Rowan Blair Colver
There once was a man who had a love for gold. He loved its colour, the feel of its slightly malleable surface, its way of reflecting the light. He loved gold so much, he would try and get as many pieces of it for himself as he could. Everyone around him didn't see the appeal, as gold had very little use but for making decoration. It didn't cut very well and it was too heavy to build with.
As time went by, he found it more and more difficult to find gold as the only supply was becoming scarce. It would be sometimes found in the rocks and in caves, at the riverside and sometimes in the mountains. But the man wandered here and there, looking for gold and he found none. One day, after a few weeks of walking, he had not found any more gold and so went back home, where he had gathered a huge pile of gold in his little wooden house on the hill. He looked at his pile and thought to himself that it was not enough. He wanted a pile of gold so high, he could stand and be completely surrounded by its beautiful reflected light. It was like standing in the bright orange light of the evening sun.
I must get more gold! He thought to himself in silence, as he paced around the pile of metal. Taking a step outside, he went to see what he could see. Taking a look around at the local trees and rocks, he saw nothing. Nothing but apples, ripe and red. A few birds had begun to sit on branches and started to peck at the bouncing round fruits. A beautiful woman walked up to one of the nearby trees and started picking apples for her basket. She was wearing a golden ring, shining and glinting in the sun. The man's heart raced and his eyes narrowed as he noticed an opportunity.
"Excuse me, madam, but this tree is within the shadow of my home and therefore its apples belong to me. However, if you wish to give me your ring, you may pick as many apples as you can fit in your basket twice".
She stopped, it was unusual for a man to claim ownership of a tree simply because of where it stood, but his words made sense, in a strange way. "I shall pick apples elsewhere, if you may let me return these that I have picked?" she stated, "But you have picked them now, besides only these apples have been grown to be as sweet and as crisp as my apples, I pay them special attention", he lied but she seemed to accept his claim. "Why do you want my ring?" she asked, "Because it is made of gold" was his simple reply. Not wanting to part with the ring, but also feeling hungry and with an already half full basket, she felt obliged to hand it over. After all, what is a piece of shaped metal compared to two baskets of ripe red apples? The man took the ring and allowed the beautiful woman to pick apples.
When she returned the following day with an empty basket, she had brought with her a few friends from the village. They all came with various pieces of gold they had taken from their homes, wanting to exchange it for the extra sweet and crispy apples grown with special attention. Handing over their gold, they each took two baskets into the trees around his home and began gathering apples.
After taking several dozen pieces of jewellery, a door knob and some golden leaf from a mantle-piece, he allowed the group to take their double fill.
After a few days, everyone had given up all the gold they had, the trees were stripped of apples and the man had increased his pile by over a half. His hill of gold in his little wooden house nearly filled the room. He stood by the window and admired the sunlight glinting from its huge disjointed surface and spray its sparkles all over him. He stood and felt warm, strong and powerful. But soon he heard a knock at the door.
"Hello?" he said, poking his head around the crack in the door, as to not let anyone see his gold. The beautiful woman stood at the front of his little wooden house and she looked concerned.
"There are no more apples on your trees, and there is no more gold left in the village!" she exclaimed, "but people are coming from far and wide to eat your specially grown apples! What are we going to do?"
The man thought for a moment, and he remembered one last tree behind the cluster of rocks a few corners down the path from his home. It wasn't in the shadow of his house but he considered it and then spoke.
"There is another tree, also with my special apples, but I have been saving it as a secret, for myself. I will share the apples with you, and swap some of my gold if you help me plant all the seeds, that way you get to eat some more, and we can provide for even more people in the following harvests to come".
Again, his words sounded a little confusing and slightly off the point but it seemed to make a sort of sense and so she agreed. She wanted another basket of apples and visitors had come to her home and expected some. Not wanting them to think poorly of her, or accuse her of lying about the apples, she accepted the agreement. Taking her basket, she filled it with apples and took them home. The following day she returned with a handful of apple seeds which she had saved. "So if I plant these on your hill, in little rows, you will give me some of your gold and allow me to fill another basket?"
"Yes" said the man, and the woman went outside and spent two whole days putting each little seed in the ground and bringing it water from the nearby stream. After they had all been planted, she knocked on the door of the little wooden house. It opened just a little and the man pushed his face through the crack. He gave her the ring back, that she at first had given him. Her heart flushed with the sentiment of the ring, as it reminded her of the year before when she had a wonderful time. She accepted the ring and walked away with her second basket of apples.
