In which the Gift of Stories continues: an important tale of reeds
The Reeds of Strength (Greece)
A farmer lay on his deathbed, and worried about the future of his farm. He had three fine sons, all good farmers, and each would inherit a good piece of land and the equipment with which to grow the crops to make the farm prosper.
And yet, the boys were so quarrelsome that the farmer feared that their disputes would interfere with the husbandry of the farm.
Thus it was that he called each son to him in turn.
To his eldest son, the farmer said, “Go to the river, and bring back to me the two strongest reeds you find growing there.”
His eldest son thought that the request was a strange one, and offered to bring his father a cup of tea, instead. But the father insisted, and so the eldest son went to the river.
To his middle son, the farmer said “Go to the river, and bring back to me the two strongest reeds you find growing there.”
The middle son thought that the request was a strange one, and offered to read to his father from a favorite book instead. But the father insisted, and so the middle son went to the river.
To his youngest son, the farmer said “Go to the river, and bring back to me the two strongest reeds you find growing there.”
The youngest thought that the request was a strange one, but he said nothing, and went to the river.
When they returned, each with two reeds, the father called all three boys before him.
“Choose the strongest of your reeds and give it to me,” he commanded them. Each young man chose a reed, and handed it to the father, who took each reed in turn and broke it with two fingers.
“Now,” said the father in a softer tone, “give me the other reed.”
Confused, the brothers each surrendered their second reed. With fingers no longer nimble, the old farmer carefully braided the three reeds into a rope, and handed to the eldest son.
“Break it,” he commanded. The eldest son pulled and tugged on the braid, but could not break it. The farmer gave the braid in turn to the middle son and then the youngest, but they could not break it either.
Finally, the farmer said to the young men, “This is how your lives will be. If you stand alone, you will surely fall under the weight of trouble. But if you work together, adversity will never break you.”