The King's Stone

Once there was an old storyteller who became one of the most powerful people in the kingdom.  He had found a way to tell stories so that anyone who listened could accept them as the absolute truth.  Except those who the stories were intended to harm, of course.

The old man never forgot anything. That is partially why he was such a convincing storyteller. But it was also why he was so spiteful about any offense he suffered, like a village he visited once. In his eye, the people were not polite enough to him by the way they served him food and put him up for the night in an uncomfortable bed. All of which he thought was done on purpose. So he told a story many decades later and the king increased their taxes, and when they rebelled, their village was burned to the ground.

One day, the king’s spy overheard the storyteller boasting about his power. He found it amazing that people took his words as if they were written in stone and were so willing to act upon something as fleeting as a hot wind. But his real mistake was when he boasted that if he wished, he could spill into the king’s ear at the perfect moment the right combination of words about a hidden betrayal of his trust that would send the queen to her doom.

That night, the old storyteller awoke from a frantic nightmare – running from village to village with no clothes on while people hurled rocks and mud at him – to a wet bed.  He got mad at himself for pissing in his bed again until he heard the voice of the king sitting in a chair across the room.

As the king told him why his wife would never betray him for she had sacrificed her own traitorous brother, the storyteller realized that it was not his urine that soiled the sheets; he was bleeding from a mortal neck wound. When he tried to utter a word, liquid sounds sputtered out.

The old storyteller’s mind wandered in his last fleeting moments.

He remembered a fountain from his youth where the folk used to throw stones into it for good luck. And it was there that his storytelling began at a single question: what was the story of each stone? And he pulled them out one by one. Followed their stories wherever they led him. Afterward, the heft of each stone seemed to increase in weight with its story.

At that time, he used to say that everybody had a heavy stone in their heart. A stone so heavy that it settled in the fountain of their chest. But he had forgotten that sentiment. And lost himself in the power of stories to influence others. He had taken all the stones out and learned how to rearrange them to convince by spectacle instead of seeing their worth and unlocking their heft.

And so the king’s heaviest stone, the story of his wife’s sacrifice for his sake, sank deeply in the king’s chest. Something never to be pulled out. Sacred to him.

Toy, Caca, Magic

Once there was a queen who visited a village known for three kinds of art.  And she went in order to choose one to lend her support.

First, the queen was taken to a studio which was also a toy store where an old man made the most incredibly inventive toys.  His craft was unparalleled and his toys intricate and full of tricks. He also made silly toys and stupid toys for whoever played with such things.  None of the toys elicited from the Queen more than slight amusement for there was nothing in it but craft. This was fine but not interesting enough to be deemed art in her mind because the toy maker had nothing meaningful to say about his work.

So the Queen went to the second studio.  And it was a barn. And in the barn there were mounds of dung.  And the artist explained many things about the mounds that he called natural sculptures in the barn that he called his studio and gallery all the same.  The queen watched others, a sampling of some common folk from the village, as they stared at the poop. And never had she heard someone speak so artfully about such common waste.  He said weird things like all excrement has been excreted before so best not to utilize anything else but that which already was and never will be anymore except as fertilizer for the mental terrain.  It was plain to see that the others didn’t get what he was talking about at all, partially because of the smell of his work was so strong.

The queen visited the third studio.  It was small and meager and in the back of a hotel where the artist also had to work.  She was dressed in plain clothes and painted miracles of vision and wonder and talked to the queen and the others about the nature of seeing and showed them another way of looking that felt enriching to them.  As the queen left through the hotel, she saw her paintings everywhere with people blabbing and stuffing their faces while paying not a lick of attention to the amazing work hanging right over their heads.

The queen went back to her castle and mulled it over.  The toymaker was great but it was mere craft and not art.  And clearly the painter made the best work of all and really opened her eyes to how the artistic process can be an investigation.  It was magic.

But she chose the dung maker or poop proliferator or whatever it twas that he called himself simply because anything could be said about his work and the common folk who cherish what little wealth comes their way could never develop such a taste for his style of caca.  It was clearly the most elite of all because of the power it let her keep.  

And the winner gave his speech at the ceremony where he said that kids play with caca, and artists are kids, so artists need to only concern themselves with the emptiness of the most fundamental movements.  The audience looked at him in utter confusion but they saw the queen nod with approval, so they applauded the new standard of what could be called the art of the kingdom.

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.