A queen asks a witch for help because she and the king wish to have a child. She has a daughter, which the king finds disappointing. When the princess grows up, the king sends her away with a dragon and a griffin to a lonely faraway island surrounded by whirlpools so that she would be rescued by, and hence married to, a clever man. A cabin boy attempts the rescue and, one by one, overcomes the challenges on the island. In the end, the princess and the cabin boy get married and live happily ever after.

The story contains a large number of nouns, adjectives, and verbs that can be learnt. Since the story is focused on the main action (with no digressions), the vocabulary corresponds to specific semantic fields, such as geography (e.g., the atmosphere, natural phenomena) and mythology. There is a lot of action in the story, so there are many verbs in past forms. These words have all been defined in the text: cabin boy / enchanted / sorcerer / warn / misfortune / brooch / buckle / lily / pin on / cauldron / compel / plea / craft / earn somebody's affection / heir / inherit / estate / from then onwards / quarrel / threaten / scroll / undertake / prestidigitation / dowry / griffin / whirlpool / suck into / embroider / foretell / elapse / sceptre / rune / stud / bewildered / brood / standstill / low tide / overcome / sleeve / shelter / postscript / pounce at / avoid / charge / recede / peck / live off something.

This story can be analysed from the perspective of Mathematics and Geography. Maths is present because the way to overcome the challenges on the island (particularly the whirlpools and the monsters’ sleep times) involves the tide table in a mathematical formula. Although this is not a real scientific problem, it is important in the course of events and the connection can, therefore, be established by the teacher. The mythological characters in the story can also be analysed and developed further since mythology has always played a fundamental role in certain literary subgenres.

Understanding the story requires understanding the finer points on which it is based. Since the language is not very easy at times, this can be challenging and may demand that the reader look up a number of words using the interactive areas provided with definitions, examples, and related images/audio.

The didactic activities are very flexible and can be carried out at home in isolation or collaboratively in the classroom. It is possible to do the activities without Internet connection and little external information needs to be accessed.

There are several themes that could be reflected on / discussed before reading this story:
  • External signs. What do you think of having different aesthetic rules for girls and boys, e.g., colours, garments, hair length, accessories? Alternatively, do you think they should all have a similar look (e.g., high heels, make-up, a suit and a tie)?
  • Sexism. Do fathers nowadays prefer to have boys or girls? Do they fear that girls will not be intelligent and capable enough to be heiresses?
  • Natural phenomena. Are you interested in natural phenomena such as hurricanes, volcano eruptions, or earthquakes? Have you ever had to get out of a difficult or dangerous situation involving a natural phenomenon?
  • Mathematics. Have you ever applied maths to solve a real life problem? If not, can you imagine one such situation?

Applied science, e.g. the application of mathematical, geographical, and geological knowledge to the resolution of real world problems, would be an interesting topic to address in reference to and beyond this story. Also, the role of mythology in literature can be explored in the classroom starting from the animals in this story. Finally, as with the rest of the stories in this volume, this one provides the opportunity to consider the theme of old values vs. nowadays values.


Una hechicera procura que un rey y una reina tengan una hija. No contento el primero con ella, la encierra en la Torre Solitaria, custodiada por un grifo y un dragón. Con el paso de los años, un astuto grumete, con ayuda de la princesa, consigue resolver el misterio de la isla encantada.

Este cuento, en comparación con los demás, resulta peculiarmente original, debido a que la resolución de los problemas de la trama se lleva a cabo gracias a la lógica y, en especial, a la deducción matemática. Por ello, esta historia puede explotarse transversalmente entre las disciplinas del área lingüística y del área lógico-matemática. En relación a la inteligencia emocional y a la capacidad crítica, el cuento puede servir para el debate sobre la descripción y subversión de estereotipos de género y de clases sociales en la literatura o en otros productos de la cultura popular. También pueden abordarse temas relacionados con los mitos y leyendas: en este caso, aparecen bestias como el grifo o el dragón.

Actividades de lectura crítica, de lógica e intertextualidad sobre narraciones tradicionales (personajes y simbología). Actividades colaborativas y de debate. Actividades de escritura creativa y de dibujo. Actividades de contexto cultural: heredero varón, dote y renta, revolución industrial.

Definición de las siguientes expresiones, palabras o grafías: grumete, estupor, azucena, rentas.

