This is a favorite story (or fable) of mine. I heard it over 20 years ago on a tape by Lynn Bryson (I think that was his name). He attributed it to an old folk tale if I remember correctly. Iíll try to dig the tape up sometime and get the credits right and correct any major errors. As it is I am retelling it from memory. I should have the main plot right, but there are most likely many inaccuracies.
How do You Know it is Bad News?
Long ago there was a small village. At this time a personís wealth was judged by the number of horses and land someone owned. Horses were important because this was how they worked their land.
In this village lived an old man and his only son. They owned one horse and a modest amount of land. One day his horse ran away. Some of the villagers came to offer then sympathy at his great loss, but they were puzzled by his response.
“I heard the terrible news that you lost your horse,” a villager would console.
To which the old man responded “How do you know this is bad news?”
“What? Of course this is bad news! How will you work your land? How will you get to town? Think of your son!”
“Yes, but how do you know this is bad news?”
A few days later the old manís horse returned, but it was not alone. While running free their horse befriended a heard of wild horses. These horses came back with it. Now this old man had more horses then anyone in town. The townís people came to congratulate him on the good news.
Again they were puzzled by his response, “How do you know this is good news?”
“Are you kidding? This is great news! You are the richest man in town! In fact you could buy the whole town now!” was their puzzled response.
“Maybe, but that doesnít make it good news,Ē would be the words they heard as they walked off shaking their heads and murmuring.
It didnít take long before this old mans son took an interest in this fiery young stallion in the herd. One day he decided he was going to break the stallion and make him his horse. No sooner did he climb on his back was he thrown to the ground breaking his back.
Being a small town word if this bad news traveled quickly. The townís people came once again to offer their condolences. “We are so sorry to hear about your son. The doctor says he will never walk again. This is the worse thing that could happen. ”
The old man would look at them with a puzzled look and respond “Why do you think this is bad news?”
At this point the townís people had enough of his odd responses “What are you crazy? This is your only son! He will never walk again! Of course this is bad news, the worst ever, and you canít even see that it is bad news. Your only son will probably never marry since he cannot provide for a wife! You are a crazy old man, and now your poor son will be a lonely cripple for life!” and they stormed off.
A few months later some soldiers rode into town with a decree from the king. The kingdom had gone to war and the king ordered that every able bodied young man join the army to defend the land. There was much crying as all the young men were led out of town.
It was months later before the got word of the war. The kingdom was victorious, they fought off the invaders. It was not an easy battle; there were many losses on both sides. In fact, every single young man from that village was slain in battle; every young man but one. One young man didnít go because of a broken back.