A couple friends of mine made a game
and they named their stupid game company after this riddle
which happens to be VERY OLD.
When I told them how old the riddle was
they were like “holy shit we’ll pay you to do a re-telling of it”
and I was like “well I was just going to I MEAN YES PAY ME”
then I loaded up the post I’d already written
and changed exactly nothing about it
except this little preamble
about how you should seriously buy their really cool game
it’s about fooling nazis and you can watch me win at it on twitch sometimes
anyway, let me tell you about this dumb farmer and his problems.
Right so there’s this farmer
let’s call him Dick
Dick is not a very successful farmer
as evidenced by the fact that he has to go to the store
to buy a goat
and for some reason
you would think if he needed cabbages
he could grow some on the farm that he has
the goat makes sense
but why the fuck does he need a wolf?
wolves are like the exact thing you want to keep out of your farm
and this dude is spending money
(which he probably doesn’t have a lot of
seeing as he can’t even grow fucking cabbages)
to ACQUIRE THE THING HE IS MOST AFRAID OF
that would be like being afraid of nuclear weapons
and so purchasing a bunch of oh
oh okay I get it.
Anyway the only store in the area
that sells both goats AND wolves AND cabbages
is on the other side of the river
so he rents a boat to get to the store
further increasing the cost of this errand
and then on the way back
he realizes he has a problem
he realizes he has a brand new problem
on top of all his previously existing problems.
The problem is this:
the boat can only hold him and one of this three dumb purchases.
if he leaves the wolf alone with the goat
the wolf will eat the goat
(this will likely still be a problem on the farm
also I wouldn’t feel great about having a wolf in a boat with me)
If he leaves the goat alone with the cabbage
the goat will eat the cabbage
and the grass under the cabbage
and the dirt
and any part of the mantle soft enough to chew
because goats are awful
so how does he solve this problem he created for himself?
he takes the goat across
then he takes the cabbage across
but he doesn’t just leave the goat there with the cabbage
because despite all prior evidence, he is not an idiot
no, he brings the goat BACK WITH HIM
and then LEAVES IT ON THE ORIGINAL SHORE and takes the wolf
then he puts the wolf with the cabbage
and goes and gets the goat
which has probably eaten half of the landscape by now
and the farmer lives happily ever after
until his long string of bad business decisions finally ruin him.
That’s the least interesting part of this story, though
the MOST interesting part
is that this riddle shows up fucking EVERYWHERE
Italy, Estonia, Russia, Scotland, fuckin Ghana
Ethiopia, Russia, seriously, EVERYWHERE
but my favorite version of the story comes from Zimbabwe.
Now in this version
our hero has acquired not three, but FOUR incompatible items:
a leopard, a goat, a rat, and a basket of corn.
He can still only take one thing across the river at a time
so what the fuck is he gonna do?
If he takes the goat across, the rat eats the grain
if he takes the grain across, the goat eats the rat probably
goats eat anything
if he takes the leopard across, he’s in a boat with a leopard
there’s no winning
so the dude is like “hmm
maybe i should get rid of one of these rowdy animals
then this problem would have a logical solution
but I can’t do that
these animals are like family to me
ever since I drove away my family with my dumb purchases
you know what?
fuck this logic puzzle
I don’t need to cross that river
I live here now.”
and that’s what he does.
So the moral of the story
is if you’re the kind of person who spends money on wild carnivores
don’t try to logic your way out of the problem
fucking own your stupidity.
What I never got was, if the boat can hold a person and a goat, why can’t it also carry a cabbage? How big is the fucking cabbage?
Also, cabbage or not, why does the wolf just hang around on the shore? A goat MIGHT stay in one place; a cabbage is somewhat more likely to; but a wolf is going to fuck off and do its own thing.
You put this story in like a dozen categories. Nice touch.
The fact that you and Philosophy Bro hang out is stupendous.
Germany has the riddle as well 😀 So yeah, it appears to be everywhere.
But does the version from Zimbabwe really end like this? That would be so… so damn cool! 😀
It does! At least, it does according to this journal article. It’s behind an academic paywall, but if you have a school account or something it’s definitely worth a read.
Here’s a link to a non-paywall version of that article! http://www.maa.org/sites/default/files/Asher50650798.pdf
I feel as though Randall Munroe’s answer makes the most sense:
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