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SOS-Searching Out Stories/Infomation -
Out-Of-Step Stories

Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers,
Teachers and Librarians

Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers, Teachers and Librarians

(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)

Book titles and online links are in dark blue and underlined. Click on them to get more stories/information.
In performance, always credit your sources.
To retell these stories, get permission from the copyright holder if the material is not in the public domain.
Posts are listed chronologically as they are received by Story Lovers World.

1) Query: Any folks have any stories reflecting when folks are out of step with each other. Like one person assumes the other wants to rhumba but the other person thinks their partner wants to rock 'n roll? And, by out of step, I don't necessarily mean there is rancor, but more a mystery ... that is what it is ... and being out of step is okay too.

Mary K.C. 6/12/06


a) It sounds to me like The Debate in Sign Language would fit this description - the one where the fate of the Jews depends on the outcome of a debate in sign language - and after the debate you hear the two totally different interpretations of what the signs meant to each participant.

Vicky D. 6/12/06

b) There is a Swedish folktale called "Cool Breeze on a Warm Day" in which husband after years of marriage begins to wonder if his wife still loves him like she used too---he asks and she can't figure out why. He obsesses about the question and asks again---How much do you love me? The response is "As much as a cool breeze on a warm day!" He thinks that's not enough--and so he decides to leave her so she can find another. He climbs the mountain in the heat of the day and just as he reaches the summit there is a cool breeze from the other side--he sits down to rest and the breeze continues to blow---"Cool breeze on a warm day? Why that's not so bad--and he picks up his bag and goes back down the mountain to his wife.

Karl H. 6/12/06

c) This may not fit but the story Like Meat Loves Salt sprang to mind. A total misunderstanding between father and daughter. Just a thought.

Karen C. 6/12/06

d) There is a story about a father and his son (I think). Some sort of tragedy happens and someone says, "oh that is bad" but no, that is good because.....Then something obviously good happens and "Oh that is good" but no, that is bad because... Okay, does anyone know which story this is so I may go to sleep at night..."Oh, that is bad!"

Marilyn K. 6/15/06

e) I have it in Joel Ben Izzy's book The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness: A True Story. It's called 'The Lost Horse." He cites the origin from China.

John McG. 6/15/06

f) I know the story as "Fortunately, Unfortunately" from a book of Chinese stories. Maybe someone can be more specific.
Added later: Aha! I knew if I thought about it long enough, I'd remember the collection of Chinese tales. It's Sweet and Sour: Tales from China by Yao-Wen Li, Carol Kendall.

Carol C. 6/15/06

g) I too know the story as "Lost Horse," as use it before doing the "Fortunately, Unfortunately" game that Richard... shared with us for using as a group game.

Often I use the "That's Good" story with it - it's lighter story that Owen sent a few years ago about a King who had a friend who always said, "That's good." When the king had his thumb shot off in an accident, the friend said, "That's good." ... (The rest of the story below.)

I heard the story told recently about a king in Africa who had a close friend that he grew up with. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) and remarking, "This is good!"

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the king. The friend had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, for after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off. Examining the situation the friend remarked as usual, "This is good!". To which the king replied, "No, this is NOT good!" and proceeded to send his friend to jail.

About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took them to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake.

As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone that was less than whole. So untying the king they sent him on his way.

As he returned home, he was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend. "You were right" he said, "it was good that my thumb was blown off." And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. "And so I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this."

"No," his friend replied, "this is good!"
"What do you mean, 'this is good'! How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year."
"If I had NOT been in jail, I would have been with you."

K.L. Owen 11/28/97

h) Just told this one a few weeks ago. I know it as "Maybe It Is; Maybe It Isn't." I was told it is from Tibet.

