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Soup stone – a Global Tale - with thanks to Desirée van Keulen

Once upon a time, a man travelled the roads and came to a small village looking for a place to stay the night. He approached the villagers saying, “I’m a simple traveller, looking for a place to sleep and a hot meal.”. The villagers replied, “We’d be glad to offer you a place to sleep, but our crops were ruined this year and there’s hardly anything to eat in the whole village. Most of us are just barely getting by.”.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” the 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?”. “Oh, it’s wonderful,” said the man. “Best soup I’ve ever tasted. Bring me a pot and some water, and 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 pot, another some wood for a fire, and others brought water.

When the fire was going and the water had begun to boil, the 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. Mesmerised, the villagers watched every move the man made. Slowly, he began to 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 man, as he added the cabbage to the pot. “This reminds me of the time I had stone soup with cabbage and a just bit of salted beef. It was unbelievably good.”. After a moment of silence, the village butcher spoke up. “I might 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 man added the beef to the soup pot and continued to stir. “Can you imagine what this soup would taste like if we had only a little bit of onion… or perhaps a few potatoes… or a carrot or two… maybe some mushrooms? Oh, this would be a meal fit for royalty.”.

And before he knew it, the pot got filled to the brim with vegetables of all kinds— carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, turnips, green beans, beets and celery—all brought by the men, 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 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 ever tasted. The mayor of the village pulled the man aside, and quietly offered him a great deal of money for the magic stone, but the 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 whispered, “The magic is not in the stone; it is in all of us, together.”.

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