The Woodcutter and the Enchanted Tree
Once upon a time, there was a woodcutter who lived with his wife in a little hut at the edge of the forest. Every day he went to the forest to cut wood that he could sell in the village.
One day, he was in the deeper part of the forest and started cutting an old tree when he heard a cry, “Stop! Do not cut me down!”
The woodcutter was scared and he looked around to see who was talking.
“It’s me, the tree!”
Fear crossed the woodcutter’s face. “A tree that talks?”
“Yes. And I implore you not to cut me down. I am an enchanted tree and if you cut me down, I would only be of use to you for a short time. But if you leave me be, I would be much obliged to you.”
“I surely would not cut down a talking tree,” the woodcutter said uneasily. “I am sorry I struck you with my axe.”
“You are a good and kind man,” the tree said. “Is there is anything I can do for you?” the tree asked.
“No, thank you,” the woodcutter replied. It was quite a terrifying experience for him and all he wanted was to leave and go home.
He told his wife everything.
The Wife Wanted a Bigger House
“He asked if there was anything he could do! And you said no! Don’t you think we need a better house? Don’t you think we need food and money?”
“No, I wouldn’t dream of asking the tree such things. I was lucky to have left unharmed after striking him with my axe.”
“In a sense, you saved his life and he owes you!” the wife said. “Go back and ask that tree for a bigger house!” she ordered.
For one week, the woodcutter’s wife nagged and nagged until he decided to go back to the forest.
He stood before the tree and started, “Oh, tree…”
“What do you want, woodcutter?” asked the tree.
“It’s not I but my wife. She said that since you offered to do something for us, I should have asked for a bigger house.”
“Go home. She already got the bigger house that she wants.”
And true enough, the woodcutter saw a beautiful cottage instead of a hut when he came home. His wife was ecstatic.
She took him by the hand and said, “This is a lot better. Come inside.”
The woodcutter found a little parlor and bedroom, a kitchen and a pantry filled with everything they needed. Behind the cottage, there was a yard with ducks and hens. There was also a little garden with fruit-bearing trees and flowers.
“Isn’t this nice?” the wife asked.
“Yes, it is,” the woodcutter answered. “We must be grateful for all these and live quite contented from now on.”
The Wife Wanted a Castle
It went well for a week until the woodcutter’s wife started to complain.
“This house is far too small, the garden and the yard are not wide enough. That tree should have given us a larger house. I sure would like to live in a castle. Go back to that tree and ask him for a castle.”
“Dear Wife, why do we have to live in a castle? This cottage is good enough for us. I will not go and ask the tree for a castle, he might not like it and become angry.”
For another week, the wife kept badgering the woodcutter to go back to the tree.
The man’s heart was heavy. He knew it was not right to ask the tree for a castle but he did what his wife told him to do. He found his way to the tree without much difficulty.
Again, he stood before the enchanted tree and said, “Oh, enchanted tree…”
“What do you want, woodcutter?” the tree asked.
“It’s my wife, she wants a bigger house... a castle…”
“Go home. She already has it.”
True enough, he found his wife standing on the steps of a castle. They went in together. Inside was a great hall paved with marble, and there were many servants ready to serve them. It had all the trimmings and splendor of a real castle, with crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, rooms and bedrooms with carpets, and the best wine and food they could ever wish for.
Behind the castle was a courtyard with stables for horses. There were also magnificent carriages. The wide garden bloomed with beautiful flowers and fruit-bearing trees.
“Isn’t that beautiful,” the wife asked.
“Yes, indeed,” the woodcutter said. “Now, we can live in this beautiful castle and be content.”
The Wife Wanted to Become King
But the wife felt a castle is not enough, she wanted her husband to be King over all the land.
“No!” the woodcutter objected. “I don’t want to be King! I cannot ask that from the tree.”
“Then I want to be king! Go back to the tree this instant and tell him to make me king! I must be King!”
So the man went back to the tree. He was so unhappy at his wife’s demand. He wondered why it took him longer to find the tree, but he found it alright.
Before he could speak the tree asked, “What is it this time?”
He swallowed hard before he could utter the words, “Oh, enchanted tree, I do not want to ask another favor from you because you have given us so much already but my wife… she insists that she wants to be King over all the land.”
“Go back to your wife. She is now King.”
The woodcutter went home and found that the palace they had before had become much larger. It had a tower and magnificent ornaments, and a sentinel stood before the door. He found quite a number of soldiers with drums and trumpets.
Inside, he found his wife sitting on a throne of gold and diamonds with a golden crown on her head and a scepter of gold and jewels in her hand. She was flanked by maids-in-waiting on each side.
He went and stood before his wife and said, “Dear wife, now you are King, I am sure we could wish for nothing anymore.”
The Wife Wanted to Become Emperor
To his surprise, his wife said, “Being King is not enough. Go back to the tree and tell him to make me Emperor. I must be Emperor!”
“No! This is too much,” the woodcutter said. “The enchanted tree would never make you the Emperor. We have only one Emperor. The tree could not do that! I will not go and ask the tree!”
“What!” the wife snapped. “I am the King and you are nothing but my husband. I order you to do what I command! Go at once!”
The woodcutter was forced to obey his wife. He was so troubled. He knew in his heart that this could not end well. Being Emperor is too much! The tree will be fed up with these wishes.”
