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  • Writer's pictureMargaret Read MacDonald

Story of the Month: Not Our Problem

A story from Burma and Thailand retold by Margaret Read McDonald.

Variants may be found in Burmese and Thai Fairy Tales by Eleanor Brockett (Follett, 1965); A Kingdom for a Drop of Honey and Other Burmese Folktales by Maung Htin Aung and Helen G. Trager (Parent’s Magazine Press, 1969); and The Tales from Thailand by Marian Davies Toth (Charles Tuttle, 1971)

The king sat with his advisor, eating honey on puffed rice. As they ate, the leaned from the palace window and watched the street below. They talked of this and that. The king, not paying attention, let a drop of honey fall onto the windowsill. “Oh, sire, let me wipe that up,” offered the advisor. “Never mind,” said the king. “It is not our problem. The servants will clean it later.”

As the two continued to dine on their honey and puffed rice, the drop of honey slowly began to drip down the windowsill. At last it fell with a plop onto the street below. Soon a fly landed on the honey and began its own meal. Immediately a gecko sprang from under the palace, and with the flip of its long tongue, swallowed the fly. But a cat had seen the gecko and pounced. Then a dog sprang forward and attacked the cat!

“Sire, there seems to be a cat-and-dog fight in the street. Should we call someone to stop it? “Never mind,” said the king. “It is not our problem.” So, the two continued to munch their honey and puffed rice.

Meanwhile, the cat’s owner had arrived and was beating the dog. The dog’s owner ran up and began to beat the cat. Soon the two were beating each other.

“Sire, there are two persons fighting in the street now. Shouldn’t we send someone to break this up?” The king lazily looked from the window. “Never mind. It’s not our problem.”

The friends of the cat owner gathered and began to cheer him on. The friends of the dog owner began to cheer her on as well. Soon both groups entered the fight and attacked each other.

“Sire, a number of people are fighting in the street now. Perhaps we should call someone to break this up.” The king was even too lazy to look. You can guess what he said. “Never mind. It is not our problem.”

Now soldiers arrived on the scene. At first, they tried to break up the fighting. But when they heard the cause of the fight, some sided with the cat owner. Others sided with the dog owner. Soon the soldiers too had joined the fight. With the soldiers now involved, the fight erupted into civil war. Houses were burned down. People were harmed. The palace itself was set afire and burned to the ground.

The king and his advisor stood surveying the ruins. “Perhaps I was wrong,” said the king. “Perhaps the drop of honey was our problem.”

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