Text, intertextuality and context: Activity to scaffold reading comprehension and notes on intertextual and historical or cultural contextual information.
Creativity: Activity to enhance imagination and fantasy.
Collaboration: Activity to be undertaken totally or partially in a group.
Critical capacity: Activity to promote explicit learning through analysis and critical reasoning.
Oral comprehension: Activity for the acquisition of oral receptive skills.
Gamification and digital skills: Activity to promote gamified and technology-based learning through exercises and small interactive games with the computer.
Oral interpersonal communication: Activity to improve oral production and interaction.
Didactic guidelines for the English teacher: Table with a summary of the story and recommendations for the use of the tool in the classroom.
Audio: Listening of the enriched audio embedded in each page.
Comprensión lectora y contexto Explicación de información contextual, histórica o cultural, difícil para el lector actual.

Creatividad Propuestas para trabajar la imaginación, la fantasía y la sensibilidad a partir de la lectura.

Trabajo colaborativo y emocional Propuestas de actividades para desarrollar el trabajo en grupo y el conocimiento de las emociones.

Capacidad crítica e intertextualidad Anotaciones que promueven el pensamiento crítico y la profundización en el conocimiento de las estrategias literarias.

Actividades auditivas Anotaciones orientadas a desarrollar la recepción auditiva, utilizando la dimensión oral del lenguaje, los sonidos y la música.

Elementos interactivos (Puzles, galerías de imágenes, ejercicios, etc.) Anotaciones que han requerido algún tipo de programación especial orientadas a fomentar la lectura activa.

Audio Pista de audio del cuento por página.

Runes were the letters in a set of alphabets known as runic alphabets, which were used before the Middle Ages to write various Germanic languages in Scandivia and the British Islands.

Do you find any similarities with your alphabet?

Below is a fragment from one of the most important rune poems, called the Icelandic Rune Poem (it has been translated into modern English). You may need to seek help to interpret some fragments:

"Wealth source of discord among kinsmen and fire of the sea and path of the serpent. Shower lamentation of the clouds and ruin of the hay-harvest and abomination of the shepherd. Giant torture of women and cliff-dweller and husband of a giantess."

Una ciudad de libros

Comprensión lectora y contexto Explicación de información contextual, histórica o cultural, difícil para el lector actual.
Creatividad Propuestas para trabajar la creatividad a partir de la lectura.
Trabajo colaborativo y emocional Propuestas de actividades para desarrollar el trabajo en grupo y el conocimiento de las emociones.
Capacidad crítica e intertextualidad Anotaciones que promueven el pensamiento crítico y la profundización en el conocimiento de las estrategias literarias
Comprensión sonora Ejercicios que trabajan la comprensión auditiva (para la versión en inglés).
Elementos interactivos (Puzles, galerías de imágenes, ejercicios, etc.) Anotaciones que han requerido algún tipo de programación especial
Icono audio Se utiliza este icono para escuchar el audio incrustado por página en la versión en inglés y en la bilingüe.

El grumete y la isla encantada

Este relato es una adaptación de un cuento de la autora inglesa Edith Nesbit titulado “The Island of the Nine Whirlpools” de la colección de cuentos The Book of Dragons, ilustrada por H. R. Millar y H. Granville Fell y publicada en Nueva York en 1901.

Decoraciones del cuento original de Nesbit por H. Granville Fell.

The English version of this book is a translation from Plaga de Dragones, a story collection which was published by Saturnino Calleja in 1923. This translation was undertaken collaboratively as part of a crowd translation project which took place at the Spanish distance learning university UNED in 2016, involving translation teachers and students. During the translation process, we tried to reach a balance between being faithful to the Spanish text and bringing it into the 21st century for the enjoyment and learning of modern readers. We feel that the stories are still relevant to you these days and trust that you will find the cultural contrast interesting.

The text has been enriched with a number of annotations including audio, term explanations, and various proposals for activities, which are mainly aimed at young non-native English speakers.


Antro se utiliza aquí para denominar la cueva o caverna donde desarrollan sus actividades los hechiceros. Imagina qué objetos pueden estar presentes en el antro de la hechicera del cuento y plásmalos en un dibujo.


A contagious illness that causes red spots on the skin and high temperature. Children have it more frequently than adults unless they are vaccinated.

Example: Tommy didn’t go to school when he had measles.


The seed of certain plants which are eaten as a vegetable in stews, soups, salads, or as a side dish.

Example: The smell of the bean stew was delicious.


A person who provides care for somebody else’s children as a paid service.

Example: The nanny told the children a story at bedtime.

Three Wise Men

According to the Christian tradition, the Three Wise Men, Kings or Magi were distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth, guided by a star, bearing gifts. They are common figures in Christmas nativity sets, next to the Holy Family and the shepherds.

Example: The names of the Three Wise Men were Melchior, Gaspar and Balthassar.


