17 Camels

10 Aug

An old Bedouin was approaching his final days and wanted to leave his wealth to his three sons. The oldest would get the most, while the youngest would get the least.

The father’s wealth was his camel herd, all 17 of them. When his day came and he passed away, the three sons gathered to learn how his wealth would be distributed.

JAISALMER, INDIA - NOVEMBER 15,2008: Silhouette of local people and camels at sunset on November 15,2008 in Thar desert near Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India.They were informed that their father left the oldest son half of his camels, the middle son one third of the camel herd, and the youngest son one-ninth.

Immediately they began to cry and complain. “What is half of 17 camels,” said the oldest son. “How am I supposed to divide 17 camels into thirds?” wailed the middle son. “How will I take 1/9 of the camel herd?” cried the youngest son.

What were they supposed to do?

Then the old man’s best friend walked one of his camels into the herd. “I heard you complaining about the division of your father’s property and thought I could help.”

“What can you do, old man?” scoffed the oldest boy.

“Well, let’s see,” said the friend. “You now have 18 camels in the herd. Your father left you half of them, so you would take 9, right?”

“Yes, I suppose so,” said the son.

“Fine, and the middle son gets 1/3 of them, or 6, no?”

“That is true, said the boy.

“And the youngest gets 1/9 of the camels, or 2, correct?”

“Yes,” said the youngest son.

“So,” the old friend continued, “the oldest gets 9, the middle takes 6, and the youngest receives 2 camels, for a total of 17 animals. That leaves my camel left over, which I will happily take back.”

The sons were astonished, because what seemed clearly impossible was actually not!

By looking at the problem differently, they were able to resolve the distribution of wealth.

Moral: If you confine yourself to thinking inside the box, you will be missing some creative solutions.


P.S. Thank-you to my colleagues at the Nevada Mediation Group for sharing this wonderful tale.

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