November 30, 2020

#08-016: Peter and the Wolf

Peter, the Wolf, and the others in a short Disney cartoon

Note: In 1936, Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev debuted an unusual "symphonic fairy tale for children" that has delighted youngsters--and their elders--ever since. The piece, called Peter and the Wolf, features a narrator telling the story of a boy named Peter and what happens when he disobeys his grandfather.

Get Ready: Have you ever heard Peter and the Wolf? Do you enjoy classical music? Why or why not?

One day a Russian boy named Peter--who is often shown wearing the red scarf of the Young Soviet Pioneers, a sort of Leninist version of the Boy Scouts--goes into a clearing in the forest near his grandfather's house--accidentally leaving the garden gate open. Grandfather's duck escapes and goes swimming in the nearby pond. A little bird mocks the duck, asking, "What kind of bird are you if you can't fly?" The duck retorts, "What kind of bird are you if you can't swim?" Meanwhile, Peter's cat is stalking them both, but when Peter calls out to warn the bird, it flies to safety in a tall tree.

When Peter returns home, his grandfather scolds him for going out to the meadow alone, asking, "What if a wolf came out of the forest?" Defiantly, Peter answers, "A boy like me is not afraid of a wolf!" After they go inside, a big, grey wolf actually does emerge from the forest! The cat climbs up in the tree next to the bird, but the wolf chases the duck, and eventually eats her.

Peter, however, has observed it all. He grabs a rope and, climbing into the tree, instructs the bird to fly around the wolf's head to distract it. As the bird does this, Peter fashions a noose in the rope, lowers it down, and catches the wolf by the tail. He then ties the rope to the tree to secure it.

Just then, some hunters, who have been stalking the wolf, emerge from the forest and are ready to shoot it. But Peter convinces them to take the wolf to a zoo, and they hold a victory parade--much like the Young Pioneers did during Russia's May Day celebrations.

Each character has his own theme, played by different instruments in the orchestra. Peter's is performed by various string instruments; the wolf is represented by French horns. Grandfather is a bassoon; the Duck is an oboe; the Cat is a clarinet; and of course the Bird is a flute. The manly Hunters are represented by woodwinds and trumpets, and deep drums called timpani make their gunshots.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. debuted
  2. defiantly
  3. distract
  4. elders
  5. emerge
  6. mocks
  7. noose
  8. retorts
  9. stalking
  10. symphonic

  1. catch the attention of
  2. related to an orchestra
  3. with bold disobedience
  4. answers sharply
  5. loop in a rope which can slip closed
  6. people who are older
  7. come out of
  8. was shown for the first time
  9. sneaking up on; following secretly
  10. makes fun of

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for November 30, 2020

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. h; 2. c; 3. a; 4. f; 5. g; 6. j; 7. e; 8. d; 9. i; 10. b