Best of: The Singing Horse Parable

As I am on the road, I give you one of my favorite postings about financial advice Advice: Best Financial Advice Ever Given. I like this story for many reasons but specifically:

  • It is my father’s advice at it’s best, not preaching and always causes me to think.
  • It shows the importance of parents to talk to their children about money and their views on money.

Advice: Best Financial Advice Ever Given

My parents have been very helpful in my life, both financially, but also with very wise advice, and with that in mind, I’d like to share you a story my father told me (kind of a parable):

There once was a court jester who enjoyed a good joke, usually at the expense of the King, which got the Jester into deep trouble. One day the Jester was having a particularly “devilish” day and insulted the Queen in a large public forum. The King was OUTRAGED by this and ordered the Jester executed for his insolence and the guards dragged the Jester off to the dungeons.

Hours passed and the Jester (who was a quick thinking man) thought how can I get myself out of this mess? Finally the door to his dungeon opened and the guards dragged him back to the King. The King said, “I have enjoyed your buffooneries over the years, so I will give you one wish before I put you to death for your crimes.”.

The Jester thought what could he wish? Then he came up with a plan, he knew that the King adored his horses so he came up with the following, “Sire, all I ask is that you give me a year’s reprieve, and during that time, I will teach your horses to Sing! This will make you the envy of all other monarchs. If at the end of this year I am unable to get your horses to Sing you can execute me in any gruesome fashion you wish.”. The King looked perplexed and then confused, but finally he thought that he had nothing to lose, he would either be the envy of Europe or the Jester would be executed, either way was fine by him.

The guards then took the Jester towards the Royal stable, when one of the Guards asked the Jester, “Why would you make such an obviously impossible deal, surely you know no one can get a horse to sing?”

The Jester smiled and whispered to the guard, “Many things can transpire in a year my friend, I could die and thus I have cheated the executioner… the King could die and I might get a reprieve… or the horses could sing!”

My Dad told me this story after we discussed payments schemes for money he was loaning me to buy my first house. What was he telling me? I’ll leave that to you gentle reader, as usual with a story from my Dad, you get from it, what you think, not necessarily what he thinks you should.


{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Bet Crooks March 19, 2013, 6:04 PM

    Any good lawyer should be able to argue that the horses are singing, whether they sound like it to a human or not…..

    There’s a version of this tale where the jokester is Nasrudin although in that version the king is a Sultan.

    • bigcajunman March 19, 2013, 8:11 PM

      Well, the story was not written by my Dad, he just liked the story (and it fit nicely)

  • Gene March 12, 2008, 9:40 PM

    I love it. It’s incomprehensible, but I love it.

    Here’s what I take from it: “Many things can transpire in a year” (well, it could be any time period). There’s a good chance the king will forgive the jester. He could go to war and forget the jester, or the jester might become an excellent stable hand and prove his usefulness in some other way.

    How this applies to your father loaning you money, I do not know. Perhaps he was gently advising you to have a contingency plan in place. Dave Ramsey would say to have three to six months living expenses in place as an emergency fund. This would cover a lot of the bad surprises.

    Maybe he was telling you “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry,” so be careful when you borrow money. Of course, your father is likely to be more forgiving than a guy behind the pool hall when it comes to loans.

    Interesting parable. What did you take from it?


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