This is one of my favorite stories from my childhood. Since I no longer have the book, I’ve told the story as well as I could remember it, but with a few of my own embellishments.
Once upon a time a poor farmer, his wife and three children lived in an average sized farmhouse. But as all of us feel dissatisfied with some part of our lot in life, the woman began to complain to her husband that their house was too small. “This house is so small, there is no room for a sneeze! Go to the wise man on the mountain and ask him how we can have a larger house.”
She nagged and complained so much, that the poor farmer couldn’t take it any more and told the wife he would go see the wise man at the top of the mountain for help. After a day’s journey, the farmer reached the quaint house of the wise man and told him of the predicament at home. The wise man, thought for a few minutes. “You are to go home and bring the chickens into the house to live.”
The poor farmer bowed and thanked the wise man and returned home to relay what the wise man had told him. Being that the order came from the wise man, the wife said nothing and complied. Within a week, there were chickens racing around the house, getting into the food; laying eggs in very inappropriate places; and spreading their filth everywhere. After what she considered a fair try at this advice the wife ran screaming from the house and told her husband, “You simply have to go back to the wise man. The house is certainly no bigger. The chickens are everywhere! Things could not be worse! I cannot stand this anymore!”
Again the poor farmer trudged up the mountain and asked the wise man for better advice. The wise man, thought a few minutes and said, “Leave the chickens in the house, but bring in the pigs from the sty.” Thinking this strange, he returned and relayed the new strategy to his wife. Shaking her head, she complied, hoping that soon her house would be bigger.
Less than a week later, the poor wife ran screaming from the house. The chickens were still doing what they had done before. Now there were pigs chasing around in the house, laying about on the floor, sleeping, and sticking their noses into every container of food around. “You must go back to the wise man,” she ordered, “Things are even worse! I cannot stand these pigs and chickens all over my house for another day!”
The farmer meandered up the mountain, wondering what the wise man might suggest this time. The new order was one he certainly had not expected. The wise man told the farmer, “Move your cow from the field into the house.” With great dread, the farmer hesitated to go back home, but it was, after all, what the wise man had suggested. So the cow was brought into the house.
In less than three days, the wife ran screaming from the house. “The cow switches her tail and gets it in the food, she takes up so much space in the house, she’s noisy with her mooing. The pigs are worse than they were before, noisily running around in circles chasing each other and the children and eating everything in sight! The chickens are roosting in the rafters, laying eggs all over the place, pecking around on the floor under our feet. Go now, and talk to the wise man and tell him that none of his ideas are working. What else can we do? ”
Again, the poor farmer dragged himself wearily up the mountain and with much anxiety repeated what his wife had said. The wise man, thought for a moment and said, “Now go home and remove all the animals from your home. See what happens.”
The farmer relayed the message and the words were hardly out of his mouth than the animals were sent scurrying out of the house. The next two days the whole family worked together to clean the house. They cleared out the chicken nests, swept the floor, washed the tables and chairs and windows and dishes. Together they invested a lot of time and energy to reclaim their home.
As they all stood and looked at the amazing transformation of their home they looked at their home in a much different way. The wife never complained again about the size of their home and was so proud of her newly cleaned home, she never even wanted to move. This home was her home and she and her husband and the children lived there for many years and there was ever after always enough “room for a sneeze.”