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Dave Clegg
The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs

A family suddenly becomes rich. How could anything go wrong? 

By Spencer Kayden; Based on a classic Aesop’s fable.
From the September 2019 Issue

Learning Objective: Students will read an adaptation of a fable by Aesop and identify its moral: that greed can lead to terrible decisions.

Guided Reading Level: Q
DRA Level: 40
Topics: SEL,
UP CLOSE

The moral of a story is the lesson it teaches about how to be a good person. As you read, look for the moral of this play.

Scene 1
A beautiful summer morning

S1: From the darkness, the sun begins to peek over the horizon. A rooster crows.

Rooster: Cock-a-doodle-doo!

S2: The Boyd family wakes up in their small but cozy home. They all sleep on piles of straw.

Pa: Rise and shine, everyone.

S3: Ma lights a candle.

Ma: Betty, collect the eggs. Freddy, pick the rest of the corn.

Betty and Freddy (sleepily): Sure, Ma.

S1: Betty goes to the barn and greets each goose.

Betty: Hello, Gracie. Hi, Greta. Howdy, Gwen. Good morning, Gloria.

Gloria: Honk honk.

S2: Back in the house, Granny slices some bread.

Granny: This is the last of our bread.

Ma: Let’s hope we can trade for some more flour at the market today.

S3: Outside, Pa loads up the rickety cart with all of their corn and eggs.

S1: Then the family piles into the cart.

Pa: Giddyup!

S2: Their old horse takes one step, then another, struggling to pull the heavy load.

S3: After what seems like an eternity, they arrive at the market.

S1: Betty and Freddy shout to shoppers.

Betty: Get your farm-fresh eggs here!

Freddy: And tasty corn, picked this morning!

S2: A neighbor comes over with a jug of milk.

Joe: Can I trade my milk for your eggs?

Pa: Sure thing, Joe.

S3: Ma hands him some eggs.

Ma: Joe, I’m giving you a few extra since you’ve got that new baby.

Joe: I sure do appreciate that. You’re mighty generous people. 

Scene 2
One week later

S1: The sun starts to rise. The rooster crows.

Rooster: Cock-a-doodle-doo!

S2: Once again, the Boyds get ready for market day.

S3: Betty collects the eggs.

Betty: Hello, Gracie. Hi, Greta. Howdy, Gwen. Good morning, Gloria.

Gloria: Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk!

S1: Betty reaches into Gloria’s nook and pulls out a heavy yellow egg. 

Betty (confused): How strange.  

S2: She brings it outside.

Betty (to Freddy): Look at this.

S3: Freddy looks at the egg in the dim dawn light. He shakes it, then knocks it against his forehead.

Freddy: Seems heavy. Maybe it’s bad.

Betty: We can’t sell it if it’s rotten.

S1: Freddy tosses it into the basket anyway.

S2: At the market, as Ma is setting out the eggs, she finds the yellow one.

Ma: What’s this?

Betty: Just some dud egg that Gloria laid.

S3: The egg gleams in the bright morning light.

S1: Granny comes over and picks it up, inspecting it from every angle. She taps it against her teeth.

Granny: This is no dud. It’s made of gold.

Pa: What?

Granny: Solid gold.

Ma: No! 

Betty: Really?

Freddy: Gold! 

S2: Some villagers overhear and gather around.

Crowd: Gold! It’s gold! A golden egg!

Dave Clegg 

Scene 3
That afternoon

S3: The Boyds sit at their tiny wooden table staring at the golden egg.

Ma: I’ve never seen real gold before!

Pa: Neither have I.

Betty: What should we do with it?

Freddy: What is it worth?

Granny: Settle down, everybody. This is a lucky day. We’ll tuck this egg away and save it until we need it.

Freddy: But Granny, imagine what we could buy with it. I need new shoes.

Betty: I want a new dress.

Ma: I’d love some new cooking pots.

S1: Granny looks at Pa.

Pa: Well, there’s sense in saving the egg for a rainy day.

S2: Granny smiles.

Pa: But I sure would like a better horse and cart to take to market.

Granny: Be sensible! We should only spend it if it’s absolutely necessary.

Freddy: I still can’t believe our goose laid a golden egg!

Betty: I’m going to check on Gloria.

S3: Betty goes to the barn, then comes running back in holding something.

Betty: Another golden egg!

S1: Ma, Pa, and Freddy gasp with delight. 

Scene 4
A few weeks later

S2: The sun comes up. The rooster crows.

Rooster: Cock-a-doodle-doo!

S3: Nobody moves. The Boyds are sound asleep. The rooster crows again. 

Rooster: I said, “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!”

Freddy (shouting): Hey, rooster, be quiet! We’re sleeping in!

S1: Eventually, Ma gets up and lights a candle.

Ma: The builder will be here soon.

Betty: Is our new house going to be big?

Pa: Yes!

Freddy: With our own rooms and real beds?

Ma: Yes!

Granny: I don’t see why we need a new house. This one is just fine.

