The Proud Oak

Trad. Cindy Moon

Many years ago, in a forest in a small country in the middle of Europe stood a great oak tree.

Yes, I understand what you’re thinking. Oaks are very common in the woods. And yes, you’re right. Every self-respecting forest havas several oaks which give prestige to the forest.

Centuries ago, the oak stood in what was the center of the forest, in a spot somewhat all alone. Around him stood — not very closely — other trees. They stood in a circle but left at least ten meters of space.

And now you’re probably thinking, “That’s strange.”

The reason is simple; because that oak was the oak of worries, of cares. When the oak was little, he was already conscious of his importance. He knew that someday he would be a great oak ruling over the other trees. Other tree really didn’t appreciate that attitude; mainly the white birches protested the vanity of the oak.

One day a young lady came into the woods. She was really beautiful, but oh dear, she had the saddest face. Her beautiful eyes were full of tears and when she came close to the spot where the oak stood, she ran with stooped shoulders like an old lady instead of a beauty of 18.

Tired, she leaned against the oak and cried as only unhappy women can cry. The birches leaned their heads and looked with wonder at the young woman.

“What happened to make her cry like that?” they asked themselves. Regrettably, by then birches had lost the ability to talk with ordinary creatures, which humans are, as far as they’re concerned.

A magpie romped at the feet of the girl, but she didn’t even notice that the maestro of good humor was trying to cheer her up. A pair of squirrels came close and sniffed her, because in their whole life they hadn’t seen a human and certainly not a beauty like her. That didn’t help a bit, the young lady saw nothing because of the tears obscuring her vision.

She didn’t even see the two deer who showed themselves in all their beauty.

“Hey, Oak, why don’t you try to help her? You can speak the human language, right?” said the birches, and then some other trees who were nearby murmured and complained.

“Yeah, why don’t you help her?” sounded throughout the forest.

“I became the majestic oak, the king of the forest, not a doctor. Leave me alone, I don’t talk to humans. They’re malicious and dishonest, learned my mother. They lie and they cheat,” was the answer of the oak.

“You have a stupid imagination, Oak, and I don’t believe that your mother ever said those stupid things about humans. Yes, there are those types, but most ordinary creatures, including humans, are good-hearted and only want peace and a good life without too many worries.” It was the owl who said that and everyone believed him because of all bird of the forest he was the wisest.

“Usually,” continued the owl, “When human children are so upset and so sad, it’s because someone broke their heart!”

“Oh no, oh no,” the trees responded, “How could you break the heart of someone so beautiful? Is it possible?”

“Evidently, my dear tree friends. It’s a sad thing, but sometimes humans aren’t always faithful and they cheat other humans and then a heart gets broken,” the owl explained.

“So you, Oak, talk with the beauty and ask if we can help her,” said the owl.

The oak was too conceited to talk with the woman, too proud to talk to an ordinary creature. The other tree strongly protested and did not appreciate his conduct. The beeches were especially strong in their objection. They put their heads together and discussed, then the most majestic of the beeches said, “We’re not going to put up with your vanity. For too long we’ve been silent about your pride, but now you’ve gone a step too far. We’re withdrawing from you by 100 meters. From now on, you won’t have the protection of the other trees, and you’ll be left to suffer the effects of the winds and rains, the strong storms!”

The oak saw how the surrounding trees withdrew and around him appeared a clear area of more than 100 meters. He immediately understood that in the next strong storm he might die, because he was still too young to resist strong wind.

He understood that he needed to set aside his vanity and his pride that made him truly a disagreeable creature.

“A thousand pardons, a thousand pardons!” he cried to the faraway trees. “I’m sorry, I’ll talk with the girl right now, I’ll try to help her, but just return to me, protect me!”

The trees talked about it and brainstormed about it, then told the owl what to tell the oak to do, in order to change their minds about protecting the oak once again.

The owl flew in complete silence, which only owls can do, straight to the oak and said, “Help that beautiful girl and then the other trees will once again return to a distance of only one meter.”

“But,” said the oak, “Then I’ll still be in danger!”

“Yes,” replied the owl, “But keep in mind, that whenever you help a human with a problem, the other trees will come closer. So you yourself decide now about your life and your future.”

After those words the oak bowed his head and asked the young woman about her sorrow.

She told a long story of lost love and the unwillingness to continue living, and the story was so touching and sad that the oak was deeply ashamed of his vanity.

“Place your two hands on my inner bark and think about beautiful moments in your life. Concentrate on those moments and put everything bad out of your mind. Stay that way for several minutes, young lady, so I can take away your sadness.”

The woman did what the oak asked and in a little while she felt much better. She understood that her lost love wasn’t the only star in the sky. That she still has friends she can be with, and with that, she felt much better. Happily she thanked the oak and dancing a little, she returned to her village, where she told about the miracle which an oak had given to her.

Of course, she met someone new, a beatiful guy who was a faithful sort, who loved her with his whole heart. They got married and had two beautiful children, because that happens to beautiful people.

And the oak? He still stands in the middle of a forest. You can’t even find him now, because over the years, he helped so many sad people, that the other trees have long since moved right up next to him, to shelter him from storms.

Maybe, when you go walking in the woods and you hear a voice from nowhere, it could be the oak who is talking to you. You’ll recognize him from the many handprints pressed into his bark.

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