Class 9-“A Legend of the Northland” Full Analysis

A Legend of the Northland,phoebe Cary,Saint Peter,scarlet cap

Summary, Detailed Explanation, Extract-Based Questions of Class 9 poem “A Legend of the Northland”

A Legend of the Northland,phoebe Cary,Saint Peter,scarlet cap

Phoebe Cary

Phoebe Cary (1824–1871) was an American poet and hymnwriter born in Ohio. Alongside her sister, Alice, she gained recognition for her literary contributions. Phoebe’s works often explored themes of morality, love, and faith. Her notable hymns include “One Sweetly Solemn Thought.” She also wrote poetry and essays, contributing to popular magazines. The Cary sisters were prominent figures in 19th-century American literary and cultural circles. Phoebe’s legacy endures through her impactful writings, reflecting the sentiments and values of her era.

Also Read: Class 9-“No Men Are Foreign” Analysis and Q/A, Class 9- “On Killing a Tree” by Gieve Patel

Summary “The Legend of the Northland

‘A Legend of the Northland’ by Phoebe Cary tells the story of a woman in the Northland who encounters Saint Peter. The woman is baking cakes when Saint Peter, hungry and tired from his travels, asks her for a single cake. However, the woman is reluctant to give away any of her cakes, finding them all too large.

Despite her attempts to make smaller and smaller cakes, she refuses to part with any of them, claiming they are still too large to give away. Saint Peter becomes angry and decides to teach her a lesson. He tells her she must earn her food by boring into the hard, dry wood like a woodpecker.

Ultimately, the woman is transformed into a woodpecker with a scarlet cap on her head. She continues to live in the trees, boring for food, and the flame blackens her clothes as she goes up the chimney.

The poem is a cautionary tale about selfishness and the consequences of not sharing with others. It carries a moral lesson about the importance of generosity and selflessness.

Explanation “The Legend of the Northland

‘A Legend of the Northland’ by Phoebe Cary is a narrative poem that tells the story of a woman in the Northland who, through an encounter with Saint Peter, is transformed into a woodpecker. The poem explores generosity, selfishness, and the consequences of one’s actions.

Stanza 1-2:

The poem sets the scene in the Northland, describing the long winter nights and the use of reindeer-drawn sledges. It introduces the atmosphere and lifestyle of the region.

Stanza 3:

The speaker acknowledges that what follows is a curious story, suggesting it may only be partially believable. However, there’s a lesson to be learned from the tale.

Stanza 4-6:

Saint Peter, a figure from the Christian tradition, is introduced. He approaches a cottage where a woman is baking cakes. The description of the children in furry clothes and the mention of the bear’s cubs add a touch of whimsy to the narrative.

Stanza 7-9:

The woman initially offers Saint Peter a small cake but thinks it’s too large to give away. She tries making smaller cakes, but each one still seems too big to part with.

Stanza 10:

Frustrated by the woman’s reluctance to share, Saint Peter becomes angry. The woman keeps the cakes for herself rather than offering them to the hungry saint.

Stanza 11-12:

Saint Peter rebukes the woman for her selfishness, stating that she is unworthy of human form and the comforts she enjoys. He decides to punish her by turning her into a woodpecker.

Stanza 13:

The punishment involves the woman adopting the habits of a woodpecker, such as boring into wood to find food. This transformation is a consequence of her selfishness.

Stanza 14-15:

The woman ascends through the chimney and is transformed into a woodpecker. Her appearance changes, with her clothes burned black and a scarlet cap remaining as a distinctive feature.

Stanza 16:

The woodpecker continues to live in the trees, boring for food, as a reminder of the consequences of selfishness. The poem concludes with the woodpecker’s ongoing existence in the Northland.

To summarise, ‘A Legend of the Northland’ uses a folkloric style to convey a moral lesson about the importance of generosity and the repercussions of selfishness. The woman’s transformation into a woodpecker serves as a symbolic consequence of her lack of generosity towards Saint Peter.

Analysis “The Legend of the Northland

‘A Legend of the Northland’ by Phoebe Cary is a narrative poem that tells a folkloric tale with moral undertones. The poem consists of sixteen stanzas and recounts the story of a woman in the Northland who encounters Saint Peter and faces consequences for her selfishness.

