The Money Tree: A Tale of Sharing and Greed

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Once there were two poor brothers. They worked, and toiled, but they could never seem to bring themselves out of poverty. One brother, the more industrious of the two, had an idea.  “Let us go into the forest, brother,” he said. “I have heard tell of rare and valuable herbs found at the shore of the river nearby. If we find them, perhaps we can sell them and finally leave this small hovel we call home.”

So the brothers went into the forest to the river and searched for many hours, but to no avail. Up and down the shores they went, but could find nothing but daisies and dandelions. However, on their way home, one of the brothers spotted a strange small tree. “Have you ever seen a tree like this before, brother?” he asked. The brothers agreed that it was indeed a strange tree, and decided to bring it along home with them in the hopes that it might be worth something to sell. They dug up the small tree and placed in a pot, which took far longer than they had anticipated, for the roots were much hardier and went much deeper than they expected for a tree of such a small size.

The next day, the brothers showed their strange tree to all of the florists and botanists they could think of. Unfortunately, the town was small, and most of the villagers were almost as poor as the brothers themselves. Many did find the tree to be strange and interesting, but none would offer the brothers any meaningful sum to purchase it. Downcast, the brothers returned home empty-handed. They went to bed, hungry, stomachs rumbling, wondering how they would even pay for their next meal.

The next morning, one brother woke to a shout of surprise. His brother was kneeling in front of the small tree, holding an outstretched palm. In his palm lay a copper coin. “Where did you find that?” asked the brother excitedly. “It was stuck to one of the branches of the tree,” replied the other brother. “Someone must have dropped it while we were showing the tree to everybody yesterday.” The brothers didn’t question their good fortune. One copper coin wouldn’t make them rich, but it would certainly fill their bellies. 

Later, after having bought their breakfast, the brothers came across a small girl sitting with her dog. “Please, good sirs,” the girl said. “My poor dog is starving. Neither of us has eaten for days! I see the bread you carry, and I smell the roasted chicken. Won’t you please spare some for a poor girl and her pet?”

One brother, the greedier of the two, instinctively drew away, shielding his recently purchased food. But the other brother kneeled, breaking off half his bread and holding it to the girl, who took it gratefully. He then threw a strip of chicken to the dog, who gobbled it up in seconds.

“Bless you, sir,” cried the girl. “Luck and prosperity be with you always!”

The greedy brother laughed as they walked away from the girl. “Foolish brother,” he said. “You’ve given away half your food and now you will go hungry. You’ve wasted the luck we were given.”

“Nonsense,” replied the generous brother. “Luck is not ours to hoard. We must share our prosperity with the world, lest it shrivel like a flower in the dark.”  The brothers argued and fought all afternoon, and eventually went to bed angry.

But their troubles were forgotten the next morning, when they woke to another joyful surprise. Three copper coins lay in the branches of the tree. “Surely these were not here yesterday.” The brothers agreed, and they knew there must be something magical about their strange, small tree.

“We must share this with our neighbors!” said the generous brother. “Imagine the good we can do in our poor village, with a tree that grows money!”

“No!” cried the greedy brother. “No one can know of this. Our neighbors are crooks and thieves who will try to steal our tree and our fortune!”  The brothers argued and fought, but eventually agreed that they would split the money, and would tell no one about their magical money tree.

So each day, the generous brother took his share of the money from the money tree, and did what he could to help his neighbors and his village, while the greedy brother took his money and hoarded it in a secret place. And each day, as the prosperity of the brothers and the village increased, so did the money tree grow and yield ever larger amounts of money. The brothers moved out of their hovel into the finest house in the village, and they wore the finest clothes, and ate finest foods. All the while, the generous brother still gave away most of his money each day to the betterment of his neighbors and the townsfolk, and the greedy brother’s hoard grew bigger and bigger.

One morning, while the generous brother still slept, the greedy brother stood before the money tree, now grown tall. Fourteen heavy golden coins had grown overnight, more than ever before, an unimaginable sum that could keep the brothers wealthy for a dozen lifetimes.  The greedy brother’s eyes sparkled as he looked at the coins. The thought of his brother simply giving this wealth away infuriated him. In a fit of rage, he snatched up all the golden coins and hid them, leaving none for his brother. 

When the generous brother woke, he saw the tree with no money, and he knew what had happened. The brothers fought, but the greedy brother would not reveal the location of the hidden treasure, so that day generous brother was not able to go out and share his prosperity with the world.

The brothers decided they could not trust one another with the money tree, and they both stayed awake all night, glaring at each other from opposite sides of the room, waiting for the money to grow. But both brothers were tired from their arguing, and they found their eyelids drooping and fell asleep.

With the first rays of the sun, the brothers both woke to find, to their shock, the money tree was empty. No new coins had grown overnight, and in fact three green leaves had fallen from the branches of a tree and now lay on the floor.

“This is your fault” shouted the greedy brother.  “You’ve given away half our money, and now the tree is dying and we will never get more money again!”

“No, don’t you understand?” said the generous brother. “The money tree can only grow when prosperity grows for everyone! Not just for us, but for the whole village!”

In a rage, the greedy brother reached out and struck. The two brothers fought and tumbled through the room, and a lantern was knocked from the wall. 

The fire spread through the house like the brothers’ anger, consuming everything in its path. The fine house, the money tree, and the secret hoard were all burned to ash.

The brothers emerged, coughing from the smoke, left with nothing. The gathering townsfolk rushed to the generous brother, offering him food, clothes and shelter.  They all wished to repay his years of kindness.  But none would help the greedy brother, who had no friends among the villagers due to his covetous ways. The greedy brother fled the village, while the generous brother stayed, and with the help of his neighbors he rebuilt a happy and successful life.

Many years later, there was a knock at the generous brother’s door.  Of course, it was the greedy brother, haggard and worn from years of wandering and poverty.

The generous man’s heart was good, and he had long ago forgiven his brother for the foolish mistakes of the past.  He welcomed his brother with open arms, happy to share the prosperity he had worked so hard to build.

And in the garden, on the branch of a small, strange tree, a copper coin shone in the sunlight.

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JMBricklayer JMB-The Money Tree-04

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Chris Taylor

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