One Innocent Farmer

A Chinese rice field, ten farmers in a line, bending over planting out the seedlings, each man wearing a round straw hat. Thunder clouds gathered above them, and the storm broke. Holding their hats on their heads, they ran to the only shelter available, the white-walled ruins of an old temple.

There the storm seemed to gather its force – right above them. Lightning flashed through the dark room, thunder crashed. The ten men looked at each other with fear in their eyes.

“It is the gods; the gods must be angry with one of us. Who can it be? Who is the sinner?”

“If the gods are angry, let the gods show who is the guilty one. Each man must hold his hat out of the window together – then the gods will speak.”

This they did. And the gods spoke – a bolt of lightning flashed down – one hat burst into flames.

“It is him! He is the guilty one! Out with him, out with him!”

“But I am innocent! I have done nothing!”

“Out with him! Out with him!”

Nine pairs of hands seized him – threw him out to the fury of the storm. And as soon as he fell helpless before the storm, the clouds exploded in rage, lightning burst into the temple, flattening the walls, killing the nine inside – leaving lying in the rain the one innocent farmer the gods had spared.

I heard this tale from a German teller, Ingeborg Klink.
A storyteller in Israel, Lois Tzur, tells me that she has a copy in Chinese Fairy Tales, a small volume published by Peter Pauper Press (1946). No source was given in the book.
However, Mo Yan (Nobel Prize in Literature, 2012) ended his acceptance lecture by telling this tale, which he had heard from his grandfather!

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For those who are teachers: Telling stories in the classroom: basing language teaching on storytelling