A chest or piece of furniture for writing with drawers (boxes that slide in and out and are used to hold things). It can have a top that locks with a key and opens upwards.

Example: The old wooden bureau contained old secret documents.


A group of sheep, goats, or birds.

Example: Shepherds take care of their flock.


Why do you think that Rosie and Fabian’s mother doesn’t let them open the two drawers? Try and guess the reason!

We are sure that you know what a bureau is and what it is for. Can you name up to five things that you would typically find in the drawers of a bureau and five things that you would never ever find there?

Many of Calleja's tales are fictional stories, which means that they are derived from the imagination.

How many fictional elements can you find in this page? What about fantastic elements?


We are sure that you know what a bureau is and what it is for. Can you name up to five things that you would typically find in the drawers of a bureau and five things that you would never ever find there?

We are sure that you know what a bureau is and what it is for. Can you name up to five things that you would typically find in the drawers of a bureau and five things that you would never ever find there?

Sapphire and ruby are the names given to blue and red occurrences of a mineral called corundum. Do you know how corundum is formed?

Before geologists extract sapphires and rubies from a rock, a very long process is necessary to form the minerals. First, magma rises through the mantle forming chambers where it is enclosed. Then, magma starts to cool very slowly inside the chamber until it becomes a rock, such as granite. During the cooling process different minerals, like sapphires and rubies, are formed naturally and get trapped inside the rock.

In this paragraph, there are some gemstones: sapphire, ruby and diamond. Working in groups, name other precious or semi-precious stones that you may know of or other precious metals.


Listen to this recording of another story and answer the questions below:

Which story does this fragment belong to? Do you know what's happening in the story you just listened to?


It is difficult to locate this story in time because there are barely any historical references.

Witches started around the 13th century. This corresponds to the Middle Ages, when monarchs were powerful. The story is located some time after that, any idea when? Could you find an element in the text that can help locate the story a little bit more?


Throughout history, there have been different beauty cannons (the norms of a certain epoch as to what is or is not considered beautiful). For example, the goth beauty cannon nowadays involves mostly black clothing, dark dramatic makeup, and dyed black hair.

Which type of beauty cannon is that witch following in her spell?


The 'h' in the word "heir" is mute, so it is a homophone of "air". This happens in English with other words, like "hour", which is a homophone of "our".

Can you think of two other words with mute "h" at the beginning?


The Salic Law is a law excluding women from dynastic succession. At the time of writing this note (2021), there are still some countries in the world where this law applies, like Japan. In others, like Spain and Monaco, male heirs have preference over female heirs.

As we can read in the story, the king does not want to forgive the queen. What did the queen do in order to deserve such resentment?


“…el rey y la reina no tenían hijos…”

Seguro que conoces otros cuentos con este mismo comienzo. Reflexiona sobre ello y piensa, además, si en el desarrollo de la historia existen personajes y escenas que también aparecen en otros cuentos que conozcas.


La alondra es un pájaro de color castaño que construye sus nidos en los campos, se alimenta de insectos (por lo que es bueno para las cosechas) y canta mientras vuela. Además, alcanza una gran altura en sus vuelos. Desde la Antigüedad ha sido un símbolo de felicidad y buenos augurios para muchas culturas. En inglés el ricino se llama “castor-oil plant”. No hace falta ser buen detective para darse cuenta de que el adaptador del cuento ha traducido mal esta frase, que en español no significa nada. Este desliz nos dio una pista para encontrar a la autora original de estos cuentos.

Planta de ricino y botella de Naranjil, marca comercial de aceite de ricino en España.


El/La hechicero/a es una persona capaz de alterar la realidad con sus actos, ya sean benévolos o malignos. Pregunta a otras personas qué tipos de hechiceros conocen y compáralos con los del cuento. ¿De qué modo influyen en el desarrollo de la historia?


En la frase “la llamó y la dijo” hay algo que no es correcto gramaticalmente. En muchas regiones españolas, como en la zona centro y en el norte se utiliza, aunque no se considera una forma culta de hablar. ¿Cuál sería la forma correcta?

Primera pregunta del test... La respuesta es A.

Le llamó y le dijo.

La llamó y le dijo.

Le llamó y la dijo.



Ver explicación Mostrar / Ocultar

En la frase: «Di un regalo a Juan» (“un regalo” es el objeto directo de la frase y “a Juan” el objeto indirecto). Los pronombres “lo”, “la”, “los”, “las” se utilizan para el objeto directo, y “le”, “les” para el indirecto. El laísmo es un tipo de error en el uso del español en el que se utilizan los pronombres personales de objeto directo femenino "la" y "las" como objeto indirecto cuando la palabra a la que se refieren es femenina, en lugar de las formas "le" y "les", que serían las correctas.