His journey to the forest was difficult. He felt lost so many times. He could not find the tree in the same spot that he was sure it would be. He was getting deeper, much deeper into the forest when at last he found the tree.
“What does your wife want now?” the tree asked sharply.
“My wife wants to be Emperor,” he answered timidly.
“Go back to her,” the tree snapped. “She is now Emperor.”
When he got home the whole palace had become more magnificent, and soldiers were marching before the door blowing trumpets, and beating cymbals and drums.
Inside, royal servants opened the doors made of pure gold. His wife sat on a throne more bejeweled and much larger. She wore a great golden crown set with diamonds. In one hand she had the scepter, in the other the imperial orb, and on each side stood the yeomen of the guard in two rows.
Also, before his wife stood a number of princes and dukes so the woodcutter went and stood among them, and said, “Wife, are you Emperor now?”
“Yes,” she said, “now I am Emperor.”
"Dear Wife, be content, now that you are Emperor."
The Wife Wanted to Become Pope
“Husband,” she said, “Now, I am Emperor, but I want to be Pope too. Go to the tree!”
“Oh, Dear Wife,” said the woodcutter, “What will you not wish for? You cannot be Pope. There is only one pope. The tree cannot make you Pope.”
“Husband,” she said, “I will be Pope! Go immediately, I must be Pope this very day.”
“No, Dear wife,” said the man, “I do not like to say that to the tree, that would not do, it is too much! The tree can't make you Pope.”
“That is nonsense!” the wife screamed, “If he can make me an emperor, he can make a pope! Go to him now! I am Emperor, and you are nothing but my husband. Go at once!”
He did not know why but he became afraid of his wife and went back to the forest. He shivered, and his knees and legs trembled as he walked deeper into the forest. Again, he felt that the tree was not where it was before. He was getting deeper and deeper into the forest and he was afraid.
He found the tree and stood before him in fear.
“Well, what does your wife want this time?” the tree asked.
The woodcutter said nervously, “She wants to be Pope.”
"Go to her then," the tree said sharply. “She is Pope already.”
So he went, and when he got there, he saw a large church surrounded by palaces. He pushed his way through the crowd.
Inside, he found that everything was lighted with thousands and thousands of candles. His wife was clad in gold, and was sitting on a much higher throne. She had the “triple crown” on, and there was much ecclesiastical splendor all around. All the kings and all the emperors were on their knees before her, kissing her shoe.
The woodcutter approached his wife, “Dear Wife, are you now Pope?”
“Yes,” she said, “I am Pope.”
So he said, “Now that you are Pope, please be satisfied, you cannot become anything greater now.”
The Wife Wanted to Become Like God
So they both went to bed, but the wife was not satisfied, she could not sleep. She kept thinking that there must be something greater for her to become.
When the sun began to rise, the wife saw the red of dawn. She sat up in bed and looked at it. When she saw the sun rising, she thought, “Would it be great if I can order the sun and the moon to rise?”
He woke his husband up, “Husband, wake up. Go to the tree for I wish to be like God.”
The woodcutter was horrified that he fell out of bed. He thought he must have heard wrong. “What were you saying, Dear Wife?”
“Husband,” she said, “I can’t bear the thought that all I do is look at the sun and moon rise. I want to make them rise myself. Go at once to the tree! I wish to be like God.”
A shudder ran over the woodcutter, and said, "Dear Wife, the tree cannot do that! He can make an emperor and a pope but I beseech you, go on as you are, and be Pope.”
She flew into a rage, her hair flying wildly about her head, and she cried, “I will not take your insolence! Go to the tree at once!”
The woodcutter had barely put on his trousers and ran like a madman. He ran to the forest and as he got deeper and deeper into the jungle, the wind suddenly blew and beat on him so hard. After a while of going in circles, he knew he was lost. This time, he could not find the tree.
He could hear the sound of thunder and the crack of lightning at a distance. He was in so much fear that he decided to go home but he could not find his way back.
In desperation, he called out, “Oh, enchanted tree. I cannot find you but please hear me.”
“What do you want woodcutter?” the tree spoke but it was nowhere to be seen. The voice was thunderous and terrifying.
The woodcutter was more afraid of his wife than the frightening voice. He stammered, “My… my wife… she… she wants to be like… like God.”
Thunder roared and lightning cracked. The woodcutter cringed in fear. Rain came pouring down and soaked the forest. The woodcutter fought against the wind to take shelter but he was thrown to the ground where the rain pounded on him.
“Go to her. I have given her what she deserved this time. As for you, you did not have to submit to your wife’s every whim. Your wife is greedy and you are a weak husband. I don't want to be bothered by you and your wife's wishes anymore! Goodbye.”
When the shivering woodcutter finally found his way home, he was not prepared for what he saw.
His wife was sitting outside their old little hut, crying. He did not feel compassion for her. When she looked up to him, she could only say, “I’m sorry…”
The woodcutter and his wife continued to live in their little hut. Up to this time, the woodcutter still cut trees for wood in the forest which he sold at the village.
“Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (and positions)
Personal Lesson Learned
Know when to stop. Don't push your luck too much.
© 2020 Norma
John Hansen from Gondwana Land on February 09, 2020:
This is a wonderful story and lesson warning us about the perils of too much greed. The woodcutter may have been a good man but was a fool to bow to his wife’s greedy nature. Thanks for sharing Norma.