Welcome to the Gibbering Mouth article for April 2nd, 2014. Today’s article is a Storytime installment; the story is a retelling of the famous stone soup folktale.
Welcome to Storytime, an article series where I provide a small dose of fiction for my readers to enjoy. I don’t want to simply provide any old sort of fiction in Storytime, however, I specifically want to provide folktales for GMs to use in their campaign settings. For those of you who need the refresher, a folktale is a characteristically anonymous, placeless, and timeless tale that is typically circulated orally amongst a population. I find that having folktales like these to reference during a game session makes your campaign setting feel more alive, and because folktales are placeless by definition, and folktales you create can be used in virtually any campaign setting. As a matter of fact, a great mystery in the world could be why the same folktales appear across different planets on the Material Plane. The same can certainly be said of real-world folktales; the folktale I am going to share with you today exists in cultures across Europe and Asia, each with their own version of the tale. This story is a retelling of the real-world Stone Soup fable, in which a clever vagabond tricks another person into making a delicious soup. My love of the kitsune race should be well-known by now, so it shouldn’t be shocking that the first fable I’ve written for you was designed to capture the spirit of the kitsune race. Hopefully this’ll inspire more than a few GMs to give the kitsune a place in their campaign setting. With that said, on to the story!
Stone Miso Soup
A Timeless Folktale Retold by Alexander Augunas
A kitsune lad went wandering across the plains, over the hills, and through the valleys of his homeland. He walked throughout the night and long into the day. He was tired and very hungry. At last, he happened upon a well-kept brick home with a tidy dock, a darling chicken coup, and charming garden. The lad was impressed; he had never seen such masterful brickwork, bountiful fishing grounds, healthy chickens or plump vegetables before.
“Surely the owners of such a marvelous house will be able to part with a bit of food,” he thought as the lad knocked upon the door. After a few moments, it creaked open. A withered human woman stood in the doorway.
“Good lady,” spoke the kitsune as he courtly bowed before the woman as his honorable mother had taught him. “I am very hungry. Can you spare something to eat?”
“I have nothing to give a fox such as yourself,” the little old lady replied crossly. “There is no food in my cupboards, kombu at my docks, chickens in my coup, or vegetables in my garden. Now be gone!” And she turned to close her door right in the young kitsune’s face. But the boy was too nimble and he wedged his heel into the doorframe, more than willing to trade the pain in his gullet for some discomfort in his foot.
“Please, wait,” the kitsune pleaded, but the woman would hear none of it. She threw her girth into the door as he cried out. “If you cannot spare me something to eat, surely you could part with a simple stone instead?”
“A stone?” the woman asked, pausing her struggle long enough to ponder his request. “What good is a stone to you, fox? You cannot eat a stone.”
“Ah,” the lad replied, his eyes glinting. “But I can make soup from a stone. It is called stone miso soup. It is a secret technique, passed down through the members of my clan.”
The old woman had never heard such an outlandish claim. Make soup from a stone? Preposterous! Still, she was curious and it was only stone; she decided she could part with one stone.
“There are stones in the road,” the little old lady replied, allowing the young kitsune to retract his foot from her doorway. He rubbed his bare heel for a moment before striding to the road, sifting carefully through pebbles and stones until he dug up a specimen larger than his fist and dusted it off.
“This stone will make wonderful soup,” he said. “Show me to your kitchen. I will clean and prepare the stone while you boil a pot of water. Still curious, the old woman allowed the kitsune into her home and took him to her kitchen. She pulled her largest, finest pot from the cupboard and filled it with water while her guest delicately washed the gray, round stone he had plucked from the road. Hoisting the pot over a spittle, the kitsune gingerly placed the round, gray stone into the pot.
“Now we wait for the stone to cook into soup,” he exclaimed. The woman and the kitsune sat together in the kitchen until the water began to bubble and boil. The hungry kitsune gingerly took a ladle, dipped it into the pot, and sipped.
“Oh, my,” he blushed. “This soup is wonderful! Here, you must try some.” He handed the ladle to the little old lady. She gingerly took a sip and tasted. But try as she might, she only tasted boiling water. She was too embarrassed to admit that a palette as refined as hers could not appreciate the boy’s ancestral stone miso soup.
“It is not bad,” she admitted. “But the soup is too thin.”
“It is too thin now,” the boy agreed. “Stone miso soup thickens faster with kombu.” Delighted, the old woman ran down to her dock and hoisted a net filled with kombu from the sea. She plucked the finest strands from the lot and tossed the rest back into the water. She ran back up to her home and into the kitchen where the kitsune was waiting and tossed the slimy kombu into the pot with the round, gray stone.
“Soup from a stone,” the old woman mumbled. “Fancy that.” The pot continued to bubble until the water turned pale yellow. The hungry kitsune took the ladle, dipped it into the pot, and took a sip.
