There was once a village struck by famine and the people there were starving.
Children ran around on spindly legs, and as for animals, their ribs were sticking out so pathetically it was hard not to cry.
A kindly, old stranger was walking through the land when he came upon a village. As he entered, the villagers moved towards their homes locking doors and windows.
The stranger smiled and asked, “Why are you all so frightened? I am a simple traveller, looking for a soft place to stay for the night and a warm place for a meal.”
The villagers grew wary when they heard this because who could feed one more mouth when they did not have enough for their own stomachs?
“Please go away. We do not have food for you. There’s not a bite to eat in the whole province,” he was told. “We are weak and our children are starving. Better keep moving on.”
“Oh, I have everything I need,” he said. “In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you.”
The villagers watched suspiciously as he built a fire and filled a cauldron with water. With great ceremony, he pulled a stone from a bag, dropping the stone into the pot of water. He sniffed the brew extravagantly and exclaimed how delicious the stone soup is.
“Ahh,” the stranger said to himself rather loudly, “I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with cabbage – that’s hard to beat.”
Soon a villager approached hesitantly, holding a small cabbage he’d retrieved from its hiding place, and added it to the pot.
“Wonderful!” cried the stranger. “You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of salt beef as well, and it was fit for a king.”
The village butcher managed to find some salt beef. Then a villager remembered that he had some onions in the corner of his kitchen. A mother of three offered a few carrots she had hidden away against a crisis. Someone else poured in a handful of lentils.
Slowly, slowly, the soup grew thick, delicious and nourishing until there was a delicious meal for everyone in the village to share.
The villager elders offered the stranger a great deal of money for the magic stone, but he refused to sell it and travelled on the next day.