Journey With Story

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Journey With Story

The Old Man with the Grain of Barley

Old Scottish tale

Bonus Episode

Has anyone ever tried to trick you into doing something? What happened? How did it make you feel?

Hello everyone, I’m Kathleen Pelley. Welcome to Journey with Story. Today’s episode is an old Scottish tale about an old man who sets out to try and trick a lot of people into helping him make his fortune, but as you will hear, it doesn’t quite turn out the way he hopes – as is often the case when someone tries to trick people. We are bringing you this EXTRA BONUS story episode today to celebrate a very special feast day we Scots celebrate on 30th November, St. Andrew’s Day. St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and of course, we Scots have always honored and celebrated the power of stories – so what better way to celebrate this special day than with…. A story.

Let’s take a journey with…

The Old Man with the Grain of Barley

Listen to the episode.

Once upon a time there lived an old man who had no riches in all the world except for…his wits. One fine morning the old man decided it was high time he went off to seek his fortune. No sooner had he set off down the path past h is own front gate, than he spotted a grain of barley in a sandy hollow by the side of the road.

“Ah ha,” he chuckled to himself. “At last I’ve found my fortune, or at least the means of making it. That didn’t take any time at all and soon I will be so rich that I will never need to worry about money ever again.”

The old man picked up the grain of barley and walked on down the road. In a little while he reached a house in a field by the road. He knocked on the door and the people welcomed him inside.

“I’m off to seek my fortune,” the crafty old man said. “Would you be so good as to mind this grain of barley for me until I return in a month and a day. It’s very precious to me for I have nothing else left in the world.”

Now if the good woman of the house thought his request a little strange, sure she said nothing at all. Instead she smiled kindly, “Of course we will,” she assured him.

So the old man went off on his way, but instead of walking onwards, he turned back to his own home to take things nice and easy for a while.

In a month and a day, he returned to the same house and the woman greeted him at the door, wailing and wringing her hands.

“I’ve come to fetch my grain of barley,“ said the old man.

“Oh, dear,” wailed the woman, “I’m sorry to tell you but our brown hen ate it.”

The old man tried his best to hide a smug smile. “If that is the case,” said he, “then I will have to take your hen for it ate my grain of barley and that was the only thing I had in all the world. It is only fair and right.”

The woman was so embarrassed that she at once agreed. The old man tucked the brown hen under his arm and walked off down the road. In a little while he reached another house, where he knocked and once more was made welcome.

“I’m off to seek my fortune,” he said. “Would you be so good as to mind this hen for me until I return in a month and a day? It is very precious to me for I have nothing else in all the world.”

“Of course, we will indeed,” said the man of the house. “We will enjoy all the eggs.”

All the way home the old man laughed at his own cleverness. For the next month and a day, he did nothing but gloat at the thought of how his fortune would increase. And when the time was over, he returned to the same house.

“Here I am,” he announced, “I’ve come back to fetch by brown hen.”

“Oh dear,” sighed the man of the house, “I am sorry to say there has been a terrible accident. Our speckled cow trampled your poor hen.”

“If that is the case,” said the old man, “then I will have to take your cow, because it killed my hen and she was all I ad in all the world. It is only fair and right.”

The man of the house shook his head in shame and guilt. “Yes, yes,” he agreed, “if you must, then you must.”

So, the old man grabbed the cow by her halter and set off down the road again. At the next house he came to, he knocked and again the people welcomed him inside.

“I’m off to seek my fortune,” he said. “Would you be so kind as to mind this cow for me until I return in a month and a day? It is very precious to me for it is all I have in all the world.”

“Of course, we will,” agreed the couple in the house.

The old man returned to his own home and after a month and a day had passed, back he went to the couple’s house.

“I’ve come to fetch my speckled cow,” he announced.

The couple looked at one another sadly. “I’m afraid there was a terrible accident,” said the man. “You see, our youngest daughter took the cow to the loch and the cow fell in and drowned.”

“This is much better than I could ever have imagined,” thought the old man. “Now I will have a wife to keep house for me, raise my hens and grow my cabbages and I will never have to so much as lift a finger ever again.”

“Well,” he said, “if that is what has happened, then I will have to take the girl for she was the one who drowned my cow and that was all I had in all the world. It is only fair and right.”

The old man took out a sack and motioned to the girl to climb in.

The couple were most distraught but had to agree that a daughter was fair exchange for a cow. And so, when the old man asked for something to tie his sack, the woman told him where to find a piece of heather rope in the byre.

Meanwhile, she handed her daughter a pair of scissors, saying, “Don’t let on that you have these, but get away as fast as you can and run back home.”

As soon as the old man tied up the sack, the girl began to shriek and wail. But the old man paid her no heed. He hoisted the sack over his shoulder and walked on down the road.

The day was warm, the sack was heavy, and the girl was loud, and before very long, the old man felt the need to sit down and rest. Soon, he was fast asleep in the sun.

The girl was as clever as she was determined, and as soon as she realized her captor had gone quiet, she stopped her wailing and listened. As soon as she heard him snoring loudly, she cut a small slit in the sack with the scissors, slid her hand out and untied the knot in the rope. Then she filled the sack with stones, tied it up as tight as she could, and then ran like the wind all the way home.

As afternoon turned to evening, an ant crawled across the old man’s nose, and he jolted awake.

“Well, well,” he said to the sack, “at least you have finally quietened down now.” He stood up and stretched, picked up the sack and headed on down the road. He didn’t stop until it turned dusk. He put the sack down in a dip by the road and opened it.

“Well, well,” the old man said to the stones. “No wonder you didn’t have a lot to say.”

In the morning the old man left eth sack and the stones in the grass, and he walked on down the road. Before he had gone very far at all, he spotted a grain of barley in the grass.

“Ah ha,” he said, “Here is my new fortune. Let’s see what we can do with this.”

Then he picked up the grain of barley and walked on down the road.

So, what do you think happened next? Do you think the old man’s tricks might work this time around? Maybe you could write your own story about that. He certainly did go to a lot of trouble to try and get out of working, didn’t he?

What do you think the story’s souvenir is?

Well, I hope you enjoyed this special bonus story to celebrate our special Scottish holiday.

Happy St. Andrew’s Day to everyone!

Cheerio! Join me next time for Journey with Story.

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