An old story begins when a poor farmer’s mare gives birth in the village marketplace…
The frightened newborn took shelter under a rich man’s wagon, and the rich man claimed the foal as his own. The young burgermeister was inexperienced, and did not want to displease the rich man. To settle the dispute, he told the two men to return the next day with answers to three riddles; the one with the best answers would be awarded the foal. Surely the rich man could outfox an old peasant, and the matter would be done.
“What is the richest thing in the world?” asked the burgermeister. ”What is the swiftest thing in the world? And what is the sweetest thing in the world?”
The farmer was distressed. He didn’t know the answers, and he couldn’t afford to lose the foal. But his daughter was very clever.
“Don’t worry, Papa. Here’s what you must say…”
The next day, the rich man puffed out his chest and said, “The swiftest thing in the world is my coach and pair, for no other horse or wagon ever passes me on the road.”
The richest thing is the gold in my treasure chest, for am I not the richest man in the village? And the sweetest thing is cakes made with honey from my own hives.”
“Mmm,” said the burgermeister, turning to the farmer. ”And have you answers to my riddles, old man?”
“Yes,” said the farmer. ”The richest thing in the world is the earth, for do not all riches come from the earth?”
“The swiftest thing in the world is thought.
For a thought can travel to the ends of the earth and back again…
…in the blink of an eye.”
“And the sweetest thing in the world is sleep. For when one is sad or tired, what can be sweeter?”
The mayor had no choice but to award the foal to the farmer. ”But you didn’t think of those answers yourself. Tell me who helped you.”
The farmer confessed that his daughter had solved the riddles for him. The burgermeister was impressed and intrigued. He asked to meet the farmer’s daughter.
But that is a story for another day…
All words and images copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck
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