The old woman of the village

(The Freeman) - January 30, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Once upon a time there was a village in Japan ruled by the cruel King Aki. One day, the king ordered the villagers to send their elderly up to the mountains and leave them there to die. So, all old men and women aged 65 years old and up were carried to the mountains, as the king had ordered.

Everyone obeyed the orders of the king to avoid punishment, except one farmer who decided to keep his beloved mother home. He couldn’t let his mother die in the mountains, so instead the farmer dug under his house and made room for his mother. Without fearing the punishment of the king, the farmer and his wife and children kept the old woman, without telling anyone in the village about it.

Then one day the village was invaded and conquered by the warrior King Yoko of the next village. At that time, the warrior king had already conquered nearby places, destructing homes and killing people. The whole village vowed to King Yoko’s orders, knowing that the conqueror is more heartless than their own King Aki. Then, King Yoko began to demand for impossible things from the villagers.

King Yoko called for King Aki. “Only one thing can save you and your people,” he told the vanquished king, “Bring me a rope of ashes!”

King Aki was taken aback by King Yoko’s demand, and he told it to the villagers, who also got confused. They didn’t know how to make a rope of ashes. “Your Highness, what you are asking is impossible,” everyone pleaded to King Yoko.

 “It’s the King’s order – and you must follow!” King Yoko insisted.

Upon hearing the conqueror king’s impossible order, the farmer immediately went to his mother and told her about it. The old woman calmly replied, “That’s easy, my son.  All you need to do is soak ordinary rope in salt and water and dry it well. When it is burned, it will keep its shape and there is your rope of ash!”

The farmer then relayed his mother’s idea to King Aki. “Your wisdom is more than anybody else in this village!” King Aki exclaimed, handing the farmer several bars of gold as reward. He told the villagers to make the rope according to the old woman’s suggestion.

But as the rope of ashes was presented to him, it seemed King Yoko had something else in mind. He had his men bring a log with a hole that curved several times through its length. Then he declared, “I want a single piece of silk be threaded through the hole.”

So, again, the farmer went to his mother to ask for the solution. “That is not hard to do,” the old woman smiled. “Put some sugar at one end of the hole. Then tie a piece of silk thread to an ant. Put the ant at the other end. Ants love sugar, so the ant will find its way through the curves to find the sugar. By that, the ant will pull the silk with it.”

King Aki was so delighted to hear the wise advice, and he rewarded the farmer with more gold. “You saved the village again!” he said.

But King Yoko was getting annoyed by the villagers’ accomplishment of his impossible demands. So he finally made his hardest demand of all: a drum that sounds without being beaten!

Again, the farmer consulted his mother. Surprisingly, the old woman reacted, “Why are his requests getting easier?” And to think that it looked like the hardest demand of all! “Make a drum with sides of paper,” the old woman instructed. “Put a bee inside. As it tries to escape, the bee will buzz and beat faster against the paper. You will have a drum that sound without being beaten.”

King Aki was again impressed by the idea the farmer relayed. He got curious and asked, “Who is source of all of this wisdom?”

The farmer couldn’t help but tell the truth. “For the past two years I have kept my mother hidden beneath my house,” he related. “She is now 67 years old, Your Majesty. She is the one who solved all your problems. She saved the village, not me.”

King Aki was surprised to hear the revelation. He figured out that the farmer had disobeyed his earlier order for all old people in the village to be brought up the mountain to die. But he did not get mad at the famer. Instead, he came to realize the great wisdom of old people and its importance to the whole village.

As the village was celebrating their freedom from King Yoko, the reinstated King Aki made a public admission: “I was wrong in thinking that we can have a strong community without the elderly.” He turned to the farmer, “I must ask forgiveness of your mother and of all my people. I will never again belittle the importance of old people. From now on, the old people of the village shall be held in high respect by everyone!”  

On that very day, King Aki ordered for all elderly in the mountains to be brought back to the village. Old people were then highly regarded in the village. And the villagers lived peacefully with the guiding wisdom of the elderly.


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