El heredero es la persona que obtiene los bienes de sus padres cuando fallecen. El rey del cuento está enfadado porque su heredero es una hija y no un hijo, y este es también el motivo de las discusiones entre el rey y la reina. Piensa por qué el rey está enfadado y si te parece justo. ¿Conoces algún ejemplo más como este?

Dote y renta

Una dote y una bonita renta es lo que recibe la princesa de su padre cuando la encierra en la Torre Solitaria. Consulta un diccionario o pregunta a tu familia y descubre qué significado tienen estas palabras. ¿Se siguen utilizando en la actualidad?


El grifo es un ser mitológico que, en este cuento, aparece con cabeza de águila y cuerpo de león. ¿Sabías que también puede representarse como en la imagen, con cuerpo de león y con alas? Imagina cómo cambiarías la escena en la que la mitad del grifo destroza a la otra mitad en la p. 59. ¿Te atreves a escribirlo en una pequeña historia?

Con todas las palabras del diccionario

Intenta expresar con otras palabras lo que quiere decir esta frase.


El dragón es una criatura que aparece con frecuencia en la literatura de fantasía como un ser malvado o aterrador. En los cuentos de E. Nesbit el dragón adquiere matices cómicos, porque llega a parecer gracioso o incluso normal. Reflexiona dónde se muestran estos matices dentro del cuento y piensa qué sentimientos te transmite este dragón, ¿y a los protagonistas? Como puedes ver en este ejemplo, desde hace mucho tiempo los dragones han poblado la imaginación de los artistas y los escritores:


Un grumete es un joven aprendiz de marinero que ayuda a la tripulación en su trabajo. No es un príncipe, pero es más apuesto y valiente que muchos príncipes que se han acercado a la isla.

La caza con liga

En el cuento, el Concejo decide colocar altas columnas «con liga» para controlar la plaga de dragones. Este método se refiere a la caza con liga que, antiguamente, consistía en extender una masa pegajosa de distintos materiales (cardo, frutos de muérdago…) sobre la rama de un árbol para capturar al pájaro que se posara sobre ella. En la actualidad, es un método de caza prohibido por las leyes.

Dragones y princesas

Para controlar la plaga de dragones, el Ayuntamiento quería ofrecer una princesa como recompensa a aquellos que se enfrentaran a las criaturas. ¿Qué piensas sobre eso? Seguro que, a estas alturas, te has percatado de que, en muchísimos cuentos, hay dragones y princesas. ¿Cómo son esas princesas? Compáralas con la protagonista de este cuento y discute con tus compañeros las diferencias. Podéis fijaros, por ejemplo, en historias como la de La Bella Durmiente o como la de Shrek.

Dibujo de la bella durmiente y el príncipe en el cuento de los hermanos Grimm, 1812.

Magos con tres ojos en la cara

¿Alguna vez habías escuchado que los magos tienen tres ojos en la cara? ¿Algún otro mago que conozcas tiene tres ojos? ¿Merlín? ¿Harry Potter? ¿Cómo te imaginas a este mago tan terrible? ¿Por qué no lo dibujas?


El guardapolvo es una prenda que se coloca sobre la ropa para protegerla de la suciedad. Una bata de científico, por ejemplo, podría considerarse un guardapolvo. También lo son algunas piezas de los uniformes escolares, como los babis, que suelen utilizarse en preescolar.

Una muchacha inteligente

¿Qué piensa en secreto Enrique de su hermana y qué le dice en voz alta? ¿Por qué crees que no es sincero?¿Alguna vez Eufemia le dice a Enrique algo parecido?

Iglesia de San Jorge

Esta frase nos dio otra pista para situar el origen de los cuentos en Inglaterra, pues en España no es habitual que en una ciudad haya muchas iglesias de San Jorge. En Madrid, solo hay una en la calle de Núñez de Balboa, que además es anglicana, mientras que en Londres encontrar la iglesia donde estuviera el santo era un verdadero dilema, ¡pues hay quince! (Hay que apuntar que San Jorge es un santo especialmente admirado en Inglaterra, siendo el patrono de la monarquía inglesa desde el siglo XIV).


“Estupor” quiere decir asombro. Le dejaron al grumete tan asombrado los remolinos que estuvo siete días pensando cómo acercarse a la isla y conseguir evitarlos.

Ilustración del cuento original de Nesbit por H. R. Millar.


