This is the story of old John the miller, his son and their donkey. John the miller lived with his family in a cottage near a forest.
In winter, life was difficult for the miller and his family. He couldn’t work very much, so he didn’t have much money. And his family were cold and hungry.
When spring finally came, the family was happier. However, the miller had no money to buy food for his family. And they were still hungry.
One day, the family sat down for lunch. “What’s for lunch, Mum?” asked the miller’s son, Jack.
“It’s potato soup again,” replied his mother.
Isn’t there anything else to eat?”
“No, there isn’t. I’m sorry,” she said. And they ate lunch in silence.
Later that day, the miller and his wife sat and talked. “We don’t have any food,” said the miller’ wife. “What are we going to do?”
“I’ll sell the donkey,” said the miller. “Then we’ll have enough money to buy some food.”
“That’s a good idea,” said the miller’s wife.
“I’ll take it to the market and sell it,” said the miller.
Old John decided to take the donkey to the market the next day. So, he and his son, Jack, got up early the next morning and began to walk to the town with the donkey.
“It’s a lovely day for a walk,” the miller said to his son.
“Yes, Father, it is”.
The old miller and his son were happy. “This afternoon, we’ll have enough money to buy some food,” said the miller.
“Can we buy some fruit at the market? Asked Jack.
“Yes, of course,” his father replied.
The miller and his son walked along happily. Soon, they met three girls. When the three girls saw the old miller and his son, they began to laugh and whisper to each other.
“Look at those two!” they are walking with their donkey. How silly!” they whispered.
“What’s the matter? Why are you laughing? Asked the miller.
“Because it’s a hot day and you’re walking with your donkey. Why don’t you ride it?”
Old John thought about it for a moment and then said, “You’re right. It’s stupid. Get on the donkey, Jack.”
So Jack got on the donkey, and then they continued on their journey.
A little later, a group of men walked towards them. “Young people today have no respect for old people,” said one of the men.
“You are right,” said another.
“That’s not true,” said a third. Then, the men saw Jack, the miller and the donkey. They stopped talking and looked at Jack sitting on the donkey.
“Look at him,” said one of the men. “I told you, didn’t I? Young people have no respect for old people these days. That young boy is sitting comfortably on the donkey and the old man is walking.”
“Yes, “said another. “Young people are very selfish these days.” Then, he said to Jack, “Get down from that donkey and let your poor old father ride it. He must be very tired.”
Old John looked at Jack. “Perhaps they’re right,” he said. “Let me ride the donkey for a while.”
So Jack got off the donkey and his father got on it. Then, they continued on their journey.
A little further along the road, they met a group of women. One of the women stopped and stood in the middle of the road, “You lazy old man,” she cried. “You’re sitting comfortably on the donkey and that poor boy is walking. Look at him! He’s tired. He can’t walk as fast as the donkey.”
“She’s right, look at the poor boy,” said another.
The kind old miller was upset. He did not want people to think that he was selfish. So, he said to his son, “Jack, sit behind me. We will both ride the donkey.”
So Jack got on the donkey and they continued on their journey to the market.
The donkey walked very slowly towards the town. It was midday and they were nearly there. The miller was pleased. “The market is very busy at lunch time. We’ll sell the donkey for a god price,” he said.
Then, they met a shepherd with his sheep. “Excuse me,” said the shepherd. “Is that your donkey?”
“Yes, it is,” said the miller.
“It can’t be yours, “said the shepherd.
“Why?” asked the miller.
“Because you’re being very cruel to the poor animal. Do you want to kill it?
“What do you mean? Asked the miller.
“It’s a very hot day and you’re too heavy for the donkey,” the shepherd replied. “The poor animal is very tired.”
The old miller was very upset. He did not want people to think that he was cruel to the donkey. The miller looked at his donkey. It looked very tired and hot. Oh dear, he thought. I can’t sell the donkey if it isn’t healthy. We must carry it.
“Very well,” said the miller. “We will carry the donkey.” So the miller and his son got off the donkey and said goodbye to the shepherd. And the shepherd continued on his journey.
Old John tied donkey’s legs together. Then, he tied the donkey’s legs to a pole. The miller and his son lifted the pole onto their shoulders and carried the donkey to the town. The donkey was very heavy and it was not an easy journey.
Finally, the miller and his son arrived at the town. It was busy and the streets were full of people. Everybody came to the town on market day. The miller and his son walked through the streets, carrying the donkey. They were very hot and tired but they didn’t stop for a rest. They wanted to get to the market square as quickly as possible.
Suddenly, somebody shouted, “Look! There are two people carrying a donkey.”
Everybody ran to see this strange sight and people began to laugh at the miller and his son. Slowly, they carried the donkey through the streets of the town towards the market square. Everybody watched them and clapped loudly.
Soon, they came to a bridge. They had to walk across the bridge to the market square. A crowd of people followed them onto the bridge. They laughed and shouted. “Be careful. Don’t drop the donkey.”
The donkey was very frightened. It didn’t like the noise and it didn’t like the crowd of people. The donkey started to kick. It kicked so hard that it fell off the pole.
Everybody stopped laughing. “Look!” they shouted. “The donkey is going to fall in the river.”
The donkey fell in the river and the old miller was very upset. “Come on, Jack. Let’s go home. We don’t have anything to sell here now,” he said.
So the old miller and his son, Jack walked slowly home. I was very stupid today, thought the miller. Now, I have no donkey and no money from the sale. And he was very angry with himself.
I was very stupid today. “I tried to please everyone,” the miller said to his son. “And if you try to please everyone, you don’t please anyone at all.”