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Looking For A Folktale Showing A Person Trying To Help, But Only Makes Things Worse


I’m looking for a folktale or fable that gives an example of someone trying to help, but their help only ends up making things worse for the person they’re trying to help (that sentence seems a little weird, but does accurately portray what I’m looking for).

Any ideas?

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.



    This is it!! The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey

    Years ago I assigned different Aesops Fabels and my kids worked in groups to create visuals and/or act out the stories. I remember this one so WELL because the group cut out what amounted to paper dolls and used an old overhead projector to “act out” the story. They used a pencil to show the donkey being hogtied and carried. Very effective and well done. The rubric included scoring for effective use of visuals as well as using inflection and appropriate emphasis in “reading” their story aloud, which was part of the requirement.

    I had MANY good projects from these fifth graders back then (more than fifteen years ago). They were very creative. So low tech, but so much fun.

    • Cathy Jo,

      Thanks. Great suggestion!


    • The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey is what first came to mind, but I’m sure there are so many out there.

      One of my favorite bands, CAKE, has a song called “Tougher Than It Is” that I always think of when I find myself doing something to try and avoid one problem only to create another.

      Might be worth incorporating into a class? I find that listening to music in a language I am learning is very helpful, although undoubtedly one of the hardest parts of learning a language.

  2. It isn’t a fable, but if you want a fun version of this idea from video, there is a scene in Mulan where the grandmother gives her a lucky cricket, which then causes a disaster in the match-maker’s house. This is a perfect example of someone trying to help, but just making things worse for the person they are trying to help.

    Hope that helps! 🙂

  3. Check out Gary Larson’s “There’s a Hair in My Dirt”. The main “heroine” does things that are seemingly helpful, but ultimately lead to multiple environmental “tragedies”.

  4. It Could Always Be Worse – a Yiddish folktale. It is available as a picture book.

  5. I am thinking of the story of Streganona and Big Anthony. He wants to help her cook the spaghetti and winds up making a big mess.

  6. Top of the Food Chain by TC Boyle. Satirical short story about how trying to get rid of mosquitos by spraying DDT leads to an unforseen chain of events that end up making things worse for the villagers.

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