THERE was once an oilman with five sons and they were all married and lived jointly with their father. But the daughters-in-law were discontented with this arrangement and urged their husbands to ask their father to divide the family property. At first the old man refused, but when his sons persisted, he told them to bring him a log two cubits long and so thick that two hands could just span it, and he said that if they could break the log in two, he would divide the property; so they brought the log and then asked for axes, but he told them that they must break it themselves by snapping it or twisting it or standing on it; so they tried and failed. Then the old man said, "You are five and I make six; split the log into six," So they split it and he gave each a piece and told them to break them, and each easily snapped his stick; then the old man said "We are like the whole log: we have plenty of property and are strong and can overcome attack; but if we separate we shall be like the split sticks and easily broken." They admitted that this was true and proposed that the property should not be divided but that they should all become separate in mess. But the father would not agree to this for he thought that people would call him a miser if he let his sons live separately without his giving them their share in the property as their own, So as they persisted in their folly he partitioned the property.
But in a few years they all fell into poverty and had not enough to eat nor clothes to wear, and the father and mother were no better off; then the old man called all his sons and their wives and said "You see what trouble you have fallen into; I have a riddle for you, explain it to me. There are four wells, three empty and one full of water; if you draw water from the full one and pour it into the three empty ones they will become full; but when they are full and the first one is empty, if you pour water from the three full ones into the empty one it will not be filled; what does this mean?" And they could not answer and he said, "The four wells mean that a man had three sons, and while they were little he filled their stomachs as the wells were filled with water; but when they separated they would not fill the old man's stomach."
And it was true, that the sons had done nothing to help their father and they were filled with shame and they agreed that as long as their father lived they would be joint with him and would not separate again until he died.