The King of the Trees: An Armenian Fable

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The trees once had an argument about who should rule over them as king, and some said it should be the palm tree, since it was so tall, and bore sweet fruit.

But the vine objected, saying, “I gladden the hearts of men, so I should be king!”

And the fig tree said, “I am sweet to the taste, so it should be I.”

The buck-thorn said, “I am severe and can inflict punishment, so I am fit to rule.”

Thus these three trees praised themselves excessively, unaware of any faults. The palm tree realized that they would not agree to accept the rule of another, not wishing to share their special powers with anyone else.

“Am I not richly fitted to be king!” He protested.

The three trees gave their opinion.

“You are indeed very tall, and give good fruit, but you have two faults: one, you take more than a lifetime to produce any fruit; two, you are not suitable for cultivation. Moreover, because of your great height, your fruits are beyond the reach of many.”

“Very well,” said the palm tree. “To counteract these faults, I shall make you princes of my kingdom, and so rule over you, and my sons after me.”

And so he made the vine, which gladdens the hearts of men, the royal butler; the fig, oozing sweetness, prime minister; and the buck-thorn, prickly and painful, chief executioner. And he allotted fitting tasks to the other trees, placing the cedars in charge of building, brushwood in charge of heating, and brambles in charge of prisons.

This fable shows that no one can wield authority without the help of the less glorious, or rise high without the cooperation of the lowly; and again, that with ready gifts in their hands, the many may be discouraged by their masters from harboring higher hopes.

CREDIT: The fables of Mkhitar Gosh, Medieval Armenian Writer, Lawyer, and priest  (1120-1213). He also wrote a code of laws including civil and Canon law that was used in both Greater Armenia and Cilicia. It was also used in Poland.

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