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Old Woman Truth

Once upon a time, long long ago, there was a man and he was deeply unhappy.

He looked at his life and counted up his blessings.
he had a wife, she was nice enough.
He had four nice children who were well behaved.
he had a job, not a great job but it paid the bills.
They had a house, not a big house, but enough space for them all to live in.

yet still, he was deeply unhappy. He sat one day pondering this, and he was struck by the answer.
He ran to his wife and said
"Wife, I am deeply unhappy"
"Yes husband, I can plainly see that".
"Well", said the husband, "I have figured out what it is. I know what is making me so unhappy. Wife! I have no Truth in my life! Without truth I can never be happy! I must go and seek the truth, and once I find it I can return to our life here, and promise I will be happy the rest of our days together".

The wife nodded in understanding.
"Alright my dear husband, but I do hope you will return to us".
"Of course I will!" he exclaimed and packed a small bag, kissed his children goodbye and went out into the world to find the truth.

He searched in the cities but he didn't find truth there.
he searched in the villages but he didn't find truth there.
He wandered into the wilds but he didn't find truth there.
One day he was passing a crossroads and he heard two people conversing about ahermit who lived at the top of a nearby mountain.

Maybe, thought the man, that they know about the truth.
So the man made his way up the mountain, the going was tough. The climb was steep and the rocks were sharp and cut his feet. he climbed higher and higher, above the cloudline into the cold.

Right before the top of the mountain he found the entrance to a cave. He looked in and saw the ugliest oldest woman he had ever seen. She had only the one tooth in her head and a few strands of hair falling from her head. He cleared his throat.
"Excuse me, but are you Truth?"
The woman looked at him with her milky white eyes and opened her mouth to speak.
"Yes I am Truth" she said.

The man knew she was not lying for her voice was the purest sound he had ever heard. Like the call of a whale, like the climax of a violin, like the laugh of a child it flowed into his ears and filled his heart up.

"Oh please let me sit at your feet and learn from you. I lack truth in my life, please teach me, let me learn how to have truth within me!"

The man was permitted to stay for a year and a day (as it goes in the stories) and he spent all that time asking questions, and feeling his soul grow full and fat on the words of Truth. At the end of his time he got up reluctantly, but happy.

"OH THANK YOU!" he said. "I am so happy now. Now I have truth in me I can be truly happy. But tell me, is there something I can do for you, you have given me so much I would like to do something for you in return!"

The woman thought for a moment, she turned her milky white eyes towards the man and said
"Out there in the world, tell them, tell them that I am young and BEAUTIFUL!"


I found this story in an introduction to a book on World Folklore. The introduction was written, and the book was edited, by jane Yolen. My version has plumped up and changed a little from the original, as stories are want to do. I hope you have enjoyed it!



Tina's picture

The truth

Yes! the truth is ugly isn't it...sometimes. I love how the old woman truth wants to be seen as beautiful though.
I wonder what happens to the man's perceptions of his family after visiting truth. Does he see the beautiful truth there in his life with them too?

Anna Lag's picture


this story makes me smile. why is it that even truth wants to be seen as something it is not?

I think this is story is striking b/c the man actually finds what he is looking for and it is what he feels he needs to be happy. Often we grasp for things we can neither see, need or give us lastly happiness.

anna lag

Rae's picture

Brava! This short story has

Brava! This short story has so many interesting layers. The most interesting to me is that the man finds Truth filling his heart. He describes beautiful sounds. To me, it seems he perceives truth as beautiful. But Truth sees herself as something else. Which is REAL? Which is the TRUTH? It is an ancient tale with a post modern twist. Most excellent!

loyce's picture


I like reading and telling stories!
Thanks for sharing

Follow me on twitter:@livelyloyce

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