September 16, 2009

The Stonecutter’s Wishes

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , , , — Sheila @ 7:44 am
Audio: The Stonecutter’s Wishes

A Japanese Folktale

Hack! Hack! Hack! The stonecutter was toiling under the burning sun driving his chisel into the stone with his heavy mallet. He led a simple life working as a stonecutter all day and returning to his wife and child in the evening.

On this sweltering day, the stonecutter was feeling particularly grumpy and his mood blackened when he saw his wealthy landlord pass by in a sheltered horse-drawn carriage.

“Oh to be a wealthy man in a cool carriage, never having to do a hard days toil in the hot sun…’ the stonecutter grumbled.

In a flash, the startled stonecutter found himself sitting in a small room. A small room that seemed to be moving! He was bouncing up and down, and up and down. Gripping his seat, he cautiously peered out the window and saw that he was indeed moving in a horse-drawn carriage.

Down below, he saw the stonecutters working in the quarry wearing their dusty grey uniforms. He looked at his own clothes and discovered that he was wearing a magnificent gown embroidered with gold thread. The stonecutter was speechless with wonder he couldn’t believe his luck!

After a while though, he began to feel uncomfortable, sweating under the heavy gown. The heat seemed even more oppressive in the enclosed carriage. The rocking became overwhelming as a sickening wave of nausea struck him.

“What’s the point of being a wealthy man with gold clothes when you can feel as terrible as this?” he asked himself as he yelled for the carriage to stop before tumbling out onto the ground.

As he lay on his back, breathing deeply, he squinted up at the blazing sun. “Oh to be the powerful sun… and not have any worries nor the weak constitution of a man.”

Instantly, the man was no longer a man, but an immaculate orb of light. Being the sun itself, he felt neither hot nor cold. Just powerful. He blazed as hard as he could over the land way below him.

Just as he was beginning to have fun watching streams dry up and the parched ground crack, a large cloud blocked his way.  No matter how hard he shined, the cloud was impenetrable. He felt useless.

“I see now that clouds are more powerful than the sun. I want to be a cloud,” the man commanded becoming used to this strange magic.

A cool, vaporous, spreading feeling washed over him. He was closer to the earth now covering every inch of it in shadow. This pleased him as he thought of the helpless sun above.  He looked at the parched land below and decided to have a bit of fun. A thunderstorm! He started to drizzle, then rain, then launched into a fabulous downpour. For a touch of theatrics, he flashed with lightning and boomed with thunder. He aimed his bolts at trees, which split dramatically down the middle.

Then he aimed at the rock on which he had toiled as a man but the effect was disappointing. A few tiny pieces broke off the surface, but the rock was otherwise unscathed.

“Obviously rock is more powerful than cloud,” he said laughing to himself. He couldn’t believe that he had thought that he’d be most powerful as a soft fluffy cloud.

“Time to become rock!” he ordered.

Suddenly he felt very still and solid. He tried to move, but he was absolutely stuck. A sharp stinging sensation, chipped away at him.

Hack! Hack! Hack! It was a stonecutter driving his chisel into him with his heavy mallet!

It suddenly dawned on him; he didn’t want to be a landlord in a carriage, nor the sun or cloud or rock. He didn’t need such power. He just wanted to be himself, the humble stonecutter, to go home every evening to his wife and child.

“Please… I’d like to be myself again.”

And in a flash, he was old self, with his chisel in one hand and his mallet in the other.

September 10, 2009

The Farmer’s Lazy Son

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , , , , — Sheila @ 4:47 pm
Audio: The Farmer’s Lazy Son

An Italian Folktale

“Giorgio! Can you please help me with these baskets, I need to get them to market before the sun rises.”

“Father, can’t you see I’m sleeping. I’ll help you when I wake up.”

“Giorgio, can you hold this ladder steady while I clean the roof?”

“Father, I’m having my breakfast, a young boy needs to build up his strength.”

“…Giorgio, can you help me now?”

