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The Patient Ox (aka Hénock Gugsa)

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** TPO **
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Jean-Baptiste, the Farmer/Trader - by TPO


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Jean-Baptiste, the Farmer/Trader *
(A folk tale from Lorraine in Northeast France)*
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In days of yore, in France as elsewhere in the world, the economy or business activity of societies was not very sophisticated because money was scarce.  Everything was done at a very basic level of simple barters or trade exchanges.  Farmers were traders, and there were no middle men because the exchanges were made directly between the farmers at the market place or village fair.

So then to our story … there once was a poor farmer named Jean-Baptiste and his wife Marguerite who worked hard and lived humbly at their little farm in the countryside. 

One day, Marguerite said to her husband, "Jean-Baptiste, we are so poor this year that we won't pull through at all unless you go and do a little trading at the market.  I hear that farmers go there and do some business and are prospering nicely.  Even our neighbor has become wealthy and has money."

But her husband protested, "But dear Marguerite, you know that I don't know how to trade." 

"Don't say that, darling.  Trading is not all that difficult, all you need to do is exchange what we have for what we don't have."

"I tell you I'll do a bad job of it, and you will be angry with me … and you'll stop speaking to me."

"My dear husband, I know that we'll not always succeed in our efforts, but nothing can stop us from trying.  We have a cow ... go take her to the market and do some trading.  After that, we'll see how we have done."

So, Jean-Baptiste took the cow out of the barn and set off on his way to the market.  He had not gone very far when he ran into another peasant who was dragging a goat behind him.

> Hey, Jean-Baptiste, where are you headed?
> I’m on my way to do some trading at the market.  But I don’t know how I’ll do there.
> That is not complicated at all.  What will you be bartering there, my lad?
> My wife wants me to trade our cow.
> Well … you don’t have to go any further.  I’ll trade my goat for your cow right here and right now.

Jean-Baptiste reflected on the matter.  He took his hat (his beret) off, and scratched his head.  Then, he said, “Good, agreed.  It’s a deal.”

Decisively and on the spot, he bartered the cow for the goat and resumed his journey.  While trudging through a long stretch of land, he came across a peasant who was carrying a goose in his arm.

“And where may you be headed, Jean-Baptiste?” The peasant inquired.
> I’m going to the fair to trade my goat.
> Ah!  So you barter, do you?  And what do you have to trade as such?
> Well, to start with, I traded my cow for this goat.  Now I’m going to barter this goat.
> Alright then, you are doing really well.  The more one trades, the better one gets in business.  Would you care to trade your goat for my goose?

Jean-Baptiste agreed, and the two exchanged their animals.  Our hero set off again on his way to the market … but this time, with a goose in his arm.  A bit further down the road, he met a man carrying a rooster in a basket.  Pretty much in the same fashion, Jean-Baptiste bartered again and he traded the goose for the rooster.

At long last, he arrived at the village and, just at the entrance, he observed an old woman who was collecting dung in the street.

He asked the woman, “Do you ever make money from that?”
“Enough,” she replied.
“Would you trade the dung for my rooster?”

The old woman did not hesitate for a second, and they right away exchanged their possessions.  Quite content with his trading so far, Jean-Baptiste arrived at the main fair where he met his wealthy neighbor.

> Hey, there you are, Jean-Baptiste.  Did your bartering go well?
> Oh that, yes.  I traded my cow for a goat.
> But, what is Marguerite going to say about that?
> She will be content.  But that’s not all.  After that, I traded my goat for a goose, and the goose for a rooster.
> You parted with your cow for just that … you have been doing some strange trading.  Are you sure Marguerite will be happy?
> I tell you she will be quite content.  I’m very certain of it.
> She must not be a difficult person to please then.  But me, I would not want to be in your shoes when you return home tonight.
> Hold on, that’s not all.  Later, I bartered the rooster for the dung that I have here with me.
> Well, okay.  I won’t say anything more.  If your wife does not get mad this time, I will have seen everything.
> Marguerite will be quite happy.
> Really?  Well, I doubt that.
> That’s because you do not know her like I do.
> Well then let’s bet on it.
> How much?
> I’ll bet you two-hundred francs.  If she gives you trouble, you’ll pay me.  If she does not, it will be me who pays up.
> Alright.  Agreed!

So, they both together returned to Jean-Baptiste’s farm and entered his cottage.

> Well, Jean-Baptiste, did you do good business?
> Of-course, my Cherié.  I traded our cow for a goat.
> So much the better.  We don’t have enough hay for a cow anyway.  But it will be enough for a goat; and what’s more, the goat will give us some milk.
> Yes, but then I bartered the goat for a goose.
> Very good.  Just what I've wanted … I’ll have enough feathers for our pillows.
> Yes, but then I traded the goose for a rooster.
> That’s very good indeed.  I have noticed that we oversleep in the morning.  It could wake us up at a good, early hour in the morning.  That would give us an extra hour for our work!
> But, then finally, I bartered the rooster for this dung that I brought home with me.
> Even better.  It is needed in our garden.  My flowers will grow and bloom so well, and I will be able to make beautiful bouquets.

The neighbor had heard enough.  He said, “Here are your two-hundred francs, Jean-Baptiste.  But, above all promise me, don’t ever trade your wife for anything.  You will never find anything to equal her worth!”
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*Source : Vary, Andrée , “Les Trocs de Jean-Baptiste”, Contes et Légendes de France, National Text book Company, 1993 
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*Revised, adapted, and translated from the French original by: Hénock Gugsa
 

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"To have respect for ourselves guides our morals; and to have a deference for others governs our manners."
Lawrence Sterne (1713 - 1768)
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