There is a story told of a father and daughter who lived on a tropical island. The father had been widowed for some time. His daughter, one of several children, was the only child left at home. She was not a pretty woman, and was now getting on in years and was considered no longer “marriage material”. People of the village would look at her and comment among themselves as to how ugly she was, and it was a shame that she hadn’t found someone to marry her. Her father, loved her dearly but took advantage of her and became lazy, relying on her to provide for him and look after him as he got older.
One day a stranger visited the island. He saw the woman and started asking questions of the villagers as to who she was and why she wasn’t married. He stayed a while on the island learning all about this woman and fell in love with her. Eventually, he visited the father to speak to him about marrying the daughter. Now the father didn’t want to lose his daughter because she was of value to him – she would look after him in his old age. The custom at the time for any prospective suitor, was to offer the father a dowry. Cattle were of value to the islanders and the common dower was one cow. The suitor offered the father one cow, but the father turned him down. “How about two cows” the suitor offered. It was still not enough. Seeing that the father was very reluctant to release his daughter, the suitor made his last offer. “I am prepared to offer you nine cows for your daughter”. Now this was an offer even the father could not refuse. Nine cows represented riches beyond his wildest dreams. The father gave permission for his daughter to marry.
“But why would you offer so much for my daughter, for she is not beautiful?” the father asked. “Your daughter is more beautiful than you think. It is not the outside beauty that I see, but her inner beauty. I see a woman who humbly has served you without complaining. She has withstood the villagers gossip and remained dignified. She has seen her siblings married off but never fallen into despair. Your daughter is worth much more than you see. Yet everyone has missed what she has because they haven’t looked beyond her ugliness and they have felt sorry for her.”
From that point on, the villagers only talked about the “nine-cow woman”, the woman worth so many riches. They, from that point on changed their perspectives of what is beautiful and worthy. The father, humbled by what had been said to him about his daughter, began to provide for himself and work again for some of the other villagers. Instead of being inward looking, he became outward focused and looked to serve those in his village less well off than himself.
The daughter married the stranger, and moved away. They say they lived happily ever after. However, the story of the “nine-cow woman” would be told again and again to generation upon generation.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and is found in the most unlikely places – and is worth riches.