“Sorry father, I can’t keep Matteo waiting, I have to go fishing now. Bye!”

Giorgio always had an excuse. He was either too tired, too hungry, too sociable, too sad, too happy, too busy.  Busy doing what?  His father could never figure that out.

Giorgio’s father was growing old. He had to  work hard on the farm to grow enough vegetables and herbs to sustain the family.  Without any help from Giorgio,  it was becoming too much for him.

One day, Antonio, a dear friend from the old father’s past came to stay. He was a large, cheerful man, who was always full of ideas, but most importantly he was perceptive.

After just a morning of observing Giorgio, he had seen how the father was at his wits end on how to get the boy to do even an ounce of work. Pleading, cajoling and even threats had no effect on the lazy Giorgio.

Antonio whispered to the father, “If you trust me, my friend, you will follow my lead.”

Antonio disappeared into his room for a while and when he came out, he held an old piece of leather in his hands.

“Giorgio, come here quick, I have the opportunity of a lifetime for you!”

“Antonio, I’m in the middle of sun tanning, why don’t you come over to me?”

“But Giorgio, this is a treasure map.”

Upon hearing the golden words, ‘treasure map’, Giorgio leapt from his deckchair and scrambled over to Antonio.  Antonio explained that he had just discovered this treasure map deep in the cupboard of his room. It was a map of one of the fields that Giorgio’s father owned, and it promised that 100 silver coins were to be found in that field. Giorgio snatched the map from Antonio, grabbed a spade and ran to the field eager to find the treasure.

Antonio and the boy’s father followed slowly behind. When they arrived at the field, they were amazed to see Giorgio digging with gusto. But he wasn’t really getting anywhere. The ground was too hard, too solid to dig up.

“Hey Giorgio!” shouted Antonio from across the field, “why don’t you water the field, then it’ll be easier for you to dig.”

Giorgio followed his advice with such haste that his father had to do a double take to check if this boy was really his son. He had never seen him working, let alone working so fast.

The next morning, despite it being a Sunday, Giorgio was up before dawn to continue his treasure hunt. When he saw the villagers passing by on their way to church, he grew protective over his field. He decided to scatter manure over the ground, to keep any busybodies away.

Later that afternoon, the two older men visited Giorgio at the treasure field. They followed behind Giorgio who was plowing hard. As they walked and talked, Antonio surreptitiously dropped what looked like tiny handfuls of dust along the way.

After Giorgio had plowed the entire field to no avail, he thrust the treasure map at Antonio and exclaimed with frustration that he had just wasted his time with this treasure-less hunt. The field was empty.

Soon Giorgio was back to his usual ways, busy doing nothing.

By this time, a few weeks had passed since Antonio’s visit, and the plan was ripe for the picking – quite literally.

“Giorgio, come look at this!”

“Father, I’m playing solitaire.”

“It’s your field, it’s full of treasure!”

In a flash, Giorgio was at his father’s side. The whole field was now covered in gleaming green leafy spinach!

“Those are vegetables father. Where’s the treasure?”

“Giorgio, Giorgio, Giorgio, you are looking at your treasure, it was in the field all the time. The spinach will earn you 100 silver coins at market.”

And so, the embarrassed Giorgio discovered the treasure of hard work rewarded.

From then on, he became a real farmer, not just a farmer’s son, busy growing his own produce and reaping the benefits of his labour.

September 6, 2009

The Gentleman on the Beam

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , , — Sheila @ 12:51 pm

In old China, there lived a scholar named Chen Shi. Chen Shi was a well-respected man in his region. A region that had fallen on bad times after a terrible flood.

Late one night, a thief broke into Chen Shi’s house and stealthily crept around the sleeping household.  Suddenly, the thief heard a rustling sound. Someone was coming.  He looked around for a place to hide himself, but the room had little furniture in it – there was nowhere to hide.   In desperation he looked around again and this time he looked upwards, up to the roof beams.

