The Father, His Sons, and The Bundle of Sticks

Sticks in a bundle can’t be broken but sticks taken singly can be easily broken. Same applies to people.

There is strength in union.

Eliot-JacobsEliot/Jacobs Version

An old man on the point of death summoned his sons around him to give them some parting advice. He ordered them to bring in a bundle of sticks, and said to his eldest son: “Break it.”

The son strained and strained, but with all his efforts was unable to break the bundle. The other sons also tried, but none succeeded.

“Untie the bundle,” said the father, “and each of you take a stick.” When they had done so, he told them: “Now, break,” and each stick was easily broken.

Townsend VersionTownsend version

A Father had a family of sons who were perpetually quarreling among themselves. When he failed to heal their disputes by his exhortations, he determined to give them a practical illustration of the evils of disunion; and for this purpose he one day told them to bring him a bundle of sticks. When they had done so, he placed the bundle into the hands of each of them in succession, and ordered them to break it in pieces. They tried with all their strength, and were not able to do it. He next opened the bundle, took the sticks separately, one by one, and again put them into his sons’ hands, upon which they broke them easily. He then addressed them in these words: “My sons, if you are of one mind, and unite to assist each other, you will be as this faggot, uninjured by all the attempts of your enemies; but if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.” The breach of unity puts the world, and all that’s in it, into a state of war, and turns every man’s hand against his brother; but so long as the band holds, it is the strength of all the several parts of it gatherd into one.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

An Old Man had many Sons, who were always falling out with one another. He had often, but to no purpose, exhorted them to live together in harmony. One day he called them round him, and producing a bundle of sticks, bade them try each in turn to break it across. Each put forth all his strength, but the bundle resisted all their efforts. Then, cutting the cord which bound the sticks together, he told his Sons to break them separately. This was done with the greatest case. “See, my Sons,” exclaimed he, “the power of unity! Bound together by brotherly Jove, you may defy almost every mortal ill; divided, you will fall a prey to your enemies.”

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange version

It was the hap of a very honest man to be the father of a contentious brood of children. He call’d for a rod, and bad ‘em take it, and try one after another with all their force, if they could break it. They try’d, and could not. Well (says he) unbind it now, and take every twig of it apart, and see what you can do that way. They did so, and with great ease, by one and one, they snapt it all to pieces. This (says he) is the true emblem of your condition. Keep together and y’are safe, divide, and y’are undone.


The breach of unity puts the world, and all that’s in’t, into a state of war, and turns every man’s hand against his brother; but so long as the band holds, ’tis the strength of all the several parts of it gathered into one.

Crane Poetry VisualCrane Poetry Visual


Bundle of Sticks

To his sons, who fell out, father spake:
“This Bundle of Sticks you can’t break;
Take them singly, with ease.
You may break as you please;
So, dissension your strength will unmake.”

Strength is in unity.

Perry #53