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Fattening Up the King

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Once upon a time there was a quiet village deep in a forest.  A natural spring stood as a grand fountain in the center, keeping the village lush all year-round. Water from the faithful spring was used for drinking, bathing and growing crops.  It was even used to power several water wheels.  With few exceptions, the friendly villagers worked hard in their chosen crafts, supplying each other with the items they needed and the treasures that they valued.


But one day, the harmony of the village was disturbed by an ogre who lurked nearby. Ogres are known for having both an eager appetite and a cunning patience.  While the ogre was very large, he was skilled at blending in with the thick timberland.  And in the cool of the day, the villagers could smell his hot breath and hear his slow panting.

So the villagers gathered in the town center to decide just how to deal with the menacing danger.  A smart response plan was agreed to and was practiced every day.  Watch posts were built atop of each high hill.  And whenever the ogre appeared, the determined villagers would hurry to the town center, surround the spring with their children in the middle and aim all of their pitchforks outward.

While this practice seemed to work, the villagers grew weary of devoting so much attention to the looming threat.  But one day, one of the watch posts announced that a woodsman was approaching the village on a majestic horse.

The woodsman was a handsome and powerful figure who spoke with confidence and doffed his hat in respect. The villagers immediately cried out their fears to the woodsman, describing the terrible ogre that threatened their lives and their precious spring.  Almost rudely, the villagers begged the new arrival to step up as their champion.

So with a smile and a nod, the woodsman galloped through the forest in the direction where the ogre had last been seen.  Soon there came a great commotion, with treetops shaking and plenty of growling and roaring and one final and very loud howl.  After long moments of silence, the woodsman emerged from the forest, disheveled and bruised, but triumphant.  The ogre was seen no more.


The joyous villagers heralded their champion with an enormous celebration that very night.  They rewarded the woodsman with their finest foods, their best drink, and their favorite songs of heroes.  With a little hesitation for asking too much, the villagers invited the woodsman to remain with them as their guardian.

The woodsman accepted the honored position of caretaker of the spring.  The village thrived and their lives seemed normal again with the threat of an ogre now gone.  The woodsman sat in constant guard over the spring, the source of life for the kind folks of the village.

The woodsman wanted for nothing as the residents built for him a regal seat where anyone approaching the village would see his great stature.  Each time the villagers came to the spring for water, they would bring gifts to the woodsman; the best of their crops, the finest of their crafts.  After a time, the oafish woodsman developed a refined taste for fine food and drink.  And he ate a lot.  He ate a whole lot.

In time, the woodsman became very fat. His appetite grew tremendously and his appreciation turned into demands that were constant and even threatening. And the woodsman’s control over their spring made it awkward for the villagers to refuse him.

Eventually, the woodsman had become so large that he could not move himself away from the controlling position of their precious spring.  The villagers realized that their fear of the ogre had been replaced by their fear of the woodsman.  And instead of an ogre consuming most of their attention, it had become the woodsman whom they served; an enormously fat, pompous, and voracious ruler whose demands seemed to have no limits.  The villagers wanted to rid themselves of the woodsman, but no conventional idea seemed big enough to solve the onerous problem.


Then one day, without warning, the ogre marched right into the village.  Everyone screamed and scattered indoors as the ogre stomped by, not harming a single cottage.  He moved quickly into the town center and, without hesitation, gobbled up the woodsman.

And with a large belch, the ogre sat down next to the spring and announced in a deep, rich voice, “Nobody fattens up a woodsman like a village in search of a guardian.”

The villagers slowly stepped out of their cottages to see the large beast who sat calmly on the cobblestone.  “So, you’re not going to eat us?” asked one.

“Nope.  I only eat soft, fat overlords. Years ago, I followed your woodsman here after observing that you had forgotten the lessons of your great, great, great grandparents.  I put up a small fight with the woodsman and feigned defeat, figuring that you would exchange the fruit of your labor for the assurance of a splendid speech.  Every village seems to have a fat woodsman.  I roam the earth, finding my meals sitting on a throne.”

“So, are you expecting us to fatten up another one for you?  I think we are too smart for that now.”

“I won’t come back in three generations while your stories will still be told.  I won’t come back in four generations when you yourselves have been forgotten.  And I won’t come back in five generations when your stories are no longer believed.  I will come back in six generations when your stories are no longer told.”


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