Learn how the traditional Mongolian tent house, a ger, was created long ago by using nature for inspiration and how it later became a symbol of harmony and friendship.
Story of the Mongolian Tent House was created by a diverse team. The story is based on an original tale by award-winning Mongolian author, Dashdondog Jamba, retold by Polish American storyteller, Anne Pellowski, and illustrated by Argentinean painter, Beatriz Vidal.
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Story of the Mongolian Tent House
The tale begins with a peaceful world of creatures living together happily.
One day they began to quarrel, and the animals became cruel and hurtful to each other. They had to separate and made their own dwellings in the ground, in the treetops, and under the water.
The human beings didn’t possess the qualities to dig, fly, or live in the water, but what they did have was intellect.
An old man and his seven sons began to construct their new dwelling, using the earth as their model. Willow branches were arranged in a circle, with slanted ones added to create a hole in the center. The sun’s rays could come inside, and the smoke from their fire could go outside.
Animal fleece was used to make a covering for their home, reminding them of the clouds. They fashioned a door on the south-facing side of their round home for protection from the wind, and twisted animal hair into ropes for securing their home to the ground.
The old man and his seven sons settled into their new home, round like the earth.
Soon it was time for the old man “to return to the earth home” from which he came. Before he died, he reminded his sons to work together and tighten the ropes that kept their home on the ground.
In their sadness, the sons hadn’t noticed that the ropes had become loose and their house fell down with the first strong winds. Blaming one another, they decided to go their separate ways. Each son took one part of the house, quickly realizing it was of no use without the other parts.
The seven brothers found their way back to each other, carrying their part of the house and worked together to rebuild and … tighten the ropes.
Ever since, the Mongolian white ger has been a symbol of friendship and harmony.
The Author’s Note at the end of the book shares interesting information about the interior of the ger, describing various uses of the twelve inside areas.
Wisdom Tales Press is a small book publisher that concentrates on children’s books and books on different religions, and stories from around the world.
Discussion Questions & Activities
Vocabulary: peace, harmony, quarrel, prey, dwellings, intellect
- “A long time ago, all lived in a big house called the earth. With its blue roof and green floor, everyone lived in peace and harmony.”
Ask students to identify what each term represents in this metaphor. (Big house: earth. Blue roof: sky. Green floor: grass.)
- What are some possible reasons for the creatures of the earth to have started quarreling? (territory, food, differences)
Use picture clues to identify the animals and where they’ll go: ground, water, treetops?
- Review the steps and the materials used for building the ger.
Write and illustrate a step-by-step guide to building a ger, or try this Mongolia Craft: Build a Model Ger from All Done Monkey.
- What were the benefits of the ger? (bring in sunlight; keep out wind and cold; movable)
- Whose fault was it that the ger blew down in the wind?
- Describe why each part of the home was no good on its own. (the door wouldn’t stand on its own to protect; the willow walls couldn’t shield dangerous weather; the wall covering could be washed away in a flood, the roof cover could be swept away by the wind, the roof poles, the chimney hole and ropes provided no shelter)
- Why do you think the white ger is a symbol of friendship and harmony to this day?
- Compare a ger to other nomadic dwellings, like a yurt and tipi.
How nomads put together a ger (or yurt)
Learn more about Mongolia.
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