The Seven Happy Villagers
Seven happy villagers decided to take a day off from work to go fishing. They lined up in the morning at the edge of the village. They told the wife of one of the men who walked with them, "Tell all the people to start their fires early, and bake yams and bread in the coals. We will bring fish enough for everyone in the village to eat. We will hold a celebration for the great day we intend to have. It is good to celebrate being alive!"
The wife was kind enough to count the men before they left the village to make certain that everyone was there. "One-two-three-four-five-six-seven! Yes, you are all here! Please enjoy your day. Everyone will be gathered for a celebration when you return."
Off, the villagers went, along a jungle path from the village to a special place where they liked to fish on the banks of their favorite river. They fished, and they played, just like they were young again. They had fun fishing all day.
Late afternoon, the eldest suggested, "It is time to go home. I am hungry, and I know the fires will be ready for our celebration. Everyone will be happy to see the fish we bring for dinner." He had been the leader of this group of friends ever since they had been young. "Before we go, we should once again count ourselves to see that we are all still here," he said.
He lined up his friends and began to count, "One-two-three-four-five-six! Six! Only Six! One of us is missing! Oh, no!" he said out loud. "We were seven when we left, and now we are only six. One of us must have fallen into the river and drowned." He had forgotten to count himself.
"That cannot be correct," said the second eldest. "You must be mistaken. I do not recall anyone falling into the river. Let me count everyone." He lined the other men up in a row and counted, "One-two-three-four-five-six! Six! Only Six! You are right! One of us is missing! We were seven when we left, and now we are only six. One of us must have fallen into the river and drowned." He also forgot to count himself.
All of the villagers dived into the river, trying to find the missing person who had fallen in. When they could find no one in the river, they came out and stood on the bank and lined up once more.
"This time I shall count,"said the third oldest. "One-two-three-four-five-six! Six! Only Six! One of us is still missing! We were seven when we left, and now we are only six. Our celebration will be ruined. One of our families will be very sad. We need to decide who drowned, so we know which of our wives to tell."
While the men stood sadly talking and shaking their heads, a very old man came by. "What troubles you on such a beautiful day?" he asked. "It looks like a good day for fishing and for celebrating being alive."
"That is the problem," answered one of the villagers. "We were seven when we left the village to go fishing. We planned to hold a celebration when we returned home. Now there are only six of us. One of us must have drowned. We cannot celebrate when one of us is no longer alive."
"Let me do the counting," said the old man. He lined the villagers up and counted, "One-two-three-four-five-six-seven! You are all here! Now, you can go home and celebrate."
"You must join us," said the eldest, and everyone agreed. "You saved one of our lives!" Then the old man joined the seven villagers. In the end, there were eight happy villagers returning home. It was a good day to celebrate being alive.
Note: This story is from the island of Luzon in the Philippine Islands. Variations of this folktale are told all over the world, including The Wise Men of Gotham from England.
Dr. Mike Lockett is an educator, storyteller and children's author from Normal, IL. Dr. Lockett has given more than 4000 programs across the USA and as far away as eastern Asia. Contact Mike by writing to Mike@mikelockett.com in order to book him for a storytelling program or young authors program or to inquire about purchasing his books and CDs.