Monday, July 11, 2011

Bring in The Cow

Once upon a time, there was a farmer who lived in a small house in a quiet village with his wife and eight children. One day, though, he’d had more than enough of his children running around, screaming and pulling at each other’s hair, enough of his wife nagging at him about this and that. He decided to go to the wise man in the village to see if he had any advice that could help him. Never having visited the wise man, upon entering his humble house, he took off his hat and crossed himself once. He sat down in front of the wise man and told him of his woes; the children running and screaming and pulling at each other’s hair. His wife nagging at him (though he had to admit that she was very pretty when a curl fell across her cheek). The wise man sat silent for a moment, and cleared his throat. “Bring in the cow,” he said. The farmer blinked a few times. “Bring the cow into the house?” he asked. “Bring in the cow.” The wise man repeated. So, the farmer left with mixed feelings about bringing a cow into his already full and cluttered house. When he got home, he explained to his wife what he was told to do, which she fought only briefly. He got the cow from the field and guided her over the threshold into a room full of clamor and chaos. And so, the smell and bellowing noises of the cow filled his house, along with the clamor and chaos of eight children and a nagging wife.

After three days, the farmer had had enough of this and decided to go back to the wise man for better advice. Again, he took his hat off and crossed himself once, still not sure if this was the proper thing to do. He explained to the wise man how the smell and noisy bellowing of the cow had only made things worse. The wise man looked at the farmer and said, “Bring in the pig.” “What? Bring the pig into the house too? Are you serious?” The wise man only repeated, “Bring in the pig.” And so, feeling a little defeated, the farmer went back home, on rural roads and across fertile fields, and marched straight for the pig pen. “Come here, Pinky,” he said, lifting her into his arms and carrying her across the threshold into his house, which smelled to high heavens and was noisier than before.

After three days, with the pig rolling around on the dirt floor, the cow bellowing at all hours, his eight children running around, screaming and pulling at each other’s hair, and his wife nagging at him; the farmer was beginning to lose sleep. He decided, once again, to go into the village and visit the “wise” man. This time, he neither took off his hat nor crossed himself. “Bring in the goat.” The wise man told him. The farmer sat silent for a moment, enjoying the peace and quiet and trying to decide what to do with this strange advice. But again, he went home, rural roads and through fertile pastures, blah, blah, blah, and went to the pen where they kept the goat. Lifting the goat into his arms, he brought the goat over the threshold into his stinky little house full of running, screaming children and a nagging wife (she had several messy curls falling now on her cheek), and put the goat down in the filth that had become his home.

After three days of the cow bellowing at all hours, the pig rolling around in filth, the goat chewing on one table cloth after another, and now chewing on the furniture … the farmer decided to pay another visit to the wise man. He walked slower than usual, since he hadn’t slept for three days, and he enjoyed the peace and quiet of a long walk. Livid now, the farmer didn’t take his hat off or cross himself, and put aside all pleasantries. Crushing his hat in his hands, he told the wise man of all the chaos in his house, and how the wise man was the cause of it all. The wise man looked calmly back at the farmer and said, “Let them all out. Put the cow in the field, and the pig and goat in their pens.” The farmer immediately cheered up, and there was a spring in his step as he made his way home, jumping fences in fertile fields and doing an occasional jig as he approached his home. One by one, he returned each animal to its proper place.

Three days later, much to the surprise of the wise man, the farmer returned, crestfallen. “Wise man,” he confessed, “my home is so quiet.”

I remember when my sister Carol first told me this story, when I felt overwhelmed at one thing or another. I’ve retold this folk tale many times, to myself and to others, and it changes every time I tell it, as folk tales are often want to do. I didn't mention the donkey or the rooster this time, but you get the point. And the meaning of the story changes for me too.

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