The Story of the Broken Pot (of Honey)

by Lorne Mitchell on 14/02/2013

The older I get, the more I believe in coincidences.  And one of the strange coincidences that I have recently discovered is that there are a set of stories that are told in slightly different forms all around the world – as if they all had their roots in one story told many thousands of years ago.  A fine example is the Story of the Broken Pot:

Once upon a time there lived a woman called Truhana.  Not being very rich, she had to go yearly to the market to sell honey, the precious product of her hive.

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Along the road she went, carrying the jar of honey upon her head, calculating as she walked the money she would get for the honey.  “First”, she thought, “I will sell it, and buy eggs.  The eggs I shall set under my fat brown hens, and in time there will be plenty of little chicks.  These, in turn, will become chickens, and from the sale of these, lambs could be bought.”

Truhana then began to imagine how she could become richer than her neighbors, and look forward to marrying well her sons and daughters.

Trudging along, in the hot sun, she could see her fine sons and daughters-in-law, and how the people would say that it was remarkable how rich she had become, who was once so poverty-stricken.

Under the influence of these pleasurable thoughts, she began to laugh heartily, and preen herself, when, suddenly, striking the jar with her hand, it fell from her head, and smashed on the ground.  The honey became a sticky mess upon the ground.

Seeing this, she was cast down as she had been excited, on seeing all her dreams lost for illusion.

Idres Shah in his book “World Tales” (which is where this story came from) notes:

“The tale is called a number of things like – “The Girl and the Pitcher of Milk”.  Professor Max muller remarks how the tale has survived the rise and fall of empires and the change of languages, and the perishing of works of art.  He stresses the attraction whereby “this simple children’s tale should have lived on and maintained its place of honor and its undisputed sway in every schoolroom of the East and every nursery of the West.”

“In the Eastern versions, it is always a man who is the fantasist and whose hopes come to grief: in the West it is almost always a woman.  The man generally imagines that he will marry and have a son, while the woman tends to think of riches and marriage.”

A collection of stories similar to this one was compiled as a set off folktales by Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 1430 entitled “Air Castles” – about daydreams of wealth and fame.  The theme is so strong and spans all cultures and societies.  Just one of the many coincidental stories that have been recognised across space and time.

And so it was, last week, I was visiting Telefonica’s incubator (which they call an Academy) in London.  There are 19 startups (or eggs) being hatched – each into what will hopefully be new chickens.  However, given the statistic that over 65% of companies fail in their first two years, I could not but think the question as to which ones might be successful, and which ones not.  Which ones would hatch and which ones would be eaten before hatching?  Talking to the head guy there, he said that it was surprising that some of the start-ups that showed no hope four months ago are now doing really well – and others that showed great potential have somehow stumbled.  Each of the eggs will be moved out from the Academy at the end of March – and I wish them all the best of luck in moving from the egg stage to the chicken stage!

Oh, and just to round off this Thursday Thought, I visited my own beehives on Monday to give them some sugar cake food.  All was well – each of the six hives had bees!  I just hope they will all survive through February and March.  No honey in the pot yet, but I still dream that their stories will make me rich and famous one day!

I am going to be exploring the power coincidence in a lot more detail in the coming months.  If you are on Twitter you can read the regular tweets and observations on coincidence and business by following my new Tweet stream  @coinmark.

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Story from: “World Tales” collected by Idries Shah published by the Octagon Press 1991 – page 27

Picture – Copyright iStockPhoto – I bought it and if you want to use it you should buy it too!

More bee stories at my other blog: www.beelore.com

 

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1 David February 15, 2013 at 10:24

Turns out it is unlikely the similarity between stories around the world is coincidence. A colleague who research this for his PhD found around 40 root stories of which all others are variants. Whether this is because they share a common source or a Jungian archetypes explanation is more likely was not revealed (as far as I know)

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