Tone:

The tone of ‘A Legend of the Northland’ by Phoebe Cary is didactic and moralistic. The poem is written in a way that seeks to instruct or impart a lesson to the reader. The tone becomes increasingly stern as it condemns the selfish actions of the woman in the story. Saint Peter’s frustration and the subsequent transformation of the woman into a woodpecker suggest a moral consequence for her lack of generosity.

The tone has a sense of warning and reprimand, emphasising the negative consequences of selfishness. The didactic tone is reinforced by storytelling, creating a fable-like quality to the poem. In short, the tone is moralising, intending to convey a lesson about the importance of selflessness and generosity in human behaviour.

Type and Structure The Legend of the Northland

Following are some key highlights regarding the structure of the poem ‘A Legend of the Northland’ by Phoebe Cary.

  • Narrative Structure: A ballad is a form of poetry that tells a story, and this poem follows a clear narrative structure. It begins with a setting in the Northland, introduces characters, presents a conflict, and concludes with a resolution or moral lesson. The storyline is central to the poem’s structure.
  • Rhythm and Meter: Ballads typically have a distinctive rhythm and meter. In this poem, a consistent rhythm is created by using regular meter and rhyme. The regular beat and rhyme contribute to the poem’s musical and storytelling quality, characteristic of ballads.
  • Oral Tradition: Ballads have historically been part of oral traditions passed down through generations. The poem’s narrative style, rhythmic qualities, and rhyme scheme make it suitable for oral recitation or singing, aligning with the traditional characteristics of ballads.
  • Emphasis on a Story or Legend: Ballads often focus on tales of heroism, tragedy, or folklore. This poem’s legend of Saint Peter and the woman’s transformation is the central narrative, embodying the storytelling aspect typical of ballads.
  • Rhyme Pattern: The second and fourth line of the stanzas are rhyming.
  • Form: The poem consists of 16 stanzas. Each stanza is a quatrain. 

Themes “The Legend of the Northland“:

The poem ‘A Legend of the Northland’ by Phoebe Cary explores several themes:

  1. Selfishness and Generosity: The poem’s first part presents a story of a woman unwilling to share her cakes, highlighting the theme of selfishness. This theme is emphasised when Saint Peter, in response to her reluctance, imposes a punishment that involves a transformation and a new way of obtaining food. The story is a cautionary tale about selfishness’s consequences and generosity’s importance.
  1. Transformation and Consequences: The poem introduces a supernatural element when Saint Peter transforms the selfish woman into a woodpecker due to her behaviour. This theme explores the idea that our actions, particularly those driven by selfishness, can lead to unexpected and sometimes irreversible consequences.
  1. Humility and Gratitude: Saint Peter’s request for a simple cake reflects the themes of humility and gratitude. Despite his divine status, he is portrayed as humble and needing assistance. The woman’s unwillingness to provide a simple act of kindness leads to her transformation, emphasising the importance of humility and gratitude for what she has.
  1. Satire and Morality: The poem incorporates elements of satire, using humour and exaggeration to criticise human flaws and moral shortcomings. Through the whimsical story, the poet conveys a moral lesson about the consequences of selfishness and the virtues of generosity.

Imagery The Legend of the Northland

The poem ‘A Legend of the Northland’ employs vivid imagery to convey the setting, characters, and events. Here are some instances of imagery used in the poem:

  1. Northland Setting:
  • “Away, away in the Northland,”
  • “Where the hours of the day are few,”
  • “And the nights are so long in winter”

These lines create an image of a remote, cold, and desolate Northland with short days and long winter nights.

  1. Winter Nights:
  • “That they cannot sleep them through;”

This line emphasises the extreme length of winter nights, suggesting a harsh and challenging environment.

  1. Swift Reindeer and Sledges:
  • “Where they harness the swift reindeer”
  • “To the sledges, when it snows;”

These lines depict people using swift reindeer to pull sledges through the snowy landscape, indicating a winter scene in the Northland.

  1. Children in Funny, Furry Clothes:
  • “And the children look like bear’s cubs”
  • “In their funny, furry clothes:”

These lines conjure images of children bundled up in warm, furry clothing, resembling bear cubs in the cold Northland.