La azucena (Lilium candidum), también llamada lirio, es una flor que tradicionalmente simboliza la pureza del corazón, en este caso de la princesa. Esta palabra viene del árabe. La margarita también se asocia a la pureza, la sencillez y la alegría.


No es habitual encontrar problemas de matemáticas en los cuentos y, por eso, este es muy original. Parece que se nos está invitando a nosotros, los lectores, a que intentemos resolver el problema. Sin embargo, la solución que da el cuento tiene un fallo. Seguramente la autora no pretendía que su problema tuviera una solución matemática, sino, más bien, mágica. ¿Serías capaz de descubrir el fallo de lógica?


“el Padre eterno escribió unas”

Finalmente, aparece Dios para salvar al pastor, ¿qué te parece este final? ¿Es el que esperabas? En realidad, lo de hacer aparecer a un Dios (u otro elemento externo a la trama y, generalmente, mágico) para que, de pronto, resuelva la situación, aunque no tenga mucho que ver con el resto de la historia, es un recurso que ya usaban los griegos en sus tragedias y que se llama "Deus ex machina". Sin embargo, no es una forma de resolver la trama muy recomendable, pues no guarda coherencia con el resto del argumento. ¿Se te ocurre una forma mejor de acabar este cuento? Escríbela.

El número siete

El número siete ha sido considerado, desde la Antigüedad, como un número mágico que se ha utilizado como símbolo de perfección y sabiduría. El narrador lo utiliza en el texto como símbolo de conocimiento, pues al cabo de siete días el grumete entendió el misterio de los nueve remolinos. Piensa e investiga para qué se utiliza el número siete y dónde más lo encuentras. Pregunta en tu familia o a tus amigos, ¡seguro que juntos encontráis muchísimos ejemplos más!

“El grifo es artificial”

Es gracioso que un personaje mitológico, como es el grifo, pueda ser artificial. ¿Qué crees que pasará con él?


El número 9

Desde la antigüedad, el número nueve representa el todo, la plenitud. En el cuento son nueve días los que tienen que pasar hasta que baje la marea, y el grumete pueda rescatar a la princesa. Y también son nueve los remolinos a los que se tiene que enfrentar, que los había hecho el rey con nueve gotas de sangre, y que a su vez se convirtieron en nueve rubíes cuando bajó la marea. ¿Crees que tiene algo que ver con el hecho de que sean nueve meses los que normalmente dura un embarazo? Busca otros ejemplos donde se utilice el número nueve para enumerar o citar diferentes elementos del mundo que nos rodea.

Un dragón de piedra

Esta imagen es típica del estilo de Edith Nesbit, que se hizo famosa por combinar elementos fantásticos de los cuentos tradicionales, como son los dragones y las brujas, por ejemplo, con otros más modernos, como es el turismo. Otro cuento que utiliza también este recurso es “Veraneo estropeado”, de esta misma colección.

Ilustración del cuento original de Nesbit por H. R. Millar.

Imagina una historia que sirva de explicación para esta famosa estatua al borde del mar en la ciudad de Copenhague:


Las rentas son los beneficios que producen las tierras o los negocios periódicamente. No se considera renta el salario que uno obtiene de su trabajo. Hay gente rica que no necesita trabajar para recibir una cantidad de dinero al mes, como le ocurría a la princesa y como – según destaca el narrador− también les gustaría poder hacer a muchos.


¿Cómo eran los juguetes de tus padres y abuelos? Pregúntales si tuvieron algunos de estos.


Something that is made, sent out, or published.

Example: The man sold all his old issues of comics from when he was a child.

Pay attention to the pronunciation of the suffix "–ish" (which is typically used to form adjectives from nouns). What do you think it means after colours, like "brownish", and adjectives, like "biggish", etc.?

In the first two examples, "-ish" means "inclined, tending to". "Ish" as a word is similar to "so-so", "more or less".

Note that this has nothing to do with words like "English" (meaning: "belonging to England"), "childish" ("like, in the manner of") and "fiftyish" “near or about”.

Did you know that "ish" can be used as a word in informal contexts?:

Q: "Was it an interesting film?"
A: "Ish".

Think of two or three adjectives where "-ish" can be added at the end.


Imagine you and your partners are members of the city Council during the plague of dragons in the story. Each one of you must choose a role from the following list and start a discussion:

  1. Mayor: S/he wants to eliminate he plague but without harming anybody and without destroying any buildings or property.
  2. Militar advisor: S/he wants to eliminate the plague no matter what to ensure that the main objective is reached.
  3. Scientific advisor: S/he doesn't want to eliminate the plague in order study the dragons and protect the people at the same time.

