makato and the cowrie shell - short story from thailand
makato and the cowrie shell
once upon a time there was a boy named makato. he was an orphan, and had no friends or family to take care of him. because he had to make his own living he did all kinds of odd jobs: chopping wood, feeding pigs, clearing and cleaning. he didn't mind to work hard, and despite his small wages he was satisfied with his life.
he was only 4 when his mother passed away, but he remembered some stories she had told about the kind-hearted king of sukhotai. ever since he was small he wanted to meet this king. one day, when helping a friend to find food for elephants, he found so many branches that the friend offered him a job to become the assistant of the king's mahout. he worked hard cleaning elephants sheds and finding food. one fine morning makato's patience and hard work got rewarded: he was to accompany the king's elephant an a parade. as the king mounted the beast, in his splendid, shiny costume, he dropped a tiny cowrie shell. makato picked it up and held it out to the king. who told him to keep it.
at the time the people of sukhotai used cowrie shells as money, and although one little cowrie had little value, he wanted to use it wisely. he went to the market to buy seeds, yet quickly realized he could not even buy the smallest bag of seeds, while he noticed a lettuce seed stall.
"lady, if i dip my finger into this pile of seeds, can i take those that stick to my finger for one cowrie? ", he asked. "well why not", replied the sales lady, amused by his suggestion. makato carefully scraped the seeds from his finger and planted them, watering the tiny sprouts daily, until the garden was covered in fresh, green lettuce. proud as he was, he offered to king his first produce.
"where did you get these, my boy? " the king asked surprised, and makato told him the story. he king was impressed by so much intelligence and industry that he offered him a fixed position at the palace.