  1. Saint Peter’s Visit:
  • “Once, when the good Saint Peter”
  • “Came to the door of a cottage,”
  • “Where a little woman was making cakes,”
  • “And baking them on the hearth;”

The imagery here portrays a scene where Saint Peter visits a humble cottage where a woman is baking cakes on the hearth.

  1. The Woman’s Cakes:
  • “And being faint with fasting,”
  • “For the day was almost done,”
  • “She looked at it, and thought it seemed”
  • “Too large to give away.”

These lines describe the woman’s struggle with generosity, imagining the size of the cakes and her reluctance to part with them.

  1. Transformation of the Woman:
  • “Then up she went through the chimney,”
  • “And out of the top flew a woodpecker,”
  • “For she was changed to a bird.”

This section uses vivid imagery to depict the woman’s transformation into a woodpecker, with details like flying out of the chimney and the change in appearance.

  1. Woodpecker’s Appearance:
  • “She had a scarlet cap on her head,”
  • “But all the rest of her clothes were burned”
  • “Black as a coal in the flame.”

These lines create a clear image of the woodpecker’s appearance, with a scarlet cap and charred, blackened feathers.

  1. Woodpecker’s Behavior:
  • “And every country schoolboy”
  • “Has seen her in the wood,”
  • “Where she lives in the trees till this very day,”
  • “Boring and boring for food.”

The imagery here describes the woodpecker’s current existence, living in the trees and boring into wood for food, linking to Saint Peter’s curse.

Line-by-Line Explanation “A Legend of the Northland“:

  1. “Away, away in the Northland,”
  • The poem begins by describing a distant place called the Northland.
  1. “Where the hours of the day are few,”
  • In this place, the days are very short.
  1. “And the nights are so long in winter”
  • Conversely, the nights in winter are exceptionally long.
  1. “That they cannot sleep them through;”
  • The length of the winter nights makes it challenging for people to sleep through them entirely.
  1. “Where they harness the swift reindeer”
  • In this Northland, people use fast reindeer.
  1. “To the sledges, when it snows;”
  • The reindeer are harnessed to sledges for transportation when it snows.
  1. “And the children look like bear’s cubs”
  • The children in this Northland resemble bear cubs.
  1. “In their funny, furry clothes:”
  • The children wear amusing, warm, furry clothing.
  1. “They tell them a curious story —”
  • The speaker acknowledges that the people in the Northland have a peculiar tale.
  1. “I don’t believe ’tis true;”
  • The speaker expresses scepticism about the story’s truthfulness.
  1. “And yet you may learn a lesson”
  • Despite doubts about its truth, there’s a lesson to be learned from the story.
  1. “If I tell the tale to you.”
  • The speaker hints at narrating the story to convey the lesson.
  1. “Once, when the good Saint Peter”
  • The narrative begins with Saint Peter, a central figure in the Christian tradition.
  1. “Lived in the world below,”
  • Saint Peter lives on Earth.
  1. “And walked about it, preaching,”
  • Saint Peter is actively preaching to people.
  1. “Just as he did, you know,”
  • This line emphasises that Saint Peter’s actions are known and recognised.
  1. “He came to the door of a cottage,”
  • Saint Peter arrives at a cottage.
  1. “In travelling round the earth,”
  • He travels across the Earth.
  1. “Where a little woman was making cakes,”
  • At the cottage, a woman is busy baking cakes.
  1. “And baking them on the hearth;”
  • The woman is baking the cakes on the fireplace.
  1. “And being faint with fasting,”
  • Saint Peter is hungry due to fasting.
  1. “For the day was almost done,”
  • It’s near the end of the day.
  1. “He asked her, from her store of cakes,”
  • Saint Peter requests a cake from the woman.
  1. “To give him a single one.”
  • He asks explicitly for just one cake.
  1. “So she made a very little cake,”
  • The woman prepares a tiny cake.
  1. “But as it baking lay,”
  • As the cake is baking.
  1. “She looked at it, and thought it seemed”
  • The woman examines the cake and thinks it appears too large.
  1. “Too large to give away.”
  • She hesitates to give the seemingly large cake to Saint Peter.
  1. “Therefore she kneaded another,”
  • The woman decides to make another cake.
  1. “And still a smaller one;”
  • This time, she makes an even smaller cake.
  1. “But it looked, when she turned it over,”
  • However, it appears the same size as the first when she turns it over.
  1. “As large as the first had done.”
  • Despite her efforts, the smaller cake seems just as big as the first.
  1. “Then she took a tiny scrap of dough,”
  • The woman attempts to make an even smaller cake using a tiny amount of dough.
  1. “And rolled and rolled it flat;”
  • She rolls the dough very thin.
  1. “And baked it thin as a wafer —”
  • The result is a thin cake resembling a wafer.
  1. “But she couldn’t part with that.”
  • However, she still can’t give away even this tiny cake.
  1. “For she said, ‘My cakes that seem too small”
  • The woman rationalises, saying that the cakes, which seem small to her, are still too large to give away.
  1. “When I eat of them myself”
  • She compares the size of the cakes when she eats them personally.
  1. “Are yet too large to give away.'”
  • Even though they seem small when she consumes them, she finds them too large to share.
  1. “So she put them on the shelf.”
  • Frustrated, she stores the cakes on a shelf instead of sharing them.
  1. “Then good Saint Peter grew angry,”
  • Saint Peter becomes angry at the woman’s selfishness.
  1. “For he was hungry and faint;”
  • Saint Peter, being hungry and tired, is frustrated by her actions.
  1. “And surely such a woman”
  • The speaker reflects on the woman’s behaviour.
  1. “Was enough to provoke a saint.”
  • The woman’s actions were irritating enough to provoke a saint like Peter.
  1. “And he said, ‘You are far too selfish”
  • Saint Peter accuses the woman of being excessively selfish.
  1. “To dwell in a human form,”
  • He suggests that such selfishness is unfit for a human being.
  1. “To have both food and shelter,”
  • Despite having food and a place to live.
  1. “And fire to keep you warm.”
  • Additionally, she has the warmth of a fire.
  1. “Now, you shall build as the birds do,”
  • As a consequence, Saint Peter pronounces a punishment.
  1. “And shall get your scanty food”
  • The woman must gather her food.
  1. “By boring, and boring, and boring,”
  • She will repeatedly obtain her food by boring it into wood.
  1. “All day in the hard, dry wood.”
  • This punishment involves working all day to obtain sustenance from the tough, dry wood.
  1. “Then up she went through the chimney,”
  • The consequences of her selfishness begin to unfold.
  1. “Never speaking a word,”
  • The woman transforms without uttering a word.
  1. “And out of the top flew a woodpecker,”
  • The woman is transformed into a woodpecker, a bird associated with boring wood.
  1. “For she was changed to a bird.”
  • The woman’s punishment is complete; she is transformed into a bird.
  1. “She had a scarlet cap on her head,”
  • Despite the transformation, some elements remain unchanged, like a scarlet cap.
  1. “And that was left the same;”
  • The scarlet cap is the only thing that remains unchanged.
  1. “But all the rest of her clothes were burned”
  • The rest is transformed, possibly due to the punishment.
  1. “Black as a coal in the flame.”
  • The clothing turns black, resembling coal in a flame.
  1. “And every country schoolboy”
  • The speaker makes a general statement about the awareness of the transformed woman.
  1. “Has seen her in the wood,”
  • The transformed woman, now a woodpecker, is a common sight in the woods.
  1. “Where she lives in the trees till this very day,”
  • The woodpecker continues to live in the trees to the present.
  1. “Boring and boring for food.”
  • The punishment entails the woodpecker boring into wood for its sustenance.

Literary Devices “A Legend of the Northland” Phoebe Cary:

Question/Answers:

Textbook Questions “A Legend of the Northland“: 

Q: Which country or countries do you think “the Northland” refers to?

A: The poem ‘A Legend of the Northland’ by Phoebe Cary does not explicitly specify the country or countries referred to as “the Northland.” However, based on the imagery in the poem, including the mention of swift reindeer, long winter nights, and the association with Saint Peter, one might infer that the Northland could be inspired by northern regions, possibly those with strong Christmas folklore. Regions such as Scandinavia or parts of Russia, where winter nights are long and reindeer are culturally significant, could be potential inspirations for the poem’s setting.

Q: What did Saint Peter ask the old lady for? What was the lady’s reaction?

A:  In the poem ‘A Legend of the Northland’ by Phoebe Cary, Saint Peter asks the old lady for a single cake from her store. The lady initially complies and makes a cake for him. 

