The eighteenth camel

Once upon a time there was a Bedouin who had three sons. He worked all of his life, but the only richness he accumulated to leave for his sons was a herd of 17 camels. His day came and he called his sons saying: “My sons, I’m about to die. Please, look after each other and live in peace. I leave my herd of 17 camels, which I want you to divide in the following way. You, my eldest son, take one half of the herd. You, my middle son, take one third of the herd. And you, my little one, since you are very young, take one ninth part of the herd.” With these words the old man died.

The sons buried their father and began to divide the heritage. At this point they realized that the 17 camels could not be divided integrally either into 2, into 3, or into 9 parts. So, they began arguing. This arguing led to no compromise and soon there arose open fighting amongst them.

At this time another Bedouin with a camel happened to come across this place. Seeing these young men fighting, he asked them what was happening and why they were fighting. They told him their story. And the Bedouin said: “Please, do not kill each other for the camels, rather, take my camel!”

The young men took the Bedouin’s camel and the herd became 18 camels. Now it could be divided integrally into 2, 3, and 9 parts. So, the oldest son took his 9 camels, 1/2 of the herd. The middle son took his 6 camels, 1/3 of the herd. And the smallest son took his 2 camels, 1/9 of the herd. So, they divided 17 camels (9+6+2=17). And there was also one camel left, which they returned with gratitude to the generous and wise stranger. He then took his camel and went away. Peace among brothers was reestablished.