Peter And The Magic Thread

In honor of Easter coming up, I thought we’d share a short fable today :)

Let this be a story to marinate on over the weekend, and maybe even bookmark for the future. Hat tip to Sarah Noelle who I first heard this from, and ironically enough, almost exactly a year ago today!

The Magic Thread

In this French tale we read of Peter, a boy who is strong and able, yet sadly flawed by an attitude of impatience. Always dissatisfied with his present condition, Peter spends his life day-dreaming about the future.

One day while wandering in the forests, Peter meets a strange old woman who gives him a most tantalizing opportunity — the chance to skip the dull, mundane moments of life. She hands Peter a silver ball from which a tiny gold thread protrudes.

“This is your life thread,” she explains. “Do not touch it and time will pass normally. But if you wish time to pass more quickly, you have only to pull the thread a little way and an hour will pass like a second. But I warn you, once the thread has been pulled out, it cannot be pushed back in again.”

This magical thread seems the answer to all of Peter’s problems. It is just what he has always wanted. He takes the ball and runs home.

The following day in school Peter has his first opportunity to put the silver ball to use. The lesson is dragging, and the teacher scolds Peter for not concentrating. Peter fingers the silver ball and gives the thread a slight tug. Suddenly, the teacher dismisses the class, and Peter is free to leave school. He is overjoyed! How easy his life will now be.

From this moment, Peter begins to pull the thread a little every day.

But soon Peter begins to use the magic thread to rush through larger portions of life. Why waste time pulling the thread just a little every day when he can pull it hard and complete school altogether? He does so and finds himself out of school and apprenticed in trade. Peter uses the same technique to rush through his engagement to his sweetheart. He cannot bear and wait months to marry her so he uses the gold thread to hasten the arrival of the wedding day.

Peter continues to pattern throughout his life when hard, trying times come, he escapes then with his magic thread. But sadly when he comes to the end of his life, Peter realizes the emptiness of such an existence. By allowing impatience and discontentment to rule him, Peter has robbed himself of life’s riches moments and memories. With only the grave to look forward to, he deeply regrets ever having used the magic thread.


Now this is the condensed version I found online, but it seems like the expanded stories had much happier endings. Like waking up from a bad dream, or getting the chance to do it all over again and start from the beginning :) Regardless, the point is one we’d be smart to heed:


Life can blow, but speeding it up also speeds up something else – death. Let tomorrow come on its own, as well as the next day, the next week, month, year – and if we should be so lucky – the next decade(s).

Use the weekend to slow down and be thankful for the one thing we all have right now – time. We’ll slip back into the rush again come Monday I’m sure, but for the moment let’s take a deep breath together and soak it in.

We’re alive! And it feels good!!

For similar reading, and a way to feel less jealous of others, go back to our post on whether or not you’d like to be Warren Buffett ;) You may instinctively scream “YES!,” but remember what else comes along with it – age. Are you really ready to be 86 right now?

[Photo by Sudhamshu Hebbar]

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  1. My Sons Father April 14, 2017 at 6:04 AM

    Great message this morning. The story reminded me of the movie Click, which was likely based off this fable.

    This message rings even more true now that I’m a parent. The little moments are so valuable and fleeting. Enjoy them, they’ll be gone before you know it. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Master Duke April 15, 2017 at 2:14 PM

      This reminded me of Click too!!

      1. J. Money April 16, 2017 at 3:11 PM

        Oh yeah!!! forgot about that movie – great one :)

        1. theFIREstarter May 7, 2017 at 5:57 PM

          Yep this is another great story that Adam Sandler has ruined :)

          (For the record Happy Gilmore is one of my fav movies of all time, I just wish he’d stopped making them shortly after that!)

          1. J. Money May 21, 2017 at 5:16 PM

            The price is wrong, Bitch!

  2. The Tepid Tamale April 14, 2017 at 6:36 AM

    “We’re alive! And it feels good!!” Sometimes I think of the opposing forces in my current journey of simplification and saving $. I have 5 kids, which seems to make all the goals much more difficult. However the goals really aren’t simplifying or saving $, the goal is really to enjoy life (which is the point of simplifying, etc.). There cannot be a much better way to enjoy life than to watch children! They constantly enjoy what we have forgot how to.

    Thanks for another reminder to enjoy the moment!
    – The Tepid Tamale

    1. J. Money April 16, 2017 at 3:12 PM

      You are blessed, my friend :)

  3. FullTimeFinance April 14, 2017 at 7:39 AM

    Great message for a Friday morning. It’s one of the big fears I have with the FIRE community. It’s very easy to fall into a trap of it’s all about when you retire and stop living your life. Just as in the proverb that would be a major mistake.

  4. DJ @1000WaysToSave April 14, 2017 at 7:54 AM

    Great parable. I think about this a lot when it comes to our kids. Sometimes they can be challenging, and you wish that you could “fast-forward” to the years when they are older and (supposedly) more mature. Yet, then we take a step back and remember that good or bad these are the moments that we’ll cherish forever, and time will never give us back. It’s okay to look forward, but remember to embrace the little moments too.

