You are using an outdated browser. For a faster, safer browsing experience, upgrade for free today.

The Flies Who Paid a Debt of Gratitude

Published August 15, 2008
Countries: None
Age Levels: 12 and up

Many years ago in Taiwan, there lived an ordinary man named Wang Wu.  He was a very caring and compassionate man.  He did not believe in harming another individual or animal or any living thing.

Wang Wu was a wine maker.  He grew fruit on trees and turned the fruit into wine.  Some of the fruit and wine, he sold to pay his bills and feed his family.  Some of the money he earned was used to pay his taxes and give to the poor.   Some of his money was saved to educate his children and help the family when he became old.

Whenever Wang Wu pressed the fruit to make wine, many flies swarmed around him.   The greedy flies smelled the fragrance of the wine and were overcome by the smell and often fell into the wine cask.  They would have drowned if not for the kind nature of Wang Wu.

He always carefully drained the liquid and strained out the flies.  He carefully dried each one with ash and when they woke up, he released them to fly away.

Wang Wu did not believe in harming anything that lived.  He followed this belief day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year.

One year, misfortune came to Wang Wu,  Someone lodged a false accusation against him.  The charges were serious, and without even a proper trial, Wang Wu was sentenced to be executed.  He was worried about his family and did not want to die.  He kept repeating that he was innocent, but the authorities did not listen to him.  He became more worried as the date of the execution came nearer.

"Honestly, I am innocent," he said, "But what can I do?"  There was no one to hear him except for a fly on the wall when this comment was made.

Then a strange thing happened.  Before the executioner could carry out the death sentence, he had to sign the warrant of execution.  As he was just about to write the execution statement, thousands of flies appeared out of nowhere and landed on the pen and the executioner's hand, keeping him from signing the death execution statement.

The executioner shook his hand violently and swatted flies.  For every fly that died, more flies appeared and gave up their lives to prevent him from signing the papers to execute Wang Wu.

The executioner was unable to carry out the death sentence without having the proper papers signed.  This might not have been quite so strange if it happened only one time, but time after time, flies appeared out of nowhere and gave up their lives to save the life of Wang Wu.

The officer could not help but ask himself," What's happening?"  Never in all my years have I ever had something so strange happen.  Perhaps someone has unfairly accused this man.  What if this man is innocent?  I had better ask my superior to investigate this case more carefully.

After careful investigation by the executioner's superior, Wang Wu was proven innocent.  He was set free and given back the lands and property that had been taken from him.  The honor of his family was restored.  From then on Wang Wu went back to his ordinary and happy life.  He had been saved by flies who paid their debt of gratitude.

Note:  This story originated in a collection of Buddhist Children's Stories believed to be housed in the White Cloud Cultural Centre, Taipei, Taiwan according to citations from Sydney Australia.  No dates were available except for dates that the story was first told in 581-618 AD.

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 in order to book him for a storytelling program or young authors program or to inquire about purchasing his books and CDs.