Farmer has a beautiful stallion.
Horse breaks through fence and runs away.
Seeing this, neighbor comes over to to recognize loss, saying "It's terrible - it's a bad thing, etc."
Farmer replies, "Maybe it is: maybe it isn't. Who am I to say.
Two weeks pass, and stallion returns with mare. Now farmer has two horses.
Neighbor says, "Wonderful - a good thing>'
Farmer replies, "Maybe it is: maybe it isn't. Who am I to say."
As son attempts to break in mare, she rears up and tramples him, crippling him for life.
Neighbor: Bad thing
Farmer: "Is/Isn't, etc.
In Spring war breaks out. All young men from countryside marching off to battle. All except farmer's son who can't march or fight.
Neighbor: Surely this is good.
Farmer: Maybe is/isn't etc.
So tale continues. story without end.
Ask audience: "isn't that how life is?
Maybe it is, Isn't, etc.

John C. 6/15/06

i) There's a Story-Lovers archive on this one:
Key"fortunately unfortunately" into the Google search engine and you'll come up with others.

Jackie B. 6/15/06

j) Actually, there's an even better story that fits your criteria from that marvelous little book of Chinese stories: Sweet and Sour: Tales from China, retold by Carol Kendall and Yao-wen Li, 1978. It's called "The Noodle" and is one of my favorites to tell to audiences from about junior high on up.

Wealthy family has a doltish son whose name everyone has forgotten - everyone calls him "That Noodle."
As a young boy he was engaged to infant daughter of an even more prominent family. Now the girl's family is trying to get out of the arrangement.
Noodle's family sends him out into the world with 100 pieces of silver to see if rubbing shoulders with the populace will sharpen his wits.
Noodle wanders into a garden with a pond. Hear's the gardener say:
"Here's water sparkling to the brim; How sad no fishes in it swim." Noodle is entranced with the rhyme; pays gardener 20 pieces of silver to teach it to him. Gardener is only too glad, but offers to teach him another saying about spending money wisely. Noodle refuses on the basis that he will not take more than he is paid for.

Next Noodle approaches a walled city with a stream running around it. Sees a farmer trying to cross the stream with a cart. While casting about for a second board to make a bridge over the stream, the farmer mutters: "One puny plank will not suffice, On which to move a load of rice." Noodle once again enchanted with rhyme; pays farmer 20 pieces of silver to teach it to him. Farmer agrees,tries to add another wise saying about fools and money. Noodle refuses.

Noodle enters a forest where two hunters are trying to shoot a red bird which is flying between two huts. As they aim at the bird they recite: "From East to West, the Red bird flies; Now, which man wins and which man sighs. ' You guessed it! Noodle offers each hunter 20 pieces of silver for the teaching of the rhyme, refuses additional wise saying.

Noodle, tired, heads for home. As he enters his own town hears a guest departing his host with these words: "I've much to say, but time is short. I'll tell the rest to you at court." Noodle offers departing guest his last twenty pieces of silver for the rhyme, refuses additional wise saying.

Pockets empty, Noodle passes his bride's house, sees that it is decorated brightly for a party, wonders how they knew he was coming. He enters and is seated by the ushers who soon figure out the Noodle is unaware that his bride is being married to another man. Ushers decide to have some fun with him. When soup is served, they bring The Noodle only a bowl of warm water. Noodle's innocent voice is heard throughout the room: "Here's water sparkling to the brim; how sad no fishes in it swim. Ushers hurriedly replace bowl of water with soup. Guests are impressed with the Noodle's handling of a difficult social situation.

Ushers then bring the noodle only one chopstick with the main course. Noodle uses his second verse: "One puny plank will not suffice on which to move a load of rice." Ushers quickly bring him another chopstick. Guests are even more impressed.

Time for the wedding ceremony. Bride is brought out in her red wedding dress. Noodle's clear voice rings out with third verse: "From east to west the red bird flies . . . Guests wonder if bride's father has made a terrible mistake.

Noodle is getting tired, decides to depart. Goes up to bride's father and uses his last verse: "I've much to say, but time is short. I'll tell the rest to you at court."

Bride's father recognizes the threat of a law suit, changes bridegrooms on the spot and marries the Noodle to his daughter right there and then. Noodle wins respect of townsfolk for winning his bride solely through his wit. And, if his new family was not completely content with their new bridegroom, well - they were never heard to say a negative word about him.

Judy S. 6/15/06

Created 2005; last update 2/12/10

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