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Home > Pagan Children > Story: Stone Soup Search

Stone Soup
by Elspeth Sapphire

In another time, in a place far from where we sit, a traveler walked the paths of the earth. He moved from one place to another ... never staying long and never leaving a village, or her people, unchanged.

You see, he gathered wisdom and knowledge. Sometimes the traveler would learn from the elderly and sometimes from the babes ... sometimes from the mother worried about her household and sometimes from the warrior fresh from battle. Each had their story and the traveler always quietly listened.

With calm suggestions and stories of the gods and other places, the traveler managed to plant seeds of new wisdom.

One day, his travels took him through a land almost barren. The trees were twisted and showed little sign of bearing fruit. The land was brown with just a few stalks of grain standing upright.

The traveler paused, gazing about him, shaking his head. The sky was clear ... a river ran pure and strong. The feeling here was bleak ... but it also felt like something done by man.

A short walk away was a small village. The stone buildings were as poorly kept as the land.

What could the problem be?

A glance at the sky revealed it was towards midday, and the traveler stepped up to knock at a closed and shuttered door. Perhaps over a meal, he could find out what had happen in this place.


The traveler started to hear such harsh tones in answer to a simple knock. "I am a simple traveler and I was wondering if you might have some bread and ale to spare. I can pay for what I eat...."

A small viewing window in the door opened and a woman peered out. "Stranger, I have enough for my own family, and none to spare. So begone!" The peephole slammed shut.

This was indeed strange, since most people were eager for coin and any news a stranger might bring.

After getting the same response to several more knocks, the traveler paused to think about what to do. Finally, he began to smile.

Pulling the hood of his cloak forward to shade his face, he started to collect wood from the ground. Building a small fire in the middle of the village square, a pot was filled with water and set to heat.

Feeling people watching from the windows around him, the traveler took out two stones. One was the darkest black and the other purest white. With a smile, he dropped them into the pot.

Next went two pieces of bone ... bone so old that the edges were dry and splintered.

Humming a merry song, he started to stir the mixture ... and waited.

Slowly ... very slowly ... people began to leave the buildings and walked towards the stranger and his fire.

"Hey! What do you think you are doin'?" one man demanded.

An elderly man leaned over the pot, balancing on his stick. "Stones and bones?!" his high voice asked. "You can't make soup out of those! Any fool knows that well!"

A small boy settled down at the traveler's side, smiling up at the stranger. "How wonderful! I never heard of stone and bone soup before!"

Sparing a smile for the boy, the traveler looked out at the villagers with a very bland look. "Then I must be a fool, for I am making such a soup." He stirred it again, paused for a taste. "In some places that I have traveled, stone soup is quite a tasty dish." Satisfied with the taste, the traveler continued to stir the water. "Tell me.... What happened to this place? The fields are barren and the people unfriendly."

In the uproar that followed, it was hard to weed out the facts. The tale of feuds and hoarding and unneighborly behavior had the traveler sighing. He tasted the 'broth' again, and again sighed. "If only I had some potatoes," he stated. "With potatoes, this would be fit for a king!"

The boy tugged at the stranger's clothing. "Swen has potatoes. I know he does. He brags about it."

All eyes went to the one named Swen. Swen turned a bright red. "Yes, I do, but my family..... " The eyes stayed on him and finally, he shrugged sheepishly. "I will fetch some potatoes...."

Cut up, the potatoes were a wonderful addition to the soup, but soon the traveler was looking wistful. "If I only had some onions... Can you just imagine what flavour they would add?"

A stout housewife smiled. "I have a few onions ... just a moment!" She hurried away and returned with an armful of onions. "Here ye go!"

The onions were quickly added, as were carrots, leeks, dried meat, and milk. Each time the traveler mentioned a food, the boy whispered who had hidden hoards of the food. Finally with a dusting of salt and spices, the traveler declared that the soup was done.

"Of course, soup is only part of a meal .... It takes bread and ale to fill it out," the traveler proclaimed. "And of course, good company. Go ... bring your families and bread and drink ... and we will feast together!"

The villagers looked around at each other, then shyly smiled. Nodding their agreement, they left to gather together their families. Soon only the young boy was left at the stranger's side.

Peering up, the boy asked a question that was bothering him. "It is such a small kettle .... How will it be enough to feed the whole village?"

The traveler chuckled, then laughed. "Small one ... trust in the gods and in miracles." Laughter continued to dance in the stranger's one eye. "Everyone will be fed."

And so it was. The soup was shared and pronounced excellent. Ale flowed into each cup and there was plenty of bread.

When everyone was full and feeling merry, the traveler stood. "I must leave you now, even though you have fine ale. But think on this after I depart.... Together we made a good soup. Just think what else you could gain by being one people! Look around you ... do you wish to go on like this? Or by each of you contributing what you can make this village a happy place to live."

There was a silence as his words fell into their hearts. With a final grin for the young boy, the traveler strode away and was soon out of sight.

The villagers took his words to heart and the small community became a fine place to live.


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