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.

Aesop For ChildrenAesop For Children (The Bundle of Sticks)

A certain Father had a family of Sons, who were forever quarreling among themselves. No words he could say did the least good, so he cast about in his mind for some very striking example that should make them see that discord would lead them to misfortune.

One day when the quarreling had been much more violent than usual and each of the Sons was moping in a surly manner, he asked one of them to bring him a bundle of sticks. Then handing the bundle to each of his Sons in turn he told them to try to break it. But although each one tried his best, none was able to do so.

The Father then untied the bundle and gave the sticks to his Sons to break one by one. This they did very easily.

“My Sons,” said the Father, “do you not see how certain it is that if you agree with each other and help each other, it will be impossible for your enemies to injure you? But if you are divided among yourselves, you will be no stronger than a single stick in that bundle.”


In unity is strength.

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.

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall (The Old Man and his Sons)

Croxall - Old Man and SonsAN old man had Many Sons, who were often falling out one with another. When the father had exerted his authority, and used other means in order to reconcile them, and all to no purpose, at last he had recourse to this expedient; he ordered his Sons to be called before him, and a short bundle of sticks to be brought; and then commanded them, one by one, to try if, with all their might and strength, they could any of them break it. They all tried, but to no purpose; for the sticks being closely and compactly bound up together, it was impossible for the force of man to do it. After this the father ordered the bundle to be untied, and gave a single stick to each of his sons, at the same time bidding him try to break it: which, when each did with all imaginable ease, the father addressed himself to them to this effect. O my sons, behold the power of unity! For, if yon, in like manner, would but keep yourselves strictly conjoined in the bonds of friendship, it would not be in the power of any mortal to hurt you; but when once the ties of brotherly affection are dissolved, how soon do you fall to pieces, and are liable to be violated by very injurious hand that assaults you,


Whittingham - Old Man and Sons

C. Whittingham (1814)

Nothing is more necessary towards completing and continuing the well-being of mankind, than their entering into, and preserving friendship and alliances. The safety of a government depends chiefly upon this; and therefore it is weakened and exposed to its enemies, in proportion as it is divided by parties. A kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation. And the same holds good among all societies and corporations of men, from the constitution of the nation down to every little parochial vestry. But the necessity of friendship extends itself to all sorts of relations in life; as it conduces mightily to the advantage of particular clans and families. Those of the same blood and lineage have a natural disposition to unite together, which they ought, by all means, to cultivate and improve. It must be a great comfort to people, when they fall under any calamity, to know that there are many others sympathise with them; a great load of grief is mightily lessened, when it is parcelled out into many shares. And then joy, of all our passions, loves to be communicative, and generally increases, in proportion to the number of those who partake of it with us. We defy the threats and malice of an enemy, when we are assured that he cannot attack us single, but must encounter a bundle of allies at the same time. But they that behave themselves so as to have few or no friends in the world, live in a perpetual fear and jealousy of mankind, because they are sensible of their own weakness, and know themselves liable to be crushed, or broken to pieces by the first aggressor.

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.

1001Pater et Filii Litigantes

Agricola, filios suos videns quotidie litigantes, iussit fasciculum virgarum sibi afferri. Quae cum allatae essent, colligavit omnes in unum fasciculum iussitque singulos filiorum fasciculum capere et confringere. Illis vero confringere non valentibus, solvens postea fasciculum, tradidit singulas singulis eis frangendas atque, illis statim facileque frangentibus, dixit, “Ita et vos, filii mei, si unanimes perstiteritis, invictos vos hostibus praebebitis. Sin minus, ipsa vestra aemulatio opportunam vos praedam inimicis praestabit.”

Perry #53