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Ferdinand and the Bullies

By Walt Disney

Summary

Ferdinand is a bull that doesn’t want to get picked to go to the bullring like all the other bulls do. Ferdinand is happy just sitting underneath his favorite cork tree and smelling the flowers. The others bulls start to pick on Ferdinand because he doesn’t want to fight like the rest of them. Ferdinand ignores their pestering until they start picking on someone that Ferdinand cares for. Ferdinand takes a stand against the other bulls. The other bulls no longer pick on Ferdinand after he fights them.

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

By Tiana Shea and Tyrel Musil

The story Ferdinand and the Bullies deals with the concept of individualism and the social consequences that come along with it. There is also a strong theme of “what does it really mean to be tough?” Ferdinand is a bull who prefers to sit underneath his favorite cork tree and smell the flowers. All the other bulls practice fighting so they can get picked to go to the city and fight in the bull ring. Ferdinand is picked on for not fighting or wanting to go to the bull ring. The only bull that doesn’t pick on Ferdinand is his young nephew Ramon. Ferdinand is a mentor figure to Ramon, who looks up to him. Throughout the story the other bulls play tricks on Ferdinand but he refuses to get provoked. Ramon is curious about this and wants Ferdinand to stand up to the other bulls but Ferdinand refuses. Instead, he goes about life his own way and continues to do what he likes. However, when the other bulls start to bully Ramon, Ferdinand jumps in and beats them all up. Ramon and all the other bulls realize that he is actually very tough and all the other bulls stay away. From then on the other bulls leave Ramon and Ferdinand alone. They sit and smell flowers under the cork tree together at the end.

Ferdinand choosing to be different inspired Ramon to want to be just like him. Ferdinand’s individualism is very interesting, it is easy to be sympathetic towards him because of this situation. The character Ramon can be interpreted as being the same as the reader. Ferdinand is the source of the morals and Ramon is like the reader, he reacts to them, learns, and changes. At first Ramon wondered why any bull would not want to go to the bull ring. But after Ferdinand teaching Ramon some important lessons Ramon realized that you can be happy even though you are different. This raises the question, why is it looked down upon to show freedom of expression? Just because most people are doing same thing doesn’t mean that everyone wants to do the same thing. Also, when someone is different, what gives others the right to challenge that persons/animals individuality?

Bullying is also an important theme in this book. The other bulls go through the motions of bullying Ferdinand in hopes of making him angry. In turn making him just like the other bulls, who like to fight. These bulls try everything, from tying Ferdinand up, to putting ants in the oats. Ferdinand knows they are trying to provoke him and ignores him the best he can. By not giving them what they want, he frustrates them. Eventually the bullies give up and start pestering Ramon. When Ferdinand hears of this, he gets angry and fights the other bulls off. Showing his bull fighting abilities. This raises the question of, why judge someone when you don’t know much about them. Just because someone is different on the outside doesn’t mean they are not a good person.

The final and probably most important moral theme of the book is the question of what does it really mean to be tough? Are the bullies who are always fighting tough? Or is Ferdinand, who lives his life the way he wants and can’t be changed by the others, the tough one? Although this is perhaps the more abstract moral element of the story, it is probably the most thought provoking. Ferdinand shows that to be tough is something far more complex than just fighting all the time like everyone else. This, along with the other major morals, are stated through Ferdinand’s quotes: “Any fool can make a lot of noise. But it takes a strong bull to go his own way and forget the things those bullies say.” And “A wise bull gets angry only when he must. He only uses his strength to help someone who is really in need."

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

Individuality

"It takes a strong bull to go his own way and forget the things those bullies say."

  1. Does Ferdinand like to fight?
  2. What did Ferdinand like to do instead of fight?
  3. Is Ferdinand happy that he is different?
  4. How is Ramon different then the other bulls? How does he treat Ferdinand?
  5. Why do the Bulls want to got to the bullring?
  6. Why are all the other bulls younger then Ferdinand?

Bullying

"The young bulls watched Ferdinand as he sat under his cork tree. They made fun of him all day long"

  1. What does Ferdinand tell Ramon when Ramon asks why Ferdinand lets the bulls tease him?
  2. Why do the Bulls tease Ferdinand?
  3. What do the other bulls do to Ferdinand? What does he do in response?
  4. What causes Ferdinand to finally get mad?

Being Tough

"A wise bulls gets angry only when he must. He only uses his strength to help someone who is really in need."

  1. What do the other bulls do after Ferdinand fights them?
  2. How does Ramon's opinion of Ferdinand change after Ferdinand stands up for him?
  3. What do Ferdinand and Ramon do at the end of the story?
  4. How do the other bulls treat Ferdinand and Ramon at the end of the story?
  5. Does fighting someone make you "tough"?
  6. What makes the other Bulls finally realize that Ferdinand is tough?
  7. Is this the only way to be tough?
  8. Was Ferdinand tough the whole time?

This book module deals with ethics, specifically virtue. You can buy this book on Amazon.

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