There was once an old man who had one son and a horse. One day the horse broke free and went galloping off to freedom in the nearby hills.
The man’s neighbours sympathised with him. “What very bad luck to have lost your horse,” they said. “Why do you say that?” replied the old man. “Who is to say whether it is bad luck?”
And sure enough, the very next night the horse returned, and behind him came twelve wild horses, which he had led back home with him. The man’s son quickly closed the gate of the paddock, and instead of one horse, they now had thirteen.
And the neighbours stared at the paddock the next morning, and said “What extraordinary good luck – to have thirteen horses!”
“Why do you say that?” the old man replied. “Who is to say whether it is good luck?”
A little while later, the old man’s son went out on one of the new horses. But the horse was still wild, and it threw the boy off its back, and the boy fell and broke his leg.
The neighbours came round to the old man to commiserate. “What very bad luck,” they said, “that your son has broken his leg.”
“Why do you say that?” the old man asked them. “Who is to say whether it is bad luck?”
And indeed, a short while later, the militia came to the village, conscripting all the able-bodied young men to go to fight in the war, where many of the would lose their lives. But when they saw the old man’s son lying there with a broken leg, they passed him by and went on their way.
“How lucky you are,” the neighbours said. And the old man smiled.