As seen before, griffins are hybrid mythological creatures (they have body parts from two different types of animals). Do you know that there are many other hybrid mythological creatures?

In the gallery below, you can see some of them. Could you find out which animals they have parts?




Did you know how humans used to plough fields?

Since ancient times, we have used animals to pull ploughs. The animal differed depending on the area. In Europe, horses and oxen were common. In Africa camels were the common beast of burden and in India elephants were used in the fields.

Nowadays, the use of tractors has spread worldwide. Can you imagine how hard it could be to plough a field without a tractor?

As you might have noticed, in this story tides have been very important. Do you know why?


Imagine the sailor had been born in the 21th century and had access to technology such as a mobile phone, Internet, Google Maps, etc. In which way do you think he would have rescued the princess from a similar situation to that of the story? Write down a paragraph about it.


A quick bite with the beak of a bird.

Example: The chicken gave a few pecks at the seeds on the ground.

Lived off (live off)

To have money with which to buy food and other necessities.

Example: That artist lives off the money from her private classes.

Pleas (singular: plea)

Intense request.

Example: She made a plea for mercy so as not to get grounded.


Magical powers.

Example: The magician taught his craft to his apprentice.


A plank; a flat, cut piece of wood.

Example: The child fixed small wheels to the board and then jumped on it.


Alquicel: Es una palabra que viene del árabe y se refiere a un tipo de vestidura a modo de capa, que normalmente era blanca y de lana.

Si quieres conocer qué otras palabras son de origen árabe, utiliza el diccionario e investiga: ¿Son de origen árabe estas palabras: “alcohol”, “almohada”, “aleta”, “alcázar”, “alcaldía”, “alhelí” y “altura”?


A grey metal which is very heavy.

Example: That shield is made of lead to protect the doctor against radiation.

Colour symbolism is highly culture-specific and variable. As you can see in this story from the early 20th century, the pink colour is related to feminine gender in the same way blue is related to masculine gender. Nowadays, you can see men wearing pink clothes and women wearing blue clothes.

What other colour symbolisms do you know of in any culture, past or present? Find out and share with your group.

The king decided to send his daughter to a lonely island with a dragon and a griffin.

Based on what you've just read, why did he do it?

a) The king wanted his daughter to marry one of these monsters.

b) The king wanted to find a clever husband for his daughter.

c) The king wanted her daughter to be single.


Form debate teams where one team represents the queen. Try to persuade the witch not to turn you into a statue. Use expressions like: "I beg you to reconsider..."; "Please, let's try to..."; ""Please, have mercy...".

Counterargue as the witch team, using expressions like: "I'm sorry but that's impossible because..." and "I don't think that's a good idea because...".

The judge will take into account both the content of the interventions and their persuasive force.

Now try to collaborate all together and think of a compromise solution for the queen's stay on the island.

Embroidering (embroider)

To decorate clothing by stitching patterns into it with thread.

Example: Her dress was embroidered with little pink roses.

La ciudad en la biblioteca, en la ciudad en la biblioteca

Los escritores utilizan muchos trucos para hacer sus historias interesantes. En este caso, la autora hace que los juguetes y los espacios de juego que construyen los niños cobren vida y se hagan reales dentro de la historia. ¿Conoces otros cuentos en los que ocurra hacen algo parecido?

Aquí tienes un ejemplo muy famoso:

El soldadito de plomo


Manuel Rivadeneyra (1805-1872) fue un editor e impresor español que desde 1846 trató de reunir las obras clásicas de la literatura española en una colección que se llamó la Biblioteca de Autores Españoles.

El ratón mecánico

Otro truco para hacer una buena historia es jugar con los narradores y el origen del cuento. Nuestro narrador ha escuchado la historia que acabamos de leer de uno de los personajes del cuento. ¿No es un poco raro? ¿Te fiarías tú de lo que cuente un ratón mecánico?

Inventa una historia con un narrador poco fiable ¡pero divertido!

In this tale the story of the princess has become a story inside the story we are reading.

This technique based on inserting a story inside another story is called "Chinese boxes". Chinese boxes are a set of boxes graduated in size so as to fit inside each other.

You can see many examples of this technique in many other books, like "The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha", where many characters start narrating a story inside the frame of the main story of Don Quixote.


Make a list of places related to the different types of weather mentioned in this paragraph. For example, you can relate Egypt with the sun and England with the rain. Think of other examples from other continents too.

Whirlpools have been a problem for sailors, specially before the 20th century, when ships were made of wood and, hence, were rather weak.

