Saturday, December 25, 2021

"King Alfred and the Cakes" from English tradition

Click to see Vol. I, Issue 9 of the newsletter in which this article first appeared.

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This article is designed for younger readers, with activities more suitable for children. It is found in the body of England's folklore.

King Alfred of England was called "Alfred the Great" because of the many ways he helped his people. One of the most famous stories about him was actually a legend, not a true story. It happened just after he became king.

Another group of people, the Danes, were attacking England. In those days a king had to fight to protect his kingdom. So after a surprise attack, Alfred was out hiding in a swampy area. He was dressed like a common soldier, not a king.

One night he was looking for a place to sleep, and asked an old woman if he could stay in her cottage. She hid his horse in her pig-barn and let him sit by her fire.

Because she was busy, she asked him to keep an eye on some cakes she was cooking on the fire. (Actually, they were more like pancakes.) He said he would. But while she was out getting some water, he started thinking of his problems and forgot to watch the cakes.

Suddenly, "What do you think you're doing?" came a shriek from behind him. The king had let the cakes burn! She hit his head with her broom, and kicked him out of her house. She made him sleep in the barn with his horse--and the pigs!


Some words to talk about:

  • cottage: a small house, often outside of the city
  • legend: a story about a famous person. It might not be true, but it tells us something about that person's character
  • shriek: a high-pitched scream
  • swampy: wet, like a marsh or bog


Choose the best answer. Correct answers are in the first comment below.

  1. This story really happened.
       A. True
       B. False

  2. Why was King Alfred hiding?
       A. Because the Danes were attacking England.
       B. Because the old lady was mad at him.
       C. Because he had to sleep in the barn.

  3. What was King Alfred dressed like?
       A. He was dressed like an old lady.
       B. He was dressed like a common soldier.
       C. He was dressed like a king.

  4. How was King Alfred supposed to help the old lady?
       A. He was supposed to hide his horse.
       B. He was supposed to get some water.
       C. He was supposed to keep the cakes from burning.

  5. What did the old lady do to King Alfred?
       A. She hit him and made him sleep in the barn.
       B. She made him eat the burnt cakes.
       C. She told him to get some water.


These questions do not have "right" or "wrong" answers. They only ask your opinion.

  1. Why do you think people told this story about King Alfred? What lessons does it teach us?
  2. Was the old lady right to hit her guest (whom she did not know was a king) with her broom?
  3. Would you forgive the guest if he let your cakes burn? How about if you knew he was a king? Are he rules different for kings (or rich people) and other people?

1 comment:


    Questions to Answer: 1. B; 2. A; 3. B; 4. C; 5. A

    Questions to Think About do not have any single correct answer. However, any answers you give should be supported by what you read or by things you know ("I think... because...").