However, as she observes the size of the cake, she thinks it’s too large to give away. She attempts to make smaller cakes, but each successive attempt seems too large for her to part with. The lady struggles to share even a tiny portion of her cakes with Saint Peter.

Q:  How did he punish her?

A: To punish the old lady for selfishness, Saint Peter transforms her into a woodpecker. Saint Peter becomes frustrated with the woman’s unwillingness to share her cakes and decides to teach her a lesson. He condemns her to a life of laborious work by turning her into a woodpecker. The punishment entails boring the hard, dry wood all day to find her scanty food. This transformation is a moral consequence of the old lady’s lack of generosity.

Q:  How does the woodpecker get her food?

A: Once Saint Peter transforms the old lady, the woodpecker gets her food by boring into the trees. The poem describes her as “boring and boring for food” in the hard, dry wood. The repetitive action of boring into the trees is how the woodpecker sustains herself and obtains her necessary nourishment. The transformation serves as a symbolic punishment for the old lady’s selfishness, condemning her to a life of laborious work in the form of a woodpecker.

Q: Do you think that the old lady would have been so ungenerous if she had known who Saint Peter was? What would she have done then?

A: If the old lady had recognised Saint Peter’s true identity, she might have been more inclined to show generosity and offer him a portion of her cakes. In various legends and folklore, people who extend kindness to celestial or divine beings are often rewarded, while those who show selfishness or inhospitality may face the consequences.

The speculative nature of this question allows for interpretation based on cultural and literary traditions. Still, the poem itself doesn’t provide explicit details about the old lady’s potential change in behaviour if she had known Saint Peter’s identity.

(Note: In many cultures, denying assistance or being ungenerous to a divine or saintly figure often leads to negative consequences or moral lessons and is frowned upon.)

Q: Is this a true story? Which part of this poem do you feel is the most important?

A: The poem ‘A Legend of the Northland’ by Phoebe Cary is not presented as a true story; instead, it is described as a legend. 

The most important part of the poem is likely the transformation of the old lady into a woodpecker as a consequence of her selfishness. This transformation is a moral lesson about the importance of generosity and selflessness. 

The poem teaches that actions have consequences, and it encourages readers to consider the implications of their behaviour, especially when it comes to helping others in need. The moral message about the consequences of greed and the value of generosity is a central theme in the poem.

Q: What is a legend? Why is this poem called a legend?

A: A legend is a traditional or historical narrative that often involves elements of folklore, mythology, or heroic tales. Legends are typically passed down through generations and may explain the origins of certain traditions, customs, or natural phenomena. 

The poem ‘A Legend of the Northland’ is called a legend because it tells a fictional and imaginative story that imparts a moral lesson. The narrative involves the transformation of an old lady into a woodpecker due to her selfishness. 

In this context, the term “legend” emphasises that the story is a traditional or mythological tale with a moral message rather than a historical one. The term “legend” suggests that the narrative conveys a lesson and may have been inspired by cultural or folkloric traditions.

Extra Questions “A Legend of the Northland”: 

Q1: What is the setting of the poem ‘A Legend of the Northland’?

A1: The poem’s setting is in the Northland, where the days are short, and the nights are long in winter. It describes a cold and remote region where reindeer are harnessed to sledges, and the inhabitants wear funny, furry clothes.

Q2: Who is the protagonist in the poem, and what is the role of Saint Peter in the story?

A2: The protagonist in the poem is the little woman baking cakes. Saint Peter plays the role of a visitor who comes to her door while he is preaching and asks for food.

Q3: What request does Saint Peter make to the woman, and how does she respond?

A3: Saint Peter requests a single cake from the woman because he is faint with fasting. The woman agrees to make him a cake but struggles with the size, thinking they are too large to give away.

Q4: How does the woman attempt to make a small enough cake for Saint Peter, and what happens?

A4: The woman kneads and bakes smaller and smaller cakes, but each time she turns them over, they appear more prominent. She even uses a tiny scrap of dough but cannot bring herself to part with it. Eventually, she puts the cakes on the shelf without giving any to Saint Peter.

Q5: What is Saint Peter’s reaction to the woman’s reluctance to share her cakes?

A5: Saint Peter becomes angry with the woman, considering her too selfish to dwell in a human form. He punishes her by transforming her into a woodpecker and instructs her to earn her scanty food by boring into the hard, dry wood.

