Chuang Tses Horse

A story of CommonBloodySense from ChuangTse:

One day a farmer is out riding his boundaries and catches a wild horse. He takes it back to his corral, and all the neighbors come around to see it.

"How beautiful it is, and how valuable! How lucky you are!" they say.

"Maybe," says the farmer.

The next day the farmer wakes to see that the wild horse has kicked down every fence in the corral and run away to the hills. The neighbors hear of this disaster and come around to commiserate.

"So much work to repair! How unlucky for you!" they say.

"Maybe," says the farmer.

When the sun rises the next day the horse is back grazing in the corral, and indeed a whole herd of wild horses are in there with him. The farmer and his son hastily put up a fence, but the horses seem most interested in the farmer's hay, with winter coming on. The neighbors all come around again.

"Amazing! These fine animals are worth a fortune! Fantastic luck for you!" they say.

"Maybe," says the farmer.

The next day the farmer's son takes a lassoe and eventually gets a saddle on the wild horse. But the horse is too much for him and bucks him off, breaking his arm. The boy is the farmer's only help, and the neighbors come around to offer their advice.

"You'll have a hard time of it this year, old man! This horse is bad luck after all!" they say.

"Maybe," says the farmer.

Early the next day the neighbors are all woken by the emperor's press gang, who take all their boys and force them into military service. All, that is, except for the farmer's son, because of his arm. The neighbors all come around to the farmer's house to share their grief.

"Our sons! We will never see them again! But you still have your boy - how lucky that horse is for you!"

"Maybe," says the farmer.


I've always thought of this story as an independent invention of Greek stoicism...
Maybe, just maybe, it has more to do with the foolishness of assigning luck to happenings and circumstances. His answer of Maybe could be just another way of saying ItDepends!
This story comes from the HuainanTzu?, rather than from the ChuangTse. There are alternate translations (which may be valuable for comparitive study) at http://www.noogenesis.com/pineapple/Taoist_Farmer.html and http://teaching-tales.org/#the-righteous-farmer .
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