The Farmer and the Cow

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The Farmer and the Cow

A Chinese Story by Carol Shields


Once upon a time, there was a farmer called Ah Niu.  Ah Niu was not a rich farmer but he was very happy.  He worked in the fields with his only cow from dawn until dusk.  This provided Ah Niu with vegetables to eat and extra crops which he would sell to the local villagers on market day so that he might buy other foods.

Ah Niu and his cow worked very hard, but they were contented with their simple life and they did not complain as they had everything they needed.

But one year, everything changed.  The rains did not come and the farm land began to dry up and turn to dust.  Because there was no rain, the crops did not grow and Ah Niu had nothing to sell to the villagers, and therefore no money to buy food. 

The poor farmer became very hungry and was forced to sell everything he had inside of his little house in exchange for food so that he could feed himself and his beloved cow.  Ah Niu hoped for the rains to come so that he might return to the fields and resume work.

Several months passed and there was still no rain.  The crops did not grow and Ah Niu and his cow grew more and more hungry.  There was nothing left to sell and so there was no food to eat.

Eventually, Ah Niu could bear the hunger no longer.  The farmer turned to his cow and said, ‘I am very sorry but I am afraid that I might have to eat you.’

The cow looked at Ah Niu and tears started to roll down from its wide eyes.  When Ah Niu saw the tears he became very upset and felt such guilt that he had even suggested eating his faithful cow.  He threw his arms around the cow and said to him, ‘I am so sorry.  I will never suggest such a thing again.  Will you please forgive me?’

The cow nodded his head and was very relieved not to be eaten.

Suddenly it began to rain and the lands turned from dust to rich soil.  The crops began to grow and it was not long before Ah Niu and his faithful cow were back in the fields once more.

When harvest time came around, Ah Niu and his cow were very busy and worked from dawn until dusk in the fields.  They had more crops than ever before and Ah Niu and his cow were happy again.  They gathered the crops and went into the village where they sold their produce to the people gathered in the market.  This gave them money to buy food so that they were no longer hungry.

From that day on, Ah Niu promised that he would never eat beef because his cow was sacred and provided him with milk and helped him work in the fields to provide crops to be eaten and sold for money.