S2: Pa admires the pile of golden eggs on the table. 

Pa: We can afford it, so why not? 

Granny: It’s best not to get greedy. We don’t know how long this good fortune will last.

Betty (hugging Granny): Don’t worry, Granny. Gloria has been laying golden eggs every day. We will always have plenty of gold.

Granny: How can you be so sure? 

Dave Clegg 

Scene 5
The following week

S3: The Boyds’ house is being torn down.

S1: Pa hands a golden egg to the builder.

Builder: Next week I will need more gold to buy materials for your new house.

Pa: Of course.

S2: The tailor arrives with his finest silks.

Tailor: I’ve come to measure you for your new wardrobe.

Ma: How grand! Come. We are staying in the barn while our new house is being built.

S3: Outside the barn, Betty and Freddy are brushing the new horse.

S1: Inside, Granny is sewing up a hole in an old sweater. The tailor approaches Granny. 

Granny: I don’t need any new clothes. I’m happy with what I have.

S2: The tailor measures everyone else. Ma gives him an egg.

Tailor: Thank you, madam. You may pay me more gold when the clothes are finished.

S3: A gardener arrives.

Gardener: We have ripped out that ugly cornfield and will start your new garden. Exquisite roses will circle a beautiful fountain. It will be a garden fit for a queen.

Ma: How wonderful! Here’s a golden egg.

Gardener: Thank you. I will collect more gold next week.

S1: Ma takes out a piece of paper.

Ma: That’s three eggs now and seven eggs later.

Pa: Don’t forget we need to pay the carpenter for the new furniture.

Betty: And the blacksmith for the new horseshoes.

Pa: And the shoemaker for our new boots.

S2: Their neighbor Joe approaches. He looks pale.

Pa: Hello, Joe! Everything all right?

Joe: I’ve been sick for weeks and unable to work. I was . . .

S3: Joe looks down at his feet.

Joe: . . . wondering if you could help me out so I can feed my family.

S1: The Boyds look at each other.

Ma: Sorry, Joe. We’ve got nothing to spare. 

Scene 6
One week later    

S2: The sun rises. The rooster crows.

Rooster: Cock-a-doodle—

Ma: Shush, rooster. We’re already up!

S3: The Boyds are gathered near Gloria’s nook.

Pa: We need 10 golden eggs today.

Betty: Hey, Gloria. Hurry up!

Gloria: Honk!

Pa: You’ve just given me an idea.

S1: They take Gloria to the village doctor.

Doctor: So this is the famous goose that lays the golden eggs. Is she ill?

Pa: No. We were just hoping she could lay her eggs faster.

Ma: We have so many people to pay.

Pa: New house, new horse, new clothes . . .

Doctor: And you need more gold to pay for it.

Ma: That’s right.

Doctor: Well, a goose lays eggs when she’s ready.

Pa: That’s it? That’s your advice?

S2: They bring Gloria back home.

Ma: That doctor was useless!

Pa: There must be a way to get more gold out of Gloria!

Granny: Remember how happy we were before the golden eggs? 

S3: They all stare at Granny.

Scene 7
Later that day    

S1: The Boyds gather around Gloria, who honks nervously.

Gloria: Honk honk.

Pa: Are we all agreed?

Betty: Yes, Pa.

Freddy: Count me in.

Ma: It’s the only way.

Granny: No! This is madness!

Gloria: Honk honk honk honk honk!

S2: Pa grabs an ax and takes Gloria back behind the barn.

S3: The others listen eagerly.

Gloria: Honk! Hooooooooonk! Hooooon—

S1: Everything goes silent.

Ma: Well, Pa?

Betty: What’s inside?

Freddy: Is it a gold mine?

S2: Pa brings back poor Gloria’s body.

S3: They look inside her and gasp.

Ma: There’s . . . there’s . . .

Pa: Nothing. Nothing at all.

Betty: And now there’s no more goose.

Freddy: And no way to get more gold.

S1: They look at their demolished house and ripped-up cornfield.

Granny: I tried to warn you. You wanted too much and ended up with nothing.

Pa: Yes, how foolish we were to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.

This article was originally published in the September 2019 issue.  


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Can't-Miss Teaching Extras

Explore the Library of Congress’s complete collection of Aesop’s Fables with your class! Then challenge your students to write and illustrate their own fables.    

As the Boyd family becomes rich, they quickly become selfish and greedy. This article will remind your students about the importance of helping others and offers suggestions for assisting those in need.    

More About the Story

Skills

Moral of a story, vocabulary, fluency, descriptive details, compare and contrast, plot, character, inference, text features, how characters change, point of view, author’s craft, narrative writing

Complexity Factors

Levels of Meaning

Based on one of Aesop’s fables, the play illustrates what can happen when people become consumed by greed. 

Structure

The play is chronological and has seven scenes.

Language

The play contains challenging academic vocabulary, such as demolished, exquisite, and rickety, as well as rhetorical questions.

