The Greedy Goose that Laid Golden Eggs: A Fable

greylag goose

In a kingdom long ago, a Greylag goose lived on an island in the middle of a lake. She built her nest in the reeds, and after eating certain flowers and grasses, she laid an egg made of pure gold.

Every day, the goose ate the same flowers and grasses, and every morning she laid a golden egg until she had a clutch of five eggs. She sat on them all day long, and whenever she left her nest to eat, she covered them with sticks.

One day, a young man rowed his boat to the island. As he walked through the reeds, he saw the goose sitting in her nest.

“Get out of here!” the young man yelled. “I’m taking your eggs.”

The goose stretched out her neck. “No, you’re not!” she cried. “I made them, and they’re mine.”

The young man drew his sword. “Then I’ll have eggs and goose for dinner.”

“Oh my,” the goose sighed.

The young man started waving his sword, and the goose, fearing for her life, flew away.

The goose was so upset at being robbed, she flew straight to the king’s castle. But when the guard took her to the throne room, the king was asleep. After waiting for an hour, she honked until the old man woke up.

“A young thug stole my eggs,” the goose said sadly, bowing before the throne.

The king, whose name was John, shrugged his shoulders. “My people are poor and need to eat.”

“But these aren’t eggs you can eat. They are golden eggs.”

King John’s eyes opened wide, and he ran his fingers through his long grey hair. “Real gold you say?”

“Yes, if I eat the same flowers and grasses each day, I can lay an egg made of pure gold.”

King John thought for a moment; then he ran his fingers through his long grey beard. “I will help you if you help me.”

“You can get my eggs back for me?” the goose asked.

“Probably not,” King John admitted. “But I can protect you from thieves. You can build a nest in the turret of my castle, and my guards will bring you grass and flowers to eat.”

The goose looked at the guard; then she looked at the king. “What do you want in return?”

King John smiled. “Only one out of every ten eggs that you lay.”

The goose looked into the king’s eyes. They were dark, swollen, and half-open, and she didn’t know if she could trust him. She thought long and hard; then finally she said, “Okay. One-tenth sounds fair to me.”

And so, King John let the goose live in the turret of his castle where she built the largest nest a goose has ever made. (It was five feet wide and two feet deep.) The guards brought her grass and flowers to eat, and every day she laid a golden egg. She sat on them, stared at them, and sometimes, when no one was looking, kissed them with her beak.

When summer came to an end, the goose had laid one hundred golden eggs, and she gave ten to King John.

The following spring, when the goose started to lay eggs again, she was summoned to see the king. A guard escorted her to the throne room, and after he opened the double doors for her, she bowed her head and walked to the throne.

“My dear goose,” King John said with a smile, “my people are poor, and I need you to give a little bit more to help me provide for them.”

The goose raised her head. “But we agreed to one-tenth.”

“That was last year. Times have changed, and I need you to give a little bit more.”

“How much?” the goose asked.


The goose looked at the guard; then she looked at King John. “What if I say no?”

“Then you can go back to your island and take your chances with thieves.”

The goose loved her eggs, and didn’t want to lose any of them, so she agreed to the king’s terms.

The following spring, the goose was summoned again before the king, and he asked her for one-fourth. And the year after that, one-third.

The fifth year, a guard came to turret and took the goose to see King John. But when she entered the throne room, she did not bow her head.

“Let me guess,” the goose said. “You want more of my eggs.”

“Yes, goose,” King John said sternly. “You have much more gold than you need. My people are poor, and I need you to serve the greater good.”

“How much do you want now?” the goose wondered.


The goose thought for a moment, and then she said, “No; that’s too much. I’ve spoken to another king, and he will let me live in his castle for much less.”

“You greedy goose!” King John shouted. “I will not allow this!”

The goose stretched out her neck. “I made my eggs, not you!” she said defiantly. “And I’ll do whatever I want with them.”

King John turned to the guard. “Seize her and lock her up!”

The guard chased the goose around the throne room, but he couldn’t catch her. Then he drew his sword, but she flew over him, escaped the castle and fled to another kingdom.

