What An Ancient Fable About The North Star Can Teach Us About Building A Strong Sense of Self

Recently, our national conversation has refocused on the importance of cultural diversity and inclusion in fighting racial discrimination and stereotyping, particularly for the next generation. 

Storytelling provides a wonderful way to bring conversations like these home. Reading stories with your children is a chance to introduce your child to new cultures and ideas, emotional challenges and tools, and people different from themselves. Now, new studies are backing up what our parents and grandparents have long known: that stories not only impart critical knowledge but also help us develop things like empathy, generosity, and social connection.  

Dhruv is an ancient fable from Indian mythology about the birth of the North Star, a theme that is echoed in legends and mythology from ancient Greece to Hawaii. In this case, we learn about the little prince behind the star, Dhruv, and his journey from sad and unnoticed to confident and bright:

High up in the mountains, there was a magical kingdom ruled by the powerful King Uttanpada.  The king had two wives, the elder Sunity and the younger Suruchi. When Sunity gave birth to her first son, Dhruv, Suruchi was overcome with envy and soon enough, Suruchi gave birth to her own son, Uttam. King Uttanpada favored and spoiled little Uttam, showering him with attention and always bringing the young prince to sit on his lap. No matter how many times Dhruv asked his father, and no matter how many things he accomplished, Dhruv never got to sit in his father’s lap.

Dhruv grew sad and lonely, desperate for his father’s attention. He went to his mother to ask for help, but she simply told her son, ‘All answers are within you.’ Unsure of what to do, Dhruv sneaked away to the magical woods that surrounded the castle. For many days, he sat in deep thought about his father’s love and how to get it. He called out to the stars in the sky, ‘Why am I not good enough for my father?’ but the stars just dimmed their light in disapproval. 

He remained in the woods, determined to find the answer in his thoughts. He searched his heart for the tools he could use to get it, naming his strengths out loud to the stars. Finally, they began to shine brighter. Finally, Dhruv understood: he was enough. 

He turned back toward the kingdom with so much shine and sparkle in his face that not only did his father invite him to sit on his lap, but the stars invited Dhruv to be the North Star, the brightest star in the sky. By remembering your own unique strengths and qualities, you too can shine!

It is indeed a magical tale, but it also brings up topics like self-love, validation, and approval. As you share this story, here are three points you can highlight. 

Don’t Seek Validation.  We all want to feel validated from time to time, and it is important that children understand that those feelings are normal. Most of the time, when we seek approval from others, we don’t get it, and that hurts–particularly when someone else’s approval gets confused with love. When Dhruv sought approval from his father, he felt rejected and unloved. 

Know Yourself.  Too often, even as adults, we get stuck in unhealthy comparisons between what we see in others and what we seek for ourselves. But, by teaching a child to know their strengths, we can help them build a strong sense of self. Dhruv’s breakthrough came when he began to think about his own strengths and skills. Try taking a moment to ask your child what their special strengths are as you read the story. 

Know That You’re Enough. After Dhruv began to see his strengths, he saw that he wasn’t less than his brother, but that he was enough and deserving of his father’s love. The moment that he made this realization is the moment he truly began to shine.  As you read Dhruv’s, take the time to highlight this concept: when you take inventory of your unique qualities, you see that you are enough. As they go through life and face doubts from others and themselves, this tool will help children to persevere. 

Today children face an unprecedented connection with standards and prejudices from traditional media, school contexts, and social media. By sharing the stories and fables that have endured countless generations, we can help them to build stronger selves, become resilient individuals, and most importantly, know that they are enough.

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