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17 Camels and 3 Sons

A popular story that is often repeated by math teachers and solicitors alike is a useful story to remember when negotiating or calculating complex family arrangements and estate matters.  I was told this story by my father who recalls hearing it from a math professor more than 50 years ago. I sadly do not know the identity of the original author.

A man died and left his herd of 17 camels to his three sons as an inheritance to them. In his will, he said his first son should get half of the camels, his middle son should get a third of the camels, and his youngest son should get a ninth of the camels.

But 17 doesn’t divide by two, or by three, or by nine so how can the problem be resolved without causing a rift and bearing in mind we cannot physically carve up camels (Adcock’s being animal lovers en masse).  This problem of inability to divide per the instructions could cause the brothers an intense negotiation in which tempers could rise and the threat of a court application mooted.

Desperate and unable to solve their problem, they consult a wise man/woman. After listening to them carefully, the wise advisor decided to donate a camel to them happening to have a spare camel as luck would have it.

Now with eighteen camels, the first son takes half of eighteen so nine camels; the middle son takes a third eighteen so six camels; the youngest son takes a ninth of eighteen, which is two camels.

9 + 6 + 2 = 17

They have one camel left over, which they take back to the wise advisor.  Problem solved.

All along, the brothers had everything they needed to solve their problem in a way that leaves everybody satisfied. However, they simply could not see it. Instead, distrust built, and tempers flared.

A lot of conflicts today are like the conflict between the three brothers and the 17 camels. At first, they seem impossible to resolve. No one can see an apparent solution. Yet, with a wise perspective, we can find a way to solve our problems and satisfy all the interests.

Call Adcock’s today 01543 442100 for problem solving of all kinds.


Disclaimer- Adcock’s Solicitors Limited are in possession of no camels but possess many other skills to help you solve all manner of issues whether family, property, lease extension, estate of tax matters.


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