You can find a famous natural whirlpool on one side of the Strait of Messina, in the Mediterranean Sea. There is also a big rock occupying the other side. As many boats sank in this area, ancient Greeks thought that the whirlpool was a sea monster called Charybdis and that the rock was the body of a second monster called Scylla.

This legend persisted so long that when somebody has to choose between two problems, they say that they are "between Scylla and Charybdis".

What a messy situation! It looks like a bloody battle is about to start in the middle of Rosie and Fabian’s library! Luckily, the monkey and the mouse are sensible and have an idea to put a stop to all this nonsense.

How would the monkey or the mouse persuade them not to fight? Elaborate a small speech of reconciliation as one of them. First, write it down and then rehearse it orally.

All throughout this story there are two scenarios: a real one in Rosie and Fabian’s library and an imaginary one in a medieval city which is about to become a battlefield… which is inside the library! Where are the children right now: still in the battlefield or back in the library?


A golden stick that symbolizes the monarch's power.

Example: Nereus is represented with the sceptre and the trident.

Studded (stud)

To be decorated with small button-like pieces.

Example: The queen's crown was studded with pearls.

Wheeled Board

A plank with wheels underneath. It can be a skateboard, which is a flat, short, narrow board that has four wheels on the bottom and is used for practising a sport.

Example: It is more fun to stand on your skateboard than to sit on it.


A stop; absence of movement.

Example: The car came to a standstill in front of the stop sign.

As we can read in the text, the princess is going to be locked in a tower in the middle of nowhere. Can you remember a story where another princess is locked up in a tower too?


Did you know that "eighth" is an ordinal number? The formation of these numbers is very simple but there are a few exceptions. Let's see if you know the ordinal numbers:

1. What are the first three ordinal numbers?

2. Which ordinal number comes between "fourth" and "sixth"?

3. Which ordinal numbers come between "seventh" and "tenth"?

4. Which ordinal numbers come between "eleventh" and "fourteenth"?

5. How do you say "20th" and "21st"?


The boy had to make many mathematical calculations to rescue the princess. Would you be able to rescue her too?

Imagine the last time whirlpools stopped was at 12 am in the morning and the boy could only scape from the boat at 10.30 am when his master was eating breakfast. If the whirlpools stop five minutes earlier each day, how many days will he have to wait until he can cross them?

a) 7 days
b) 14 days
c) 18 days

Remember to convert hours to minutes before starting your calculation.


The boy in our story is trying to calculate how many days he and the princess would need for the dragon’s sleep to coincide with the low tide and the pause of the whirlpools.

Based on the reading, do you have enough data to calculate it? If not, what piece of information is missing?


A griffin is a mythological creature whose body is half eagle, half lion.

The king chose the griffin to protect the princess because the eagle has very good sight to watch over the princess and the lion has strong teeth and claws to protect her.

Imagine you need to create more hybrid monsters (a creature made up of two animals) to protect the princess. What would it look like? Think of the features of each animal you consider. For example, the snake has poison to kill its enemy; the tiger has powerful teeth; the bat can see in the dark, etc.

Then draw the resulting bodyguard monster!

This is the end of the story. Rosie and Fabian are sick in bed. In their feverish sleep, they have a nightmare about being judged in court for having been disobedient and reckless. Distribute the roles at court among the members of your group:

Try to follow the main norms in a real court situation (respect to the magistrates’ indications, turn taking, etc.) and come out with a sentence.

Don’t forget to finish the role play by waking Rosie and Fabian up at the end!

Cabin boy

A boy who assists a ship's officials and passengers.

Example: The cabin boy helped in the ship's kitchen.


Under magical powers or spell.

Example: The prince fell in love with the witch because he was enchanted.


A man who has magical powers; a magician.

Example: The evil sorcerer cast a spell on the beautiful princess.


To inform someone of problem or danger.

Example: The teacher warned the students of the storm coming.


Bad luck or an unlucky event.

Example: It started raining and she had the misfortune that she had left her umbrella at home.


Ornaments or jewellery that people pin on their clothes.

Example: During December she wore a Christmas tree brooch on her coat.


Straps at the end of belts and shoes used for fastening them.

Example: In the morning I fastened the buckles on my sandals.

Lilies (lily)

A (usually white) bell-shaped flower.

Pinned on (pin on)

To hold something onto something else, like a board, with a pin.

Example: The teacher pinned the leaflet on the cork board.


A big pot used for cooking over an open fire.

Example: The witch put powder in the cauldron and said the magic words.

Compelled (compel)

To force someone to do something.

Example: When grandpa was a schoolboy, he was compelled to wear shorts even in winter.

