hema’s sphere

the pebble story

Posted by hema on September 4, 2007

i tried this my tutor group today to generate discussion and promote problem solving skills. i first came accross this during a seminar on creative thinking. the group that came up with the best solution got chocolate. i can’t offer you that but have a go anyway. i’ll put the conclusion up in a couple of days..

 “Many years ago when a person who owed money could be thrown into jail, a merchant in London had the misfortune to owe a huge sum to a money lender. The money lender, who was old and ugly, fancied the merchant’s beautiful teenage daughter. He proposed a bargain. He said he would cancel the merchant’s debt if he could have the girl instead.

Both the merchant and his daughter were horrified at the proposal. So the cunning money lender proposed that they let Providence decide the matter. He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty moneybag and then the girl would have to pick out one of the pebbles. If she chose the black pebble she would become his wife and her father’s debt would be cancelled. If she chose the white pebble she would stay with her father and the debt would still be cancelled. But if she refused to pick out a pebble her father would be thrown into jail and she would starve.

Reluctantly the merchant agreed. They were standing on a pebble strewn path in the merchant’s garden as they talked and the moneylender stooped down to pick up the two pebbles. As he picked up the pebbles the girl, sharp eyed with fright, noticed that he picked up two black pebbles and put them into the moneybag. He then asked the girl to pick out the pebble that was to decide her fate and that of her father”

Imagine that you are standing on that path in the merchant’s garden. What would you have done if you had been the unfortunate girl? If you had had to advise her what would you have advised her to do?

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17 Responses to “the pebble story”

  1. ymiss said

    I would pretend to bend down to tie my shoe or if my shoes didn’t have laces I would drop something and bend down to pick it up. I would then pick up a white pebble and shove it up my sleeve. All without getting noticed of cause. Then when asked to pick out a pebble I would put my hand in and let the white pebble fall from my sleeve and into my hand. I would then pull out my hand with the white pebble. Thus saving my father and I.
    The perve wouldn’t be able to say much because it would mean him having to admit he picked up two black pebbles.

  2. Shahrzad said

    I would run away with my dad, to other country.. Maybe Latin America 😀

  3. justatemporarymeasure said

    Ymiss: very interesting indeed that’s really clever for you:) i have to admit i didn’t think of that…i would have just told everybody what the money lender did……then i suppose he would have been in trouble….

  4. S said

    Marry the guy. Once he’s in love with me he’s slave to my whims and desires and I can reign over his wealth and give my dad all the money he’ll need. Besides he’s old, when he dies I’ll remarry for love, having once married for convenience – hey I deserve it. That way, the money lender thinks he’s won but actually I win without his knowing.

  5. samia said

    My thoughts on it were somehow as Ymiss said- find a way to put a white pebble in the bag, there would be no way he could claim it wasn’t the original pebble as that would be the only white one there would be, and his own fraud would be seen then.
    if i somehow wouldnt be able to do this, i would hope for the mercy of Allah and trust that somehow i would find a way out of it.

    this story made me think about another old story i think i once heard from the old testamente… (cant remember the name of it or how it goes extactly) but its the story of two women who live in the same house. they both gave birth to sons around the same time. one of the ladies slept in the same bed as her babyboy, whilst the other one had him an the crib next to her bed. the woman with the child in her bed, one night rolled over and “killed” her boy in her sleep. when she woke up and found out what she had done, she barried him and then went to the other womans room and took her son. The other woman found out that her son had been taken and they started fighting. None would give up so they were sent to the king, so he could decide who the child belonged to. He said, well since you both claim to be the mother of this boy i see no other solution than to cut him in half and let you each have one piece of him. The woman who was not his real mother was satisfied with this, but the mother of the boy was horrified and said no, let her have him. this showed to the king the true mother of the boy.

    mmm- i dont really know why i was reminded of this story… well Hema, im waiting for the conclusion and moral in this story, so hurry up!

    wasalaam. xx

  6. juhah said

    I would point out that the party of the first part (money lender) violated his contract with the party of the second part (merchant and teenage daughter) and is therefore liable to any penalties in the violation of the aforementioned contract and that the two involved parties would have to reconvene at a later date and the money lender would hopefully die in the meantime.

