Sunday, May 18, 2008
A Single Drop of Honey: A Folktale
(from Yiddish folklore and also from the Thousand and One Arabian Nights)
A hunter walked into a village marketplace with his dog, and saw a man selling honey.
The honey looked rich and golden, so the hunter bought some from the merchant. As the merchant was filling the hunter’s jar, a drop fell from his spoon to the ground.
The hunter saw it fall, but he thought, this is the merchant’s problem; he will clean it up. It’s not my job.
So he walked away.
The merchant saw the honey fall to the ground. What a mess, he thought, but, it’s not my job. The hunter owns that honey; he can clean it up. He walked away too.
The honey grew warm in the hot sun. Its scent attracted a honeybee.
As the bee settled down to eat the honey, a bird flying past saw the bee and dove down to eat it.
A cat saw the bird and jumped on it.
The hunter’s dog saw the cat and pounced on it with all four feet.
The cat and dog began to fight.
The hunter and the merchant rushed over and tried to separate the dog and the cat, and ended up fighting with each other.
The ruckus and noise attracted the attention of everyone in the marketplace. The cat squalled, the dog barked, the men shouted and knocked things over. The other people selling in the marketplace got angry when the men knocked over their things.
Now the hunter and the merchant were from two different villages. The other people in market were from those two villages, so when those people joined the fight they picked the side of the man who was from their village. Soon everyone in the market was fighting.
The king heard the fighting and called, “Guards, guards! Call out the soldiers!”
The soldiers rushed in, but since they were also from the two hostile villages, the soldiers joined different sides. Soon the fighting spread from the market into both villages, and finally the whole country was involved in a huge battle.
When everyone grew tired of fighting, the kings came together to try to figure out what had caused the fighting in the first place. Here is what they found out:
The villages joined because their soldiers were fighting the other village.
The soldiers were fighting because people from their villages were fighting each other.
The people from the villages were fighting because the hunter and the merchant were fighting.
The hunter and merchant were fighting because their dog and cat were fighting.
The dog and cat were fighting because the dog jumped on the cat because the cat jumped on the bird that tried to catch the bee that was eating the honey—the single drop of honey that had fallen from the merchant's spoon.
And it all happened because no one thought it was their responsibility to clean up one little drop of honey.