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Stone Soup is an old fairy tale in which strangers trick a starving town into giving them some food. It is usually told as a lesson in cooperation, especially amid scarcity. In varying traditions, the stone has been replaced with other common inedible objects, and therefore the fable is also known as button soup, wood soup, nail soup, and axe soup.


According to the story, some travelers come to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty pot. Upon their arrival, the villagers are unwilling to share any of their food stores with the hungry travelers. The travelers fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire in the village square. One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travelers answer that they are making "stone soup", which tastes wonderful, although it still needs a little bit of garnish to improve the flavor, which they are missing. The villager doesn't mind parting with just a little bit of flour to help them out, so it gets added to the soup. Another villager walks by, inquiring about the pot, and the travelers again mention their stone soup which hasn't reached its full potential yet. The villager hands them a little bit of seasoning to help them out. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient. Finally, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all.

In a French version of the tale, the three travelers are soldiers returning home from the (Napoleonic) wars.

Portuguese tradition

Stone soup
According to Portuguese tradition, the events described in the "stone soup" tale took place around Almeirimmarker, Portugalmarker. Nowadays many restaurants in Almeirim serve stone soup, or "sopa de pedra".

In the Portuguese version of the soup the travelers role is played by a monk.

Nail soup and Axe soup

The story is also known as Nail soup in Scandinavian and Northern European countries. In these versions, the main character is typically a tramp looking for food and lodgings, who convinces an old woman that he'll make nail soup for the both of them if she'd just add a few ingredients for the garnish. In Eastern Europe the variation of the story (having more in common with the Northern European rendition) is called Axe soup, with an axe being the catalyst. In Russian tradition a soldier eats axe kasha (Каша из топора).

Alternative story

Another story exists about "stone soup", that, in the United States of Americamarker, during the Great Depression, families were unable to put food on the table every day. It became a practice to place a large and porous rock in the bottom of the stock pot. On days when there was food, the stone would absorb some of the flavor. On days when there was no food, the stone was boiled up, and the flavor would come out of the stone into the water, producing a weak soup, which was better than not eating. This in theory is similar to China and Japan cooking using ceramic pots which adds flavour to the food after long term usage when the pot absorbed different flavours every time being used.

New tradition

A somewhat new tradition, growing in popularity in cases where stone soup is made and served among people who gather semi-regularly, is the idea that the person whose portion contains the stone (in recipes in which a real stone is used) will be responsible for starting the pot at the next gathering.

Historical references

U.S. Army General George S. Patton, Jr. referred to the "rock soup method" of acquiring resources for attacks in the face of official disapproval by his superiors for offensive operations. In the military context, he sent units forward ostensibly on reconnaissance missions, to later reinforce them when resistance was met and eventually turned small scale probes into all out attacks; he notably did this during the Battle of Sicily in the advance on Palermomarker and again in the campaign in northwest Europe, notably near Metzmarker when his 3rd US Army was officially halted during Operation Market Garden.


  • The story was the basis of a 1947 children's book, Stone Soup (ISBN 9780689878367), by Marcia Brown, which featured soldiers tricking miserly villages into making them a feast. The book won a Caldecott Medal in 1947.
  • The story was the basis for the children's book Bone Soup (ISBN 9780618809080), written and illustrated by Cambria Evans, published in 2008.
  • This book was read aloud to the viewers by the Captain (played by Bob Keeshan) on an early episode of Captain Kangaroo in the 1950s.
  • The story was the basis of another children's book, also called Stone Soup, by Ann McGovern (ISBN 0590416022), published in 1968.
  • Another children's book based on the story, also called Stone Soup, written by Jon J. Muth and set in Chinamarker, was published in 2003.
  • A musical stageplay of this fable, set just after the Battle of Waterloomarker, was written by Gary Peterson and Larry Nestor. [7541]

  • Mickey's Young Readers Library adapted the story as Donald's Magic Stone. In this version, Donald Duck, having no food to make dinner at his house, convinces Goofy to contribute all his groceries into a soup dinner with his "magic" stone.
  • A 1988 episode of the TV series The Storyteller, "A Story Short", retold this story.
  • The dub title of episode 36 of Digimon Adventure 02, in which the main characters all pitch in to make soup, is "Stone Soup". Its original title is "Steel Angel, Shakkoumon" (Hagane no Tenshi Shakkoumon).
  • In episode 14 of Land of the Lost, entitled "Stone Soup", Rick Marshall creates stone soup to encourage his children to contribute to their meal. They also show the Pakuni to make stone soup as a peace offering to rebuild their relationship.
  • A nod to this story can be seen in the Wheel of Time novel, The Gathering Storm (2009).

In popular culture

  • Stone Soupercomputer cluster is made up of discarded desktops.
  • WB Yeats' "The Pot Of Broth" (1902) is a short play using the same story.
  • "The Wonderful Soup Stone" is a song written by Shel Silverstein and recorded by Bobby Bare and Dr. Hook, about children growing up poor and imagining that water and potatoes taste like a gourmet soup, because of a soup stone.
  • The story is relayed by Caroline Ingalls in an episode of Little House on the Prairie ("Stone Soup"). Having taken over her daughter's (Laura Ingalls Wilder) classroom for a few days (to allow the ailing teacher to recover from heatstroke), Caroline tells the story to remind the children how important it is to work together. At the end of the school's day, the children gather at Laura's house to help care for their teacher's drought stricken orchard.
  • In 2008 one of the inSide AreaCodes micro business networks, inSide919 in Raleigh, North Carolina, began a monthly Let's Make Stone Soup community project; a project where community members can share their expertise and efforts in helping a worthy project achieve a goal. The first project was a sockathon to raise money for the environment and socks for the homeless while launching of a new line of socks.
  • A cooperative housing project in Chicagomarker is named Stone soup cooperative.
  • A Fractint free software group named itself the "Stone Soup Group".

See also


  1. "The special zisha clay (containing iron, quartz and mica, and found only in Yixing) from which they are made absorbs the delicate flavors of the tea and the teapot becomes more seasoned with each use." --
  2. "One of the best known teapots is the 'Yixing Dragon Teapot' made with wet reddish-purple clay. This pot enhances and conserves flavor and heat, and holds the aroma of the tea." --
  3. Farago, Ladislas Patton: Ordeal and Triumph (Ballantyne, 1970)

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