September 6, 2009

A Little Drop of Honey

Audio: A Little Drop of Honey

On a warm afternoon, on the second floor of a splendid palace that overlooked the market place of the city, sat a king and his minister. While the king was eating some puffed rice on honey, he looked over his land with satisfaction. What a prosperous city he ruled. What a magnificent city

As he was daydreaming, a little drop if honey dripped from his puffed rice onto the window ledge.

The minister was about to call a servant to wipe up the honey, when the king waved a hand to stop him. “Don’t bother, it’s only a little drop of honey, it’s not our problem.”

The minister watched the drop of honey slowly trickle down the window ledge and land on the street below.

Soon, a buzzing fly landed on the sweet drop of honey.

A nearby lizard shot out its long tongue and caught the fly.

The lizard was taken by surprise when a cat leapt on it.

The cat was pounced on by its worst enemy the dog  that  had broken free from its chain.

Meeowing and barking erupted from the street below the King and his minister. The minister was about to call a servant to go and deal with the brawling cat and dog when the king said, ”Relax, the cat and dog belong to the market people. We shouldn’t interfere. It’s not our problem.”

The cat’s owner was horrified to see her cat being attacked by the big bully of a dog and started whacking the dog with her broom. The dog’s owner was horrified to see her dog being attacked by the big bully of a cat and started whacking the cat with her broom.

Soon, people started coming out from their stalls and houses to see what all the screaming and shouting was about. Seeing their friend’s cat being attacked, they joined in berating the dog and its owner. Others, seeing their friend’s dog being attacked by the cat, also joined in. Very quickly, the shouting became violent and a fight broke out in the street.

The worried minister turned to the King but his only comment was, “Not our problem. Here, have some more puffed rice and honey.” The king and his adviser ate as they watched the fray below.

Soon the police were called in to break up the fight, but the people were so angry, each side convinced that they were right, (right about what, they couldn’t remember). They started attacking the policemen. The fight rapidly broke out into a full scale riot.

The king eyed the minister and said, “I know what you are thinking, but the army will handle it. Besides, this is not out problem.”

The riot swiftly escalated into a civil war with looting and destruction all over the city. Buildings were set alight and by nightfall, the magnificent city was reduced to a pile of smoking ashes. The king and his minister stood spellbound, rooted to the spot where they had been watching all day. Their mouths were hanging open in horror.

“Oh…” said the king quietly, “maybe the little drop of honey WAS our problem.”

Dear Story Readers,

This could be a great story for encouraging responsible leadership, as well as taking initiative and nipping problems in the bud.

It’s quite a funny story in the way everything escalates so rapidly. A tip for telling this story is to let the stakes build in your voice with each incident topping the other, while still keeping it light and calm when you come to the sections about the king – because he really doesn’t think it’s his problem!

~ Julie


  1. Haha I’m literally the only reply to your amazing post!

    Comment by Vickie Goff — May 27, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

  2. Excellent story to explain the responsibility of a leader. I just love it. Thank you for sharing it.

    Comment by Paul Dass — February 26, 2011 @ 7:15 am

  3. Please quote the author: an Armenian writer and intellectual, Hovhannes Tumanyan.

    Comment by Sevag K — September 3, 2011 @ 9:58 pm

  4. Hi Sevag,

    Thanks for your comment. This story is a Burmese/ Thai folktale, though of course there may be an variant from Armenia or another country that I am not aware of. Perhaps Hovhannes Tumanyan was influenced as many great writers and thinkers are by the oral traditional.

    Comment by Sheila — September 14, 2011 @ 11:32 am

  5. Magnificent website. Lots of useful info here. I’m sending it to some pals ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks to your sweat!

    Comment by clickme — March 29, 2012 @ 2:31 am

  6. Hi clickme,

    Thanks! Glad you like it.



    Comment by Sheila — March 29, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

  7. Beautifully written. Can be used for corporate training

    Comment by Pooja — October 27, 2014 @ 8:48 pm

  8. I know this from my childhood years, one of my favorites from Hovhannrs Toumanian’s. Can you please let us know the year that was published in Burmese? I want to know who has influenced who? Thanks

    Comment by Mary Helen Garabedian — October 1, 2019 @ 9:40 pm

  9. I think too much liberty was taken with the translation. In the process something important was left out… The deeper moral was not about who should take responsibility or leadership. It was a reflection on the reactionary instinct of animals and humans. Because in Tumanyan’s poem it was a slow culmination, in a step by step sequence of reactions, to the war between kingdoms… I believe he had a more Taoist perspective in mind, which is often overlooked. Any good can be used as an excuse for bad behavior and rashness and stupidity, because often good and bad are absurdly inseparable. Two sides of one coin. Ying and Yang. You see—which is clearer in the original poem— the reactions were not unwarranted, but the road to hell is often paved in “good” intentions

    Comment by Aletheia — June 16, 2020 @ 1:39 am

  10. Hi Alethia,

    Thanks for your comment. My version of this story comes from Burmese and Thai oral traditions, not from the poem by Hovhannes Tumanyan. Since he wrote the poem as recently as 1909, I presume he was influenced by an Armenian folktale. It is fascinating how folktale motifs such as the one in this story have variants around the world. Did the Armenians bring it to Thailand and Myanmar, was it the other way around, or did both variants spring up independently? That is a question for a folklorist to research. What is certain is that the many variants of this story are much older than the poem by Hovhannes Tumanyan and that in the time old process of the oral tradition, new variants will surface.

