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Folk Tale

Patience Burmese Folk Tale: The Old Alchemist       https://sites.google.com/site/valueslessons

Once upon a time, there was an old man whose daughter was married to a handsome young lad. The young couple led a happy life, except for one problem: the new husband spent all his time dreaming of a way to turn dirt into gold. 
In those days people who did this were known as alchemists. Soon enough, he used up all of his inheritance, and his young wife had to struggle to buy food each day. Desperate and hungry, she begged her husband to find a job.

"But I am on the verge of a breakthrough!" he insisted. "When I succeed in turning dirt into gold, we'll be rich beyond our wildest dreams!"
Finally the desperate young wife went to her father about the problem. He was surprised to learn that his son-in-law was an alchemist, but he promised to help. He asked to see him the next day.

The young man arrived reluctantly, expecting a scolding. To his surprise, his father-in-law confided in him, "When I was young I, too, was an alchemist!"
The father-in-law asked about the young man's work, and the two of them spent the whole afternoon deep in conversation. Finally the old man cried, "Why, you have done everything I did when I was your age! You are surely on the verge of a breakthrough. But you need one more ingredient in order to change dirt into gold, and I have only recently discovered this secret." The old man paused. "Unfortunately I am too old to undertake the task," he confessed. "It requires much hard work, and a great deal of patience."
"I can do it!" cried the young man.
"Hmm, perhaps you can," said the old man. He leaned over and whispered, "The secret ingredient is a silver powder that grows on the back of banana leaves. You must plant the bananas yourself because it's important that you cast certain spells on the seeds. Then when the plant grows, the powder on the leaves will become magical."
"How much powder do we need?" the young man asked.
"Two pounds," the old man replied.
The son-in-law thought out loud. "Why, that would require hundreds of banana plants!"
"Yes," sighed the old man, "and that is why I cannot complete the work myself. You will need to work hard and be patient."
"Do not fear!" said the young man, "I will!" And so the old man taught his son-in-law the magic spells and loaned him enough money to start the project.

The next day, the young man bought some land and cleared it. He planted the banana seeds, just as the old man had told him to do, and murmured over them the magic spells. Each day he watered the seedlings, keeping weeds and pests away. When the plants bore fruit he gently brushed the silver powder from the banana leaves, but there was scarcely any powder on each plant. So the young man bought more land and grew more bananas. 

It took several years, but finally he collected two pounds of the magic dust. He rushed to his father-in-law's house.
"I have the magic powder!" he cried with excitement.
"Wonderful!" rejoiced the old man. "Now I can show you how to turn dirt into gold! But first you must bring your wife here. We need her."
The young man was puzzled, but obeyed. 

When his wife appeared, the old man asked his daughter, "While your husband was collecting the banana powder, what did you do with the bananas?" 
"Why I sold them," the daughter said, "and that's how we've earned a living."
"Did you manage to save any money?" asked the father.
"Yes," she replied. 

"May I see it?" asked the old man. So his daughter hurried home and returned with several bags. The old man opened them and saw that they were full of gold. He poured the coins on the floor. Then he took a handful of soil and put it next to the gold.
"You see," he said, turning to his son-in-law, "With hard work and much patience, you have changed dirt into gold! See, you have become rich beyond your wildest dreams!" 

Source: http://www.storiestogrowby.com/stories/old_alchemist_burma_myanmar.html  Image source: http://www.clipartbest.com/cliparts/jix/oRB/jixoRBRAT.jpeg


Optional Colouring In: A picture of a banana palm is found at:  http://www.clker.com/cliparts/9/d/2/9/1237915017466196499warszawianka_Banana_tree.svg.hi.png

Discussion Questions

1. Do you think the father really was an alchemist when he was young? (Probably. He understood enough about it to talk for an afternoon.)
2. Do you think the son-in-law knew his wife had bags of gold hidden in the house? (No; he gasped when he saw them)
3. How do you think the son-in-law felt when he saw the bags of gold? (Surprised, happy)
4. Do you think he resented his father-in-law for deceiving him, or was grateful to him? (Probably both)
5. Would he have worked as patiently and as hard if he was just an ordinary banana grower? Why?
6. What may have happened to the young man if the father-in-law hadn't tricked him into growing bananas? 
7. What can we learn about patience from this story?