Q6: Describe the transformation of the woman into a woodpecker.

A7: The woman goes up through the chimney and is transformed into a woodpecker. She retains a scarlet cap on her head, but the rest of her clothes are burned black as coal in the flame.

Q7: How does the poem convey a moral lesson?

A7: The poem conveys a moral lesson about selfishness and generosity. The woman’s unwillingness to share her abundance leads to her transformation into a bird that must work hard for its food. It is a cautionary tale about selfishness’s consequences and generosity’s importance of generosity.

Q8: What is the significance of the scarlet cap in transforming the woman into a woodpecker?

A8: The scarlet cap is the only item that remains unchanged during the woman’s transformation into a woodpecker. It symbolises her former self, a reminder of her human nature despite the drastic change in her physical form.

Q9: How does the poem use elements of fantasy and transformation to convey its message?

A9: The poem incorporates elements of fantasy, such as the visit of Saint Peter and the magical transformation of the woman into a woodpecker. These fantastical elements illustrate the consequences of the woman’s selfishness and add a mystical quality to the conveyed moral lesson.

Q10: What is the significance of the woodpecker’s behaviour at the poem’s end?

A10: The woodpecker’s boring behaviour for food in the hard, dry wood symbolises the woman’s new life and the consequences of her actions. It reinforces the idea that selfishness can lead to a challenging and laborious existence, contrasting with the ease of having both food and shelter as a human.

Extract-Based Questions “A Legend of the Northland”: 

Extract 1: Stanza 3

“They tell them a curious story —

I don’t believe ’tis true;

And yet you may learn a lesson

If I tell the tale to you.”

Q1: What does the speaker imply by calling the story a “curious story”?

A1: The speaker suggests that the story is unusual or peculiar, possibly hinting at its fantastical or mythical nature.

Q2: Why does the speaker doubt the truth of the story?

A2: The speaker doubts the story’s truth, emphasising scepticism or uncertainty about the events described, creating intrigue for the listener.

Q3: Despite the speaker’s disbelief, what is the purpose of telling the tale to the audience?

A3: The speaker acknowledges that a lesson may be learned from the story, implying that even if the events are not entirely true, they carry a moral or instructive message.

Q4: What does the phrase “If I tell the tale to you” suggest about the speaker’s role in conveying the story?

A4: The phrase implies that the speaker sees themselves as a storyteller, responsible for sharing the narrative and possibly guiding the audience toward the lesson in the tale.

Extract 2: Stanza 7

“So she made a very little cake,

But as it baking lay,

She looked at it, and thought it seemed

Too large to give away.”

Q1: What action does the woman take in response to Saint Peter’s request for a cake?

A1: The woman makes a tiny cake for Saint Peter to fulfil his request.

Q2: What internal conflict does the woman experience while baking the cake?

A2: The woman struggles with the perception that the small cake she made still seems too large to give away, revealing her internal conflict about parting with her possessions.

Q3: How does the woman’s hesitation contribute to the unfolding events in the poem?

A3: The woman’s hesitation to give away even a tiny cake becomes a crucial turning point, leading to Saint Peter’s growing dissatisfaction and eventual punishment.

Q4: What does the woman’s dilemma convey about the theme of generosity in the poem?

A4: The woman’s reluctance to share, even in a small way, underscores the theme of generosity and highlights the consequences of selfishness in the narrative.

Extract 3: Stanza 13

“Now, you shall build as the birds do,

And shall get your scanty food

By boring, and boring, and boring,

All day in the hard, dry wood.”

Q1: How does Saint Peter decide to punish the woman for her selfishness?

A1: Saint Peter decides to transform the woman into a woodpecker and instructs her to earn her meagre food by boring into the hard, dry wood.

Q2: What symbolic meaning can be attributed to the woman’s new task as a woodpecker?

A2: The woman’s task of boring into the hard, dry wood symbolises her selfish actions’ arduous and laborious consequences, serving as a metaphor for the challenges accompanying a self-centred existence.

Q3: What contrast does the punishment create between the woman’s previous and current lives?

A3: The punishment contrasts the woman’s former comfort with the hardship of her new existence as a woodpecker, emphasising the price she pays for her selfish behaviour.

