The Merchant and the Fool

Once there was a merchant who kept the strictest account of his business. He did the same with anything else in his life, actually. He would always say there was an order to everything and he meant his order. He knew exactly who was important to him and who didn’t matter. He knew exactly who offended him and who earned his respect. When anyone asked him for help or a favor, he had to assess the value in relation to the risk.

    One day there was an accident and a complete stranger needed his help but it was easy for him to keep walking because it was all risk and no value, as he liked to say about almost everything that did not involve his profit.  To get involved in such an accident would only be a threat to his well being as he saw it.  This sort of thing happened before and would happen again and it was of no concern to him.  Who was he to try and change the order of things?

    And once there was a fool who kept no account of anything.  If somebody needed something like the codpiece off his crotch, he’d give it.  He had no real business to speak of except the business of life.  It might’ve been a poor life but it was rich with friends who he made wherever he went.  

One day, the merchant was busy running numbers in his head while he was crossing the road and a team of horses pulling a carriage galloped straight for him. And the fool saw what was about to happen and without a care pushed the merchant out of the way but was trampled to death instead. The merchant stood up and brushed himself off and cursed the man who pushed him as a downright fool who should’ve looked where he was going

The Traveling Troupe

Once there was a troupe of actors who traveled from village to village like a merchant who sold emotions instead of wares.  The troupe inspired sparks of joy in the saddest of places and reflected the dangers of aggression to angry villages who tended to be more peaceful afterward.  All across the land the troupe found great success and villages eagerly awaited their return for they were also renowned for their after-parties.

    But then one day, the troupe performed for a village upon which they had no effect at all.  The troupe could not read the audience and this put them in a state of dismay and they noticed their performance suffered for it.  They were used to making a mark on even the blandest of villages and this felt outrageous as a result of their comparison.  Who were these ignoramuses, the actors asked themselves backstage.  

    After the show the audience invited them to the show they put on for themselves once a week that happened to be right after theirs.  The troupe needed to know why this audience did not respond to their act, so they postponed their after-party and quickly accepted.  And the troupe took a seat as the audience. Despite their desire to tear the performance of these novice dunces apart who clearly could not appreciate the sort of worldly entertainment they had brought to them, the actors were driven to mad laughter instead! And they cried the most cathartic tears they had ever had!  

After the show, the troupe praised the villagers and knew they must be the healthiest people they ever met for their village appeared as a result of good hard work and somehow they also entertained themselves at the highest level.  The troupe begged to let them live with them but the villagers politely declined because they had no need for this troupe who demonstrated such an imbalance through their performance.  It was the nicest way they could tell the troupe that they were in fact not good enough for their standards.

And so the troupe traveled on and moved villagers in other villages but their performances did not feel the same. Subconsciously, routines from the village crept into their show but each one mangled up into an unrecognizable lump of half performances. Each show made them feel like a traveling band of old and stale tricks for imbalanced audiences who needed their mediocre entertainment to get through their miserable lives, as they bitterly put it.

They wished they had never performed for that village and became so bitter that they forbade any from talking about the village and its performance as it really had affected them. Sarcasm infected each member of the troupe. They could only appreciate the irony of any situation. And only schadenfreude brought them any comfort. And the more harsh and biting their shows became, the more farcical, the more popular they were throughout the kingdom (except in that one village were they dared not return). They drowned their sorrows in ever more lavish after-parties that became so depraved that one party became their last when it involved debauching the kingdom’s princess for which they were sacrificed as part of a new campaign by the king to return his state to some modicum of purity and what he liked to call good living by burning a select few at the stake.

When the village heard of the poor troupe’s fate, they were relieved that they had not accepted them into their village but they felt deeply sorry for their tragic lives and so they put on a tender show salted with the bitterness of what the troupe had become, as accounts came pouring in from traveling merchants. And the show was so powerful that they decided to travel with it. They moved village after village and when the king happened to see it, it brought him to tears as it struck a nerve with regard to his notions of purity and the imbalances suffered by the troupe so that he demanded that the villagers become the official troupe of the kingdom.

