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The Protective Mother Eel


From ancient Chinese folklore

In ancient China, there lived an educated man named Zhou Yu. One day, his friend brought him some fresh eels, a delicacy that Zhou Yu liked very much. Having little to do that day, Zhou Yu wanted to try his culinary skills, which he had long left unused, and prepared to make a batch of unseasoned eel stew.

He placed the eels in a pot, and when the stew began to boil, Zhou Yu lifted the lid and saw an extraordinary phenomenon. One of the eels had pushed its abdomen upward in an arch, leaving its head and tail in the soup. With great curiosity, Zhou Yu immediately spooned the eel out of the soup and cut open its abdomen. To his amazement, he saw countless eggs inside. In order to protect its spawn, the mother eel had struggled to prevent hot water from hurting its abdomen by pushing its body into an arch.

The sight left Zhou Yu dumbfounded, and he could not contain his tears. Even an eel knew how to protect its eggs, he thought, yet he, the highest of all creatures, had not been filial to his mother. Deeply moved, Zhou Yu vowed never to eat eel again. And he loved and respected his mother evermore.

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