One of the great lies of the contemporary age is that the power of Legend in conveying timeless truths has faded along with the wisdom of our ancestors. However, it is my belief that with the right language, even we, the denizens of the jaded and technocratic age, can channel these lessons through the ancient vessel of Fable.
It is my hope that—in doing so—we re-embrace values both topical and yet indescribably primeval, and that the most primal yearnings of the soul may once again be stirred to feel the enchanting power of Myth.
Long ago, in the age before men learned to tame wild beasts and sow their crops for food, ancient travelers planted a great forest in the center of the world.
Their leader, whom they called Na, “The One,” instructed his messengers to teach men the ways of justice and civilization. Although they saw in Man a deep desire for righteousness, the ancient travelers could also observe his nature being tainted by greed and lust. Still, they heeded The One’s directions that, although a gentle push would often needed to assist mankind in his journey, in the end each man must be left to choose whether he will live by good or by ill.
Man’s power to decide was a sacred part of his nature, and they knew they could never distort it fully in one way or the other. Instead, the ancient travelers planted the Ene-esh, the Trees of Discovery.
The oldest and first tree to be planted in the sacred forest of Daha was taken as a seedling from the woods belonging to The One, and grew very quickly; its roots dug deeply into the earth and its branches reached as far as the oceans and as high as the tallest peaks. Each seed that fell from this Sacred Tree was given shade from the sun by its giant boughs, and each sapling soon grew into a mighty tree of its own. And every tree that sprang up held within its roots the wisdom and beauty of its ancestors.
Now the men of Earth were allowed to fell any of the offspring of the Sacred Tree, and use their lumber to build fine and sturdy homes. If the logs of the trees were burned in the hearth, and a man ventured to ask a question, the savory incense would enter his nose, and the wisdom of the Sacred Tree would reveal more knowledge of the universe. But if any trees were cut down and burned before they dropped their seeds, then those trees would bring forth no more answers—for each new tree that grew could answer only once before being consumed. For this reason, the oldest tree, the father of all the other trees in the forest and the source of all wisdom contained in the woods, could never be cut down.
Before leaving the earth, the ancient travelers guided men to build sea-faring vessels, always reminding them to seek out suitable sites to plant the seeds of the Ene-esh wherever they landed. In time, men settled in distant lands and then spread even further, and there were great sacred forests in all the wild places of the world. The ancient travelers knew that once they had completed their task, it was time for them to leave the cultivation of the great forests in the hands of men.
Many ages passed, and as men spread further and further from the original forest of Daha, they began to lose their memory of the power of the First Tree. The story of the ancient travelers became no more than a legend to them, a way to explain how things came about at a time when men were in the dark. Still, these descendants recognized that wisdom could be obtained from the trees in the woodlands around them, and that the quicker the trees were harvested, the more readily they could receive the answers to their questions.
Lately he had grown weary of having to wait for a new tree to arise from the seed of the last one he had cut down, just so he could burn its logs upon the fireplace and ask for an answer to his newest query. “Imagine,” he said to himself, “all the good that I could do, the advice I could give, and the healing help I could offer, if I knew all the answers to the questions that men have ever asked to the trees. Why should they wait for an answer from the tree, when they might simply ask me instead? What can the trees tell them, that I cannot?”
The woodsman resolved to cut down every single tree in the vast forest of his homeland, burn them all in one giant bonfire, and ask every question he could think of. He would do this in the autumn, so the trees would not produce seeds in the spring. Away the woodsman went, chopping down the forest tree by tree. He won the approval of his fellow woodsfolk by explaining to them what he was doing, assuring them that he would personally take it upon himself to give the true answer to any question they would ever need to ask. In short, he would become the wisest being on Earth.
When the day came to collect the logs for the bonfire, the woodsman hauled his quarry to a large pit he had dug, and tossed the logs in, one by one. Then he lit a candle and tossed it onto the massive pile. The wood caught fire, and slowly began to give off a cloud of smoky incense. The woodsman breathed in deeply, and asked the Sacred Trees everything about what occurred in the past, what is now happening in the present, and what will come in the future.
He returned triumphantly to his village, prepared to attain fame, honor, and riches for his immense knowledge. And for a few short months, the woodsman’s wisdom was praised by everyone, and people came from far and wide to ask for advice and healing. But winter was approaching, and there were no more logs to be gathered up for the fireplaces. Floods came and washed away the soil, for there were no trees whose strong roots held the earth together.
Distraught, the villagers approached the woodsman and asked, “How are we to survive the winter?” The woodsman replied, “Worry not: I will show you how to craft warm homes from stone, and to make fires from powder.” Sadly, the winter was worse than expected, and many of the villagers perished from the cold. The spring eventually came along, but no green plants returned, for they relied on the trees for shade.
When the villagers looked upon the barren land, they despaired and blamed the woodsman, saying, “Look at the dead land outside! What problems have you solved for us? Now that you know all there is to know, tell us why this is happening to us!” But the woodsman could not give an answer beyond explaining how their misfortune had come about. He could not answer why his method had failed to bring happiness for all because that was the one question he had failed to ask the trees. His people wanted to know more, but there were no more trees to answer them, and no more trees would ever grow in that forest.
And so he resolved to find the First Tree. He set off, and after months of fruitless searching the woodsman gave up in despair. As he cried out in anguish, he heard a distant voice on the air. Its tone was deep but gentle. Like wind it approached, saying: “Because of your arrogance, you failed to realize that each time one question is resolved, a thousand more mysteries are born; and it is only when the seeds of these unanswered questions are not permitted to grow, that the land becomes an empty waste.
“The First Tree is the reason that all other life in the forest still grows, and it is the source of your great knowledge as well. You have slowly forgotten to revere the power of the First Tree; now behold, for the truth is being revealed to you.” And the woodsman looked out from the height of the mountain, and beheld a glistening tree adrift in the sky, with its roots stretching into the abyss and its leafy branches meandering in all directions.
Upon the breadth of the tree, the woodsman could see the little rivers and forests and vast grasslands, and indeed the whole face of the earth as he could have never observed from the ground. The stars twinkled in the perpetual twilight as the voice said gently, “You could not see the Tree when you sought it, for the Tree had grown so large that it had enveloped the entire earth, which it cared for and nurtured since the beginning; and everything on the earth has grown from the wood of the Sacred Tree, wherein there still dwells the soul of The One.”