Can you work it out?

Once upon a time there was a rich old Bedouin Chief whose wealth was measured in the number of camels he owned. This chief had 17 camels and on his deathbed he called his three sons together and told them that he wanted to share his camels out to his sons when he died. He wanted the first son to have half of his 17 camels, the second son to have one third of his 17 camels, and the third son was to have one ninth of the 17.

When the rich old Bedouin Chief died his sons got together to decide who should have the camels and in what proportion. The eldest son was not very pleased because half of 17 was not a whole number, in fact it came to eight remainder one. The second son was very annoyed because his one third did not work out either. His third share came to five remainder two! When the third son came to work out his share he was absolutely livid because his one ninth share did not work out either!! One remainder eight was not what he wanted to hear.

During their lives, when their father was alive, these sons never argued but now they were at each others throats, they just could not decide the proportions to divide up their father's legacy!! In fact they decided that they would have to kill some of the camels in order for them all to have their fair share but that would not leave them as rich as they would otherwise be. They picked up their swords and scimitars and were just about to start the massacre when their Uncle appeared on the scene, riding his own camel, just having heard of his brother's death.

He was very very annoyed because his nephews could not agree what to do; and they were just about to kill some camels, and probably each other too!! But he did appreciate their problem. So he said to them "I am old now and find it difficult sometimes to ride my camel. Here, have my camel and put it in with the others so you can fairly divide up your inheritance without any bloodshed. There will be 18 camels now."

So now there was 18 camels to be shared out. The eldest son had his share of half, which was 9 camels. The second son had his share of one third of the camels, which was 6 camels; and the third son had his one ninth share which was two.

Their Uncle was now very pleased, having helped the nephews to avoid any bloodshed. He watched them go away with 9 + 6 + 2 camels in their fair shares, the total camels being 17. So he got on his own camel, the eighteenth, which was left over, and rode it home!!!!!

So how was it that there was one left over? Why couldn't the sons share out the camels in the first place? The moral? Share things and you can solve the problems. But that doesn't answer the question: how was it that the Uncle could go home on his own camel? Can you really work it out?

Original author unknown.
(But many thanks to Peter Slough.)




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