Knowledge Demands 

No special knowledge is required to understand this story. 

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. Preparing to Read

Activate Prior Knowledge; Preview Vocabulary and Text Features (15 minutes)

  • Tell students they will be reading a play version of one of Aesop’s fables. Ask students if they are familiar with “The Lion and the Mouse” or “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” then explain that those tales are also from the collection of stories known as Aesop’s fables, written in ancient Greece more than 2,500 years ago. Make sure they know what a fable is (a short story that typically features animal characters and provides a moral, or a lesson about the right way to behave).
  • Preview challenging vocabulary by projecting or distributing our vocabulary Skill Builder. Highlighted words: horizon, rickety, eternity, generous, wardrobe, exquisite, carpenter, demolished
  • Point out the Idiomizer character in the margin of page 21 and read the caption underneath. Alert students to look for her twice more in the play.
  • Call on a volunteer to read aloud the Up Close box for the class.

2. Reading the Play

Close-Reading Questions (20 minutes)

  • In Scene 1, what details does the author include to show that the Boyds aren’t well-off? (descriptive details) They live in a small house and sleep on piles of straw. The family is almost out of bread. They have to bring their corn and eggs to market using a cart that’s falling apart and is pulled by an old, slow horse.
  • Reread Scenes 3 and 4. Compare Granny’s response to the golden eggs with that of the other family members. (compare and contrast) Although everyone is happy to have the gold, Granny wants the family to be more cautious about spending it. When everyone else is making plans to buy new things, she suggests saving some gold for future needs. Also, Granny assumes that their good luck won’t last forever, while the others believe that the goose will never stop laying golden eggs.
  • At the end of Scene 5, what is the state of the Boyds’ house and cornfield? What do they own, and what do they plan to buy? (plot) The Boyds’ house and field have been torn up to make room for a big new house and a rose garden. At the end of the scene, the Boyds own only their barn, their geese, and a new pony. They owe money for their new clothes, furniture, horseshoes, and boots.
  • Why do you think everyone stares at Granny at the end of Scene 6? (inference) You can guess that everyone stares because they’re annoyed at Granny’s suggestion that things were better before. They’ve become so obsessed with the new things they want that they don’t recognize they were happier when they had less.
  • Which lines in Scene 7 tell the big lesson learned by the Boyds at the end of the story? What is another way to state this lesson, or moral? (moral) Granny provides the moral of the story when she says “You wanted too much and ended up with nothing.” Pa states it again when he bemoans “. . . how foolish we were to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.” Answers will vary for the second question but should be similar to: “Don’t be greedy or you might end up losing everything.”

Critical-Thinking Questions

  • What does the illustration on page 25 show you? How does it help you understand how the Boyd family changed from the beginning of the play to the end? (text features) In the picture, the Boyds are surrounded by the wreckage of their farm. They look upset and perhaps uncertain about what to do next. Granny appears to be crying. It shows that at the end of the play, they have lost everything and they are miserable. By contrast, even though they were poor at the beginning of the play, they had a home and a small farm that gave them food to eat and a way to make a living. They were a happy family.
  • Based on Scene 5, how might Joe describe the changes the Boyd family goes through in the play? (point of view) Joe would probably say that the Boyds started out as kind, generous people— willing to share despite having little—but became selfish and greedy after they started getting rich. For example, in Scene 1, Ma gives Joe extra eggs because there is a new baby in his family. She thoughtfully offers help even though Joe hasn’t requested any. After the Boyds become wealthy, Joe asks for their help in Scene 5. Ma claims they have “nothing to spare” even though they are much wealthier at that time.
  • A rooster appears at the beginning of several scenes. Why might the author have included this character? (author’s craft) The rooster adds humor and shows how money affects the family. The different reactions to the rooster’s crowing indicate how the family members change from being cheery early risers and hard workers into grumpy people who sleep in—or, in Scene 6, anxious people focused only on their gold.

3. Skill Building

Featured Skill: Moral of a Story

  • Distribute the theme Skill Builder and have students complete it in class or for homework.
  • As a class, read the Write Now! box on page 25. Put students in pairs to complete the activity. They can use what they wrote in the Skill Builder to help them.
Differentiate and Customize
For Struggling Readers

Gather students in a small group and read the play aloud to them one time to model fluent reading and expression. Then read the play again, assigning some or all of the parts to students.

For Advanced Readers

Direct students to The Aesop for Children, a collection of fables at the Library of Congress website (www.read.gov/aesop). Have students work in small groups to select a fable and turn it into a very short play. Remind them to include the moral. Invite groups to read their plays aloud to the class.

For ELL Students

Idioms can be especially challenging for ELLs. Work closely with your students to make sure they understand the two idioms identified by the Idiomizer in the margins of the play. Afterward, ask them to share idioms they know in English or another language.

Story Connection

Pair this story with another dramatic adaptation of a fable from Aesop: The Lion and the Mouse, from our September 2015 issue.