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The Tale of the Brave

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Key Stage 3


To look at what it means to be brave.

Preparation and materials

  • Find an image of Percy the Small Engine and have the means to display it, if you think your audience would appreciate it (check copyright).
  • Have available the theme tune to the TV series Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.


1.Being brave is not the same as not feeling scared. Being brave is about what you do even when you do feel scared.

So said Gator to a green tank engine by the name of Percy. The Thomas the Tank Engine feature film is called Tale of the Brave and, although I am sure most of you are far too old for Thomas the Tank Engine, I thought that what Gator said is actually quite profound.

2.Being brave is not the same as not feeling scared.

We all know what it is like to be scared of something – the dark, snakes, anything, take your pick. People can be scared or frightened of all sorts of things.

Think now of something you are frightened of. It might be your up-and-coming exams, you might be afraid of what might happen if someone close to you is in hospital or of hurting yourself doing a trick on your bike or skateboard, you might even be scared of your parents at times. I'm sure we've all at some point uttered the phrase, ‘My mum/dad is going to kill me!’ This doesn't necessarily mean that he or she will harm you in any way, but the fear is there because, you've probably done something that you know he or she won't like and you're going to get in trouble for it.

3. Percy is teased in the stories for being a scaredy cat of an engine. He sees monsters in haystacks and doorways, he even sees a monster in the form of another engine, he is always nervous and frightened. When it comes down to it, however, although he is frightened, he realizes that he has to be brave in order to rescue one of his friends from a landslide. Percy is frightened, he worries about monsters, but, when it really counts, his bravery overrides his fear.

4. I don't think any of the people who have been awarded a Victoria Cross for gallantry, which is bravery exhibited by servicemen in battle, would deny that they were frightened or scared at the time they undertook their acts of immense bravery. Equally, you can fear something but do it anyway. If you have a stammer or are very nervous of speaking in public, you might be fearful of doing it, yet, in life, you will be required to do it for any number of reasons.

5. Nelson Mandela said:

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

So, taking what Nelson Mandela says and what Gator says – ‘Being brave is about what you do even when you do feel scared’ – despite a possibly crippling fear or anxiety about a situation or a possible fear of failure in an audition, for example, it's how you push ahead and go forward in that situation all the same that makes you brave. If a person with a stammer and a fear of public speaking stands up and gives a speech, even if he or she gets stuck a couple of times but nonetheless pushes on through that fear and puts him- or herself out there, that is being brave.

Time for reflection

I wonder what you could do today that would make you brave.

I don't suggest you necessarily go to look for tarantulas to hold if you're frightened of spiders, but maybe you could get that one out of the bath yourself rather than run to someone else for help.

A lot of people fear talking to new people. Could you maybe talk to someone new? Do you think you might be able to do that?

Could you perform a solo in something or audition for a part in the school play?

Thinking of smaller acts of bravery, could you put your hand up to answer a question on a subject you find difficult? You don't have to get the answer right, just be brave and put up your hand despite the fear that you might have the wrong answer. You might actually be right!

Maybe you struggle to ask for help. Maybe today could be the day you open up to a teacher and be honest and ask for help. I know that nearly every time a teacher would willingly set aside time to help you.

If you're struggling with something personal and you're afraid to tell someone, maybe you could be brave and find someone you can trust.

Living in fear is often worse than being brave and stepping up. Percy the Small Engine couldn't do his jobs, pulling the mail train or trucks from the docks, because he was so frightened and scared of what might happen. He realized that Gator was right and to be brave he would have to face his fears. It is OK to be frightened, but, by being brave, you find out you can do more things than you ever thought possible.


Theme tune to the TV series Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends

Publication date: June 2015   (Vol.17 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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