The Witch’s Web

Once there was an old witch who lost her ability to see. She could no longer use her cauldron or her mirrors to watch over the village nor could she see where anything was in her hut nor any wolf lurking in the woods nor any tasty rabbit hiding in the understory. One night a spider came down from the ceiling and landed on her nose. It woke her but she stayed still and felt it walk across her cheek. it’s string trailed behind it and tickled her skin in a way that felt loud to her. This gave her a brilliant idea.

    She brewed up a pot – a magic stew – of liquid power that allowed her to spin webs from her finger tips.  Those spun from the left would not be sticky in order to just gather information.  Those spun from her right were sticky and intended for traps.  As she felt every surface of her hut she wove webs into and under everything with her left hand until she could feel where anything was from anywhere she touched her web.

    Any movement of the smallest bug or slightest wind was brought to her attention too.  So she wove around her hut and webbed the forest to her awareness.  Now she knew where every wolf and rabbit were unlike when she had her eyesight.  She had rabbit stew whenever she pleased and wished she had lost her sight much sooner.

Then she made it to the village and wove her web into every house and pathway. And as the village folk performed their daily duties, their actions reverberated in her web and startled her with a new vision of the people she had previously despised. All of their daily movements struck the strings and produced a music unlike any she had ever heard. She had heard the music of nature and when she webbed the woods that music did not surprise her. She had even heard the music of the celestial orbs, and the delirious sounds of the moonlight. But she had never heard the humble music of the folk from the village. And she wept at the spare beauty of all that seemed so unadorned and plain.

The people, however, did not hear any of this music. They did not know why she had webbed their entire village and it angered them. They grabbed their axes and torches and marched toward her hut. But she had heard that music too. It was loud and angry and full of confusion. She knew that confusion was almost always involved whenever somebody killed someone else anyways. So she had already made a sticky perimeter from her right hand that the marching villagers got entangled in. They tried to burn through it but there were only more webs.

With a captive audience, she told them that she had gone blind and meant them no harm. She told them about her idea and why she webbed everything. Then she let them go, and asked for their mercy because the music of their humble lives soothed her and she needed to hear it to go on living. And they, in turn, stopped calling her a witch and came to her for advice since she had heard all of the reverberations of their words and actions.

Moon Bread Curse

Once there were two brothers who stole some bread from a witch.  And the witch caught the boys when they came back to steal some more because they had seen that she had plenty.  They had already taken bites out of the bread they stole when the witch grabbed them by the ears and sat them down.  She asked them if they knew how many moons it took her to make that bread which she called moon bread, though she knew full well that she had made the bread in an instant to tempt these innocent creatures.  

    The witch told them that they were cursed for having eaten the bread.  The boys cried as she told them that one day they would be separated and one of them would die and the other would know it and the one who survived would also die within a cycle of the full moon.

    The boys ran home and told nobody about the curse and tried to forget it.  But each brother kept thinking about it and felt the hot pain of the witch’s ear pinch when they did. Each brother wondered if it was he who would die first and if it were better or worse than the other fate.  

Years passed and the brothers tired of trying to forgot about the moon bread curse. And one brother got tired of always being with his brother. And one night, under a full moon, he snuck away to go swimming at the lake. In the middle of the dark pool, while he floated under the moon, a pain struck his chest and he couldn’t breathe. At that moment, his brother awoke and knew right away that his brother was dead and he knew exactly why. He looked outside and saw the full moon and knew he had only a month to live.

    He rode off on his horse to escape his fate.  He rode fast and wildly wherever any path would take him.  The closer he got to the next full moon the more distance he traveled.  But the full moon came and went and nothing happened.  And another.  And after a third, he thought that there was no curse at all.  His brother simply had an accident.

As he rode back home, winter had come. The landscape had already changed. Snow-laden fields and rocks glazed with ice made it difficult to recognize the terrain. The land had become barren and he began to wonder where the trees went. It was so cold that under the moonlight he could see that his skin had turned blue. He had forgotten when his horse could not carry on, but found himself kicking snow across these desolate hills when a figure in the distance appeared.

