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I remember a story about a king riding in a boat. It was in English.

His oarsman is complaining about rowing, and all the hard work he is doing. They get to where they are going, get ready to go to sleep, and a sound wakes everyone up. The king sends the oarsman to check. They are cats. The king asks a bunch of questions, and each time the oarsman has to go back to check, to answer the king's questions.

Then the king wakes up his advisor, and asks him what's causing the noise. The advisor goes. The king asks the advisor the same questions, and the advisor has an answer, ready, for the king without having to check seven times.

Does anyone know what story this is? I have a software development customer that keeps asking questions halfway through the development process, and I'd like to use this story to help him understand different communication patterns. I cannot find the story, and my re-telling isn't as great as the original.

I found a reproduction of the story, but this is not the original place I encountered it.

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    Is this a story you read somewhere? If yes, could you add some information about the book in which you read it (including its language) and when? – Tsundoku Mar 28 at 0:49
  • Thanks for your help. I'm certain I read, or heard, this in English. I'm not positive if I read it, or listened to it, in a lecture. I know I didn't first encounter this via this guy's blog: bryanthayer.com/tag/endurance But that's the only place I found a reference. – Brian Stinar Mar 28 at 1:17
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It's in The Moral Compass: Stories for a Life's Journey by William J. Bennett from 1995, a compilation of parables from around the world. You can read the parable on this website which reproduces the actual text from the book (linking a cached text version since it's a Word document).

As for the actual origin of this tale, the book calls it a "clever tale from Southeast Asia" and doesn't elaborate, so finding that might be a bit harder.

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  • Thanks!! I can remember the cover of this book now. – Brian Stinar Apr 4 at 19:41

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