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The Man with the Cocoanuts

Published September 15, 2012
Countries: Philippines
Age Levels: 9 and up

Juan had been working hard for hours.  He had been hired to harvest coconuts for a wealthy man.  He started early in the morning before the sun came up.  He traveled in the dark to get to the grove where the coconuts grew.  All morning he had climbed up and down the cocoanut palms.

He tied his machete a long rope.  Up the tree he climbed.  Pull up the sharp machete on the rope.  He cut the coconuts from their high branches on the tree.  He dropped each coconut to the ground.

Then Juan loaded all of the coconuts into large baskets tied to the back of his horse.  It had been a huge and tiring job.  It should have taken him several days to harvest the fruits.  Yet he was done by the time the sun was at its highest in the sky.  All he had to do was to deliver coconuts to the home of the owner to receive his pay.  Just as Juan started on the road to the owner's house, he saw a young boy.

"How long will it take to reach the owner's house?" asked Juan.

"If you go slowly, said the boy, "you will be there very soon.  But, if you go very fast, you will get there by tomorrow."

"What a foolish boy!" thought Juan.  "That boy is not very smart!"  Then Juan began to hurry down the road.  As he pulled the horse along at a fast speed, coconuts began to fall off the loaded baskets.  Juan had to stop to pick up the coconuts and to adjust the load on the horse's back.

"Now I have lost time," Juan thought.  "I have to hurry to make up for lost time."  More coconuts fell off the top of the full baskets.  Coconuts inside the baskets bounced out and rolled down the hill.  The more Juan tried to hurry, the more cocoanuts fell and rolled away.  Each time, Juan found it more tiring to go after the fallen coconuts, pick them up and reload his horse.

The sun began to set, and Juan saw the owner's house at the top of the hill.  He began to hurry once more.  His hurrying caused the horse to stumble, and coconuts again flew out of the baskets and onto the ground.  This time, the sun set.

Poor Juan.  He could not see the coconuts in the dark and could not deliver them until the next day.  If he had gone slowly, he would have been there soon.  Instead, he hurried too fast and could not deliver the coconuts until the next day.

The boy had not been so foolish after all. 


Dr. Mike Lockett is a storyteller and children's author.  Dr. Lockett lives in Normal, Illinois and is often called The Normal Storyteller.  Contact Dr. Lockett for bookings at  Visit for more stories by Dr. Lockett.  This story was adapted from Phillipine Folktales by Mabel Cook Cole (Chicago, 1916).