The figure looked even bluer than he. The man had translucent icicles hanging from his limbs. Clearly, he had been frozen there a long time. But his lips could still move slightly and only one word could slip out. Brother. That frozen blue and purplish face that upon first glance seemed blank to him was now clearly his brother’s face. And his brother’s frigid eyes cracked the ice to look up at the sky. So he turned around and saw that the moon was no longer in the sky but there was a blue orb.

A cruel wind sucked at them and it carried the wicked shrieking laughter of the witch. As he clinged to his brother, the wind pulled them toward a crater. At its lip, he hunkered down, held his brother in his arms, and witnessed the last image of his consciousness while peeking over the lip: at the center of the crater was a black hole into which the snow and ice fell in to its vacuum but once in the crater moved strangely, more like mercury than frozen water. And there was this aura emanating from above the black pit. A silver mist shined what appeared to be an ethereal dome of intricate geometries composed of something like an infinite number of light-bearing snowflakes.

Chain of Ages

Once there was a village where babies and kids had to live outside the cave in the sun world. Only when they were old enough could they live in the cave and as each person got older there were deeper caves to live in. The oldest became the blindest of all and craved nothing but darkness and silence. Food and water were passed along to them through the chain of the ages, as they called it. Those who did not follow this order and feared this willful progression toward blindness were threatened with endless wandering and no chain to depend on.

There was a man who disregarded the warning and ran away. He found other villages with other ways of living. He would go from village to village in search of anything new to learn until one day, village after village, had nothing left for him to know. And that is when he realized that he had already entered a cave within himself. And he wondered if his people were right all along and it was he that was foolish not to listen to them.

And when he was older he returned to his home and they were happy to see him again and they let him go as deep in the cave system as his age would allow. And there they fed him something he had never had before. Something held secret by the elders. And new visions appeared within him of not only of villages but worlds he never could have known outside the cave in the sun world.

And when he slipped back into the great fold, as they called dying, he had gone to the deepest cave yet and passed along stories that helped his people deepen their understanding of their chain of ages

The Hermit’s Shell

Once there was a hermit who lived in a giant shell on a tiny island. And each room in her shell was connected by a central spiral staircase. As she got older, her shell grew taller with more rooms being added. And she always stayed in the newest room at the very top where she made herself a new bed out of kelp and a table and chair made from pebbles. Whenever there was a storm and the sea covered the island, her shell stayed put because it was so heavy after all those years of rooms being built. And when she got older than anyone else alive, her newest room in the shell overlooked the clouds that drifted over the sea. And if she wasn’t in her new room, she was visiting the other rooms where she felt as old or as young as when the room was built. On her last day, she spiraled out of her shell for the first time since she began building it and sat on the beach to feel the water on her toes and looked at the sunlight bouncing off the water until her last nightfall. And she laid back in the sand and saw millions of shells twinkling in the night sky before she went to sleep beside her own sparkling shell with the final thought of the greater part she had played by doing what had come so naturally.

Battle of the Eyes

Once there was a village of folk who poked one eye out soon after birth because they believed that two eyes bred dishonesty.  The one-eyed people also believed that a person could only serve one role or have only one face, as they called it.  Anyone caught with more than one face was executed on the spot in order to preserve their way of life.  A child who showed the face of an adult too soon was given no mercy.  Nor was a woman who also had the face of a man or a man the face of a woman.

And once there was a village of folk who believed in more than two eyes and actually grew another eye when they became adults.  The rite of passage was called The Awakening and involved a journey in the woods where another eye would emerge out of their forehead.  And it took them years to cope with all they could see because everything from the simplest thing that they took for granted as a child and the most familiar of people now looked entirely different, varied, and rich in appearances.  Even the simplest person among them had a thousand faces.  And the rich complexity of everything kept them in a state of wonder that provided them with a peaceful life.

The one-eyed people hated the people with three eyes because the awakened saw their one face as the mask that it was, suppressing their other faces in a way that damaged and hampered their consciousness.  The one-eyed people could not accept this so they attacked their village.  And the people with three eyes saw them as confused by their hunger for power and how they fought with themselves by making war with others.  Ultimately, the people with three-eyes lost as they were too distracted by all the visions they saw and spent too much time on possible strategies. 

