Teaching Ancient Civilizations with Children’s Literature: The Hunterman and the Crocodile


 Introduction and Summary

There’s a lesson to be learned from the folktale, The Hunterman and the Crocodile, written and illustrated by Baba Wague Diakite. This tale involves the relationships between man and nature, and the importance that respect plays in these relationships. When the crocodiles ask Donso, a West African hunterman, to take them to the river, Donso is skeptical because of the way the crocodiles have acted towards man in the past but he agrees to take them anyway. Once in the river, the crocodiles turn on Donso and ask why they shouldn’t break their promise and eat him? Donso calls to many animals for help, but they all refuse saying “Man does not respect others” and “Man does not deserve my help.” Finally a rabbit decides to help him, but when he finds himself in another predicament he must call on the crocodiles for help and make a compromise. By the end of the tale, the hunterman learns “the importance of living in harmony with nature and the necessity of placing Man among -not above- all living things.”

The Author’s Note at the back of the book includes an excerpt about the author’s native town and life in West Africa. He recalls how the traditional stories she was told as a child have influenced his life.  Baba Wague also adds some fun translations from his native language, Bambara. For example, “Wague” means “Man of Trust” and
“Awnithe” means “Hello”!

Curriculum Connections

This book would be a fun read for second and third graders learning about the storytelling in West African Mali civilizations. This tale also incorporates a simple Civics topic such as respect for society and your neighbors.


History   3.2   The student will study the early West African empire of Mali by describing its oral tradition (storytelling)

   2.10  The student will explain the responsibilities of a good citizen, with emphasis on (e) practicing honesty and trustworthiness

Additional Resources

Learn about West African instruments here, and if you’re feeling crafty, try making your own intruments!

If the students find ancient african civilizations really interesting, then try including the Kingdom of Kush, the Iron Capital of the Ancient African World!

General Information

Book: The Hunterman and the Crocodile
Author: Baba Wague Diakite
Illustrator: Baba Wague Diakite
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 26
Grade Range: 2nd-3rd Grade
ISBN: 0-590-89828-0

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