With a running jump he scrambled up onto one of the roof beams He pressed his body along the length of the pole, and stayed as still and quiet as he could – hardly breathing , not moving a muscle.

The door below opened, and in walked an old man; Chen Shi.  Chen Shi took a few steps into the room and stopped. He seemed to be lost in thought.

Then he called out to a servant to wake his sons. He then walked over to a chair in the middle of the room, sat down, and waited.

Soon, Chen Shi’s three sleepy sons shuffled into the room.

“What’s wrong father?” asked the youngest son.

“I just wanted to ask you boys a question.” answered Chen Shi.

The oldest son was surprised, “You woke us all up in the middle of the night because you wanted to ask us a question? Couldn’t it have waited till the morning?”

“It is an important question. Now sit down all of you. My question is: If a person does bad things, is he a bad person?”

The room was silent for a while.

Then, the middle son spoke.  “I’ve heard of the phrase, ‘Hate the sin, but not the sinner’, I think that people can be good inside, but they get led astray or get driven to do bad things.”

Chen Shi nodded and replied, ”Yes, I do think that man is born good. But sometimes, people get lax, and conveniently forget what the right thing to do is, and slowly they turn bad. It’s easier to be bad and much, much harder to be good, and do what is right all the time. It takes work and perseverance not to give in.

The old man told his sons about how important working and honesty were. “You must always strive to be honest, to people you know and also people you don’t know. What do YOU think sir?” Chen Shi looked directly up at the unwelcome visitor in the beam.

The thief was so surprised, he almost fell off. Regaining his balance, he slowly climbed down, trembling. When the sons saw the loot in the thief’s bag, they closed in on him, ready to punish him, but Chen Shi stood in between the thief and his sons.

“Hate the sin and not the sinner”, he repeated, then turned to the thief and to everyone’s surprise ordered his servant to give the man a bolt of silk.

Full of shock, shame and gratitude, the thief apologised sincerely.

Chen Shi said, “I have faith in you to become good again. Use this cloth to start over, and live your life with dignity and a healthy amount of pride in yourself.” Then Chen Shi led the man out the front door.

The dismayed man sold the cloth and began a fresh by starting a small business, and never forgot about his night on the beam.

This story made its way around, with everyone amazed at Chen Shi’s wisdom and his ability to forgive. To this day in China, a thief is sometimes referred to as the ‘gentleman on the beam’

Hershel of Ostropol: I Will Do What My Father Did

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , , — Sheila @ 10:27 am

Audio: Hershel of Ostropol: I Will Do What My Father Did

A Ukrainian Folktale

Way back in 19th century Ukraine lived a man who is now known as Hershel of Ostropol. Hershel of Ostropol was a poor man who spent his days wandering from village to village, meeting new people and finding adventure along the way.

At sunset, one exceptionally icy winter’s night, Hershel found himself wandering alone on a deserted dirt track. There were no houses or shelter in sight, just miles of darkening hills ahead.

Winter in the Ukraine is bitterly cold, and anyone unable to find shelter would run the risk of not surviving the night. Hershel looked at the path ahead of him, tightened his jacket around him and trudged on in the snow.

After wondering for several hours, Hershel’s heart leapt when he saw the glimmering light of a house in the distance with plumes of smoke escaping from the chimney. With the thought of warming his feet by the fire and having some food in his groaning belly, he widened his stride.

When Hershel reached the house, he realized it was an inn.

Inside, the innkeeper and his wife were packing up for the night when they heard a knock on the door.  The wife grumbled, “Who’s wondering around here at this time of night? You answer, and if he cant pay, don’t let him in!”

The innkeeper lumbered to open the door. The second he saw the shabby Hershel, he knew he wouldn’t have money to pay. “I’m sorry, but we’re closed.”

“Please sir, please help a poor man survive the night. I just ask for whatever you can spare, I will sleep in your barn with the sheep if I must.”

“Let me consult my wife,” said the innkeeper wearily.

