Fairy Tales from Around the World--The Gift of the Crocodile

Fairy Tales

Travel with me if you will to the Spice Islands or the Maluku Islands.Today we are going to discuss the book, The Gift of the Crocodile by Judy Sierra. This story takes place in the Spice Islands where nutmeg and cloves grow on the trees. This story was collected and retold around 1900 by G.J. Ellen, a missionary,  and was published in 1916 in Woordenlijist van het Pugoe op Noord-Halmahera. (Source: The Gift of the Crocodile by Judy Sierra, Folklore Note.)
First a bit on the Maluku Islands. The Maluku Islands are part of Indonesia which is in South East Asia. Historically they are known as the Spice Islands by the Chinese and Europeans, however other islands outside of Indonesia have been called that as well. They are a group of small narrow islands that have rainforests and grow rice, sago and spices. Most famous for their spices such as nutmeg, cloves and mace. (Source) These are the islands Christopher Columbus was looking for. (Source: The Gift of the Crocodile by Judy Sierra, Folklore Note.)
Dried Cloves (Source)

Malukus population is about two million which is less than 1% of Indonesia's population.  Due to religious wars, many people have been killed or displaced recently.
Maluku Province Source

Northern Maluku Source
A long history of trade and seafaring has caused mix blood ancestry here.  The natives traded with other Asian countries like China since the Roman Empire. The spice trade was a very lucrative trade. Venice had a monopoly on the spice trade so other countries tried to find a faster way to the islands to bring back the spices. The Portuguese were the first to try to find new routes including around the tip of Africa and discovering/founding Brazil. They took control of the islands, but were challenged by other European countries. First Spanish, then the English and Dutch joined in the conflict. In 1950 the islands finally gained independence. Then from 1999 to 2003 the Muslims and Christians fought and caused a separation between the Maluku Islands. There are now two provinces Maluku and Northern Maluku.
Nutmeg Source

Nutmeg and cloves are still cultivated today as well as cocoa, coffee and fruit. Fishing and producing pearls are also big industries on some of the islands as well as logging, producing ironwood, teak and ebony on different islands. (Source)

Now onto our story.  The story starts with a the image and scents of the nutmeg and clove trees.  Living under them is Damura and her parents. Her mother teaches her to kindle the fire, cook, tend and harvest rice plants, and dance the dance of their ancestors. Unfortunately, her mother becomes ill and realizes she does not have long to live. She calls Damura to her side and tells her to remember to always be kind and respectful of all animals so they will help her throughout her life.
Clove Tree Source

She remembers these words as she mourns her mother. She talks to the green parrot and the lorikeet and finds comfort sharing her sadness each day with them. A woman in the village makes a beautiful doll for her and says Damura can have it if she tells her father to marry the woman. Damura takes the doll and convinces her father to marry the woman even though he thought they were happy just the two of them. The woman has a daughter of her own. At first they are nice to Damura but pretty quickly they turn Damura into their servant. She has to kindle the fire, cook, clean and weed the rice fields.

Nutmeg on tree Source
One day Damura is by the river washing the family's laundry and a sarong washes away in the current. Damura begins to cry. A large crocodile appears and asks why she is crying. Damura remembers her mother's advice and calls the crocodile "Grandmother". The crocodile says if Damura will watch her baby she will go fetch the sarong. Damura agrees and as the baby tries to bite her, she finds a soft stick for it to chew on and sings it a lullaby. Grandmother Crocodile comes back with a sarong far nicer and more beautiful than the rags that Damura lost. Grandmother Crocodile tells her it is what she should wear. Of course when she gets home the stepmother and stepsister take the sarong. The stepsister goes the next day to the river and pretends to lose a sarong and pretends to cry. The crocodile appears again and the stepsister follows what Damura tells her however is very disrespectful to the baby and then just grabs the sarong. She puts the sarong on at once and it becomes a rag filled with leeches.

At some point word is put out for all the maidens to come to dance for the prince so he can select a wife. The stepmother takes the stepsister in the beautiful sarong that the crocodile gave Damura. Damura goes and cries to Grandmother Crocodile. Grandmother Crocodile gives her an entire outfit in gold and tells her to bring all of the clothes back to her at sunrise. And then Damura goes to dance for the prince with the dances she learned from her mother. The prince of course falls in love with her. As the sun rises she runs away--losing a shoe. She apologizes to Grandmother Crocodile for not having both shoes. The prince looks for the woman whose foot will fit the shoe and of course finds Damura and he takes her to the palace and marries her.

Now the stepmother and stepsister are very jealous and go to Damura saying they want to be friends again and suggest taking a boat ride. When they are out in the middle of the river they push her overboard and she is eaten by a crocodile. Then they rush back to the palace yelling that Damura has been eaten by a crocodile.

The prince goes to the river and calls for Grandmother Crocodile and tells her what has happened. Grandmother Crocodile finds the crocodile who ate her and uses magic to bring her back to life and then tells all of the crocodiles that if they see Damura's stepmother or stepsister they must eat them at once. They overheard this and ran off never to be seen again. Meanwhile Damura and the prince live happily everafter raising their children by the river under the nutmeg and clove trees.

Here is my basic worksheet filled out for this book. The blank worksheet can be found here.

Then our crafts for this week were coloring pages which can be found at these locations:

I made a clothespin doll to look like the picture in the book when she went to dance for the prince. I used wool roving for her hair and some golden fabric for her outfit. I bought a packages ages ago of clothespins in different skin colors so I will be using these for this series.

Then we made crocodile clips. I was inspired by these clips here, but made a few changes like the eyes and our painting is not as neat. They however were fun to make. For the bumps on the back, I just cut out some green scrapbook paper, however green foam would also work. Then we used green and white acrylic paint. The pom pom eyes needed to be hot glued on since the white glue was not keeping them there. That was our only issue with them though.

I had been thinking of making oranges stuck with whole cloves or play dough scented with nutmeg and cloves, but we did not get a chance to do that yet. I thought it would be fun to bring the scents in to the experience as well. There is also a tutorial for spicy pine cones here. We might try something like that with just nutmeg and cloves and see how it works. I'll keep you posted!

I hope you will join us Monday for our David McPhail book for the Virtual Book Club for Kids and next Monday for our next installment of Cinderella in Different Cultures!


  1. This is so wonderful! I love all of the learning going on here! You are doing an excellent job! Those crocodile clips are so cute...we may just do something like that :)

  2. These are cute. Too bad I don't have little ones anymore. I hope grandchildren come soon.

    I'm having a STRUT YOUR STUFF Social hop. I'd love for you to hop on over, grab a button and come show off your best projects. Or, just come link up your blog!!

    I'm also looking for Pinterest Pinners to feature every week. If you are on Pinterest and are interested in being featured come link up! Who knows you might meet some other great pinners and gain a few great ideas.

  3. This is so fun,and very interesting stuff here. So glad you shared this at my party. Hope you have a great week
    Marcie @ I Gotta Try That

  4. Oh I love those crocodile clips. Please consider linking this to the home education resource, Look What We Did. -Savannah

  5. Wow, what great activities to go with this story!

  6. What a great series! Thanks so much for sharing on Waldorf Wednesday.

  7. What a great visit to the Spice Islands. We don't get there everyday. Thanks for celebrating Multicultural Children's Book Day with us !!


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