The following year, a few more trees had grown to maturity and the seeds had sprouted into baby trees. When apple season arrived the whole village arrived also, to sample the specially cared for apples but they only had the one gold ring between them. However, news had travelled further than before and more had come from nearby towns and settlements, and they had more gold.
The man decided to do the same as before, those with no gold he would offer them work planting the trees, pay them a little gold which they could use to buy more apples. He could picture his pile in his mind growing larger and larger. So with his local village set to work planting apple seeds in the grounds of his home and beyond, and further townsfolk were bringing a fresh supply of gold, he continued to make his pile bigger. This lasted several years and soon the entire hill and the fields below were full of tall apple trees, each growing plenty of apples. The local villagers also had discovered they could find gold for themselves, and news of its value had travelled a long way, so it was becoming a common bartering metal. Every year, the man would declare that all the land under the shadow of his apple trees was his and that he would accept gold in return for two baskets of apples. He continued to accumulate more and more and he had now built a much bigger house from apple wood to keep all his gold in. Soon, after the work of all those who had no gold, so they could eat apples, he had grown a million trees which spanned across from horizon to horizon. People came from the entire span of the land to feed their families. By this time, gold had become so scarce and valuable, most people had begun to work for their apples and so the reach of the orchard almost doubled every year. And as the man had stated, every inch of land that is touched by the shadow of one the trees belongs to him and so the apples must be paid for.
One day, the man was walking among his trees and he noticed that people were living among them, under the shadow of his trees. He wasn't happy about this as they had not asked his permission.
He knocked on the nearest door and when it opened he saw the beautiful woman who once gathered the apples outside his home. He had not seen her for a few years.
"Why haven't I seen you for a while?" he asked, "When you live on my land, among my trees?"
"I am tired of eating apples, I prefer the blackberries and potatoes that grow nearby" she answered, "plus I do not have to give anything up in order to eat them, I just take what I am given by the land".
"But, "the man responded, "This is my land and you are living on it, you are eating food grown on it and you have not asked me permission! Why should I allow you to continue eating from my plants and living upon my rock? What will you give me in return?"
Although the man did nothing and never had -in order to allow the woman to live there, he felt that she was stealing from him, as he believed he owned the land. The persistent lie about the shadow of his home, and then the shadow of the trees had been accepted as true law by himself and by all who lived there.
"Maybe if you work for me, and help to look after my trees, grow more fruiting plants and keep my grounds tidy, I will allow you to live on them but if you also want to eat you must pay your way like the rest and so if you have no gold to pay then you can earn it as usual. I suppose if you really don't want to, I can find someone else who would be more than happy to live here, in this nice looking house?"
The woman didn't like the sound of being kicked out of her home, but she couldn't think of any argument that made the same sense as his, although she felt cold and disrespected, she reluctantly agreed. It wasn't long before she saw others doing their own thing in their own way, living their lives among the trees and shrubs in the shadow of the apple trees, which were still spreading out across the land. Now several homes and buildings were situated within them. She didn't like that others were free to do as they please, living with nature. Seeing them content and free gave her a bad feeling as she was having to work very hard just to eat one meal a day. So she began to call them names, she began spreading the lies of the man in order to bring what she considered balance into the village. Soon, through guilt and pressure and fear of being rejected by others, everyone in the village was working the land, organising it and creating efficient fields of many fruiting plants. They would swap the fruits for gold from across the land and give it to the man on the hill. In return they would eat a little bit, take a bit of gold for their work and then continue their jobs. As the orchards and the fields spread further, more and more homes began to be situated under the shadows and also, soon there was so little gold left that everyone was working as hard as they could just to eat the apples, blackberries potatoes and now plums as well. Everyone but the man, who sat alone in his big wooden house on the hill, surrounded by gold. It was so full of gold that no light had entered the building for over a year and now also the door was blocked with a huge pile of it outside. As the villages religiously piled their collected gold outside the door, wondering why it wasn't being brought in, nobody considered to notice that the man in the wooden house on the hill, had died a lonely man. He sat upright and motionless in his chair, surrounded by gold and nobody cared.
But still, the villagers continued to work, to accumulate gold which they piled up high and to not allow themselves their own freedom.
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