But the wife would not hear of it, “If we give him shelter for the night, you know he will want food, and then soon enough we’ll be known throughout Ukraine as the charity inn and we’ll never see the end of old beggars like him. Get rid if him.”

The innkeeper stepped out into the cold and told Hershel, “I’m sorry, our barn is full. We cannot help.”

“Then would you be able to spare a morsel of food?” and observing the character of the innkeeper, added, “I will eat your stalest scrap of bread.”

The innkeeper pictured his wife’s reaction to this and said, “Sorry, there is no food.”

“No food? Who has ever heard of an inn with no food?” Hershel thought to himself.

Hershel contemplated the bitter night ahead of him if he wasn’t given shelter at this isolated inn, and his blood began to boil at the selfishness of the couple.

“Look here, you have a nice home and warm shelter, and I can smell your leftovers from here. If you don’t help me, then I will do what my father did!”

He grabbed the innkeeper by the collar, and shook him. Now, this innkeeper was almost a foot taller than Hershel, but with the shock of his pounce and the desire for survival on his side, Hershel easily overpowered him.

“If you don’t help me, I will do what my father did!” he repeated.


The stunned innkeeper hurtled through the door and hastily pulled out a chair for Hershel. He delved into the cupboards and laid out all the food he could find. Dumplings, stew with hot bread, pickles, cabbage rolls, and Pampushky a delicious doughnut-like desert.

The innkeeper’s wife stormed into the room and was furious to see her best food for paying customers being served to a beggar who didn’t look as of he could pay for bath water. “What is the meaning of all this?”

The innkeeper didn’t even stop to explain, he kept laying out dish after dish. “If we don’t do this, he will do what his father did!”

The fear in his voice rang clear, silencing the woman.

The innkeeper and his wife watched as the hungry Hershel ate morsel after morsel of the scrumptious food. Hershel was hungry, but he didn’t stuff himself. When he was full, he got up from the table and thanked the couple. The innkeeper politely showed him to the best guestroom and ran a steaming bath for him.

Early the next morning, Hershel woke up refreshed. He gathered his belongings and made his way out of the house. The innkeeper, who was already up, offered him some curd cheese pancakes. Hershel thanked him for his kind hospitality, but said he would be on his way.

The innkeeper hovered around the door as Hershel prepared to leave, and just as Hershel was making his way out of the gate towards the road, the innkeeper asked in a meek voice, “Sir, I hope you don’t mind my asking, but what did your father do?”

Hershel turned around and answered, “On cold cold nights like last night, when my father was unable to find any food, my father… went to bed… hungry.

September 5, 2009

Roses vs Dandelions

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , — Sheila @ 3:59 pm
Audio: Roses vs Dandelions

A Mullah Nasruddin Story

A troubled man went to Mullah Nasruddin for some advice.

“Mullah, I have been trying to grow a rose garden. But all the rose bushes I plant just wither and die. The only flower that does grow are common dandelions. Weeds! They’re everywhere and I just can’t get rid of them. What can I do mullah?”

The mullah thought for a while, “Why don’t you begin your garden all over again?”

“I’ve tried that. I replanted my garden from scratch, but the blooming dandelions just keep growing back again!”

Mullah Nasruddin pondered the options, “You won’t appreciate this, but my advice would be to move house, maybe even city, to where roses will grow better.”

“Oh, no, I cant move house again, I cant afford to, besides, we just moved there. Is there nothing else we can do?”

“Well,” said the Mullah gravely, “This is really the last resort then.  I don’t see what else can be done. I’m afraid you will just have to learn to love dandelions.”

August 31, 2009

Two Questions

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , — Sheila @ 8:13 am

A Mullah Nasruddin Story

Audio: Two Questions

There was once a wise man named Mullah Nasruddin. Because he was wise, he was popular. Popular when people had problems.

“Mullah Nasruddin, my wife is angry with me, what do I do?”

“Mullah, I have a pain in my stomach, how do I get rid of it?”

“Mullah Nasruddin, how do I solve this, how do I do that?

