The Old Man, the Boy, and the Mule

Context: I collected this from a friend on a trip over Spring Break, after he’d heard me talking about folklore with another friend I was collecting from.

Background: This is a story that my friend read when he was learning to speak Mandarin as a child.

Dialogue: This old guy and his young son are on their way to the market, and they’re riding a mule and taking all their stuff with them. They start off, uh, the, the young guy, er, the… The old man is walking alongside the mule and the young, the young boy is sitting on the mule, and as they walk by a group of people, they overhear the people, like, criticizing— er, like, gossiping about them, criticizing: “Why is the, why is the young guy riding the mule and forcing the old guy to walk?” So the, the pair hear this, and don’t really wanna be judged, so they switch places. And so the old guy starts to ride the mule, and the young guy starts to walk, um… And, so then, they, as— They keep going, and they pass another group of people, um, and, they overhear some more gossip. These people are like, “Wha- Why is the, why is the old guy not letting the, the young boy ride the mule? How selfish is he?” And so, at that point, they… switch again, cuz of, after overhearing those people, um… So then they keeping going for a bit… And then they walk past another group of people and they overhear some more gossip, er, some more, um, talk. And these are like, “Wow, look at those two, they’re forcing that mule to carry so much stuff, poor mule!” Uh, so, at that point, the two decide to, they basically start carrying the mule on the way to the market.

Analysis: The friend who told me this story said that the moral he gained from hearing it was to avoid letting judgment from others affect your own actions. According to him, this is an older story that he read as a a way of learning more Mandarin. I would agree with him about the story’s moral, but I’d like to compare his delivery to that of the original.

Annotation: Upon further research, it was found that this is one of Aesop’s Fables. The moral given in the strict Aesop version is “Please all, and you will please none.” This was very enlightening to me, since it showed how differently the story appeared to my friend once it reached him as a child.