With the goose gone, King John took all the eggs that the goose left behind, kept a dozen for himself, and used the rest to provide for his people. However, when the gold ran out, the people were just as poor as they were before.

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The Absurd Nature of of Greed: Goldfinger (1964)

Goldfinger (1964)The villain in Guy Hamilton’s Goldfinger (1964) is like a dragon with an insatiable lust for gold. Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) loves the yellow metal more than anything, telling James Bond (Sean Connery), “All my life I have been in love with its color, its brilliance, its divine heaviness.” His plan to irradiate all the gold at Fort Knox with an atomic bomb reveals the absurd nature of greed: Greed is a madness that consumes the mind, making people do things that are irrational and ridiculous.

Although the film’s plot is absurd, it is based on the historical reality in 1964. Goldfinger’s plan to irradiate all the gold at Fort Knox would send shock-waves throughout the world economy. In 1964, the United States, England, and over forty other countries were on the gold standard.1 Many of the world’s currencies were pegged to the price of gold.2 Under the Bretton Woods System that lasted until 1971, “the U.S. government promised to redeem other central banks’ holdings of dollars for gold at a fixed rate of thirty-five dollars per ounce.”3 This resulted in a steady outflow of gold from the United States to other countries due to “persistent U.S. balance-of-payments deficits.”4 For example, if another country had a trade surplus with the United States—exporting more goods to the U.S. than they imported—this would result in a surplus of U.S. dollars in that country’s central bank. The central bank could then exchange the U.S. dollars for gold bullion with the U.S. Federal Reserve. Goldfinger’s plan, if successful, would create financial chaos. With the gold at Fort Knox irradiated, the U.S. would not be able to meet its international obligations to exchange gold for U.S. dollars, leading to a financial crisis. Such a crisis, however, would be good for Goldfinger. With his large holdings of industrial gold, the resulting shortage would allow him to raise his price on the black market, making him an even richer man.

Prior to launching Operation Grand Slam, Goldfinger is already a rich man, but he wants to increase his wealth ten-fold. By definition, he is a man consumed by greed: “an excessive desire for more of something than is needed.”5 With international gold deposits worth 20 million pounds, he does not need more wealth, but when you are greedy, more is always better. The Bretton Woods System made “the importation of gold for private speculative purposes” illegal, so Goldfinger makes his money in the black market.6 This also mirrors historical reality at the time: “By the 1960s, many foreigners were buying gold at an artificially low price of $35 … and sold it in the black market for easy profit.”7 Goldfinger purchases industrial gold in England, smuggles it to other countries, and sells it at double or triple the price. To protect England’s gold supply, this is something MI-6 wants to stop. Colonel Smithers tells Bond, “We are vitally concerned with unauthorized leakages,” to which Bond replies, “I take it you mean smuggling.” Although MI-6 suspects that Goldfinger is selling gold illegally, they have no proof. Bond eventually discovers that he has a plan to create a worldwide gold shortage by detonating an atomic bomb at Fort Knox. Goldfinger is more than a gold smuggler: He is an economic terrorist who must be stopped.

With an outrageous plot and a ridiculous villain, Goldfinger illustrates the absurd nature of greed. Goldfinger tells Bond, “I welcome any enterprise that will increase my stock, which is considerable.” There is nothing wrong with becoming rich, but Goldfinger has only one goal in life: getting richer. An incredibly rich man, he is not content with what he has. Such is the nature of greed: No matter how much you get, you are never satisfied. You always want more.


  1. Encyclopedia Britannica Online, s.v. “Bretton Woods system,” accessed January 1, 2015,
  2. Investopedia, s.v. “Bretton Woods Agreement,” accessed July 25, 2015,
  3. Michael D. Bordo, “Gold Standard,” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics,
  4. Ibid.
  5. Merriam Webster, s.v. “Greed,” accessed December 29, 2014,
  6. Henry C.K. Liu, ” Gold, manipulation and domination,” Asia Times, October 2, 2008,
  7. Ibid.

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