Weighing the Elephant Weighing the Elephant ~ Riddle Stories for Kids


Today it's not at all unusual to see animals from other lands. We may go to a zoo, or we may see exotic animals in books, movies, or even on the Internet. But many centuries ago, when an animal that had never been seen before entered the land, it was a wondrous and momentous event. That's how it was long ago in China, when a mighty emperor received an elephant as a gift from a ruler of a faraway land.

The royal court was abuzz with excitement. Word quickly spread throughout the land about the enormous creature. The question on everyone's lips: how much could it weigh?

The emperor was curious, too. One day, he and his mandarins were discussing that very question. But the puzzle was - how to weigh it? No scales in China were big enough to weigh such a huge animal.

"Father." The Emperor looked down to see his six-year-old son tugging at his royal robes. "I know how to weigh it." The mandarins chuckled that the boy would be so bold. But after the Emperor's son explained his idea, they weren't chuckling anymore.


What did he say?

How would you weigh the elephant?
This was the boy's secret:  "Here's what you do," said the boy. "Put the elephant in a big boat and let the boat sit out on the water. Draw a line on the boat where it sits right on the water, at the watermark. Then bring the boat to shore and let the elephant off. Gather a lot of big stones. Put the stones on the boat until the boat, when it's out on the water again, sinks to the same watermark line it had when the elephant was in it. Then take the stones out of the boat and weigh them, one by one! That's how you can tell how much the elephant weighs!"

"Wonderful! Wonderful!" shouted everyone. And the fame of emperor's son traveled far and wide.


Stories for Kids ~ Folk tales, Fairy Tales, Riddles, Legends, Poems

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A Chinese folk tale retold by Elaine Lindy. ©2005. All rights reserved.