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The Jackdaw Who Cheated

To understand and celebrate that each one of us is different. Dressing up in borrowed clothes does not change who we really are.

by Jude Scrutton

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To explore the fact that each one of us is different and to celebrate these differences. To understand that dressing up in borrowed clothes does not change who we really are.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need to rehearse the play beforehand.
  • Cast: Narrator (could be teacher); Zeus; Messenger; Jackdaw; Young Bird.
  • It might be useful to have a toga for Zeus to wear.
  • Other children could be involved, to represent birds, wearing specially-made beaks or perhaps carrying pictures of different types of bird.
  • Information and pictures of a variety of birds, including a jackdaw.
  • You can find out more about drama and assemblies in our resources section.


  1. Welcome the children and introduce the theme of the assembly by asking them about any fables they know (they may recall previous assemblies), and what a fable is. Ask the children to think about the moral of the story that is about to be told - one of Aesop's fables. What was Aesop trying to teach people?

    If you have used the 'Joseph' assembly this month, ask the children to listen out for similar comments about 'special clothes'.

    Explain that today's fable involves the Greek god Zeus. Ask the children if they know anything about Zeus (god of all gods in Greek belief; god of lightning; lived on Mount Olympus).

    Ask the children if they know any ways of identifying different kinds of birds, especially thinking about the appearance of birds and what types of birds might be thought of as ugly or attractive. Show the picture of a jackdaw.

  2. Perform the play as follows:

    Narrator: One day, on Mount Olympus, the great Greek god Zeus decided it was time that all the different birds in the world had one leader.

    Zeus: Messenger, go and tell all the birds that they shall have a leader. I shall choose their leader, which shall be the most beautiful bird.

    Messenger: Yes, my lord.

    Narrator: The messenger went far and wide around the world passing on the special message from Zeus to all the birds.

    Messenger: Listen to me! Zeus will give all the birds one leader. The leader shall be the most beautiful bird in the world. You must all come before Zeus tomorrow, at the beach.

    Narrator: The next day all the birds gathered on the beach and began to preen themselves, ready for the parade in front of Zeus.

    (Children playing the different birds come onto the stage.)

    Jackdaw was determined to be the king of the birds. He was a dull bird, but he began to pick up colourful feathers that had fallen from the other birds, and fastened them to himself, to make himself more attractive.

    Jackdaw: I will put on the greatest display in front of Zeus.

    (Zeus arrives to inspect the birds.)

    Narrator: When Zeus arrived, he was very impressed by the Jackdaw's display.

    Zeus: I like the look of the Jackdaw.

    Narrator: The other birds, hearing this, thought that Zeus liked Jackdaw because he was dull and drab. They began to pluck off their own beautiful feathers until they were merely one dull colour, like Jackdaw.

    Zeus saw this, but was unimpressed with the birds' antics. He chose the only bird that did not join in with the others. This bird was happy with the way it looked - the way it was born to be.

    Zeus: Birds, you are all beautiful as yourselves. Why do you try and be what you are not? Young Bird over there, come here.

    (Young Bird comes forward.)

    Zeus: You did not join in plucking out your feathers. You did not try to make yourself something you are not. You are a true leader.

  3. After the play, ask the children what they think the meaning of the story was. Ask them to think about times when they have wished that they looked like someone else, or were as good as someone else at sport, or music, or some other activity.

    Say that we are all special in our own ways. We have our own talents and we should always remember these before wishing to be like someone else. Do they think if they were that 'someone else' they would stop wanting to be 'someone else'!

Time for reflection

Dear God,
Thank you for creating me the way I am.
Help me to see the good in myself
and not to wish that I was someone else.


'He made me' (Come and Praise, 18)

Publication date: February 2003   (Vol.5 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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