    1. J. Money April 16, 2017 at 3:14 PM

      Yup :) And you tend to forget all those terrible moments too and look back on it like they were cute little angels when that’s far from the truth, haha.. Or at least I do (my kids are almost 3 and 5 now and how i miss when i could hold them in my arms without them wiggling to get free!)

  5. Mr Crazy Kicks April 14, 2017 at 8:12 AM

    It’s important, on the journey to FI, not to get too caught up with the destination. The best way to enjoy life is by living in the present, and the more fun you have the faster time flies anyway. I don’t think I’d ever be pulling that thread, life is too short as it is :)

    1. Master Duke April 15, 2017 at 2:15 PM

      Love this comment !! Find your passion, have more fun, and life goes by fast anyway!

  6. Lisa O April 14, 2017 at 9:00 AM

    Amen! Life really does pick up the pace after 40. Slow down and enjoy all the moments life has to offer. The worst moments just help to make the best moments that much better.

    Good read on this “Good Friday”!

    1. J. Money April 16, 2017 at 3:14 PM

      HAH! I see what you did there :)

  7. Ty Roberts April 14, 2017 at 9:09 AM

    That reminds me of an old poem I once heard:
    “As a rule man is a fool, When it’s hot he wants it cool, When it’s cool he wants it hot, Always wanting what is not.” – Anonymous

    Be happy. Make it be a good day!

    1. J. Money April 16, 2017 at 3:15 PM

      Lots of truth in that one, boy…

  8. Ms. Montana April 14, 2017 at 9:36 AM

    I’m almost incapable of napping. I’m like a 2 year old that just doesn’t want to miss the fun. I’ve had a few rough spots in life, but I’m not sure I would ever pull the thread.

  9. Matt @ Optimize Your Life April 14, 2017 at 9:38 AM

    “We’re alive! And it feels good!!” would be a good sign to put above a desk.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    1. J. Money April 16, 2017 at 3:16 PM

      Or above your bed :)

  10. Miss Mazuma April 14, 2017 at 9:47 AM

    Poor Peter. I think we all go through those moments of wanting to press fast forward but it’s SO true that as you get older time flies so much faster! Some days I want a pause button!! :) On the road to FI, I see many talk about just wanting to get there (I do it too!) but the journey is as important as the destination. When you find yourself in one of those fast forward moments it’s helpful to remember the phrase “embrace the suck”…it will all fly by if you let it. Thanks for the reminder!!

  11. Jacq April 14, 2017 at 9:59 AM

    I’ve had a busy week, with another coming up. I have plans Saturday to meet a friend who said she’ll drive to lunch & a wine tasting, but we’ve got no set time to be anywhere. Then Sunday is all for whatever happens (and probably laundry). I’m taking this weekend as a chance to enjoy. Thanks for the reminder. :)

  12. Joe April 14, 2017 at 10:22 AM

    Good fable. Life has its ups and downs. The bad patches make the good stretches even better. Well, hopefully there are more good than bad. I’ve been very lucky so far.

  13. Dana April 14, 2017 at 10:48 AM

    I love this. My daughter turns 20 tomorrow. I’m going to send this story to her. Thanks for sharing.

    1. J. Money April 16, 2017 at 3:16 PM

      That makes me happy to hear :)

  14. Amy @ Life Zemplified April 14, 2017 at 10:57 AM

    Great story, definitely bookmarkable. :) Thanks for sharing. Happy weekend!

  15. Mrs. Picky Pincher April 14, 2017 at 11:03 AM

    Oh dang, this is deep. Thanks for the reminder. :) I’ve been really impatient lately for change and better things. But it’s the little mundane, infuriating moments that make everything so worth it. :)

  16. Primal Prosperity April 14, 2017 at 12:26 PM

    This kind of reminds me an old Twilight Zone episode. If I remember correctly, the story goes something like this… this guy realizes that he can get anything he wants. Win a big poker pot? Done. Get the pretty girl? Yep. That raise at work? Sure thing. Then he starts to realize that life is almost tortuous to him because everything is so easy and he already knows that he will always win no matter what. At the end of the episode, he finally realizes that he is in hell. :)

    Also, I would never want to be Warren Buffett… he seems rather boring. But Sir Richard Branson? He seems soooooo interesting.

    1. J. Money April 16, 2017 at 3:17 PM

      Haha…. I get that same feeling too :)

  17. Master Duke April 15, 2017 at 2:13 PM

    This is a great reminder to focus on the journey – its so much more important than the destination. Throughout your journey you learn the lessons of life that make you who you are and get you where you want to go!

    This makes me think the Adam Sandler movie was written based from Peter lol! The weather is nice this weekend, can’t wait to slow down, lay in the grass, and read a nice book from the library. #FrugalityAtItsFinest!

    1. J. Money April 16, 2017 at 3:17 PM

      That sounds splendid!