The one-eyed people captured a few of the people with three eyes and killed the rest.  Those who survived had to poke out two of their eyes in order to stay alive.  But the survivors did not lose their more complicated vision because it had become a part of them in their mind.  But they pretended as if they could not see anything but one face anymore and never spoke of their visions in order to stay alive. 

One survivor asked the one-eyed people if eyes did not always deceive and if they should not poke out all eyes in order to see the truth.  And the one-eyed people could not think of any argument against this for they hated eyes in general.  And so they poked out their last eye and saw what the awakened survivors wanted them to see.  They saw themselves not searching for the truth as they said but confusing it with their search for power.  And they saw how they sacrificed the people with three eyes because they could not see themselves as fully as they lacked the courage to see within.  They saw how they made problems for themselves but killed other villages to solve them.

The one-eyed people begged the awakened survivors to take over and show them the way.  And they stopped poking the eyes out of children.  And the survivors took them into the woods and performed the ritual that showed them how to grow their third eye.

Father’s Wolves

Once there was an old man who was meaner than his pack of wolves.  He never met a kid he didn’t want to kick.  He saw everyone as a mouth to feed and so kept his distance with mean words and mean behavior when needed.  Still, he had a child by accident and out of fear for her life the mother left him but he kept the child.  And since it was his, he took him in and taught him to be tough for his own good.

Whenever he caught the boy playing with the wolf cubs he whipped both the boy and the cubs.  he had a pack of wolves and needed them tough to protect his possessions and to hunt and to survive the harsh winters.  He fed his boy, the wolves, and himself only enough to survive.  To be hungry was to be alive in his mind.  If the boy made mistakes around the house, he would froth at the mouth and then punish him so that he wouldn’t make those mistakes again.  One of his favorite punishments was making his boy more the woodpile from one side of the house to the other and back again.  And the boy hated his dad when he had to move the woodpile and wished he were never alive.

As soon as the boy was old enough, he ran away to find another place to live.  And he found a village where he learned a trade.  He met the kindest person he had even known and she taught him how to love.  And he learned to make friends.  And when he lost one in a tragic death he feared not to show how helpless he felt in the face of such loss and wept in front of everyone.  This was something he knew his father could never have done.  And precisely so, his father’s inability to show sadness and accept the vulnerabilities of life hardened him from the inside out and made his misery pour into anyone who knew him.

And with his wife and kids, they made the family he never had together.  And the home was a place of love not of punishment.  A place where anyone makes mistakes sometimes and the others help out instead of using it as an opportunity to hurt one’s family.  He saw the framework of the village interlacing each person into its fabric and providing as such as it could for all while always having some problem in the process of being mended.

As he got older, he thought of his dad alone in his hut in the woods and how the mean old man had destroyed any relationship with others in order to not feel weak.  He felt sorry for him so he went to see the mean old man one more time to see if he could change his mind.  But he didn’t tell anyone in his family about it.

The wolves in the pen looked famished.  The cabin was gloomier than he remembered.  His dad bullied his way out to meet him on the steps and did not welcome him in.  Father asked what he was doing there and in that mean voice and in those cold eyes, he thought his dad did not possibly recognize him.  But he did.  And he told him that he ran away once, and once was enough for him.  

He tried to tell him about his life but his father cared not for one word nor did he ask any questions about his family.  It seemed to him that his dad could not bear the thought of any happiness that he had found.  And his father said some mean things but his son did not fear this barking old man anymore.  He knew his father was trying to scare him off.  And his father grabbed a pail of scraps and told him to get out of his way.  That pail of scraps reminded him of how hungry he was growing up here.  And it angered him that this continued with the wolves.

The father went in the pen to feed the wolves but saw that his son was still standing there like an idiot.  He heard his son tell him that he was an old fool who confused toughness for strength and he was actually pushing everyone away because at heart he was a chicken who was afraid of love.