Earned somebody' s affection (earn somebody's affection)

To win somebody's love.

Example: The teacher earned her students' affection by giving them all 10/10.


The person who receives the property or position of another person after his/her death.

Example: A monarch’s eldest child is usually the heir to the throne.


To receive something as an heir at the death of a person.

Example: A monarch’s eldest child usually inherits the throne.


Land, possessions.

Example: The prince inherited a large estate after the king died.

From then onwards,

Starting from that moment.

Example: They met and from then onwards they were friends forever.

Quarrelled (quarrel)

To argue, fight.

Example: The team always agrees on everything; they do not often quarrel about anything.

Threatened (threaten)

To say that you would do something unpleasant to someone.

Example: The thieves threatened to hurt us if we didn't give them our money.


A roll of paper, used before books existed.

Example: The wizard had many scrolls in his library.


A promise to God or somebody greatly respected.

Example: The soldier took an oath of loyal service to his country.

Undertaking (undertake)

To do something.

Example: This summer, we are going to undertake a long trip to India.


Magical hand movements.

Example: The secret to performing magic tricks is prestidigitation, the right hand movements.


Property or money brought by the bride's family to her husband-to-be on their marriage.

Example: Her dowry consisted of £10,000 and plenty of home linen.


A magical animal with the body of a lion, and the head and wings of an eagle.

Example: Griffins originated in Greece and they were often used by wizards as treasure guardians.


A place in the sea where the water current turns around very strongly.

Example: When you go swimming in the sea, watch out for whirlpools!

Sucked into (suck into)

To strongly pull someone/something.

Example: All the dust and the dirt was sucked into the vacuum cleaner.

Foretold (foretell)

To predict; to tell the future.

Example: The witch foretold that one day a prince would come to wake up the princess.

Elapsed (elapse)

To go by; to pass.

Example: When you are waiting to see the doctor, time elapses slowly.


An ancient type of alphabet.

Example: The teacher pressed a button in the computer, and the runes changed into English letters.


A magician, a person who practices magic.

Example: Merlin, the wizard, was king Arthur's advisor and tutor.

Making up

To invent or imagine.

Example: The nurse made up a nice story to entertain the sick child.



Example: The audience looked bewildered when the magician cut a woman in half.


With a huge appetite.

Example: The voracious bear ate lots of salmon.

Snapped off (snap off)

Break, cut.

Example: He snapped off a piece of wood and added it to the fire.

Brooding (brood)

To think a lot about something difficult.

Example: Are you still brooding over that little problem you had a week ago?


To kill somebody by squeezing or pressing on their neck with your hands.

Example: Some snakes kill by strangling their prey.

Low tide

The time when the sea water is at its lowest point.


To solve a problem, to take control of something difficult.

Example: He finally overcame his fear of heights.


The part of a shirt or dress that covers your arms.

Example: Shirts can have long or short sleeves.


A place to hide.

Example: It started raining, so we had to find shelter to stay dry.


An additional remark written at the very end of a letter, after it has been finished.

Example: There was a handwritten postscript at the bottom of the printed letter.

Pounced at (pounce at)

To attack with a jump.

Example: The cat pounced at the mouse.

Avoided (avoid)

To stay away or move away from something.

Example: Dragons are dangerous beasts. It is best to avoid them!


An attack.

Example: The bull turned around and got ready for another charge at the bullfighter.

Receded (recede)

To move away or back.

Example: When men grow old, their hair often recedes.

The princess and the boy lived a big adventure when they were trying to get rid of the dragon. In the real world, we sometimes have experiences which are just as exciting as a battle against a dragon, especially during holidays!

Working in groups, select one of your most exciting experiences and share it with your partners. Try to use words from this story when possible and structure your narration, providing background information at the beginning and a concluding remark at the end. Finally, sequence the events using connectors like: first, then, moreover, furthermore, afterwards, etc.


A pipe that usually carries liquids away.

Example: A summer storm filled the drains with rainwater.

Lifting (lift)

Pick up.

Example: The box was very heavy and they could not lift it.


Top, cover.

Example: She filled the jar with honey and closed the lid.


A round opening, an empty space.

Example: There's a hole in my pocket, and all my money fell out.

Kept your nose out of
(keep your nose out of)

A place (in the ground or in a church) where people are buried when they are dead.

An expression, not to interfere in someone else's matters.

Not to get involved in something that is not yours; to tell someone to respect our privacy.

Example: Keep your nose out of my diary! It's private.


To involve, to have to do with something or someone.

Example: What I write in my diary does not concern you!


Happy, content.

Example: He was pleased with his grades this term.