Contradiction or solution… the story of the eighteenth camel

 Photograph: Alamy, guardian.co.uk
Photograph: Alamy, guardian.co.uk

Impossibility? contradictions? solutions? Could they all be the same? I came across that story a god few times now and still I’m laughing my eyes out each time… contradictions as solutions? such a great concept… So what’s up with that eighteenth camel…

As the sunset was setting down over a valley, somewhere in the East, a man, rich of 17 camels laid on his death bed. His last breath dancing above, he called his eldest son and murmured softly. ‘Son, he said, you will have half of my camels, your second brother will have a third, and the youngest a ninth.’ With these words exhaled, the old man closed his eyes at peace…
Peace was far from being the world of the three sons as the following days passed by. Dividing the inheritance had been impossible, the three brothers arguing more and more as none of them could divide 17 either by two, three or nine. Anger rising up, the three sons decided on consulting the village wise woman. They boiled the mint tea as she listened to them. They drank it slowly as she pondered over their words. They offered a few dates as the day slid onto darkness. ‘Here, Sons of the old man’, she finally said, ‘come back in the morning and see what happens if you take my camel.’ So they came back the following morning, confusingly taking the wise woman’s camel, and out of the 18 camels, the oldest took half of them, that is nine. The middle son took a third of them, that is six. And the youngest one took a ninth of them, that is two… And they looked around at that single camel left out, they recounted… they each had their shared, and humbly they gave the wise woman her camel back.

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