The son saw his father froth at the mouth.  And this made him think of the many times his dad punished him for his misery.  In a fit of anger, his dad slipped in the mud and hurt his leg so bad he couldn’t get up.  The wolves snarled closer.  The mean old man looked at his son with a confused expression.  And the son knew that his dad would rather suffer the consequences than ask him for help.  Before he could help his dad, the wolves lunged onto his father.  His son opened the gate and chased the wolves off with his sword but it was too late.  

The mean old man could not ask his son for help for his heart had already been carved out by a sick pride over his toughness.  And the wolves teared him limb from limb.  One last time, he moved the woodpile to a clearing on the other side of the cabin.  And he placed what was left of his father’s body and set it afire.  Somehow the burning felt like a return to his father’s natural element that was left to catch fire to anything within his reach instead of harnessing it for a better life.  And he returned to the warmth of the family and village who loved him as much as he loved them and taught his kids to place strength over mere toughness and to balance their worries with love.

The Spoiled Brat

Once there was a prince who was the most spoiled prince of all. When the king would not give him one thing that he wanted, it would be the first and last time because the prince did not know how spoiled he was since the king had spoiled him so completely.

But somehow the prince had a gut feeling that the king might say “no,” so he asked for his wish in front of the entire kingdom. And the one time the king put his foot down, it felt like an elephant’s foot stepping on a pampered pup and the audience witnessed his little beating heart pop out of his little spoiled puppy dog chest.

All the innocent prince had wanted was to house the poor and sick in their castle in order to care for them as a member of their own family. The kingdom heard the prince’s wish and cheered for his charity and felt his love in their hearts with his spoiled request.

This made the king so irate that he called his son a spoiled brat before all of his subjects and in that moment the king looked like the most spoiled brat of all to his entire kingdom. It was as if his own son had split him in half with a sharp diamond-edged sword. One half his self-image made by him wobbled at the other image of him made by his kingdom. Caught between the betrayal of his son and his kingdom and his own betrayal of them drove the king mad. The prince thereby ascended the throne and became a king who spoiled the poor and sick until they were neither anymore.

I wrote this tale because “spoiled” is such a loaded word. Call someone spoiled and it is extremely offensive. But it also has this boomerang effect. For example, parents who spoil their children seem to be prone to calling their children spoiled. Or politically-minded people seem to thrive on the idea that their opponents are the spoiled ones, while their opponents think the same of them. Spoiled people do not think they are spoiled but are quick to point out someone who is more spoiled than they. Lastly, the word can have a pleasurable connotation. When you spoil a child or a pet rotten and they exhibit spoiled behavior at you who spoiled them, you can get this feeling where anger at being taken for granted crosses its wires with your absolute devotion for what you love and the result fills the chest and flares the nostrils with a certain joyous mischief.

Blame’s Only Solution

Once there was a boy and a girl who went into the woods but only the boy returned.  The villagers went looking for the girl but only found her clothes drenched in blood.  And when they demanded that the boy tell them what had happened, he could not speak a word.  

Some of the villagers blamed the boy for killing the girl and demanded that he give up his life in return.

Other villagers blamed the boy’s parents for not raising him correctly and demanded that the parents pay the ultimate price for the endless sorrow of the girl’s parents.

And others blamed the girl for going into the woods with the boy and said she got what she deserved.

And some even blamed her parents for not teaching her better and thought they also deserved to go in the woods and never come back with their self-inflicted sadness.

One villager said that they all were to blame for this tragedy because they should’ve prevented the boy and girl from going into the woods in the first place.  But the rest of the villagers blamed him for blaming them for something that did not involve them or their children as they saw it.

And that night, suspicions grew so wildly that some villagers set fire to the homes of those they blamed.  And they in turn torched the homes of whoever they blamed. Eventually the entire village was on fire.

In the morning, the villagers were ready to kill each other when the missing girl stepped out of the woods.  

And they blamed her for destroying their village and so they knew they had to sacrifice her.  They decided it was best to sacrifice the boy as well for not talking, even though the boy pleaded that he did not talk for the very reason that he had seen them do this before.  

And after they burned them at the stake, the villagers rebuilt their homes together and lived in brief harmony until the next outburst of blame and it’s only solution.