The Cheese Sculpture

Once there was a kingdom of cheese makers.  These cheese makers knew everything about any kind of milk and knew how to make any kind of cheese.  They held festivals of cheese for which people pilgrimaged. They even built a house of cheese once a year for kids to eat through the walls and floors.  Not one of these cheese makers had any muscle tone. All of them looked like balls of cheese with legs and arms like toothpicks and little round balls of cheese for heads.  

Other kingdoms traded with them except one.  This one kingdom was made of people who thought of nothing but hunting and war.  They spent all their time making blades of every kind. And this kingdom loved to eat so much that they had become cannibals.  And they had tasted the meat of the cheesemakers and it was like a steak marbled with a cheesy fat. Only the other kingdoms held them back from destroying the cheesemakers because they loved their cheese so much.

Whenever a cannibal carved through a cheesemaker, it was as satisfying to watch how the blade sliced through them as eating them.  But whenever a cheesemaker was cut, the smell that was released could knock a cannibal out with one whiff. In time, though, the cannibals could not be held back nor could they resist the idea of feasting on the cheese makers.  So they did attempt to attack the kingdom of the cheese once.  

The Great Cheese War, as the cheese makers called it, was won by hot liquid sticky cheese that the cheesemakers dumped on the cannibals.  The cheese cooled and solidified them wherever they stood. The cannibals could not eat their way out of that much solidified fondue and had to surrender under the stench of all the cheese they had cut.  After this, it was common for people to ask “who cut the cheese?” when someone passed away.

One year, as any other, there was a cheese carving competition.  And one cheese maker, Klaus, was an excellent cheese sculptor. He had won year after year.  But this year he concocted the wildest vision in a dream the night before. And so he chased after that dream and made a cheese sculpture that went beyond what he had ever done.  The attention to detail was mind-boggling. It was the most elaborate miniature cheese castle anyone had ever seen. There were aged Gouda curtains and Feta rugs. Brie beds and Roquefort chandeliers.

Of course, he won the competition but after that he never made another sculpture again.  Instead, he spent most of his time staring at his cheese sculpture. And he would bring it to the competitions year after year as it got moldier and moldier but nobody had the heart to tell him to stop.  The moldy clump, that was a Käseschloss, was still a brilliant castle to the cheese maker.  

Eventually uninvited from the competition, Klaus kept it at home and stared at it all alone.  Long after Klaus died, or cut the cheese, his story was told by the cheese makers as a lesson to not hold onto any achievement no matter how rich and cheesy.  And it became common for people to say to others “stop holding your cheese” whenever they needed to move on to making something new.

The Soup Maker’s Broth

Once there was a soup maker who woke up before dawn everyday to make the broth upon which his whole village depended.  Every villager thought he was the best person amongst them because who else wakes up so early everyday to work without a complaint and a smile on his face.  Since they had never seen him in a bad mood, they assumed he clearly held some inner truth that sustained him in his service to them.

That was until they found out what his inner truth really was when a little girl who could not sleep one night wandered over to watch him make the broth and saw him pissing into the pot.  At first, the villagers did not believe her but then they snuck over and saw it for themselves the next day.

Some of them had grown up on his broth and everyone was not only having it daily but raising their kids on the stuff.  And when they confronted him about it, the soup maker argued that some put wine in their broth and others beer, and so he thought he’d do the same but use himself as a filter so that none ever went to waste.  

The villagers detested nothing more than waste and so they punished the girl for making them assume the worst and enjoyed the broth more than ever knowing that their soup maker had made it with the utmost efficiency in mind and spirit and in full dedication to his craft.

Slippery Fish

Once there was a fish so slippery that nobody ever caught it. In fact, there was a whole school of this fish. And nobody except one man ever caught sight of them because they stayed at the bottom of their sea. The man who saw them tried to catch one but they slipped through his grasp. Others dove down there too but never saw them. So they thought the man who spoke of slippery fish made it all up. He dove back down there to prove it to them but he could never catch them. And when he brought others with him, the fish disappeared altogether and so he began to wonder if he had ever seen them at all.

Barrels of Soil

Once there was a farmer whose soil was so rich that he was the envy of all other farmers and anyone who tasted his crops.  The other farmers got so sick of it that they held a meeting about what to do and came up with a plan to ruin him.  

They invited the farmer to let them buy his rich soil at a profit to him that was at a price the farmer could not refuse.  He could see the dismay that his rich soil caused them and even felt sorry for them because his farm’s rich soil was a mystery to him as well.  He was just lucky and he understood how some people hate that in others while wanting it themselves. So to sweeten the pot and lessen the envy, he told the farmers that not only would he sell the soil but also deliver it to their farms.  

