Once there was a man who owned seventeen camels. He was very proud of them. One day he called his three sons and said, “I am too old to look after my camels. So I shall divide my seventeen camels among the three of you. My eldest son will get half the camels, my second son will get one-third and my youngest son will get one-ninth.
Now take the camels and look after them.” The youngest son said, “If I divide seventeen by nine the answer is one and eight-ninths.” The second son said one-third of seventeen is five and two-thirds. The eldest son said half of seventeen is eight and a half. “So I shall take nine camels”. “Then I should get six” said the second son.
The youngest son said, “I want two whole camels”. The three brothers (quarrelled among themselves. Their father was angry and said, “None of you are good at mathematics. You must look for some one who can help you”. The three sons took the seventeen camels and walked down the road in search of a man who could help them. They first met a trader. The trader offered a good price for the camels and asked them to share the money among themselves. The three brothers were not willing to sell the camels. They then met a butcher in his shop.
He said, “I will solve your problem. I can cut your camels exactly into half, two-thirds and eight-ninths”. The brothers did not like the idea either. Then on the way they met a little boy and a girl returning home from school. They saw the camels and said, “Seventeen camels”. The brothers told them the whole story and asked if they could help them. The little boy and the girl said, “This is a very easy problem. We’II solve it for you.” The boy went and stood near the seventeen camels. “Pretend that I am a camel too. Then how many camels are there altogether?” “Eighteen”, the brothers answered. “Right”, the girl said, “What is half of eighteen?” “Nine,” replied the eldest. “So take away your nine camels,” said the boy. “Now what is one third of eighteen?” “Six”, said the second. “That’s my share”. “Correct”, said the girl. “Now what is one-ninth of eighteen?” “Two,” shouted the youngest joyfully.
“I’ve got two whole camels”. Thus the eldest brother could own nine camels, the second six and the youngest two. “But what about the pretended camel?” The youngest asked. “Oh! Now I’m a boy again,” replied the boy. “I don’t need to be a camel any more.” The three brothers were very happy. They took the little boy and the girl, with them to meet their father. Of course none walked, each of them rode a camel.