The Stonesoup : wolf, hen and community building


Once there were two travelers  Tired, hungry and cold, they arrived in a small village and asked for food and lodging. One by one, the villagers either said, they had no beds or no food to share. And so the two travellers began to build a fire in the centre of the village. Over it, they hung a cooking pot filled with water and added a simple stone. What were they up to?

The first villager came over to find out. “We are making stone soup”, said the travellers. “You will see, it is delicious! Of course, the flavour improves even more with a carrot!” “I think I might have just one carrot”, said the woman. Later someone came with a potato, and then came some beans, some milk, a bit of chicken …

soon everybody was standing around the pot sharing some of this delicious soup and the travellers had a warm place for the night. “Imagine!”, the villagers said to each other, “what wonders you can create with just a simple stone!”

This beautiful version of the stone soup is crafted by the storyteller, author and story activist Mary-Alice Arthur. One of the first written versions of this folktale is the one published in the 1720 by the French journalist Madame de Noyer ‚Soupe au Callow’.  If you want to know more about its history …

There is a slightly different version published as a beautifully illustrated (kids’ )book from Anais Vaugelade with a wolf knocking on the hen’s door. Obviously, it has a special drama effect lying in this polarized wolf-hen encountering and I will use these two characters to do some story reflection.

What does the story do? The story spontaneously resonates in three different ways with me, my activity and the professional field, I am working in:

1) the wolf – a change facilitator coming from outside

sometimes the door does not open, sometimes it opens slowly,
and you understand … you are a foreigner,
why should the villagers trust the unknown, and why the hen, the wolf,
you offer your stone, it is a ‚creative act’
you initiate cooking and invite people to contribute, Not only as an act of gentleness
Also because it makes your living
sometimes you stir and taste the soup, you start to tell a story
And then you listen …
The participants share and connect, finally, it is time for you to leave.
Do you come back? We do not know.

2 ) the hen – the change knocking at my door 2 years ago

separation after 13 years of relationship
I opened the door and let the wolf in,
in a chicken naïve, also fearful and somehow trusting way, I let change happen
feeling helplessly alone With a big decision
I supported the soup cooking although the stone was not really promising
but many ‚neighbors’ came by, contributing their ingredients
… and I have to say, the new soup smells promising

3) ‘folktale advise’ on management style

Have you noticed the highly advanced leadership style of the hen (the wolf/or both)? … hosting change, inviting team members to co-create (the soup), supporting a culture of personal engagement and community building. Very visionary, don’t you think?

It reminds me of Luc Galoppin’s Ice Hockey Metaphor and ‘where the puck is heading to and change practitioners should be already’ …

ice hockey metaphor

There are many ways to work with story and story works with us? What is the story doing with you?


Change, co-creation, community, Facilitation, identity, Leadership, story, Storytelling

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