"Dragons and Giants" from Frog and Toad Together

Author: Arnold Lobel. Publisher: Harper Collins


Frog and Toad are best friends. They do everything together. When Toad admires the flowers in Frog's garden, Frog gives him seeds to grow a garden of his own. When Toad bakes cookies, Frog helps him eat them. And when both Frog and Toad are scared, they are brave together. There are five stories which recount their adventures together.

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion of Dragons and Giants

by Gareth B. Matthews, revised by Marissa Saltzman and Leo Heska

Most people have felt some sort of pressure at some point in their lives - either to do certain things or act a certain way. We humans expect certain behaviors of each other. We also put tremendous value on certain characteristics, such as bravery, that we call "virtues." The virtues are honored and, we are told, lead to strength and success. However, they are not clear cut, and can be defined in several ways. This can lead to confusion, a sense of failure, and poor decisions. It is important to examine our definitions of virtues such as bravery and explore the ways that one can exhibit them, perhaps gaining or feeling a sense of contribution, achievement, satisfaction, or that we did right or good.

The first set of questions deals with the appearance of someone who is "brave." Some people may attribute certain characteristics to someone who is brave - for instance, muscles or other signs of physical strength. Other people may focus on the individual's stance - for instance, straight posture, strong eye contact, confident gait, or anything that indicates that the person feels self-assured, and thus, brave. Some people, however, may argue that one can be brave without looking any different, they may even look less confident. These people may put greater emphasis on the individual's actions, words, and behavior, rather than appearance.

The second set of questions deals with how we define bravery. Some people may believe that to be brave means to never back down - to be fearless and do anything. Others may disagree and argue that such a mindset can be reckless and unproductive. They may insist that being brave is to not let others dictate your actions or define your values. Rather, being brave is choosing for yourself how you want to live, which battles you want to fight, how you will react to various situations. These people may consider blatant dare-devilness and unconditional "bravery" to actually indicate a level of weakness. It is much easier to go with the crowd than to stand up for yourself and stick to your own decisions. Furthermore, some may insist that bravery is not something you can go out to find. Rather, one displays courage by handling situations to the best of their ability, remaining true to themselves, and making decisions that are both thoughtful and right for them. Everyone is capable of different things, and this may change at different points in life. Thus, it is impossible and futile to try to say that one action is more or less brave than another.

Vitally important in any discussion of bravery is the difference between being brave, and being foolhardy. Little kids do understand this difference; in a discussion you will quite often hear "That's not brave - that's stupid!" So it is good to present questions that explore this.

Other questions explore additional qualities of bravery. Some people may believe that you are only brave if others say you are. Others may emphasize the individual's perception of him or herself. Some people may feel that in order to be truly brave, a person must not exhibit any signs of fear. Others argue that expressing, displaying, or acknowledging fear does not detract from bravery. Instead, it could show just how brave the person was. Taking a moment to re-gather one's nerves, may (or may not) be another sign of bravery.

It is important to explore the notion of bravery and courage, and it is useful to see how there can be several variations and aspects to the definition. We all want to be contributing members of society and lead meaningful lives. It is important to instill in people a feeling of self worth and value. By gaining a deeper understanding of our own thinking and the thinking of others, we can become stronger (or, more "virtuous"), both as individuals and as a community that values the bravery of every member, regardless of what form that bravery takes.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion of Dragons and Giants

Looking brave:

Frog and Toad look in a mirror to see if they are brave. Frog says they look brave. Toad asks if they really are brave.

  1. How do you look when you are brave?
  2. Do you have a special look on your face?
  3. Do you stand or walk in a special way?
  4. Do some people look brave all the time?
  5. Do some people look brave some of the time?
  6. Do you have to be doing something frightening to look brave?
  7. So, how could Frog and Toad tell that they looked brave?

The nature of bravery:

Frog says that trying to climb a mountain should tell him and Toad whether they are brave.

  1. What does it mean to be brave? [Take note of children's various claims in answer to this. Then note later in the discussion how the/their claims have changed.]
  2. Does doing something that is hard to do show that you are brave?
  3. Are there other ways to show that you are brave?
  4. Does doing something that's dangerous show that you are brave?
  5. What if someone makes you do it?
  6. What if you're doing something dangerous and you don't know it's dangerous?
  7. What if it is not dangerous at all? [Examples children may understand include performing on stage/in public]

Perception of bravery:

In the story, Toad says that he is not afraid.

  1. How does Toad know this?
  2. How do you know when you're being brave?
  3. Does someone have to tell you?
  4. How can other people tell when you are being brave?
  5. Is it possible that you might think you are brave and be wrong?
  6. Can other people be wrong if they think that you were not brave?

Bravery and fear:

When the snake tries to eat Frog and Toad, they jump away and Toad starts shaking.

  1. Were Frog and Toad being brave even though they jumped away?
  2. What else could they have done?
  3. Is it ever brave to run away from something dangerous?
  4. Was Toad brave even though he was shaking with fear?
  5. Does being scared when you face danger show that you aren't really brave?
  6. Is it possible to be brave and afraid at the same time?

Brave, foolhardy, morality:

When the snake tries to eat Frog and Toad, they jump away and Toad starts shaking.

  1. Would it be brave for Frog and Toad to stand there in front of the snake saying "I dare you!"?
  2. Is it brave to run out into the street or highway, or jump into the lion's cage at the zoo?
  3. Is it brave to stand up to a bully?
  4. Is a bully brave?
  5. Is it brave to tease a big dog, that you know can bite, to see what the dog will do?
  6. Is it brave to tease a little, old, weak person to see what she will do? [If you have time you might read Steinbeck's vignette about the boy and the Chinaman]

Bravery, time, and situation:

When Frog and Toad get back to Toad's house, Toad jumps into bed and pulls the cover up over his head. Frog jumps into the closet and shuts the door.

  1. Does hiding under the covers or in the closet show that you are not brave?
  2. Might even very brave people sometimes take to recover from the excitement of doing something scary?
  3. Does a brave person have to be brave all of the time?
  4. Can a person be brave in one situation and not brave, or even cowardly, in another?
  5. If you are avoiding danger, does that mean you are not brave?
  6. If someone is running away from danger, does that mean they are not brave?
  7. If a firefighter is carrying a little kid out of a fire, running away from that fire, are they still being brave?
  8. If a firefighter runs into a burning house to save someone, is that brave?
  9. If a firefighter does not run into the burning house, to save the person, is that cowardly?
Original material from www.teachingchildrenphilosophy.org used and republished under Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported