The Conquerors

by David McKee (Andersen Press London 2004)

peace with ourselves-peace with each other

recommended but unavailable - maybe a copy in your local library


David bravely challenged existing thinking in relation to the roles of twenty first century soldiers in his story. In a world in which many soldiers undertake varying peace-keeping responsibilities this tale utilised Gandhi’s message of peaceful resistance which has been cleverly woven into the plot of this intriguing story. This challenging wonderful story for all ages to enjoy and share together contains many peace-building elements:

  • happy endings

  • everyone winning

  • nonviolent resolution

  •     imaginative and creative

  •    challenges existing stereotyping

  • faith and hope

  •     peace with the environment

  • finding personal peace

  •     … element that supports the idea that peace is possible

Instead of being feared and resisted the soldiers were invited into people’s homes and welcomed as guests.

“The soldiers talked with the people, played their games, listened to their stories,

joined in their songs, and laughed at their jokes.”

The angry General, unable to deal with his soldiers’ behaviour replaced them but the soldiers who came to take their place were equally enchanted by the people and they

“hung up their uniforms and joined in daily life.”

Eventually the General returned home and announced he had conquered the country and its people and the soldiers returned home, too, believing they were conquerors. But the soldiers acted differently and they wore some different clothes, ate different foods and even played different games, ones the people had taught them.

The story initially presented a story about war but there was no fighting, there was no conflict. Conquered were the hearts of the soldiers. This powerful story stirred a belief in the magical transformative properties of peace even when a happy win-win ending was not the original intention of the General.

Critical questions to explore with children 

  • What were the General’s intentions?
  • What occurred when the soldiers arrived at the small country?
  • Why did the General replace his soldiers?
  • Did the new soldiers act differently?
  • What had changed about the soldiers when they returned to their own country?
  • Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

  • What do soldiers do?
  • Were any of your grandfathers or family members involved in war?
  • What does conquering involve?
  • What kind of person was the General?
  • Would you like to become a soldier?
  • How else could the story have ended with win-win?

© Teaching and Learning for Peace Foundation February 2005

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