Once upon a time a kind old stranger was walking through the forest when he came across a village. But as he entered the village he saw something very strange. The villagers were scared and started moving towards their homes, and even closing their doors and windows.
The stranger could not understand this behavior of the villagers. So he smiled and asked, ‘friends how come you all are so frightened of me. I’m just a traveler looking for a safe place to stay and a warm heart for a meal.’
But the villagers looked at him apprehensively and said, ‘there’s not a bite to eat. The whole province is under famine. As a result we have not eaten and have grown weak and even our children are starving. So you better keep moving on.’
‘Oh! You needn’t worry. I have everything I need.’ He said. ‘In fact I was planning to make some stone soup to share with you all.’ And with that he pulled out an iron cauldron from his luggage and filled it with water and began to build a fire under it.
Then, in a ceremonial fashion he drew an ordinary looking stone from a silken bag and dropped it in the water.
This spread a rumour about food. When, most villagers came out of their homes or started watching from their windows. As the stranger sniffed the “broth” and started licking his lips in anticipation. Is, when, hunger started overcoming fear in the village.
‘Wow! What a soup!’ said the stranger, ‘I love this tasty stone soup.’ And of course, stone soup with cabbage—is hard to beat.’
Soon a villager approached hesitantly. He was holding a small cabbage he’d retrieved from his place of hiding and dropped it in the pot.
‘Wonderful!’ cried the stranger. ‘You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of mutton and believe me the dish was only fit for a king.”
The village butcher managed to find some mutton and dropped it in the pot. And so the stranger went on and on. When, the villagers one by one dropped potatoes, onions, carrots, mushroom and some other vegetables and lentils until there was a sumptuous meal for everyone in the village to share.
The villager elder offered the stranger a great deal of money for the magic stone, but he refused to sell it and decided to continue with his travel the next day.
But as he left, the stranger came upon a group of village children standing near the road. He gave the silken bag containing the stone to the youngest child, while whispering to the group, “It was not the stone, but the villagers that had performed the magic.”
Moral of the story: There is no alternative to team work and team spirit.
The story is based on Marcia Brown’s 1947 children’s book, Stone Soup 1947
By Kamlesh Tripathi