Q4: How does this stanza contribute to the overall moral lesson of the poem?

A4: This stanza reinforces the moral lesson by illustrating the direct consequences of selfishness, showing that one’s actions can lead to a difficult and less desirable life.

Extract 4: Stanza 16

“And every country schoolboy

Has seen her in the wood,

Where she lives in the trees till this very day,

Boring and boring for food.”

Q1: What is the current state of the transformed woman according to this stanza?

A1: The woman, now a woodpecker, lives in the trees and continues to bore into the wood for her food.

Q2: How does the mention of “every country schoolboy” add to the impact of the stanza?

A2: The mention adds a universal quality, suggesting that the transformed woman’s existence as a woodpecker is known to many, emphasising the enduring nature of her punishment.

Q3: What does “till this very day” imply about the woman’s ongoing fate?

A3: The phrase implies that the woman’s transformation and the consequences of her actions persist as a reminder of the enduring impact of one’s choices.

Q4: In what way does this stanza conclude the narrative and emphasise the story’s moral?

A4: By describing the woman’s continued life as a woodpecker, the stanza serves as a conclusion, highlighting the lasting repercussions of selfishness and reinforcing the moral lesson of the poem.

Extract 5: Stanza 11

“And he said, “You are far too selfish

To dwell in a human form,

To have both food and shelter,

And fire to keep you warm.”

Q1: In this stanza, what accusation does Saint Peter make against the woman?

A1: Saint Peter accuses the woman of being too selfish to deserve the comforts of a human form, including food, shelter, and warmth.

Q2: How does Saint Peter emphasise the contrast between the woman’s selfishness and her current privileges?

A2: Saint Peter highlights that the woman has food, shelter, and the luxury of fire to keep her warm. This emphasises the disparity between her current blessings and her selfish behaviour.

Q3: What does Saint Peter imply about the privileges of being human in this stanza?

A3: Saint Peter suggests that being human comes with certain privileges, such as food, shelter, and warmth, and that the woman has taken these for granted through her selfish actions.

Q4: How does this stanza contribute to the theme of the poem?

A4: This stanza deepens the exploration of the theme of selfishness by highlighting the contrast between the woman’s actions and the privileges associated with being human, leading to Saint Peter’s decision to impose a transformative punishment.

Extract 6: Stanza 14

“Then up she went through the chimney,

Never speaking a word,

And out of the top flew a woodpecker,

For she was changed to a bird.”

Q1: What is the significance of the woman going “up through the chimney”?

A1: The woman’s ascent through the chimney symbolises her departure from her human life and the beginning of her transformation into a woodpecker.

Q2: How does this stanza’s transformation from a woman to a woodpecker unfold?

A2: The woman undergoes a silent transformation as she ascends through the chimney, emerging from the top as a woodpecker. This swift and magical transformation adds a fantastical element to the poem.

Q3: What does the transformation into a woodpecker represent in the context of the narrative?

A3: The transformation signifies the woman’s punishment for her selfishness. She loses her human form and is relegated to a life as a woodpecker, reinforcing the consequences of her actions.

Q4: How does the imagery in this stanza contribute to the overall tone of the poem?

A4: The imagery of the woman silently turning into a woodpecker through the chimney adds a mysterious and sombre tone, heightening the impact of the transformation and the gravity of the moral lesson.

Extract 7: Stanza 2

“Where they harness the swift reindeer

To the sledges, when it snows;

And the children look like bear’s cubs

In their funny, furry clothes:”

Q1: In this stanza, what activities are described in the Northland during snowy weather?

A1: The stanza describes the use of swift reindeer harnessed to sledges when it snows in the Northland, providing a glimpse into the local lifestyle.

Q2: How do the children in the Northland appear in winter, according to the stanza?

A2: The children in the Northland are described as looking like bear’s cubs, emphasising their bundled appearance in warm and furry clothes during the winter.

Q3: What role does the imagery of the swift reindeer and children in furry clothes play in the poem?

A3: The imagery adds a vivid and picturesque element to the poem, setting the scene in the Northland and contrasting with the later transformation and moral lesson.

Q4: In what way does this stanza contribute to the atmosphere of the poem?

A4: This stanza establishes the Northland setting, creating a backdrop for the narrative and contributing to the atmosphere by depicting a wintry and enchanting landscape.

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