This is a short bittersweet story of a father's (eventually) successful efforts to teach his seven year old son about the "evils" of smoking. The father, a prosperous and recently widowed prosecutor, begins his "lesson" by first trying to explain the nature of property (his son had taken his tobacco); in the voice of "the nursery" he tries to compel his son not to smoke again.

Then, trying to recapture the teachable moment after this first attempt fails, the father reminds himself that the modern teacher must stand on logic in order to help the child form the necessary principles. Learning should be based neither on fear nor on desire for rewards he tells himself--but he fails again.

Finally the father realizes that he must enter his son's world in order for his son to understand him. This he does through an improvised story wherein a young prince "abandons" his aging father through an early death due to smoking. The connection is made and the young son swears to not smoke again. The father then reflects on the power of story in the lives not only of children, but of us all.


Translated by Constance Garnett. The Cook's Wedding and Other Stories was first published in 1922 (MacMillan).

Primary Source

The Cook's Wedding and Other Stories


Ecco: Norton

Place Published

New York



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