A Little Happier: “I Love You as Much as the Salt in My Soup.”

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NOTE: These episodes were recorded before the COVID-19 situation took hold. Given the rapidly changing situation, it’s jarring to hear us ignore it—and that’s why.

I love all teaching stories, and many folk tales are also teaching stories.

This is one of my favorites, and I quote it often, when I tell my daughters, “I love you more than the salt in my soup.”

If you don’t know the story, here it is. There are many versions of this story, from different places, and here’s mine.

Once upon a time, far away, there was a kingdom ruled by a king who had three daughters. He knew that he must choose which daughter would rule after him, and he decided he would give that honor to the daughter who loved him most.

So the king asked his eldest daughter, “How much do you love me?” She said, “I love you more than gold and silver.” And he was satisfied.

The next day, he asked his middle daughter, “How much do you love me?” She said, “I love you more than diamonds or rubies.” And he was satisfied.

The next day, he asked his youngest daughter, “How much do you love me?” She said, “I love you more than the salt in my soup.” He was furious. “You must not love me at all, to love me only as much as salt, one of the cheapest and commonest things available!” he told her. “Leave, and never return.”

So the king banished his daughter and cast her out into the world. She traveled to neighboring land where she met an old woman who said, “Why are you traveling alone, dear child? Where are you going?”

The princess wept as she explained what had happened. The old woman said, “Don’t worry, my dear, you’re a loving daughter, and soon your father will understand. Be patient.” And she set the girl to work gathering flowers.

And soon the king and all his subjects noticed something strange begin to happen. All the salt in the land vanished, and try as they might, no traders could bring new salt cross the border. There was no salt anywhere.

The people gathered around the castle to cry out to the king, “Save us.” The king and his two daughters, too, began to waste away. Everywhere was the sound of people groaning, “Salt, salt!”

Far away, the old woman knew what was happening. “Return home to your father,” she ordered the princess. “Now he understands.”

So the princess traveled back to her home, and she approached her father who lay listlessly in his bed. “Now I understand, my dear,” he told her. “What is gold or silver, diamond or rubies, beside salt? Your love is the greatest, for salt gives life itself. Forgive me.”

“Oh father, I forgive you,” she said, “I love you more than the salt in my soup,” and with that, all the salt in the kingdom was restored.

I love this story. It’s such a good reminder that it’s often the most ordinary and familiar things—the things that we take for granted—that are actually the most precious to us of all.

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