Picture of camels in the desert

It's a bit   

like this...

A wise man rode his camel into a village at sunset.  He was dusty and parched from a long journey through the desert heat and sand.  Seeing a young man carrying water, he stopped and asked for a drink.  The young man obliged and the traveller saw that he looked troubled.   “And is there anything I can do for you, my friend?” enquired the wise man kindly. 

The young man gazed at the stranger and could see the wisdom of the ages etched in the lines of his wise face.  He knew this visitor would be able to help him in some way.  “Actually, there is,” replied the young man.  “We have a terrible conundrum.  You see, my father passed away recently and left us his only possessions, a herd of camels – seventeen to be precise.  He decreed in his will that the herd should be divided like this: one half to my older brother, one third to me, and one ninth to my younger brother.  The problem is, we cannot work out how to divide up seventeen animals according to my father’s wishes.  We clearly cannot cut up any camels as they would be lost, and they are far too valuable.  What can we possibly do?”

“Take me to your home,” said the sage.  When they arrived, they found the two other brothers arguing.

“Here,” said the wise man, “I will give you my camel.  Now you have eighteen.  One half of the herd goes to the eldest – that’s nine.  One third goes to the middle son – that’s six.  And one ninth goes to the youngest – that’s two.”

“Just a minute,” said the youngest boy.  “That makes only seventeen!” 

The brothers were amazed, and burst out laughing.

“A thousand thank yous,” beamed the eldest.  “We must give you something back, in return!”

The wise man smiled at the brothers.  “Well,” he laughed, “you now have your solution.  If you will give me back my camel, I shall continue on my journey.”

And so they did, and the wise man went on his way.  I hear that he’s still out there, bringing his wisdom (and his camel) to many a new challenge…