Stone Soup: A Traditional Folk Tale

India Food Study Learning Tour

Once upon a time, a wise old man decided to go on a journey. So he packed a small bag, said goodbye to his wife, and set off. He traveled all day without meeting anyone. When it was evening, he came to a small village. “I think I’ll stop here for the night,” he said to himself.

Near the centre of the village, he met a group of people. So he introduced himself. “I’m a simple traveler,” he said, “looking for a safe place to sleep and a hot meal.”

“We’d be glad to offer you a place to sleep,” the villagers told him, “but we have very little food. Our crops were very poor this year, and there’s not much to eat in the whole village. Most of us are just barely getting by.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” the old man said. “But you needn’t worry about feeding me. I already have everything I need. In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you.”

“Stone soup?” the villagers asked. “What’s that? We’ve never heard of stone soup.”

“Oh, it’s wonderful,” said the old man. “Best soup I’ve every tasted. If you bring me a soup pot and some water, I’ll make some for all of us.”

And so the villagers rushed back to their homes. When they returned, one was carrying a large soup pot, another had wood for a fire, and others brought water.

When the fire was going and the water had begun to boil, the old man took out a small silk pouch. With great ceremony, he reached in and pulled out a smooth, round stone. He carefully dropped the stone into the boiling water. The villagers watched eagerly. The old man began to slowly stir the pot, sniffing the aroma and licking his lips in anticipation. “I do like a tasty stone soup,” he said. “Of course, stone soup with cabbage—now that’s really special.”

“I might be able to find a bit of cabbage,” one villager said. And off she went to her house, returning with a small cabbage she had stored away in her pantry. “Wonderful!” said the old man, as he added the cabbage to the pot. “This reminds me of the time I had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of salted beef. It was unbelievably good.”

After a moment of silence, the village butcher spoke up. “I know where there’s a bit of salted beef,” he said. And off he went to his shop to get it. When he returned, the old man added the beef to the soup pot and continued to stir.

“Can you imagine what this soup would taste like if we had a bit of onion…and perhaps a few potatoes…and a carrot or two…and some mushrooms. Oh, this would be a meal fit for royalty.”

And before he knew it, the soup pot was filled to the brim with vegetables of all kinds— carrots and potatoes, mushrooms and onions, turnips and green beans, beets and celery—all brought by the men and women and children of the village. Not only that, but the village baker came out with some fresh bread and butter.

And as the soup simmered slowly over the fire, the wonderful aroma began to waft over the villagers. And they began to relax and talk together, sharing songs and stories and jokes.

When the soup was finally done, the old man ladled it out into bowls, and they all shared a delicious meal together. There was more than enough for everyone to eat their fill. Afterward, they all declared that it was the best soup they had every tasted. The mayor of the village pulled the old man aside, and quietly offered him a great deal of money for the magic stone, but the old man refused to sell it.

The next morning, he woke early and packed up his belongings. As he was leaving the village, he passed by a group of children playing at the side of the road. He handed the youngest one the silk pouch containing the stone, and he whispered, “It was not the stone that performed the magic. It was all of us together.”

Discussion Questions

  • What does this story tell us about our lives?
  • What does this story tell us about feeding the hungry?
  • What bible story does the Stone Soup story remind you of?
  • I wonder if there is a “magic stone” to make enough “soup” for the world. What do you think?