The farmers agreed and looked like the cat that ate the canary as he signed the contract selling soil from his property.  They were certain that they had tricked this fool into ruining his farm. All they had to do was buy enough of it over the course of the next few years.  Meanwhile they imagined that the tastiness of their crops would allow them to raise their prices again to cover the cost of the plan to ruin his farm.  

With the profit made by selling soil, he could easily hire people to dig and deliver it.  So he hired two teams. One who lived in another village where he knew the other farmers did not go and he purchased property there.  That team dug up the earth and filled barrel after barrel with soil from that property. He hired another team to deliver the barrels.    

Years passed by and the farmers still received as many barrels of soil as they asked for.  The farmer had the team who delivered the barrels do so with a magical sounding chant that actually had no effect other than to make the farmers feel as if they were receiving the rich soil.  But the flavor of their crops did not improve. This was disappointing but the farmers were possessed by their plan. The idea of putting the farmer out of business by taking his soil consumed them.  

Meanwhile the farmer with the richest soil got even richer off of his crops and his sale of soil to the farmers.  He even increased his crops prices because he left a plot of his land empty to seem as if it was being used to dig the soil from for the barrels.  And the folk that bought his crops didn’t mind because they understood that he had less to sell of what everyone wanted.

As the farmers saw their profits disappear and their debts increase, they became more desperate and their suspicions finally made them hire someone to spy on the farmer’s operations.  They found out that the farmer had duped them into buying the soil from his other property. They took the farmer to their local court and explained the rich farmer’s plot to take advantage of them.  To which, the local court asked the rich farmer to explain himself.

The farmer simply produced the document the farmers signed and it stated that they would pay the amount agreed upon for soil from his property.  Then he proceeded to produce another paper that proved ownership of the land that he purchased and gave them soil from. Unfortunately, the local court could not process such evidence because it was a court made up of locals with many ties to the other farmers and their families.  A few were even family.  

Upon destroying the documents the other farmers claimed had been forged, the local court came to the conclusion that the farmer had in fact duped the other farmers and had caused them such economic hardship that his farm would have to serve as collateral.  So they divided up the farm and finally enjoyed the profits from that land. Nor did they seem to care about how they had tried to ruin him and were angry at him for trying to dupe them in return. It was as if he should’ve known to just hand over his land.

The farmer went home to the property he had bought in that other village.  The soil had been dug out to sell to the farmers so deeply that the farmer was worried about how to restore the land to produce the best possible crops.  But then, he noticed the entry to a long forgotten tomb whose treasures made him wealthier than he could’ve been as a farmer. This spoiled the short-lived victory of the other farmers who now envied him more than before and feared him even more every day that he did not collect on his revenge.  

The farmer waited for years until the other farmers assumed he had forgotten about them.  The old team visited each farmer with a cart of barrels. The farmers were put in a barrel one by one and rolled down into the tomb.  Sealed and buried, the farmers only broke out of their barrels to spend their last days alive stuck in the tomb yearning for a revenge they would never have.  And the farmer went out in the pouring rain to relish this scenario going on under his feet. As he squished the mud between his toes in glee at his revenge, a lightning bolt struck him dead on the spot.

The Mirror Man

Once there was a village who came together every night and danced around the bonfire in a great circle.  Young and old alike danced as they watched the fire’s mysterious power to transform anything it touched into a dazzling display of light.  And it made them feel empty inside and ready to fill themselves with tomorrow.  

And then the mirror man came with his wagon of mirrors for sale.  He had been to other villages like this one and knew just what to do in order to sell as many of his mirrors as possible.  First he got permission to set up mirrors around the bonfire and the folk let him without thinking anything of it as long as there was enough room to dance.  But that night as they danced he got some of them to look at the concentric circle of mirrors. And when they did, suddenly the fire lost its power and they looked at how they were dancing instead.

Some stopped dancing altogether.  Others changed their dance according to how they wanted their reflection to look.  The next day most of the folk did not feel as refreshed as usual by their transformative dance.  They knew something was wrong and the mirror man offered them his solution: buy a mirror for your hut to improve your dancing in addition to such things as table manners, appearances of hair and clothes, and much more for when you look into a mirror because you see the truth.  

Even the folk who didn’t want to look in a mirror and knew in their gut that it was better to live looking at the fire instead, had to give in when the rest of the folk got one and insisted that they do the same.  Soon after, the folk quit dancing around the fire and held dances during the day for more light to focus on how their bodies moved. And they built a stage and held competitions to judge each other with a harshness that seemed harsher than the day before.  When anyone tried to argue against it, the mirror man convinced them that they had greatly improved and were better than any other village he had ever come across..

