Wisdom in the Court

of Judge Harold Wright


To solve a case Judge Wright tells the fable

of a father, a girl, and a wicked money lender


Judge Wright had in his court a couple who had come to him to settle a dispute. They had given up on arguments and had decided on divorce unless a solution could be found.  In response Judge Wright told the following fable:


Many years ago in a small village, a farmer had the misfortune of

owing a large sum of money to a village moneylender.


The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the farmer's

beautiful daughter. So he proposed a bargain.


He said he would forgo the farmer's debt if he could marry his

daughter. Both the farmer and his daughter were horrified by the



So the cunning moneylender suggested 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. Then the girl would have to pick one pebble

from the bag.


1) If she picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her

father's debt would be forgiven.


2) If she picked the white pebble she need not marry him and her

father's debt would still be forgiven.


3) But if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown

into jail.


They were standing on a pebble-strewn path in the farmer's field. As

they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he

picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up

two black pebbles and put them into the bag.


He then asked the girl to pick a pebble from the bag.

Now, imagine that you were standing in the field. What would you

have done if you were the girl?


Careful analysis would produce three possibilities:


1. The girl should refuse to take a pebble.


2. The girl should show that there were two black pebbles in the bag

and expose the moneylender as a cheat.


3. The girl should pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in

order to save her father from his debt and imprisonment.


Take a moment to ponder over the story. The above story is used with

the hope that it will make us appreciate the difference between

lateral and logical thinking.


The girl's dilemma cannot be solved with traditional logical

thinking. Think of the consequences if she chooses

the above logical answers.


What would you recommend to the girl to do?


Well, here is what she did....


The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble.

Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the

pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the

other pebbles.


"Oh, how clumsy of me," she said. "But never mind, if you look into

the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which

pebble I picked."


Since the remaining pebble is black, it must be assumed that she had

picked the white one. And since the moneylender dare not admit his

dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed an impossible situation

into an extremely advantageous one.


Moral of the story:

Most complex problems do have a solution. It is only that we don't

attempt to think, and if we do think, donít think long enough.


And so the couple thanked Judge Wright and set to thinking without rancor. The last Judge Wright heard, the couple were reconciled as problem solvers who lived happily ever after.