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The Story of the Taoist Farmer

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Version 1

This farmer had only one horse, and one day the horse ran away.  The neighbors came to console over his terrible loss.  The farmer said, "What makes you think it is so terrible?"

A month later, the horse came home - this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses.  The neighbors became excited at the farmer's good fortune.  Such lovely strong horses!  The farmer said, "What makes you think this is good fortune?"

The farmer's son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg.  All the neighbors were very distressed.  Such bad luck!  The farmer said, "What makes you think it is bad?"

A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle . Only the farmer's son, because he had a broken leg, remained.  The neighbors congratulated the farmer.  "What makes you think this is good?" said the farmer.

author - most likely some wise old Taoist dude

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Version 2

A man named Sei Weng owned a beautiful mare which was praised far and wide.  One day this beautiful horse disappeared.  The people of his village offered sympathy to Sei Weng for his great misfortune.  Sei Weng said simply, "That's the way it is."

A few days later the lost mare returned, followed by a beautiful wild stallion.  The village congratulated Sei Weng for his good fortune.  He said, "That's the way it is."

Some time later, Sei Weng's only son, while riding the stallion, fell off and broke his leg.  The village people once again expressed their sympathy at Sei Weng's misfortune.  Sei Weng again said, "That's the way it is."

Soon thereafter, war broke out and all the young men of the village except Sei Weng's lame son were drafted, and later killed in battle.  The village people were amazed as Sei Weng's good luck. His son was the only young man left alive in the village.  But Sei Weng kept his same attitude: despite all the turmoil, gains and losses, he always gave the same reply, "That's the way it is."

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Version 3

A man who lived on the northern frontier of China was skilled in interpreting events.  One day, for no reason, his horse ran away to the nomads across the border.  Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, "What makes you so sure this isn't a blessing?" 

Some months later his horse returned, bringing a splendid nomad stallion.  Everyone congratulated him, but his father said, "What makes you so sure this isn't a disaster?"  

Their household was richer by a fine horse, which his son loved to ride.  One day he fell and broke his hip.  Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, "What makes you so sure this isn't a blessing?"

A year later the nomads came in force across the border, and every able-bodied man took his bow and went into battle.  The Chinese frontiersmen lost nine of every ten men.  Only because the son was lame did the father and son survive to take care of each other.  

Truly, blessing turns to disaster, and disaster to blessing:  the changes have no end, nor can the mystery be fathomed.

The Lost Horse, Chinese Folktale.

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