Title: “The Soup Stone”
Ride with the Sun: An Anthology of Folk-Tales and Stories from the U.N.
Ed. Harold Courlander. London: Edmund Ward Ltd., 1957.
Ethnic Origin: Belgian
Running Time: 6 min.
Fear/selfishness/imagined poverty of the villagers- hiding their food.
Wonder at making soup from a stone- disarming nature of the soldier.
(The family is “tricked,” but they willingly contribute to soup and get to share in the rewards)
Characters: Soldier; Family in village
1- Hungry soldier walking home, comes to village.
2- Villagers turn away the soldier when he asks for food.
3- Soldier decides to make Stone Soup.
4- Family contributes food to make soup.
5- Soldiers gives stone to family and leaves town
A very tired and hungry soldier is walking home from the war. He stops at a village to find food and shelter for the night, but no one will offer any help. Being a resourceful man, the soldier teaches a family to make stone soup. He claims to have a magical soup stone and asks only for a pot full of water in which to cook. As the “soup” cooks, he mentions various seasonings and vegetables that would make the soup taste good. The family finds that they indeed have a few things to add to the pot. Finally they add some meat, rabbits freshly caught, and there is enough food to feed everyone. The soldier graciously gives the woman the soup stone to repay her kindness in sharing her table. As he travels to the next village the next day, he finds another soup stone along the road.
Rhymes, Special Phrases, Flavor: The soldier himself creates the special flavor or rhythms of the story. His creation of the soup is like a magic trick, and his patter is what distracts the observers of the trick from noticing that they are the ones making the soup.
Audience: 3-5 years old
Why is this story appropriate for audience?
Erik Erikson and Maslow agree that young children need their primary physical needs such as food and shelter satisfied before they can progress. This story is about how an adult seeks to satisfy these needs. It is important to children to learn to share. In the story, the villagers do not want to share, but in the end they all benefit from sharing their food. Erikson notes that 3-6 year olds are beginning to develop a sense of social responsibility. Sharing our resources is one way to be responsible for each other. Charlotte Huck and Erikson both emphasize the importance of imagination at this age. The idea of a traveling soldier or even of a village may be new to some children at this age. The idea of soup that comes from stones requires even more imagination. I think it is important for kids to hear about cooking and how food is made. If I were telling this story to my own kids, we certainly would follow the recipe along with the story (except maybe no rabbit). Listing vegetables in the story is a good way to talk about food.
Stone Soup: An Old Tale. Told and pictured by Marcia Brown. New York: Charles Scribner’s
Sons, 1947. (French)
“The Old Woman and the Tramp.” Clever Cooks: A Concoction of Stories, Charms, Recipes and Riddles. Compiled by Ellin Greene. Illus. By Trina S. Hyman. New York: Lothrop, Lee, Shepherd and Co., 1973. (Swedish)
“Boiled Axe.” Baba Yaga’s Geese, and Other Russian Stories. Transl. and adapted by Bonnie
Carey. Illus. by Guy Fleming. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973. (Russian)
Marcia Brown’s Stone Soup was originally the story I wanted to tell. It is the one I grew up hearing and I like it best. However, properly told, the story runs about 10 minutes or more. I decided to tell “The Soup Stone” because it is easier to tell more succinctly. In Stone Soup I like the images of the peasants hiding all their food: putting carrots under red quilts, and lowering jugs of milk down into wells. And then the repetition of retrieving the food from the hiding places. I like the feasting and dancing after the soup is ready.
One detail I like about “The Soup Stone” is that the soldiers already has the stone in his pocket, and he picks up a new one as he leaves town. Clearly he earns his food by teaching people how to share … their food with him. He has his act down pat. The villagers in this version seem to be more truly in need than those in Stone Soup. The former have less to add than the latter who have aprons full of carrots. The soldiers teaches the family to make the most of what they already have.
“The Old Woman and the Tramp” is a very different story in tone. A traveler wishes to stay the night at an old woman’s house, and she is very reluctant to offer any hospitality. I don’t find this story to be appropriate for the younger audience because I am uncomfortable with the dynamic that exists between the pushy tramp and the stingy woman. He tricks her into feeding him- there is no larger lesson of sharing food with a community or family. The story is quite funny for an older audience. The tramp has quirky little rhymes and sayings: “He who far and wide does roam sees many things not know at home; and he who many things has seen has wits about him and senses keen.” The pattern of adding ingredients to the pot is similar to Stone Soup and even shares some of the same phrases. For example when the tramp and the soldiers respectively wish they had barley and milk to add to the soup, they both claim to have made soup like this for the king. The tramp and the soldiers are both given fine beds to sleep in, and both tales end with “Such men don’t grow on every bush.”
The Russian version is most similar to the story of the tramp. It is curt and amusing, featuring an impatient traveler and a cranky, half-deaf old woman. In this story the traveler makes kasha from an axe. This version has the funniest ending: after they have eaten all the kasha, the old woman asks who will now eat the axe. The traveler pokes the axe with his fork and declares that it isn’t quite done, and must be boiled another day.