A few of them cried themselves to sleep at night when they remembered the time they danced around the fire and how great they felt in unison with the whole village.  But this mirror divided everyone with a strange sense of some truth. One time, a girl was angry at how she was judged and she broke as many mirrors as she could. Soon after it was forbidden to break a mirror or else suffer the punishment of seven stones thrown to break bones.  

And so in every home a mirror showed each family what was wrong with it.  And the more they tried to improve their reflection, the more they saw wrong with themselves.  The kids never had enough manners. Workers never did everything the right way.  

Mirrors were put everywhere so that anyone could look into any home to help criticize whatever they saw.  All the folk spent their extra time watching everyone else. It was as if the world outside the village disappeared and the one that used to exist in it.  Everything was in the mirror now.

As usual, the mirror man moved on to the next village to change it with his tool for the sole purpose of his gain, for he did not feel anything bad about this because he had lost himself in his mirror image long ago.  He had learned to see how others see himself through the mirror and that told him what was more important than what he saw in himself. So he became rich by selling what seemed a harmless or even helpful trinket without ever warning his customers of what was to come.  For any consequence of his product was not his fault but the fault of whoever chose to purchase it. And so he lived without blame as he burned each village he visited to the ground in its mirror image.

Maps of the Spirit

Once there was a king who had become bewildered.  A mysterious ailment made all his bones ache and his blood boil so that all he could do was groan in his bed.  And this condition made him more passionate than ever about spreading his kingdom to new territories. So the mapmaker became his most favored servant and he found a success he had never known.  As long as the king’s knights kept discovering new lands.  

But one day the knights came to the mapmaker and told him that they could no longer find any new territory.  They told him that they sailed to the end of the sea and found nothing but sea. The mapmaker knew that such news might kill the king by killing his spirit.  And so the knights agreed with the mapmaker to keep their beloved king alive with whatever maps he created and the tales they would tell about it.

The mapmaker made maps of new places that didn’t exist except in his mind.  And the knights told the king tales of these lands. And the king listened more intently and become more passionate than ever about his growing kingdom.  And the king’s pleasure drove them to invent more elaborate maps and more epic tales. And it strengthened the king’s spirit so much that one day he got out of bed and walked into the garden to tell the mapmaker and his knights who were busy conspiring over their new batch of tales and the king told them to ready the ship because they were going to tour their newly acquired lands.  In shock and horror, the mapmaker and the knights did as the king said.

They sailed out to sea and kept sailing where they had found nothing before.  The mapmaker and the knights caught themselves even hoping that the lands they created would just magically appear.  They tried to blame it on the tides and the winds. And after sailing in the nothingness for months and with supplies running low, the king demanded that they return home.  

On the return trip, the king did not leave his cabin and did not ask to see anyone except those serving him food and drink.  It seemed like the longest trip the knights had ever taken for not a soul uttered a word. They looked at the mapmaker with evil eyes because it was his fault for getting them into this mess.  And the mapmaker looked at them with disdain for not having somehow taken them somewhere that might’ve resembled the amazingly accurate maps he created, even though the accuracy was all in his head.

Back at the castle, the king invited them all to a lavish feast.  When they saw how lavish it was, it worried them that the king had something evil in mind for them.  And he raised his chalice and they theirs. And the king told of their new conquests. And his men chimed in.  And never did they have such a night of revelry.

The Laughing Woods

Once there was a king who locked himself out of his own castle.  The castle was built with only one entrance, a single door. No windows could be reached from the ground.  Surrounded by a moat and a rocky shore, there was only enough space to side step around its perimeter.

Some of the king’s subjects walked in and out of the castle but the king was too embarrassed to follow them in because he feared that they would learn the truth about his mistake and they had already laughed at him quite enough.  As soon as he decided to forget the whole thing and resigned himself to hiding in the woods for the rest of his life, he was disrobing to go for a swim in the lake when the key dropped right out of his pocket, but he did not see it fall on the shore.

Naked, he went for the best swim of his life. Never did he feel so free. He floated and swam as time flowed without a care until he got to shore and saw the key there.  His heart sank as he picked it up. He put his robe back on and the royal cloth felt heavier than ever. More like a suit of armor than a robe. He thought of returning to the castle but it appeared to him now as a dungeon built out of fear. He didn’t want to live in a house with only one door and one key anymore.

His imagination could hear his subjects laughing at him already but that laughter turned into a fit of laughter that overcame him.  It was in fact his laughter now! He tossed the key into the lake and disappeared into the woods without his robe.

Eventually, some other fool found the king’s key at the bottom of the lake and put the king’s robe on and went to the castle to rule the kingdom. Not even the queen recognized that the king was someone else, but everyone heard a strange laughter coming from the woods, as if it were laughing at them.