Bird on a Bare Branch

Attempting to fling a frail song in my little corner of the world

Seven Cows July 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 7:32 am

A Dutch woman I know here, who is a fabulous storyteller, told this story.  She found it in a book somewhere, but I’m not sure who the original credits go to.  I think it’s fantastic.


One day a visitor arrived in a village while he was traveling through the countryside.  When this visitor entered the village, he spied a very beautiful woman.  In fact, this woman was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.  He sought out the village chief to inquire about her, saying, “Who is that woman?  She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen!”  The village chief said, “Since you are not from here, we first need to explain our customs to you.  In this village, when a man wants to marry a woman, he must pay the bride price depending on her beauty.  He must pay one cow for a very plain woman, two cows for a pretty woman, and three cows for a very beautiful woman.  Let me tell you a story about another visitor who came to our village many years ago…

“One day a young man came here and saw a young woman fetching water from the well.  She was not a beautiful woman.  In fact, she was not even pretty.  No one ever noticed this young woman, but the man could not take his eyes off her.  He went to speak to her father about marrying her.  Her father explained to the young man the customs of our village.  He said, ‘For a plain girl, you must pay one cow.  For a pretty girl, two cows.  For a very beautiful girl, three cows.  I know my daughter is not beautiful, so you can pay one cow.  But the young man replied, ‘I want to pay seven cows.’  The girl’s father almost fell out of his chair, ‘Seven cows?!  Why do you want to pay seven cows?!  My daughter is not even pretty!’  But the young man insisted that he wanted to pay seven cows.

“In the following weeks leading up to the wedding, the villagers laughed at the young man wherever he went:  ‘There goes the stupid man who wants to pay seven cows for a one-cow woman!’  Even the little children pointed and laughed.  But he continued to hold his head high and paid his fiancee’s father seven cows.

“On their wedding night, the young woman asked the young man, ‘Why did you pay seven cows for me?  I am not even pretty.  I am not even worth two cows.  Why seven?’  And the young man replied, ‘But to me you are worth even more than seven cows.’

“When the couple were together, the husband’s eyes lit up and everyday he told his wife she was worth more than seven cows.  She happily cooked delicious meals for him and kept a spotlessly clean house.  At night when they were together, they laughed and talked, sharing stories and secrets.  The young woman’s inner beauty began emerging, and she soon began to believe that she was worth at least seven cows.  In fact, she grew more and more beautiful every day.  The neighbors, who used to ridicule the young man, began to notice how happy the couple were and changed their ideas about him paying seven cows.

“So dear visitor, that woman you saw this morning when you entered the village…she is the seven cow woman.”