Nine donkeys — or ten?

by rjs
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Published on: May 5, 2011

Nine Donkeys — or Ten?

Once, when young Nasruddin was a donkey driver — one of the many things Nasruddin did for work in those days — he undertook to transport nine donkeys for delivery to a local farmer.

The donkey broker at the bazaar went through and counted every animal with Nasruddin to ensure they agreed there were nine exactly — no more, no less.

Nasruddin mounted one of the donkeys and shouted, “Ugh-r-r-r!” which is Turkish for “Giddyup!” and they began the journey with Nasruddin riding behind the beasts facing forward, so that he could keep a vigilant eye on his donkeys. Along the way, however, Nasruddin began daydreaming. He thought, “These fine animals will arrive without so much as a scratch or a bruise. No donkeys in all of Turkey have received better treatment than these nine.”

At this point they passed through a grove of trees, and Nasruddin decided it would be good time to count the donkeys.

Still sitting atop one of the animals, Nasruddin counted the donkeys, “One, two, three—” and up to eight! One was missing! “What‽ Only eight donkeys?”

Panic-stricken, Nasruddin jumped down to the ground, looked all around, then counted the donkeys again. This time there were exactly nine.

Relieved but confused, Nasruddin mounted his donkey, this time riding in front, facing backward, so that he could keep both eyes on his donkeys, and they continued on their way.

Eventually Nasruddin’s thoughts wandered, and he began thinking about the money he would receive when he delivered these donkeys, and imagining how he would spend it, and before long, he realized he had been distracted.

He once again stopped his donkey and tallied the animals, but to his dismay he discovered that one had gone missing again — there were only eight!

Bewildered, Nasruddin dismounted again and carefully counted the donkeys. Amazingly, he found there were nine.

“This always happens when I don’t pay attention,” Nasruddin admitted to himself. “Fine, then — I’ll just have to walk behind the donkeys the rest of the way to keep my eyes on these tricksters.” And so that was how he herded the donkeys all the way to the farm.

“Did you have any trouble getting them here?” the farmer asked when Nasruddin arrived, dusty and disheveled from having walked for many miles behind the pack of animals.

“Just up until I discovered the method of donkey-drivers,” choked Nasruddin. “You must travel behind them, not in front or in the middle, and watch vigilantly, lest you lose track. Before I figured that out, the sneaky creatures were full of pranks. So, effendi, count for yourself and tell me: how many donkeys do you see?”

The farmer said, “Apparently, ten — the tenth donkey only has two legs.”

Excerpted from The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin: Stories, Jests, and Donkey Tales of the Beloved Persian Folk Hero

 

Your Daily Nasruddin

This story is very popular and is in many printed collections of Nasruddin stories, varying in details as to the origin, destination, and number of animals that Nasruddin is required to bring to the donkey auction/farmer. Sometimes Nasruddin is depicted as young in this episode, as it may be supposed that transporting asses is a responsibility so menial that only kids are suitable for the job. But the basic story is that Nasruddin is transporting nine donkeys and always forgets to count the one he sits on, thus he becomes perplexed and causes himself needless suffering in accomplishing the task.

If you forget to count the donkey that is (under) yourself, confusion becomes your traveling companion, your vehicle, your path, and your destination. Shift your perspective and count yourself aside, not among, the donkeys.

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