The Farmer’s Fun-Loving Daughter
A Folktale from the British Isles
Original version by Taffy Thomas, adapted by Karen Chace
There once was a farmer who lived in an enormous house with 131 rooms. He had two sons and a daughter. The sons were intelligent, hard-working chaps, and the daughter, although she was smart as well and helped with the chores on the farm, she was more inclined to slip away to meet her friends and was known as the farmer’s fun-loving daughter.
Now the farmer was in the autumn of his years, and he knew he needed to make plans; he loved all three of his children equally but had to decide who would inherit the land and farm. He thought for many days and nights and finally, he knew what to do. He called for his lawyer and asked him to add a special, secret section to his will and when all was done, he sent the lawyer away.
Far too soon the day came when the farmer passed peacefully away. People came from miles around to pay tribute to the kind, old farmer for he was well-loved. After the service in the churchyard the family and friends went back to the farm to have something to eat and share stories of their dear friend. Everyone stayed long after they should have gone, for they were curious and wanted to know which of the children would inherit the farm.
When the lawyer gathered the three children together for the reading of the will a hush fell over group. He began, “Upon my passing each of my children will receive one gold coin. With this coin each one must buy something to fill every room in the house from floor to ceiling. The one who succeeds will inherit the house and the farm.”
The lawyer was barely finished when the eldest son jumped up out of his chair, ran to the barn, tackled up his horse and wagon and set off. He drove all through the countryside buying every secondhand mattress he could find. When he arrived home, everyone stepped outside to watch as he carried each one into the house. Then he took out his knife, slit each mattress open and began filling every room from floor to ceiling with…feathers. When he was done, he turned to the lawyer and said, “I’ve done it! I have filled each room from floor to ceiling with feathers.”
“Well,” said the lawyer, “It is my duty to check every room in the house.” And so, he went from room to room, noticing that each one was indeed full, but it took him so long to visit all the rooms, by the time he came to the last one the feathers had settled and there was a gap between the top of the feathers and the ceiling. So, the oldest son had failed.
Now the second son rode away and returned sometime later. While he was gone everyone rushed to remove the feathers from the house. They finished just in time as the second son returned. Jumping off his horse he withdrew a small cardboard box full of candles from his saddlebag. He set a candle in the middle of each room, struck a match, and lit each one. When he was finished, he announced “I have done it. I have filled every room from floor to ceiling with…light.”
“Not so fast,” said the lawyer and once again he set out to check every room. But it took so long that by the time he reached the last room the candle had burned down, and the room was in darkness. So, he too had failed.
That left the farmer’s fun-loving daughter. She smiled as she waved goodbye and set out on foot with her gold coin. They watched her walk down the winding, dirt road until she disappeared around the bend. Everyone waited impatiently, whispering among themselves, “What will she bring?” “She can’t carry much, she is traveling on foot, with no horse or wagon.” “She’ll stop at a party and forget all about us.”
As the sun began to settle low in the sky, they saw her walking back down the road. She didn’t seem to be carrying anything at all. When she finally stepped into the house, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a penny whistle. Everyone looked confused. “A penny whistle?” “Surely she is joking.”
With a smile still on her face she sat down cross-legged in the hall, lifted the penny whistle to her lips and began to play a lively tune. The lawyer watched as the people began to smile and laugh, some tapped their feet, and others began to dance.
At the end of the tune the lawyer said, “That’s very lovely but you haven’t filled the house.”
“Oh, dear sir, I have indeed filled the house, not once, not twice, but three times. First, I filled every room from floor to ceiling with…music. Second, the people started to smile and dance, so I filled every room with…joy. And if you put music and joy together then you have…life. So even at the time of my own father’s passing, I filled every room in his house with life. I think he would pleased.”
Everyone, including the lawyer and her brothers, were so impressed they all agreed that she should indeed inherit the farm. And the farmer’s fun-loving daughter lived a long and happy life, sharing her riches with her brothers and anyone in need.
And that is what I wish for all of you at Christmas time and throughout the year, that your homes will be filled with music, joy, and life.
Thanks to Karen Chace, a professional storyteller who provides, at my request, a heartwarming and challenging story about giving every Christmas season.
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