“Oh my!” he cried. “This soup is fantastic! Here, you must try some.” He handed the ladle to the old woman again and she gingerly took a sip.
“This soup has no flavor,” she complained.
“It lacks flavor now,” the boy agreed. “Stone miso soup becomes flavorful faster with chicken bones.” Delighted, the old woman ran down to her chicken coup and found the remains of the chicken she had eaten the night before. She ran back up to her home and into the kitchen where the kitsune was waiting and cleaned the bones. When she had finished, she tossed the sturdy bones into the pot with the slimy kombu and the round, gray stone.
“Soup from a stone,” the old woman whispered. “Fancy that.” The pot continued to bubble until the pale yellow water became misty. The hungry kitsune took the ladle, dipped it into the pot, and took a sip.
“Oh my!” he exclaimed. “This soup is stupendous! Here, you must try some.” He handed the ladle to the old woman again and she gingerly took a sip.
“This soup is too bland,” she complained.
“It is too bland now,” the boy agreed. “Stone miso soup becomes tastier faster with vegetables.” Delighted, the old woman ran out to her garden and plucked handfuls of scallions, radishes, onions, and mushrooms. She ran back up to her home and into the kitchen where the kitsune was waiting and cleaned and chopped the vegetables. When she had finished, she tossed the chopped vegetables into the pot with the sturdy bones, the slimy kombu, and the round, gray stone.
“Soup from a stone,” the old woman exclaimed. “Fancy that.” The pot continued to bubble until the misty, pale yellow water filled the old woman’s kitchen with a delicious smell. The hungry kitsune took the ladle, dipped it into the pot, and took a sip.
“Oh my!” he sighed wistfully. “This soup is divine! Here, you must try some.” He handed the ladle to the old woman and she gingerly took a sip.
“This soup is fit for a prince!” she exclaimed excitedly.
“It is fit for a prince now,” the boy agreed. “Stone miso soup becomes fit for a king with tofu.” Delighted, the old woman raced to her storeroom and grabbed all of the tofu she could carry. She ran back through her home and into her kitchen where the kitsune was waiting and sliced the delicate tofu. When she had finished, she tossed the sliced tofu into the pot with the chopped vegetables, the sturdy bones, the slimy kombu, and the round, gray stone.
“Soup from a stone,” the old woman cheered. “Fancy that.” The pot continued to bubble until finally the old woman could no longer deny the delicious-smelling, misty, pale yellow soul. She grabbed the ladle from the boy and voraciously slurped the soup in a single gulp.
“Oh my,” she muttered as she savored every drop. “This soup truly is fit for a king! Here, you must try some.” The old woman handed the ladle to the hungry kitsune and he gulped down.
“This soup is perfect,” the boy replied.
“It is perfect now,” the woman agreed. “But we cannot eat a perfect meal without a perfectly set table.” Delighted, the kitsune cleared off the old woman’s dining table and carried two massive bowls and matching spoons from the cabinet that housed the old woman’s best china. He ran back through her home and into her kitchen where the old woman was waiting and carried the heavy pot out into the dinning room. Together, the young kitsune and the old lady ate every bite of the delicious-smelling, misty, pale yellow soup with sliced tofu, chopped vegetables, study bones, slimy kombu, and a round, gray stone.
When the soup had been finished, the boy reached into the empty pot and pulled out the round, gray stone and tucked it under his arm as he said goodbye.
“Now I must be on my way,” the young kitsune said as he placed the stone into his pocket.
“Why are you taking the stone?” asked the old woman.
“Well,” the kitsune replied, “This stone is not cooked well enough. I will have to cook it some more tomorrow.” He bowed politely to the old woman as his mother had taught him and set back down the cobblestone road.
“Goodbye!” the old woman called. “And thank you for the soup!”
Waving goodbye, the young kitsune patted the stone that sat in his pocket. “Yes, thank you for the soup you have provided tonight, as well as the soup you will surely provide tomorrow.”
And as he walked down the road with the setting sun to his back, the kitsune boy chuckled to himself. “Soup from a stone. Would you fancy that?”
* * *
And there you have it: a quality folktale to breathe life into any kitsune NPCs or PCs in your campaign setting! What did you think about this article? Are you interested in seeing more folktales adapted for a fantasy setting? Which folktales would you like me to take a swing at next? Which races do you think require some folktale love? Leave your answers and comments below, and hopefully you’ll join me again for another Storytime session at the Everyman Gaming blog!
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long over 90% of his colleagues. Affectionately called a “budding game designer” by his partner at Radiance House, Alexander is the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series (Radiance House) and a handful of other Third-Party Products. Before founding the Everyman Gaming blog, Alexander gained notoriety for writing the GM’s Guide to Challenging Encounters, which remains accessible to this day. His favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune archivist, and his favorite pastime is writing folktales and other fictional works!