1.1 Key Ideas and Details


A folktale is similar to a fable. It is a short story that has a theme, or a message that the author wants to tell readers. A message is like a moral because it is a lesson about life. To figure out the message, look for key details about what the characters do and say.

Reread the folktale below.

A soldier was walking back to his home. He looked awful! His uniform was torn, and his boots were full of holes.

At night he came to a village. There was little food, so the villagers were hiding what food they had. The soldier stopped at one house after another and asked where he might find a meal. “There’s not a bit of food to eat in the whole countryside,” people told him. “You should keep walking.”

The soldier finally said, “Well, I guess that it’s time for me to make some nail soup. I will share it with all of you.” He pulled a large iron pot from his pack, filled it with water, and built a fire under it. Then he pulled a nail from his pack and dropped it into the boiling water.

By now word had spread. Curious villagers came to watch the soldier who claimed to be making soup from a nail. As the soldier sniffed the broth, he smiled. “Ahh,” he sighed as he looked at the growing crowd, “I do like a tasty nail soup. Of course, nail soup with cabbage—that is a dish that’s hard to beat!”

Soon a villager approached, holding a cabbage that she had grabbed from its hiding place. “Wonderful!” cried the soldier as he cut it up and added it to the pot. “You know, I once shared nail soup with cabbage with the king himself. Of course, my soup had a bit of dried beef in it. That made it extra delicious!” The village butcher arrived with a large chunk of dried beef for the soup.

So it went. Other villagers located carrots, potatoes, onions, and salt for the soup. Soon there was a healthy soup bubbling in the pot. The villagers then brought out tables, chairs, bowls, and spoons. They talked and laughed with each other as they shared the soup.

The next morning, the soldier reached into the empty pot, retrieved the nail, and put it back into his bag. The soldier then thanked the villagers and said good-bye. With a grin, he thought to himself, There's another village that’s learned the best meals are shared by all.


What is the message of this folktale?
The message of a folktale is usually mentioned specifically near the end of the story.

The message is that it is good to share.

Key Details
What key details support the message of this folktale?

  • Click |Key Details| to see the key details that support the message.
  • Click the Practice button to find the message of a folktale on your own. When you have finished the practice page, return to the Main Page to learn how to find the message in other kinds of stories.