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Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

Originating in Zimbabwe, Caldecott Medal and Coretta Scott King Award winning Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters is a wonderful tale about the importance of kindness and treating others with empathy. Students will love the similarities between the story and the timeless classic Cinderella, and teachers will love the lesson that it teaches: beauty comes from within, and kindness matters.

Student Activities for Mufaros Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale

Essential Questions for Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters

  1. In what ways are the two daughters different?
  2. What is the lesson or theme of this story?
  3. What was special about the king?
  4. Why is it important to be kind to others?

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters Summary

Mufaro has two daughters, Manyara and Nyasha, both of whom are beautiful on the outside. Manyara, however, is very unkind on the inside. She is ill-tempered and bullies her sister when their father isn’t around. She thinks that one day she will be the queen, and Nyasha will be her servant. Nyasha, on the other hand, is a sweet soul who is known for her kindness by the villagers. This, of course, makes Manyara even meaner to her. Nyasha loves to garden and befriends a cute little garden snake who she names Nyoka. Nyoka is always by her side.

Early one morning a messenger arrives from the city, telling Mufaro that the Great King wishes to choose a wife. Manyara tries to tell their father that she is willing to go alone, as Nyasha would be too sad to be apart from their father. Mufaro disagrees and they all prepare themselves for the journey to the city. Manyara wakes in the middle of the night and starts on the journey to the city by herself, determined to be the first one there. Along the way she meets a hungry boy who asks her to share her food. Disgusted, Manyara yells at the boy for standing in her way and moves on. Next, she comes across an old woman who advises her to be kind to the man who comes across her path next. Manyara is appalled at the old woman for trying to advise her and ignores what she says.

The next morning, Nyasha and the others realize that Manyara is missing, but figure she has already begun the journey when they see her footprints on the path that led to the city. Along the way, Nyasha sees the hungry boy and gives him part of her lunch. Later, when the old woman advises Nyasha which way to go, she gives the woman a pouch of sunflower seeds to show her appreciation. Upon arriving at the city gate, they find Manayara sobbing. She tells them of a cruel snake with five heads, but Nyasha goes ahead anyway. When she arrives at the king’s chamber, she sees her garden snake friend, Nyoka. He changes shape into the king! He tells Nyasha that he was her garden snake friend, the hungry boy, and the old woman, and that because she was so kind, she is the most beautiful daughter in the land. They get married and Nyasha becomes the queen, with her sister Manayara as a servant in the household.

Frequently Asked Questions about Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters

What story is Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters similar to?

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters is similar in many ways to the classic story of Cinderella.

What is the lesson in Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters ?

This story teaches readers the importance of kindness, and that beauty comes from within.

Who are Mufaro’s daughters?

Mufaro’s daughters are Manyara and Nyasha. While both of the girls are beautiful on the outside, Manyara is mean spirited and ill-tempered, while Nyasha is sweet and kind.

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