Once upon a time there was a poor village in a land at war. There came into the small hamlet a company of weary soldiers. Tired and hungry, they encamped in the town near the town square. The villagers trembled, for they had no food to share with these men, and were afraid the men might cause trouble. Soon the small band of men uncovered a gigantic pot and began to lay a fire for it. Trudging back and forth to the town well, they filled the pot with water and set it carefully on the crackling fire. An old woman, peering from behind a shutter, noticed that they had dropped a round stone into the pot. Unable to contain her curiosity, she ventured into the open, approached the cluster of men around the pot, and after looking in the kettle, “What pray tell, are you cooking there?”
The soldiers looked up and replied, “Stone soup, my good woman, a wondrous dish and so, so much better if we were to have a single onion or two to drop herein!” “I am but a poor peasant and have hardly enough to eat for myself,” she answered, “but perhaps there is a sad onion or two on my kitchen shelf”. I will bring them here for your soup if you will share a bowl of your fine repast with me.” They consented, and she quickly disappeared, hungry with anticipation at the meal.
As she returned and added the onions, a querulous old man approached and after looking into the kettle, called out, “What pray tell, are you cooking here?” “Stone soup, my good man, and a right good banquet it is,” they answered, “but how much better it would be if only we had some simple carrot to add.” The poor man shook his head and replied, “I am but a starving peasant, but perhaps my good wife has some carrots hidden away for our last bite of food. I would share them with you if you would share a bowl of your fine soup with me and that good woman.” They nodded appreciatively and awaited the return of the old man, his old wife and the carrots. After a while, return they did, and added their meager bounty to the pot.
They all sat down and waited. A young girl with a small basket full of herbs from the meadow entered the square and joined the group around the large and bubbling pot. She too was persuaded to add her share and she too waited. One by one, the hungry peasants of the village came out to see what the excitement was about. And one by one, they added a few potatoes, a handful of beans, a small green cabbage and a bone.
There soon appeared in their midst the town butcher, who had long since closed his door. Huffing and puffing, and mopping his brow with with a large red handkerchief, he called out, “What is all this commotion? What pray tell, smells so wonderfully good here in this poor village, which has nothing to eat?” “Stone soup, Sir,” said the soldiers, “a creation fit for a king. All that is lacking to gibe it truly proportions is a chicken.”
Oohs and aahs were heard throughout the crowd of hungry peasants. It is said that one old woman fainted from the heavenly nature of the thought. The butcher quietly disappeared. Within a matter of minutes he returned, clutching a scrawny chicken, his very last, and dropped it, with applause from the crowd, into the pot.
There was a great merriment in the town that night. It had been a long time since they had laughed and sung and danced – and a very long time since they had eaten so well. In the morning when the town awoke, the soldiers had packed up their pot and left the village, leaving behind only the stone.
They marched all day and in the evening entered another small town. They uncovered their gigantic pot and set about laying a for for it. A nervous old man approached them and asked, “What pray tell, are you cooking there?” The soldiers looked up and replied, “Stone soup, my good man, a wondrous dish and so, so much better if we were to have a single onion or two to drop herein!”