Stone soup

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Stone Soup is a Grimm Brothers[citation needed] tale in which strangers trick a starving town into giving them some food. As with all Grimm Brother tales, it offers a lesson to those willing to read between the lines. The fable of the stone soup is about cooperation amid scarcity. In varying traditions, the stone has been replaced with other common inedible objects, and therefore the fable is also known as button soup, wood soup, nail soup, and axe soup.


[edit] Story

According to the story, some travelers come to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty pot. Upon their arrival, the villagers are unwilling to share any of their food stores with the hungry travelers. The travelers fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire in the village square. One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travelers answer that they are making "stone soup", which tastes wonderful, although it still needs a little bit of garnish to improve the flavor, which they are missing. The villager doesn't mind parting with just a little bit to help them out, so it gets added to the soup. Another villager walks by, inquiring about the pot, and the travelers again mention their stone soup which hasn't reached its full potential yet. The villager hands them a little bit of seasoning to help them out. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient. Finally, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all.

In a French version of the tale, the three travelers are soldiers returning home from the (Napoleonic) wars.

[edit] Meaning of the story

This fable can be thought of as "The Emperor's New Clothes" in reverse, where nothing is revealed to be something, after all. The original stone was only a pretext to start the villagers sharing in a way that they would not have considered without the catalyst of the "stone soup" that they thought they were improving.

[edit] Portuguese tradition

Stone soup

According to Portuguese tradition, the events described in the "stone soup" tale took place around Almeirim, Portugal. Nowadays many restaurants in Almeirim serve stone soup, or "sopa de pedra".

In the Portuguese version of the soup the travelers role is played by a priest.

[edit] Nail soup and Axe soup

The story is also known as Nail soup in Scandinavian and Northern European countries. In these versions, the main character is typically a tramp looking for food and lodgings, who convinces an old woman that he'll make nail soup for the both of them if she'd just add a few ingredients for the garnish. In Eastern Europe the variation of the story (having more in common with the Northern European rendition) is called Axe soup, with an axe being the catalyst. In Russian tradition a soldier eats axe kasha (Каша из топора).

[edit] Alternative story

Another story exists about "stone soup", that, in the United States of America, during the Great Depression, families were unable to put food on the table every day. It became a practice to place a large and porous rock in the bottom of the stock pot. On days when there was food, the stone would absorb some of the flavor. On days when there was no food, the stone was boiled up, and the flavor would come out of the stone into the water, producing a weak soup, which was better than not eating.

[edit] New tradition

A somewhat new tradition, growing in popularity in cases where stone soup is made and served among people who gather semi-regularly, is the idea that the person whose portion contains the stone (in recipes in which a real stone is used) will be responsible for starting the pot at the next gathering.[citation needed]

[edit] Interpretation and lessons

  1. We can all work together, cooperate and end up better off.
  2. If you want to get people to do something, don't tell them how desperately they are needed. Don't try to appeal to their sympathy and kindness. Instead, create the impression that you are giving them the opportunity to be part of your success.
  3. (Nail Soup version) Beware of strangers offering nothing in exchange for a little something.

[edit] Historical references

U.S. Army General George S. Patton, Jr. referred to the "rock soup method" of acquiring resources for attacks in the face of official disapproval by his superiors for offensive operations. In the military context, he sent units forward ostensibly on reconnaissance missions, to later reinforce them when resistance was met and eventually turned small scale probes into all out attacks; he notably did this during the Battle of Sicily in the advance on Palermo and again in the campaign in northwest Europe, notably near Metz when his 3rd US Army was officially halted during Operation Market Garden.[1]

[edit] Uses in popular culture

  • A cooperative housing project in Chicago is named Stone soup cooperative, and a Fractint free software group named itself the "Stone Soup Group".
  • Copyleft endeavours, including the GNU project and Wikipedia, can also be regarded as embodying the stone soup principle.
  • Stone Soupercomputer cluster is made up of discarded desktops.
  • "The Wonderful Soup Stone" is a song written by Shel Silverstein and recorded by Bobby Bare and Dr. Hook, about children growing up poor and imagining that water and potatoes taste like a gourmet soup, because of a soup stone.
  • The Brothers Grimm tale was retold in the children's book "Stone Soup" by Ann McGovern (ISBN-10: 0590416022) published in 1968.
  • Another children's book also called "Stone Soup" (ISBN 9780689878367) is Marcia Brown's retelling of an old French version of the tale about soldiers who trick miserly villages into making them a feast. This book won a Caldecott Medal in 1947. This book was read aloud to the viewers by the Captain (played by Bob Keeshan) on an early episode of the original "Captain Kangaroo" TV show in the 1950s. A French language version of the story is titled "Une Drôle de Soupe."
  • A musical stageplay of this fable, set just after the Battle of Waterloo, was written by Gary Peterson and Larry Nestor. [1]
  • Jim Henson's The Storyteller incorporates this story in the episode "A Story Short"
  • The story is relayed by Caroline Ingalls in an episode of Little House on the Prairie ("Stone Soup"). Having taken over her daughter's (Laura Ingalls Wilder) classroom for a few days (to allow the ailing teacher to recover from heatstroke), Caroline tells the story to remind the children how important it is to work together. At the end of the school's day, the children gather at Laura's house to help care for their teacher's drought stricken orchard.
  • Mickey's Young Readers Library adaptated the story as Donald's Magic Stone. In this version, Donald Duck, having no food to make dinner at his house, convinces Goofy to contribute all his groceries into a soup dinner with his "magic" stone.
  • In 2008 one of the inSide AreaCodes micro business networks, inSide919 in Raleigh, North Carolina, began a monthly Let's Make Stone Soup community project; a project where community members can share their expertise and efforts in helping a worthy project achieve a goal. The first project was a sockathon to raise money for the environment and socks for the homeless while launching of a new line of socks.
  • The dub title of episode 36 of Digimon Adventure 02, in which the main characters all pitch in to make soup, is "Stone Soup". Its original title is "Steel Angel, Shakkoumon" (Hagane no Tenshi Shakkoumon).
  • In episode 14 of Land of the Lost, entitled "Stone Soup", Rick Marshall creates stone soup to encourage his children to contribute to their meal. They also show the Pakuni to make stone soup as a peace offering to rebuild their relationship.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Farago, Ladislas Patton: Ordeal and Triumph (Ballantyne, 1970)

[edit] External links

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