THE WISE MAN AND THE WIDOWS

A SANTHARIAN PARABLE

 
The Frethoni Book of Fables   
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Introduction. A simple fable of morality found throughout southern Sarvonia in various guises - there are even records of dwarfish and halfling variations on the theme. This particular version was recorded as told to a child of a moderately well-off Erpheronian family by his nurse. The Wise Man figure is an ambiguous and wide spread one. He crops up in countless tales, normally to give a gentle moral lesson, and normally in the ‘land to the south where it is warm all the time’. Numerous suggestions have been made as to the whereabouts of this unspecified country, including Truban, the Eyelian lands, Denilou and even Nybelmar, though most scholars must ultimately conclude that the tales are so old and varied that it is little more than a fae-land existing only in legend. The wise man himself has been identified with various sages, and even as a human version of the various wise old halflings who crop up across the hobbit books of wisdom, the Vale-Tales, and the Hobbithallows.

 

nce, not all too long ago, in a land to the south where it is warm all the time, there lived a wise man. He was quite content to wander the world, a-leaning on his staff that was no more than an old straight branch, humming a tune and telling a tale to those he met, and finding rest and food with those who would give it to him.

One day when the Injèrá looked down with fierce heat on the land below, the wise man began to wish for a little water and shade as he walked, for his old bones creaked in the heat and his mouth was dry. He climbed a hill, hoping to sit in the cool shade of a fruit tree atop it, and what should he see when he had mounted it, but a neat little hut on the other side. The wise man went and knocked on the door frame, and was answered by a smiling old woman who beckoned him in when he asked if he might stop a moment in her home. The old woman was a widow, and very poor. Her home was almost bare save for a table, a chair, a shelf, a bed and a fireplace and she had but one old, sickly cow, one old meldarapple whose fruit was often blighted, and one old, lame dog to live off. And yet as the wise man went to leave her, thanking her for her gracious hospitality, she flustered and said he must stay a little longer. That night she offered him her only bed, herself sleeping on the dirt floor, and gave him apples to eat and milk to drink, and the dog watched over him while he slept.

The next morn the wise man woke early. Now, he was not only a wise man, but one who the gods looked kindly on. So, to show his thanks, he cured the cow and mended the dog’s limp with clever medicines and prayers, while the apple tree’s crop was bountiful every year and it went on to seed many more. The old widow was so delighted she gave the wise man her dog as a companion, saying she would not need it now he had left her so blessed.

Some days later the wise man came across the home of another widow as poor as the last. The news of his kindness had spread, and this old woman guessed who he was when he passed her door. She stepped out to speak to him as he sat and thought in a patch of shade nearby her hut.

“Why, sir,” she said. “Since my husband has died life has been hard for me, on my own in the world. I hear you are a great sage of sorts with miraculous powers and plentiful kindness. I have no one to watch over my cow at night, and I often fear the wild dogs will get into her pen, or bandits take her off while I sleep. Will you not give me that dog?”

“Very well,” said the wise man. “Will you let me rest in your home and give me something to eat, for I am hungry and my legs ache. I can walk no further today.”

“Why, no!” said the widow. “I’ll do no such thing. If I fed you, there would be little left for me.”

“Then you shall not have the dog,” said the wise man. “The widow who gave him to me showed kindness, but expected nothing in return. You show no such kindness, yet you expect kindness from others.”

So the wise man slept beneath the stars and walked on the next day with his dog close behind.
 


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Parable written by by Jenna Silverbirch View Profile