    Comment by Sheila — June 16, 2020 @ 9:42 am

  11. Hi Mary Helen,

    My story is based on a Thai and Burmese folktale, so the date of publication will not tell you anything about the age of the story, only when it was collected and written down. My version is adapted from the version by the storyteller and folklorist Dr Margaret Read MacDonald in her book Peace Tales (1992). She based her version on the following … Burmese and Thai Fairy Tales by Eleaanor Brocket (1965), A Kingdom for a Drop of Honey by Maung Htin Aung and Helen G. Trager (1969) and Tales from Thailanfd by Marian Davies Toth (1971).

    Comment by Sheila — June 16, 2020 @ 9:51 am

  12. Wow
    I liked this story.
    I just love it so much.

    Comment by Manal — July 6, 2020 @ 9:34 pm

  13. The Armenian Hovaness Tumanian (Tumanyan) is one of my favorite authors. However, the story I know in Armenian language is different.

    “A drop of Honey”

    A man and a dog from a village visit a nearby village to buy honey. The man and his dog enter the honey store and after a friendly happenstance the store owner cuts a chunk of honeycomb. While transporting the chunk to the man, a drop of honey lands on the floor.

    A fly sees the drop and land on it. The store owner happen to have a cat, so the cat jolts on the fly and in the process kills it. The visitors dog counters to the cat and while squabbling kills the cat.

    The store owner is very upset and accordingly he hits the dog rapidity with a stick and kills it.
    The visitor and the shop owner exchange harsh words and they start fighting. The visitor involuntarily kills the store owner. During the fighting, screaming and shouting several individuals from the village Hear the noise and observe the fighting and see one of their own mate being killed. They decide to attack the visitor and hit him to death.

    Note: The above occurrences take place only because it is the normal process of nature.

    Meanwhile, inaccurate and prejudiced news reaches to the nobles of the visitors village. The Nobles angered by the killing of their man who simply wanted to buy honey decide to take revenge and with several warriors attack the village and kills everyone.

    Following this incident, news reaches the Nobles of the honey store. Except, the incident is described as the Lords from the neighboring village are trying to defeat for more land grasp. Thus, the King orders his army to attack the visitor’s village and kill everyone in it.

    Now the definitions are totally distorted and kings and lords of both start a mammoth war between them. In the battlefield thousands of people are fighting and killing each other. The entire landscape is devastated. The grounds are socked with blood and dead people. The war and killings go on for many months.

    Everyone is dead except two soldiers from both sides, covered with blood trying to fight. Exhausted, they stop for a brief moment, when both at the same time ask,
    “What are we fighting for anyway”.

    “For a drop of honey”

    Comment by Varoujean Tilbian — August 17, 2020 @ 3:31 pm

  14. Hi Varoujean. Thanks so much for writing out the plot of Hovaness Tumanian’s version of this story. I wonder how the story traveled. If Tumanian was inspired to write it by an Armenian folktale then perhaps it came to Myanmar and Thailand through tales of the Armenians who settled in Mynamar in the 18th and 19th Century. I am fascinated by the oral tradition and how stories travel and change.

    Comment by Sheila — August 18, 2020 @ 3:47 pm

  15. Dr. Suess, now being ruined by stupidity, wrote a similar story and it was always my favorite, now i see he may have taken a lesson from this tale. Wonderful story, thank you…
    Check for Dr. Suess. His story was very similar and just as fun to read.

    Comment by Frank J Jahoda — April 11, 2021 @ 8:40 pm

  16. Hello Sheila,

    Thank u for sharing this excellently scripted story.
    Will use it to engage with my near n dear ones.


    Comment by Manish Agarwal — May 1, 2021 @ 3:23 pm

  17. This story is so commonly told wit different variation across the globe. I have listened to this story as a Thailand Folktale with variation.. This variation version I like the most.

    Comment by praveena — October 24, 2021 @ 9:19 pm

  18. This one is very common with Toumanian’s poem based on ancient Armenian fable, but it actualy from “A kingdom lost for a drop of honey, and other Burmese folktales” – from Central Burma

    Comment by Aleksandr — September 26, 2022 @ 3:22 pm

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