Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Black Pebble.


Many years ago in a small Irish village, a farmer had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to a landlord. The landlord, who was old and ugly, fancied the farmers daughter. So he proposed a bargain. He said he would forgo the farmer’s debt if he could marry his daughter.

Both the farmer and his daughter were horrified by the proposal. So the cunning landlord suggested that they let providence decide the matter. He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty moneybag. Then the girl would have to pick one pebble from the bag.

1) If she picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father’s debt would be forgiven.

2) If she picked the white pebble she need not marry him and her father’s debt would still be forgiven.

3) If she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail.

They were walking on a pebble-strewn path in the farmer’s field. As they talked, the landlord bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp- eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick a pebble from the bag. Now, imagine that you were standing in the field. What would you have done if you were the girl? If you had to advice her, what would you have told her? Careful analysis would produce three possibilities.

1) The girl should refuse to take a pebble

2) The girl should show that there were two black pebbles in the bag and expose the landlord as a cheat.

3) The girl should pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from his debt and jail.

Take a moment to ponder over the story. The above story is used with the hope that it will make us appreciate the difference between lateral and logical thinking. The girl’s dilemma cannot be solved with traditional logical thinking. Think of the consequences if she chooses the above logical answers. What would you recommend to the girl to do?

Well here is what she did, the girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble. Without looking at it, she fumbled a let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles.

“Oh, how clumsy of me,” she said. “But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.”
Since the remaining pebble is black, it must be assumed that she had picked the white one. However, since the landlord dared not admit his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed an impossible situation into an extremely advantageous one.

Moral of the Story:

Stand back, see the bigger picture and challenge your assumptions. Remember most problems have a solution, it may not be the solution you wish for or would like, but it is a solution.


  1. Clever girl, that. And a nice pic of Aesop's crow getting a drink as well.

  2. amazing story! and a hopeful moral of the story :)