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"Dragons and Giants" from Frog and Toad Together

By Arnold Lobel, Harper Collins


Frog and Toad have been reading stories about brave people who fight dragons and giants. Toad says that those people were brave because they were never afraid. In order to see whether they are brave, Frog and Toad set off to climb a mountain. On their climb, the encounter a number of dangers: a snake who thinks they are his lunch, a hawk who would like nothing better than to eat them, and an avalanche that threats to flatten them. As they run back to Toad's house, they keep saying that they are not scared. But are they? And would being scared mean they weren't brave? These are the sorts of questions raised by this delightful story.

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion of Dragons and Giants

By Gareth B. Matthews, revised by Marissa Saltzman

Our society puts tremendous value on any number of given characteristics. For instance, most people have felt some sort of pressure at some point in their lives – either to do certain things or act a certain way. Courage and bravery are two of these values that are often emphasized as positive traits – we are told that they lead to strength and success. However, these categories 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 courage and bravery and explore the multitude of ways that one can exhibit these qualities and gain a sense of contribution and achievement.

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 and courage. 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 and courageous 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 it is 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 place one action over another.

The last three sets of questions explore additional qualities of bravery. Some people may believe that one is only considered brave if others identify him as so. Others may place emphasis on the individual’s perception of himself. Furthermore, some people may feel that in order to be truly brave, they must not exhibit any signs of fear. Other people however, may argue that reversing to a moment of fear does not detract from the brave moment. Instead, it could even make the person braver – it could show just how brave they were. It also may be necessary for someone to take a moment to re-gather his nerves.

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 individuals and a stronger 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. Does doing something that is hard to do show that you are brave?
  2. Are there other ways to show that you are brave?
  3. Does doing something that's dangerous show that you are brave?
  4. What if someone makes you do it?
  5. What if you're doing something dangerous and you don't know it's dangerous?

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?

Understanding bravery and time

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. Do even very brave people need some time to recover from the the excitement of doing something scary?
  3. Does a brave person have to be brave all of the time?
  4. What does it mean to be brave?

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

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