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Saturday, 19 January 2013

Saturday Rave: stone soup.

This is a special sort of a story, and one that hasn't featured on The Word Den before. Verrsions of it are told all over Europe, where it's sometimes called Axe Soup and sometimes Nail Soup.

It goes more or less like this:

A poor man stops beside a village road, where he makes a fire and puts on it a pot containing some water and a large stone.

Well, naturally a whole series of villagers come along to ask him what on earth he's doing. He tells each of them that he's making some delicious stone soup, and that they're welcome to share it once it's done.

The villagers are naturally intrigued, and so when the poor man  remarks that it's a pity he's not got an onion or a bunch of parsley or a potato or two to add to the stone soup so it'll be just perfect, they nip off to get them to help the miracle along.

You can see where this is going, can't you.

Now, whether the moral of this story is that it's easy and clever to fool country folk, or that it's all right to cheat people as long as you only take a small portion of what they possess, I'm not quite sure.

But at least everyone ends up glowing with the satisfaction caused by full tummies, communal eating, and helping others.

Whether this tale counts a story or merely a joke, I'm not sure, but the Portuguese version takes place near Almeirim, and many restaurants in Almeirim serve stone soup, or sopa de pedra to this day: so if it's a joke, then presumably it's the dentists of Almeirim that have the last laugh.

Now, not many tales change the world, but this one has. In the Second World War General Patton used the "rock soup method" as a way of getting troops into positions in which he had been  ordered not to place them. The first troops would be sent forward as scouts, the next lot would be sent to beat off any attack on them, and so on until he had advanced a whole army. 

This rock soup method was used when the US Army was halted near Metz during Operation Market Garden.

Word To Use Today: soup. This is an ancient word, versions of which have been found as the Late Latin suppa, Old French soupe, Middle High German suppe and Old Norse soppa.


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