Narrated by Captain Dejene Washaka
Once there lived a poor man. He wanted his son to marry a rich man’s daughter and he asked her hand in marriage. The wealthy man refused because he was poor. He insisted.
“Can you solve riddles?” the wealthy man asked him.
“Yes, I can.”
“All right. I will give you three riddles and I want the answers by tomorrow.”
The three riddles were:
“A farmer has three cows. One of the cows is milked standing in the normal way. The second is milked while she kneels. The third one is milked while sitting. What does this mean?”
He couldn’t answer.
“Let me ask my wife.”
“All right. Go and ask her,” the wealthy man said.
But she couldn’t answer either.
“Go and ask for three or four days to think about it (a postponement).”
Just then a beggar woman appeared and said, “In the name of God, please give me something to eat.”
“We have no time to give you food, go away,” the poor man said. “We’re trying to solve the wealthy man’s riddle. Go away.”
“May I hear the riddle, please?” the beggar woman asked.
“How can you solve it, you’re just a poor beggar with nothing to eat.”
“Trust me. Just let me hear it,” she insisted.
So he told her.
“It’s easy,” she said. “The first one is, the cow belongs to a wealthy man. A poor man looks after the cow of the wealthy man, takes her to pasture and to drink and so on. He helps her in childbirth, and he gets the advantage of the milk for his children by so doing. He’s always worried, thinking that some day the wealthy man will come and take the cow. That’s why he does it so quickly, because he worries that the wealthy man will take it.
The second one has half confidence – maybe he will take her or maybe not. Because the cow is common for both. We have bought the cow together.
The third one, sitting, he milks her while sitting, so the cow is his and no one can come and claim it, he can relax and milk it in peace.”
So the beggar woman told him this. The man had already told the wealthy man he didn’t know the answer so he took the beggar with him and said she had provided him with the answer.
“Do you have a son?” asked the wealthy man.
“I will give my daughter to him.”
After that the beggar woman became part of the rich man’s family.
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