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SOS: Searching Out Stories/Info - Lent - Lenten
...Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers, Teachers and Librarians


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Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers, Teachers and Librarians

(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)

Book titles, movie titles and online links are in blue and underlined. Click on them to get more information.
Story and song titles are in quotation marks.
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Posts to Storytell are added chronologically as they are received by Story Lovers World.

1) Query: The theme for my Lenten storytelling program is Thrive . . . Flourish. I know that Thrive and Flourish are synonyms but I think of Flourishing as Thriving with attitude. The notion is that many use Lent as a time to sacrifice or get rid of what they consider bad habits or destructive attitudes. However, nature abhors a vacuum and we can choose to grow and thrive and flourish by replacing the habits and attitudes with good habits, virtues, and constructive attitudes. I believe I am going to use "The Three Trees" as one of the stories and perhaps one about the Fig Tree from Ed Hayes' The Ethiopian Tattoo Shop as one ( need his permission). Does this spark any ideas in any of the cousins?

Gail F. 2/13/06


I think there are many that would work, including one of my favorites, Clever Manka, or "The Innkeeper's Clever Daughter" which can be found in An Anthology of Sacred Texts By and About Women. But skimming through my files, I came across the story of "Sleeping When the Wind Blows".

Mary G. 2/13/06


In this case, it seemed to me that Mary Lee herself may have written the story.


a) Nope, I just copied it off an inspirational site. I always make sure that it says "author unknown." There are versions of it that some people have copyrighted, but it is their own personal words, not the bones of the story, which is found in many places. The earliest reference I have found so far:

Footnote: Adapted from Albert L. Zobell, Jr. Storyteller's Scrapbook.

If you search "sleep when the wind blows," you will find it in lots of places. The following is from a scouting website.

Can You Sleep When the Wind Blows?

A young man applied for a job as a farmhand. When the farmer asked for his qualifications, he said, "I can sleep when the wind blows." This puzzled the farmer. But he liked the young man, and hired him. A few days later, the farmer and his wife were awakened in the night by a violent storm. They quickly began to check things out to see if all was secure. They found that the shutters of the farmhouse had been securely fastened. A good supply of logs had been set next to the fireplace. The young man slept soundly. The farmer and his wife then inspected their property. They found that the farm tools had been placed in the storage shed, safe from the elements. The tractor had been moved into the garage. The barn was properly locked. Even the animals were calm. All was well. The farmer then understood the meaning of the young man's words, "I can sleep when the wind blows." Because the farmhand did his work loyally and faithfully when the skies were clear, he was prepared for the storm when it broke. So when the wind blew, he was not afraid. He could sleep in peace.

-Author Unknown-


The story about the young farmhand illustrates a principle that is often overlooked about being prepared for various events that occur in life. There was nothing dramatic or sensational in the young farmhand's preparations -- he just faithfully did what was needed each day. Consequently, peace was his, even in a storm. A short poem expresses this principle as it pertains to your life. It isn't the things you do, It's the things you leave undone, Which gives you a bit of heartache, At the setting of the sun. What are you leaving undone?

Goodnight Scouts
Mary Lee S.

b) There's a lovely (and longer) version of this from Lewis - or is it Aberdeen? Anyway, the farmer is looking for a grieve. And when he asks, "What can you do?" one man replies, "I can keep your children away from the fire, I can get a good night's sleep when the wind blows, and I can fill your dining room with your friends."

Landlord doesn't think much of this answer, but his wife says, "There's more to this one than meets the eye," and he hires him because he respects his wife's opinion. (Okay, I always liked that part.)

The grieve is fantastic: he gets things done like a whirlwind.

The first answer comes when the weather gets cold and the grieve has so much wood organised, the children have to play at the back of the room because the fire is roaring merrily with fuel. The landlord, observing this, thinks that his new grieve may be a better man than he thought.

The second one is the wind blowing scenario as outlined. By then the farmer is openly boasting about his grieve in the town.

The third one is that the storm takes much of the harvest from the neighbours, and the harvest parties this year are reported to be subdued. The grieve has his master's barns stacked to bursting, but he goes about telling everyone the master has had a bad year, and not to expect much in the way of feasting at his party. But please come anyway.

And only about twelve people show up. Of course, the table is bursting and the whisky is flowing.

The master says to the grieve, "You did well on the first two, but not this one." The grieve says, begging to differ, but these are the farmer's true friends. The others would only come if there was good food; these people came because they liked the master.

