[Ads-l] Allegory of the Long Spoons

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 10 03:49:52 UTC 2021

Wikipedia has an entry for the "Allegory of the long spoons":

The Wikipedia entry claims that the tale appears in the folklore of
many cultures, but the dates on the citations are relatively modern.

A discussion at Stack Exchange points to a 1928 citation with earlier

A correspondent asked me to investigate the topic. It does not really
fit into the domain of quotations, but I agreed to make an effort.
Below is an 1896 citation followed by a 1931 citation. Earlier
evidence or further information would be welcome.

[ref] 1896 January 1, The Fortnightly Review, The Sultan and His
Priests by Richard Davey, Start Page 1, Quote Page 16 and 17, Leonard
Scott Publication Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link


[Begin excerpt]
In conclusion, and in connection with this order of Dervishes, I will
relate a funny anecdote of Sultan Mahmûd II. Rival orders of Dervishes
had endeavoured their best to induce the Sultan to suppress the
Bektachi, which, to tell the truth, he was not at all reluctant to do.
His Majesty, however, determined to put the undesirable brethren to a
test. He accordingly gave a great banquet, to which he invited all the
Principal Dervishes in Constantinople. What was the surprise of his
guests to find that each was supplied with a spoon having a handle a
couple of yards long. How on earth were they to eat their Pilaf? They
looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders, and wondered what
it could mean? "Come, come," cries the Sultan from his throne at the
upper end of the room, "why do you not eat your Pilaf?"

The dismayed looks of the Dervishes plainly indicated the puzzled
condition of their minds. Suddenly, to the intense amusement of the
Commander of the Faithful and of the company, the Bektachi began to
feed each other mutually across the table with their giant spoons.
“Bravi,” cried the Padischah, clapping his hands with delight, “you
are indeed progressive and sensible men, O Bektachi, and I shall not
suppress your order to please these idiots who are so dull of
[End excerpt]

[ref] 1931 November 17, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Sunshine and
Moonshine (Note from unidentified letter writer), Quote, Page 6,
Column 3, Knoxville, Tennessee. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]

Once upon a time a cotton goods man died and went to Heaven: Upon
being received by Saint Peter, he asked to be shown to his old
competitors of the cotton business. He was told that each group of
people in the same line of business lived together; therefore, it was
an easy matter to go to the district and see all the cotton goods men
at one time.

Upon seeing them he was surprised to find that they were very, very
thin. In fact, one could almost see thru them. Just at that time
dinner was served and to his astonishment platters and platters of
delicious foods were placed before them, and before anyone was seated
an angel came along and strapped a long iron spoon on each arm. This
spoon was strapped around the wrist and biceps, making it impossible
to bend the arm. As a result, they could only look at the food but
could not eat it.

Our friend then went to another section where the lawyers lived and to
his surprise found them all fat and healthy. While he was there,
dinner was served and an angel strapped a spoon on each arm in the
same manner. To his surprise he found that each lawyer dipped his
spoon into the food and fed the man seated next to him.

Returning to the cotton goods group, he asked an old competitor why
they didn't do the same thing, to which he replied; "I'm starving and
I should feed that dirty crook next to me?"
[End excerpt]


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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