Audience (why is this story appropriate for the audience? developmental characteristics?):
My personal experience with this story is that children between the ages of 3 and 5 absolutely love it! They love to pretend to be the monkeys. So the story is very interactive for them; and interactivity helps maintain their interest. Another wonderful aspect of this story is the repetition of phrases and events in the story. Repeatedly the ordering of the caps is iterated. The peddler calls to the monkeys 4 times and the monkeys respond 4 times. I have found that repetition helps hold a preschooler’s attention because it affords the child a bit of control over the story, enabling the child to predict what will happen next. Both the interactivity and the repetition help build the child’s confidence. Essentially they allow the child to “be in on the story.” In a way, it allows the child to become the teller of the story as well as a listener; and because the child is also “teller” as well as “listener,” the story becomes a more integral part of the child’s experience.
Bibliographic information on other versions/variants (at least two)?
Cabral, Len. “The Peddler and the Monkeys.” Len Cabral’s Storytelling Book. New York: Neal-Schuman Publisher’s, Inc.
Diakite, Baba Wague. The Hatseller and the Monkeys. New York: Scholastic Press, 1999.
Williams-Ellis, Amabel. “The Fifty Red Night-caps.” Tales from the Enchanted World. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1986.
Brief comparison of all versions/variants in terms of language, rhythm, "tellability," "flavor," content, etc. Stress the differences in style rather than those of content.
The Williams-Ellis telling is rather short and without a lot of flavor or action. There’s no interaction between the peddler and the monkeys; thus making the story very dry and uninteresting.
The Cabral and the Daikite versions both describe the peddler as also being the maker of the hats; thus giving the listener more biographical information about the peddler and making the peddler more three-dimensional. However I prefer the more cardboard cut-out peddler in Slobodkina because that forces the focus of the story to be more on the monkeys; and of course, the monkeys are the interactive ticket into the story for the children. Thus the focus of the telling becomes more about getting the children involved.
Both Cabral and Daikite include richer descriptions of the hats than do the Slobodkina and Williams-Ellis versions. I have decided to imitate this by including feathered, flowered, fur, and straw hats in my telling. The inclusion of more detailed descriptions of the hats adds more color and intricacy to the story.
In both Cabral and Daikite, the peddler figures out how to get the monkeys to return the hats. In Slobodkina, the peddler just happens to do the very thing that causes the monkeys to return the hats. I like the Slobodkina solution better because it is more of a surprise. Although other storytellers may be more interested in exploring the idea of the peddler outwitting the monkeys (as in Cabral’s and Daikite’s telling), I prefer the unexpected twist in Slobobkina’s telling. The monkeys get the best of the peddler, frustrating him so much that he throws down his hat in consternation; and to his surprise, the monkeys do the same. To me, this adds a greater cartharsis of emotion for the peddler and the audience.
Both Daikite and Slobodkina tell us that the peddler carries his hats on his head, thus adding more character and eccentricity to the peddler. However only Slobodkina’s peddler falls asleep with the caps on his head rather than in a sack or on the ground. The implied visual imagery of the monkeys stealing down the tree and plucking hats off the peddler’s head one by one is more interesting.