Sufi legend: the lost horse

By Paulo Coelho

Many years ago in a poor Chinese village, there lived a peasant with his son. His only material possession, apart from some land and a small straw hut, was a horse he had inherited from his father.

One day, the horse ran off, leaving the man with no animal with which to till the land. His neighbors – who respected him greatly for his honesty and diligence – came to his house to say how much they regretted what had happened. He thanked them for their visit, but asked:

– How can you know that what has happened has been a misfortune in my life?

Someone mumbled to a friend: “he can’t accept reality, let him think what he wants, as long as he isn’t saddened by what happened.”

And the neighbors went off, pretending to agree with what they had heard.

A week later, the horse returned to the stable, but it was not alone; it brought with it a fine mare for company. Upon hearing this, the villagers – who were flustered since they now understood the answer the man had given them – returned to the peasant’s house, in order to congratulate him on his good fortune.

– Before you had only one horse, and now you have two. Congratulations! – they said.

– Many thanks for your visit and for all your concern – answered the peasant. – But how can you know that what has happened has been a blessing in my life?

Disconcerted, and thinking he must be going mad, the neighbors went off, and on the way commented: “does he really not understand that God has sent him a gift?”

A month later, the peasant’s son decided to tame the mare. But the animal unexpectedly reared up and the boy fell and broke his leg.

The neighbors returned to the peasant’s house – bringing gifts for the wounded boy. The mayor of the village offered his condolences to the father, saying that all were very sad at what had happened.

The man thanked them for their visit and their concern, but asked:

– How can you know that what has happened has been a misfortune in my life?

They were all astonished to hear this, since no one could be in any doubt that the accident of a son was a real tragedy. As they left the peasant’s house, some said to others: “he really has gone mad; his only son might limp forever, and he is still in doubt about whether what happened is a misfortune.”

Some months passed, and Japan declared war on China. The Emperor’s envoys traveled throughout the land in search for healthy young men to be sent to the battle front. Upon arrival in the village, they recruited all the young men except the peasant’s son, whose leg was broken.

None of the young men returned alive. The son recovered, the two animals bred and their offspring were sold at a good price. The peasant began visiting his neighbors to console and help them, – since they had at all times been so caring. Whenever one of them complained, the peasant said: “how do you know it is a misfortune?” If anyone become overjoyed, he asked: “how do you know it is a blessing?” And the men in that village understood that beyond appearances, life has other meanings.

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  1. wanbliska says:

    La voie du milieu. Y'a du boulot oui.

  2. bruce wilkes says:

    hello Paulo ……..

    i was introduced to your writing approx 5 – 6 years ago and i was so inspired by your words in ” The Alchemist ” …..that i have bought 6 books for different friends and family

    so your following has been increased by those few people

    best regards and health and peace and happiness
    thank you , bruce wilkes

  3. Michal says:

    Beautiful story. although it is short, it is full of great wisdom. every single momemnt of our life we should treat as a miracle and blessing. if you think about your life as a curse it will become a curse, if you think about what you lack in your life you will keep experiencing the lack of it. Open your heart to the Loving God and you will experience all you truly desire in your life. the Loving God is within you and all He wants for you is to be happy, to stop worrying and living in fear. Our real nature is happiness and abundance. God is within you and who can be more wealthy and loving than God. live your life and be happy! God bless you!

  4. Heather says:

    Wonderful story…I’ve always said things happen for a reason…whether or not we understand at the time!!! H

  5. Maria Isabel says:


    Lo que pueda parecer ahora un desacierto en el futuro puede ser una bendiciĆ³n…Cogito ergo Sum.. I read all your books and a few week later I found your website..thank you for does many word that help my to find my road..pueden visitar mi Blog…

  6. Quest says:

    This story really made me reflect on my own life and I wonder if anyone else shared the peasant’s experience where something seems bad but turns out to be good in the end. If so feel free to tell us.
    Thank you!

  7. Simply beautiful – or perhaps beautiful because it shows that underlying the apparent ‘simplicity’ of our perceptions of life there is so very much more for us to see.

  8. Maria says:

    Life experiences are always full of hidden meanings. This is the great lesson in this story. It is important to be aware and to stay in the moment. Accept each experience for what it’s is in that moment and not look forward to the joy, or the suffering it might bring. This is the hardest thing to do stay present in good times and in bad times as well. This is why we must have faith, to accept that our life’s experiences are part of a greater scheme and that they are designed for a greater purpose.

  9. Barcelona 20 euros en un cafe says:

    An wonderful story. Sometimes we think that the things that we live are horrible ( and sometimes there are) but later the life change and the things that we thought that’s horrible be great for us. :-)
    It’s important don’t lose the hope in the future.


  10. Sarah-Leah says:

    I first read this sufi legend when i was in school in a book by Anthony de Mello, a priest who worked in the East for a long time and used many of these legends and tales in his sermons. It is a story that has marked my life ever since. We often think we know what God has planned for us and try to do things our own way, only to realise that God had something else planned and we have missed the joy by assuming that we can think like Him.

    Thank you for this story.

  11. kelreel says:

    how could you know this is a blessing?

    how could you know this is a misfortune?

    Good moral. ^^

  12. Agnieszka says:

    Everything in life is a blessing, and we should treasure it with all our hearts.


  13. wanbliska says:

    La voie du milieu. Y’a du boulot oui.

  14. Liara Covert says:

    This story reminds us that much of what we think is a misguided assumption. We are invited to transcend what we think we know to discover what really is.

  15. Joan says:

    Gorgeous legend to realize how stupid can be our thoughts or reactions. We must have faith that sometimes things happen because of something that has not shown up yet.


  16. Tania says:

    I love this story . Life is full of other meanings .Love Tania