Chapter 6

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9

Challenging Existing Stereotypes

We find ourselves defining others because of their race, culture or religion. But we are all human beings, each capable of loving and wanting and working for peace. Stereotyping limits our ability to see the truth and to appreciate our common humanity.

Read children's stories:   Activity 9

Our world, seemingly trapped by many xenophobic traditions, creates impenetrable boundaries and images of other peoples limiting our ability to focus clearly upon the common humanity that exists between us and our common dreams that every human dreams for their children and for the coming generations. Old stories and old ways of thinking are constantly revisited often igniting the need for revenge. The recycling of old behaviours perpetuates separateness honouring difference at the exclusion of any acknowledgement of our common humanity.

Peace-building stories can assist in challenging the stereotyping our traditional and old ways of thinking have established. Often this old way of thinking leads to a path of distrust and war certainly not in the creation of a peace-building consciousness.

Our world is blessed with many different and unique expressions of life all worth honouring and celebrating. Humanity chooses to follow many different faiths, traditions and customs. Judgements we make upon these differences can lead to feelings that others are not as strong, not as powerful, nor as wealthy or even as religious or democratic as others. Perhaps by reading and sharing with our children stories that challenge any fear based thinking that can arise from such feelings, stories that open their hearts and minds to the incredible learning all cultures and traditions offer, then these fears might dissipate. Exploration of opportunities to create peace and friendship within and beyond our communities might begin.

We can begin by sharing simple stories that do challenge similar beliefs, such as ones that don’t betray all witches, werewolves and dragons as being evil and dangerous. The understanding gained from these stories might help counterbalance the fear created by the xenophobic stereotyping our world perpetuates in via the media, or friends and families present to children.  

A peace-building story that challenges existing stereotyping is:

“The Werewolf Knight” by Jenny Wagner

(Red Fox Sydney 1995)

This is a courageously written and delightful story for all ages to enjoy and share together contains all the peace-building elements and particularly challenges our beliefs and fears in relation to werewolves and anything else we do not understand.

Feolf knew werewolves were frightening and scary animals for humans to see so he carefully concealed his wolf like ways. Just because he was a werewolf didn't mean he intended to deliberately frighten people. He loved Fioran, a beautiful princess, but he knew he would have to tell her the truth. But as tales such as these unfold the villain wanted to stop the beautiful princess from marrying her beloved prince, so he managed to prevent Feolf returning into his human form each morning. Despite the sad turn of events the story did end happily. Love saved the day, as did kindness and compassion. The happy ending in this story allowed for truth to prevail. Feolf married his princess. But on some bright moonlit nights he returned to his forest. Fioran, though, went with him. Feolf, as Gandhi would have done, peacefully responded when he was captured. Love and courage triumph. Characters challenge traditional stereotyping. There is no mention of revenge.

Critical questions to explore with children 

bullet What was different Feolf?
bullet How did he feel about his situation?
bullet Why was he scared of telling his beloved Fioran the truth?
bullet What did the magician want to have happen?
bullet What did the king decide to do when Feolf was captured?
bullet Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

bullet Would you have been afraid of Feolf when he was a wolf?
bullet Why do you think he was different to other werewolves?
bullet What would you have done to the magician if you had known how mean he had been to Feolf?
bullet Do you think Feolf preferred being a wolf or a human?
bullet Do you think the princess would have become a werewolf if she had the choice?
bullet How else could the story have ended with win-win?

Activity 9- Context: English Literacy and SOSE year 6

Task: to create a story that presents a different view of a stereotypical character one that contradicts our original understandings ending happily with everyone winning.

The Werewolf Knight is a story that does challenge our thinking about werewolves, which have always been cast as scary creatures of the night to be feared because of their long sharp canine teeth and angry disposition. Children can create their own stories, too, to share with others, as Laura did. It presented her thoughts about how witches could be portrayed differently.

read Laura's story

Dragons in the tales from the western world are fought by heroic dragon slayers who fearlessly risk their lives to save a damsel in distress or a village and its people being threatened with annihilation. All fire breathing dragons according to such legendary storytelling, must be destroyed. The eastern traditions present dragons, though, in a very different context, often as a symbol of good luck or hope. Challenging western ways and reconstructing our understandings about dragons may assist our reconstructing of our understandings about other stereotyped images including those of other cultures or races.

Another peace-building story that challenges existing stereotyping is:

 “Ignis” by Gina Wilson

(Walker Books London 2001)

This is a delightful story that challenges our western understandings about dragons being dangerous creatures we should all fear, and its simple words of wisdom are easy for all ages to appreciate and share together. The story contains many peace-building elements but particularly reveals the unfortunate negative consequences that stereotyping can often present to our children.

Ignis was unable to breathe fire as all real dragons should. Unable to accept his inabilities he began his search to try and find out who he really was, because if he could not breathe fire then he could not be a real dragon. His friends loved him despite himself and supported him as he ventured out into the world. He found even more friends along the way. Eventually Ignis found out who he truly was. The happy ending in this story does involve our hero finding peace and finding himself and his place in the world. Ignis is reminded of the importance of friends. Friends support each other. Friends believe in each other. Friends are always there for you. Ignis learns to appreciate and be grateful.

Critical questions to explore with children

bullet Why was Ignis admired by his friends?
bullet What was Ignis unable to do?
bullet What did he decide to do about his situation?
bullet What happened when he met Cara?
bullet Why were the wise elders angry with Ignis?
bullet Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

bullet Do you think all dragons are like Ignis?
bullet Why was it so important to him to find his flame?
bullet Would the other dragons have treated him well if he never found his flame?
bullet What other names would be good names for dragons?
bullet Where are good places for dragons to live?
bullet How else could the story have ended with win-win?

Gus' story of a dragon named Flamer who could have easily been a relative of Herb or Ignis. Gus created his story after he was read both stories. Gus definitely included similar peace-building elements in his story and his version his hero goes in search of his own inner dragon and challenges any existing thinking about dragons being heartless and dangerous.

read Gus' story


Examining the impact of stereotyping upon and thinking and action is important when developing a peace-building consciousness within children. Stereotyping can significantly limit anyone’s ability to think openly and creatively and to make the necessary changes a potential peace-builder may need to begin peace-building.


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