  7. hema said

    ymiss, you’re not just a pretty face!
    “All without getting noticed of cause”
    i think the only issue i would have with this is that of she did get noticed, then she would be the one that would be branded a cheat, which would be really unfair.

    sharzad-running away would be very tempting, and latin america sounds good!

    justaremporarymeasure.. that would be the most logical conclusion..but risky, and it doesn’t solve the fact that her father still owes him money

    s- i din’t think of that! but wouldn’t that make the girl just as bad as the moneylender, and i don’t think she has it in her to be that deceiving

    samia- that’s story says a lot about motherhood, i liked it!
    “im waiting for the conclusion and moral in this story, so hurry up!”
    i was going to make you wait a while, but since it’s you that asked, i’ll do it now:)

    juhah-are you studying law by any chance!
    if they have to reconvene at a later date, it doesn’t solve the problem..

  8. hema said

    You may believe that careful logical analysis must solve the problem if there is a solution. This type of thinking is straight forward vertical thinking. Vertical thinkers are not usually of much help to a girl in this situation. The way they analyse it; there are three possibilities:
    1. The girl should refuse to take a pebble.
    2. The girl should show that there are two black pebbles in the bag and expose the money lender as a cheat.
    3. The girl should take a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from prison.

    None of the suggestions is very helpful, for if the girl does not take a pebble her father goes to prison, and if she does take a pebble, then she has to marry the money lender.]

    The Pebble Story- concluded
    The girl in the pebble story put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble. Without looking at it she fumbled and let it fall to the path where it was immediately lost among all the others. ‘Oh, how clumsy of me,’ she said, ‘but never mind if you look into the bag you will be able to tell which pebble I took by the colour of the one that is left.’ Since the remaining pebble is of course black, it must be assumed that she has taken the white pebble, since the moneylender dare not admit his dishonesty.

    The story shows the difference between vertical thinking and lateral thinking. Vertical thinkers are concerned with the fact that the girl has to take a pebble. Lateral thinkers become concerned with the pebble that is left behind. Vertical thinkers take the most reasonable view of a situation and then proceed logically and carefully to work it out.

  9. mcpagal said

    Awww, I knew that one and was planning to give you the right answer and look all smart, but then you answered it already 😦

  10. unique said

    aww that means I’m a vertical thinker 😦

  11. samia said

    what a good story, mash’Allah. thank you for giving the conclusion on it- the story was stuck on my mind all day :o)
    i love stories with good morals, why i’ve always paid extra attention to all the biblical stories my grandmother told me as a child.

  12. ymiss said

    ….so what kind of thinker does that make me?

  13. anomonyous said

    on main main where it says saabirah and shows picture, if you click, then a picture with speech bubble saying salams, bala asoni?

    what does this mean?

    lol @ chocalotes

  14. Shahrzad said

    So i am not “thinker”,at all, for my solution didnt have any relationship to your answer! lol

  15. oooh thats clever…..
    along the lines of ymiss’s theory….

  16. hema said

    mcPagal- i believe you:)
    i did realise that some people may not have read it yet, but samia wanted to know so i had to oblige!

    unique- i’m a vertical thinker too!
    i saved edward debono’s creative thinking website onto my teaching page. it’s definitely something i’m going to come back to and use again

    samia-“the story was stuck on my mind all day”
    i’m glad i did then, i wouldn’t want to be responsible for you being distracted at work!
    “i love stories with good morals”
    i like your latest one.

    justatemporatymeasure- yep i think that makes ymiss a lateral thinker!
    i would offer you the chocolate ymiss but you’re in training, so methinks i’ll keep it

    annonymous- it’s not a joke, saabirah really does hide chocolate in her room!
    balla asoni means how are you
    you can view her blog here

    sharzad- it did have a relation.. it got her out of the problem!

    i thought this was quite good when i first came accross it, but i’ve been thinking since it might be the most ethical thing to do. by choosing not to expose the moneylender’s dishonesty, he could do the same thing to somebody else. in an ideal world, he would be punished for what he tried to do.
    actually, come to think of it, in an ideal world her father wouldn’t have owed money to him anyway!

  17. Umm Yusuf said

    Well, I’m a vertical thinker too! 😉

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