Drawing Tips | The Story Elves - Help with writing, editing, illustrating and designing your own stories

- Tip -

The Parable of the Taoist Farmer

There are two tips here.  The first is:

illustrators can practice on stories that someone else has thought of.  I love to practice on parables and fables, like this one…


There was once a farmer. One day the farmer’s only horse broke out of the corral and ran away. The farmer’s neighbors, all hearing of the horse running away, came to the farmer’s house to view the corral. As they stood there, the neighbors all said, “Oh what bad luck!”

The farmer replied, “Maybe.”


About a week later, the horse returned bringing with it a whole herd of wild horses, which the farmer and his son quickly corralled. The neighbors, hearing of the corralling of the horses, came to see for themselves. As they stood there looking at the corral filled with horses, the neighbors said, “Oh what good luck!”

The farmer replied, “Maybe.”


At that same time in China, there was a war going on between two rival warlords. The warlord of the Taoist farmer’s village was involved in this war. In need of more soldiers, he sent one of his captains to the village to conscript young men to fight in the war. When the captain came to take the farmer’s son he found a young man with a broken leg.  The son had broken his leg riding one of the wild horses, and he was delirious with fever.

Knowing there was no way the son could fight, the captain left him there. A few days later, the son’s fever broke. The neighbors, hearing of the son’s not being taken to fight in the war and of his return to good health, all came to see him. As they stood there, each one said, “Oh what good luck!”

The farmer replied, “Maybe.”


This is a favorite parable of the elves, and a parable contains a simple lesson:  sometimes something will at first appear bad or unlucky, but then look different with the passage of time.  Sometimes the event that at first looks like good luck, isn’t!

For this reason, elves never presume what is good or bad.  We wait to see, and this is the second tip for illustrators.

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The Story Elves - Help with writing, editing, illustrating and designing your own stories