Bayswater's Find of the Week on the Used Book Floor Blog

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

What is in a Fortune?

     Ever wondered what the fortune meant that you cracked open at the end of your most recent Chinese food meal?  You have come to the right place!

     Our find, a well-preserved Chinese fortune, was discovered in the pages of a 1994 printing of “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy.  Before we go on about the fortune, (and you know we will) it is worth noting that this classic contains all of the books from J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy, including The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and the Return of the King (complete with maps and an impressive appendix).  Clocking in at 1137 pages, this could be your next winter read!

     Anyway, back to the fortune.  It reads…drumroll…: “You are almost there”.  

     Almost where, we thought?  What kind of fortune is that?  Not a very helpful or enlightening one.  True, a line such as that could mean that “you are almost there” with your personal self-improvement process, or the reaching of your long-awaited financial freedom and security.  It could also mean, however, that “you are almost there” with regard to going home and enjoying your Chinese food, or that “you are almost there” with the cleaning out of that Tupperware drawer of yours.  Jeez.  Come on, fortune-creating people.  We need specificity, here!

     So, in an attempt to clear up our confusion, we did a little research as to where the fortune cookie comes from and its true intent.  In continuation of the theme of uncertainty, however, we discovered that there are four (count them, four!) different theories as to where they come from and why the fortune’s writings were originally created.  Sigh.  Here is the rundown:

Theory #1:  A Chinese immigrant living in Los Angeles founded the Hong Kong Noodle Company in 1918 and created the cookie, complete with a Bible-based inspirational fortune on it, to pass out to people he saw living on the streets.

Theory #2:  A Japanese immigrant and designer of the famous Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate State Park experienced hard times.  When the tide changed for him, he enclosed heart-felt notes of thanks enclosed in a cookie.

Theory #3:  China was occupied by Mongols during the 13th and 14th centuries.  Because the Mongolian people were rumored to have no taste for the ingredients that make up the fortune cookie, the Chinese people hid messages of revolution in the cookies and distributed them.

Theory #4: The cookies originated in Japan in 1878, as a recently discovered wood block image resembling the grilling of what appears to be an early fortune cookie depicts.  In the photo, the fortune wasn’t baked inside, but rather, it was placed on the outside, pinched between the two ends of the cookie (think of Pacman holding a fortune in his mouth).

     Honestly, you could throw your lot in with any of the four options.  Or, if you’d rather take your chances with the numbers provided on our fortune and play the lottery, here they are: 8, 11, 19, 21, 24, 36.  Just think, buy the right ticket and you could be “almost there!”  If your hands are currently tossed up in the air with regard to the fortune and you desire “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy book instead, it can be yours for the price of $4.99.  You can catch up with our previous finds of the week on the used book floor at and on facebook.  Better yet, stop by the store in Center Harbor and check out the used book floor for yourself!