The Old Man and His Children Analysis: The Cockcrow

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Story : The old man and his children

Book: The Cockcrow

Retold by: Jean Watson

Moral Lesson in the Story

The old man and his children by Jean Watson in the cockcrow is a story that teaches the reader that we are strong when we stand together and we are weak when we stand apart.

Thus, unity among people builds strength but division among a group results in weakness and destruction.

This article will highlight the summary of the story, themes, characters, mood, literary devices and some questions and answers on the story.

Full Story Narration of the Old Man and His Children

Summary of the Story

Kamau Tried to Get a Good Sleep

At the beginning of the story, an old man called Kamau sat under a tree trying to sleep and have his peace of mind.

Unfortunately, his two grandsons, Mwangi and Njoroge disturbed his sleep by quarrelling.

What Were They Quarrelling About?

It is not uncommon for siblings to quarrel about house chores. That was what brought about the conflict.

Mwangi asked Njoroge to help him with moving the cattle but Njoroge refused and continued playing with his hoop.

After Mwangi had moved the cattle himself, he came back to see his brother still playing with the hoop. Unable to control his anger, he kicked the hoop with all his might.

A fight ensued between the two of them.

Their Mother Intervened

As the fighting continued, their mother came out of her hut, separated them and warned them to stop the fight else he would inform their dad.

Kamau Saw The Whole Incident

Kamau upon seeing the whole show called the angry boys to his side and told them a story.

Kamau’s Story

In Kamau’s story, there was a man who had seven sons. His sons quarrelled among each other always so one day he decided to teach them a lesson.

One day, their father called them all and tied seven sticks together. He gave it to the eldest son and told him to break it but he couldn’t. Each of the seven tried to break the stick but they all failed.

Their father then untied the bundle and gave one to the eldest son of which he succeeded in breaking easily. His other brothers also succeeded in breaking the sticks easily.

The Lesson in the Story

Kamau then explained the moral of the story by comparing the stick to people.

He continued by telling them that when the sticks were together, it was hard to break it but when they were separated, it was easy to break them.

Therefore, the people in their village were strong because they stood together, explained Kamau.

After hearing the story, Mwangi and Njoroge walked away regretting their actions.

Themes in the Story

  • People remain strong when they come together and remain weak when they are separated: The oldman cleverly used his story to advise his grandsons about the strength in unity.
  • Old folks have a lot of wisdom and experience to share with the younger generation: Kamau was able to help his grandsons to understand how the world works because of the wisdom he had gotten throughout the years.

Characters in the Story

  • Kamau
  • Mwangi
  • Njoroge
  • The twins’ mother

Mood of the Story

The story uses different moods and tones. The beginning of the story has a mood of anger, chaos and destruction while the end of the story depicts calmness, regret and peace.

Point of View of the Story

Third person Narrative

Literary Devices in the Story

The writer used many literary devices in the story. Some of them are:


  • Note: The sticks are given human attributes of being weak and strong. Examples are:
  • ……For then they were strong.
  • ……For then they were weak.


  • Noisily and grumpily to get on his job.
  • Njoroge flung himself down beside the old man’s stool……


  • On its fig-like fruit…….
  • …..It is the same with people as with sticks


  • As she stalked back to her hut….
  • Having heard and seen everything…
  • The oldest son strained with all his might….


  • Come, Njoroge! Come, Mwangi


  • “Now, do you understand what I have shown you?


  • Soon blows and insults were flying to and fro between the two boys.

Questions and Answers on “The Old Man and His Children”

1. What does a bundle of sticks represent?

2. What does separated sticks represent?

3. What is the use of the horse hair fly swat?

4. Why couldn’t the old man sleep even though his eyes were closed.

5. Why did the boys start arguing?

6. Why didn’t Njoroge want to help Mwangi with the house chores?

7. What made Mwangi angry and how did he react in his anger?

8. What made the brothers’ mother rush out of her hut to give them a good scolding?

9. Why did Njoroge’s dust-drawing become more feverish?

10. Find the literary device in this statement, “Njoroge, Mwangi, he said, “it is the same with people as with sticks”

11. What literary device does the bundle of sticks represent?

12. What was the morale of the story Kamau narrated?

My Personal Thoughts on the Story

This story is a short one but it has a deep meaning. Why? Because it speaks directly to parents and guardians.

The message is that parents have a great responsibility in instilling morals and values in the life of their children.

Sometimes when certain bad characters in childhood are left unchecked, it becomes impossible to check them in the future.

Therefore, Kamau did well by addressing a character flaw in the twins without shouting at them. 

Even though the twins’ mother showed concern by pulling them apart during the fight, Kamau’s way of addressing the issue was more effective because the story will leave a lasting impression on the twins.

When I read this story for the first time, it looked familiar but I couldn’t figure out why? Later a friend pointed out to me that the same story was in one of our reading books when we were in primary school.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this story. Thank you!


George is interested in self-education, knowledge building and self expression through writing!

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. George Antwi

    My name is Oppong George from Asante mampong
    Thank you much
    God richly bless you more
    But bro I need your help
    Can I get your number?

  2. George Antwi

    Can you pls write that same story you read in primary School for me to read some?

    1. George

      @George, I believe the story was called Mr. Gyebi and his sons. I may not be able to produce whole story here because it was in one of our primary books, we are talking about 20 plus years ago.