Mullah, Mullah, Mullah!”

There came a point where all Mullah Nasruddin wanted was a bit of peace and quiet. So he hung a sign upon his door that said

‘Two Questions for 100 silver coins.’

And it worked; no one bothered him for a week. Peace at last he thought.


Mullah Nasruddin dragged himself from his comfy daybed and answered the door. A wealthy man was standing in front of him, holding a large bag of coins in his hand.

“I have the money Mullah. But don’t you think 100 silver coins is a bit steep for only two questions?”

“I don’t think so,” replied Mullah Nasruddin, “Now, what’s your second question?”

How to Dress Appropriately

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , — Sheila @ 7:22 am

A Mullah Nasruddin Story

Audio: How to Dress Appropriately

Once, Mullah Nasruddin, a wise and respected man, arrived at a grand dinner. When he approached the entrance, he was gruffly turned away because he was not dressed well enough. His clothes were too shabby for such a lavish ball.

The mullah went home, and picked out a shiny fur coat, and made his way back to the hall. Dressed like a king, he was lead straight through to the main table where everyone waited on him with sickly sweet politeness.

When the first course arrived, Mullah Nasruddin took a spoonful of hot soup and poured it all down his fur coat. Scoop after scoop he poured. “Eat, fur coat. Come on, eat! It is you that they wanted as a guest, not me!”

The Ungrateful Tiger

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , , — Sheila @ 7:00 am

A Korean Folktale

Audio: The Ungrateful Tiger

There was once a small Korean village that was being plagued by a fearsome tiger. The attacks became so bad that the villagers were too scared to leave their houses, even in the daytime. The village elders got together to work out what to do, because something had to be done.

After a night of discussion, argument and disagreement, they finally came to a decision. They would set traps for the tiger by digging deep holes around the perimeter of the village, fill each hole with a bit of red meat, and cover them up with branches and leaves.

The whole village set to work, each family providing whatever red meat they could spare. Then they waited in their houses. Waited for the tiger to come lurking.

The next morning, the nephew of the village chief, who had come from the city, arrived on foot. As he approached the village he heard an almighty roar. Cautiously, he approached and at the bottom of a pit was a miserable tiger.

“Oh, please please help me get out of here. I’m trapped and I’ll die if you don’t help me. If you help me, I would be eternally in your debt. Forever…”

The young man was confused. “ You promise you wont eat me?”

“Promise, cross my heart!”

The young man looked around and found a long branch sturdy enough for the tiger to grip onto. He lowered it into the pit and the tiger hauled himself up.

The tiger breathed a sigh of relief, then licked his lips, “Why thank you little snack, you’re just in time for tea.”

“But, but, but, you said you’d be eternally grateful! Forever! You promised not to eat me!”

“Everyone knows that you can’t trust the promise of a hungry tiger. And tigers are ALWAYS hungry.”

Just as he was about to pounce, the young man yelled, “WAIT! Lets ask that cow over there if you should keep your promise and NOT eat me.”

The tiger liked games, it made his kill so much more interesting, so he agreed to ask the cow.

The glum looking cow yawned. “Man makes me work hard in the field, then, when I’m too old to work, they make food and shoes out of me. Tiger, go ahead and eat him.”

The tiger prepared to attack, “STOOOOP!” yelled the young man. “I think we need a second opinion, lets ask that little rabbit over there.”

“This is your last chance juicy young man…”

The young man anxiously explained the situation to the little brown rabbit.

The rabbit had a little think then said. “Before I make my decision, I need to see exactly what happened.”

When they arrived at the deep pit, the rabbit said, “Now, show me exactly where you were when this young man passed by.”

The hungry tiger, impatient for his meal, leapt into the pit. “Well, I was in this deep pit, and I started roaring because I was stuck. I was stuck….in this deep, deep pit. I’m stuck! Again!” The tiger began roaring with rage.

The little brown rabbit quickly told the young man to go on his way, and to think next time before he decided to rescue another hungry tiger.

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