City Dwellers Visit the Country

(Jewish Folktale)

Two city dwellers decided to visit the country for the first time in their lives. Upon arriving there, they noticed a man plowing land, and they said to each other, “Why is he just turning land like that for no reason?” Then they saw someone planting grains, and they remarked, “This guy must be insane. He’s taking food and burying it!” Eventually, one said to the other, “This place is crazy. I’m leaving.” The other replied, “Well. I don’t know. Maybe it is crazy. But I’m gonna hang around here for another week, and get a better sense of how they do things.”

So the first man left and the second man stayed. As days passed, the man who stayed noticed that vegetables were sprouting. He contacted the other man, who traveled back, and learned that what looks crazy to a city dweller might be very sensible outside of the city.

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The Guarantee

(Mulla Nasrudin Story)

One day at the King’s court, the King turned to Nasrudin and said, “Mulla. Since you are constantly reminding us of how clever and wise you are, tell me this: can you teach your donkey to read?”

“Absolutely,” replied Nasrudin. “A task like that would present me with no problems whatsoever.”

“Don’t mess with me,” said the King. “Seriously, can you do it?”

“Yes, I mean it,” Nasrudin replied, “and I’ll tell you what: just give me fifty thousand dollars right now, and I’ll guarantee I’ll have this donkey reading within eight years.”

“OK,” said the King. “But that donkey isn’t reading by then, I’ll put you in prison and have you tortured daily.”

So they agreed, and Nasrudin left the court.

The next day, Nasrudin’s friend asked about what happened.

“Are you out of your mind?” he said. “You can barely teach your donkey to stand still, and now you’ve guaranteed that he’ll be reading within eight years. Nasrudin-I don’t see how you’ll be able to escape a long prison sentence for this.”

“Listen,” the Mulla calmly replied, “several years from now, our King will probably be dead or out of power. And even if he manages to last as our King for that long, odds are my donkey will have passed on by then. And in the unlikely event that neither he nor my donkey is gone by seven years time, I’ll still have an entire year to plan my way out of getting punished.”

Bring Me Four People

(Indian Folktale)

One day, Emperor Akbar said to Birbal, “Bring me four people: a modest one, a shameless one, a cowardly one, and a brave one.”

The next day, Birbal brought one woman before Akbar

Akbar saw this and remarked, “This is only one person—I asked you to bring four.”

“Well,” Birbal replied, “this woman has all four of the qualities you mentioned. When she stays at her in-laws, she is modest. When she is drunk, she is shameless. When she is alone at night, she is cowardly. And when she is determined to have her way, she is brave.”

The New Water

(Sufi Folktale)

One day, the mysterious prophet-saint Khidr told the world, “In a few days, all water throughout the earth from natural sources will disappear, and be replaced with new water that will make people crazy when they drink it. However, any water that is specially stored will not undergo this transformation.”

Only a man named Hasan paid attention to this, and he gathered water and stored it in anticipation of the change.

Three days later, just as Khidr said, the water from natural sources stopped running, and was replaced by the new type of water.

Everybody drank the new water except for Hasan, who had saved and specially stored the original water. And soon Hasan noticed that all the people began acting differently, and that they had no knowledge Khidr’s prophecy or of the day that the waters were changed.

When Hasan began interacting with the people, they thought that he was crazy, and they ostracized him.

Hasan continued to drink his stored water for a few more weeks, but he could not take the loneliness anymore, and he decided to drink the new water and become like everyone else.

From then on, the people regarded Hasan as a former madman who had his sanity renewed.