I've always liked this story.

Wendy W.

This is a wonderful story. But what is the meaning of "grieve"?


A Scots word for a farm-bailiff, an overseer. Yes, I did have to use a dictionary to check that myself - from the Old English, related to reeve.

Philip A.

d) I am thinking about the story where everyone is allowed to bring their troubles in a bundle. Everyone who is tired of carrying their own problems can pick another. After inspecting each bundle they realize that their troubles are light compared to those that others carry.

I know Allison Cox has her own adaptation. I believe it is a Jewish folktale but I could be wrong. Does anyone have another source?

Karen C. 2/13/06

You may want to tell the parable about the mustard seed. And then tell three short stories about how real people flourished when they given the right "soil".

Marilyn K. 2/13/06

f) As for a story with a constructive attitude, how about "The Wooden Sword" (see, the Jewish story from Afghanistan (and probably a lot of other places) in which the Shah goes out in disguise and encounters a poor but cheerful Jew who mends shoes. To test the poor man's faith in God, the Shah outlaws shoe mending, whereupon, the poor man starts carrying water.

Next the Shah outlaws carrying water for pay, so the poor man switches to cutting firewood. Then the Shah bans woodcutting and puts all the woodcutters in the army, gives them swords, but won't pay them until the end of the month. The cheerful woodcutter is forced to sell his sword in order to survive and carves a perfect wooden replica to replace it.

The next day the Shah has his officer order the Jew to execute a man who has stolen fruit from the royal garden. The Jew tries to refuse, saying he's never even killed a fly, but the officer tells him either he obeys the order or he must die himself.

After praying quietly, the Jew stands and prays out loud: "God, you know that I have never killed anyone in my whole life. Please, God, if this man is guilty, let my sword be so shrap as to kill him in a single blow. But if he is not guilty, let my sword turn to wood, as a sign of his innocence." He then pulls out his sword and shows that it is made of wood. The crowd thinks a miracle has happened, but the Shah knows better. Appreciating the poor man's wisdom, he invites him to live in the palace and become his advisor.

Judy S. 2/13/06

g) Here's a version of the "Bundle of Troubles" -in fact, it caught my eye because it was called refered to as a "story about envy" which would be good for Lent. And it turned out to be a version of the one you're looking for by someone no longer on the list or maybe lurking.

Elisa P.

Below is the Pekl story in both Peninnah Schram's collection Chosen Tales: Stories Told by Jewish Storytellers and a similar version in Elisa Pearmain's collection Doorways to the Soul: 52 Wisdom Tales from Around the World.

A woman goes to the Rabbi complaining that her fate is worse than her neighbors. The Rabbi after hearing many such complaints creates a new holiday in which people can exchange their sorrows for someone else's. The pekl is the bag they put them in. As in other versions, people snoop about in other people's bags and then sheepishly choose their own troubles because they are at least familiar. Someone on the list a while back added a version of this in which there was an insight that while we carry a bag of sorrows on one shoulder, it is equally balanced with a bag of joys on the other.

There is another variant of the above in Margaret Geras's book My Grandmother's Stories: A Collection of Jewish Folk Tales about a woman who wishes for a different husband and learns the same lesson.

Elisa P.

h) Karen's suggestion of the bundle of sticks story reminds me of the "Beduin's Gazelle", which can be found in Jane Yolen's Favorite Folktales from Around the World (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library) under the heading "The Getting of Wisdom". Some other stories there that might work for you are "The Peddler of Swaffham" and "The Happy Man's Shirt".

Judy S. 2/14/06

There is another version I came across that tells of a rabbi speaking with one woman and then more of his congregation about their troubles. He invites them to bring their burdens, or bundles of troubles to the center of town and hang them on the branches of a tree. Then they are told to circle the tree and take the bundle they want. Each takes their own bundle back. I cannot remember what he says to them specifically or where I found this...

Allison C. 2/20/06

j) This story appears all over the world. Teresa Pijoan tells it of Maria the healing woman in the Indian pueblo who takes people on a walk to pick up things to put into a bag, prickly and heavy and such. Then to throw over a cliff the things that represent the people they want out of their lives and nobody throws anything.

Dvora S. 2/20/06

2) My "Trouble Boxes and Blessing Bundles" is on my new "Potpourri" CD.

Steve O. 2/15/06

Created 2006; last update 3/21/11

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