Traditional Portuguese Tale

A stone soup is prepared by starting with a mere stone, adding more ingredients, and finally removing the stone
A stone soup is prepared by starting with a mere stone, adding more ingredients, and finally removing the stone. – Traditional Portuguese Tale


The first published version of the fable is that of Madame de Noyer (1663-1719). “Soupe au Caillou” was published in 1720. There are books that attribute the fable to other authors, but they rarely make a case required to truly claim authorship.

According to the Portuguese tradition, the events described in the story of the “stone soup” take place in the surroundings of Almeirim, Portugal. The Legend of the Stone soup is extremely popular in Portugal and is now part of their cultural folklore.

The same story is known as clove soup in Scandinavian and Northern European countries. In these versions, the main character is usually a vagabond in search of food and lodging, who convinces an old woman that he will make an excellent clove soup for the two of them if she will lend him some side dishes to garnish it with. In Eastern Europe, the variant of the story (which has more in common with the Northern European version) is called axe soup, since an axe is used as a catalyst.

Statue of a monk and stone soup (sopa da pedra) in Almeirim, Portugal
Statue of a monk and stone soup (sopa da pedra) in Almeirim, Portugal

Stone Soup

A monk was collecting in a region where the people were known to be very stingy. He arrived at the house of some peasants but they did not want to give him anything.

As it was time to eat, the monk who was quite hungry said:

– Well, I’m going to make a delicious stone soup. He picked up a stone from the ground, cleaned it, and found that the stone was suitable for making soup. The peasants began to laugh at the monk.

However, the monk told them:

– What! Don’t tell me you have never eaten stone soup? But it is exquisite! – It should be seen! – said the peasants. Precisely the latter is what the cunning monk expected to hear.

He immediately washed the stone and said:

 – Can I borrow a cauldron? So I can show them that the stone soup is an exquisite meal. The peasants laughed at the friar, but they gave him what he asked for. The monk filled the cauldron with water and asked them: – Would you mind letting me into your house to put the pot on the fire? The peasants invited him in.

Preparing the Stone Soup
Preparing the Stone Soup

– Oh, what a pity! Said the friar. If it had some beef in it, the soup would be even better. The family gave him a piece of meat. He put it in the pot and stirred the water with the meat and the stone. He tasted the broth:

– It’s a bit bland. It needs salt, they gave him salt. He added it to the water, tasted the soup again and commented:

– Of course, if we had some vegetables the soup would be really delicious. The father, mocking the monk, told him to wait a moment that he would bring him some vegetables right away.

“That would improve my soup a lot,” replied the monk. After the peasant brought the vegetables, the old man washed them, chopped them, and threw them into the water that was already boiling. -A little chorizo ​​and I’ll have a stone soup fit for a king. Well, take the chorizo, you crazy beggar – said the father of the family.

He threw him out and left him for a while, took a piece of bread out of his tunic, sat down at the table and began to eat. The friar ate the meat and vegetables, mopped, dipped his bread in the broth and finally drank it. He didn’t leave a drop of soup; well, he left the stone.

When he finished eating, he picked up the rock, cleaned it, dried it, and put it away. “Brother,” said the peasant woman, “what are you keeping the stone for?” -Well, in case I have to use it again another day. God save your family! And he left, satisfied