Module 2 – Ferdinand the Bull


Ferdinand has all the makings of a fierce bull to fight in the famous bull fights in Madrid. But Ferdinand isn’t fierce, doesn’t like to fight with other bulls and prefers to sit undereath a tree smelling the flowers. His mother, though worried about her son and his lack of ability to fit in, does what good mothers always do and lets her son be who is is, which is a quiet and reflective bull. When matadors come to pick a bull for the next fight, Ferdinand, sitting under a tree, is unexpectedly stung by a bee, causing him to buck and thrash and look generally fearsome. He is carted off to the bullfights, but once in the arena, Ferdinand refuses to fight and charge preferring instead to relax in the middle of the arena enjoying the scent of the flowers in the women’s hair. He returns to his home to continue his peaceful life under the cork tree.

This book lets children know that it is il to be different. I think it would be helpful for children who are not quite fitting in. To see a big, strong bull who could be a fierce contender yet choose a peaceful life of contemplation under a tree would show children that they, like Ferdinand, can choose to do something unexpected and follow their hearts. This book should be read aloud at a childrens story time to children between the ages of 3 – 5.

Review One

First published in 1936, this reissue has been updated by adding watercolors to its previously black-and-white illustrations. Set in Spain, it is about a young bull named Ferdinand. All bulls in Spain aspire to one day fight in the ring with a matador. But not Ferdinand. All day long the young bulls play at fighting in hopes that one day they will be strong enough to be chosen for the bullfights. But Ferdinand prefers to quietly sit in the pasture and enjoy his surroundings. When the bulls all mature, they long to be selected for the bullring…all but Ferdinand. As the other bulls prance and preen, hoping to be selected, Ferdinand ignores the commotion. Suddenly, Ferdinand is stung by a bumblebee. He bellows and dances around like crazy. The matadors are so impressed with his machismo they select him as the strongest bull. He is praised all around for his power, until the day of the bullfight. Poor Ferdinand just sits there. The matadors prod and coax with no luck. Ferdinand is not interested in fighting. Ferdinand is returned to his pasture to live out his life in solitude. This traditional tale is a joy to revisit, as a bit of Spanish culture is shared. It is also a nice lesson for youngsters that it is not necessary to following the crowd.

Kiger, Meredith. Children’s Literature [Review of the book Ferdinand the Bull]. Retrieved from


Review Two

With new war fronts popping up on a seemingly daily basis, it may be an opportune moment to revisit the story of Ferdinand, the peaceable bull. Today marks the 75th anniversary of “The Story of Ferdinand,” written by Munro Leaf, a prolific writer for children, and illustrated by Robert Lawson, the only person ever to win both the Caldecott and Newbery medals.

“Once upon a time in Spain there was a little bull and his name was Ferdinand,” the book, which was illustrated with simple black-and-white ink drawings, opens. Deep in corrida des toros country, Ferdinand stood out from all the other bulls: “He liked to sit just quietly and smell the flowers.”

First published in 1936, “Ferdinand” was released shortly before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and was widely viewed as pacifist propaganda, leading to bans in many countries. It became an international hit anyway, translated into more than 60 languages and selling millions of copies worldwide. When Sandra Bullock read the book aloud to her sons in “The Blind Side,” sales in the U.S., always steady, spiked dramatically. Last year, the actor Seth Rogan gave a live reading, set to music, in Los Angeles.

“Ferdinand” actually has a long cinematic history. In 1938, Walt Disney created a short animated cartoon of the story, which went on to win – deservedly – an Oscar for Best Animated Short Subject (Cartoons). And just last month, Fox Animation Studios acquired the rights to the book, with plans to adapt it into a full-length CGI film. Carlos Saldanha, the director of the “Ice Age” franchise, is attached to direct.

It’s not a stretch to think of Ferdinand as more than just a symbol of peace, but as an icon for the outsider and the bullied. “He was gentle and kind/ And his moo was refined/Which the rest of the bulls all resented,” goes the song “Ferdinand the Bull,” sung by “America’s sweethearts,” The Lennon Sisters, and later covered by Michael Feinstein, the acclaimed songwriter and singer, on his children’s album, “Pure Imagination.” “He knew how to tango/And dance the fandango/But he never learned how to fight.”

Arts Beats [Review of the book Ferdinand the Bull]. The New York Times. Retrieved from

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