Tuesday's Tale - another one from China

First of, apologies for the lack of 'Sunday's Serial', wasn't having a good day and, embarrassingly, posting on the blog slipped my mind.

Back to Tuesday's regular feature ...

The Magic Pillow

One day, an old priest stopped at a wayside inn to rest.  Spreading out his mat, he sat down with his bag.  A short time later, a young fellow arrived at the inn.  He did not wear a long robe like the priest or the men who read books; his short clothes marked him as a farm-labourer.  Taking a seat near the priest, the two were soon laughing and talking together.

Indicating his rough dress, the young man sighed and said, “See what a miserable wretch I am.”

“To me, you appear well fed and healthy enough,” said the priest.  “Why in the middle of our pleasant chat do you complain like this of being miserable?”

“What pleasure can I find in this life of mine?  I work every day from early morn to late at night.  I should like to be a great general and win battles.  Or maybe a rich a man and have fine food and wine, and listen to good music.  I would like to be a great man at court where I would help our Emperor, and bring prosperity to my family.  Now that is what I call pleasure.  I want to rise in the world, but here I am a poor farm-labourer.  If you do not call that miserable wretchedness, what is it then?”  Pausing in his long complaint, the young man yawned mightily.

While the landlord was cooking a dish of porridge, the priest took a pillow out of his bag and said to the young man, “Lay your head on this and all your wishes will be granted.”

The pillow was made of porcelain; it was round like a tube, and open at each end.  As the young man put his head down toward the pillow, one of the openings seemed to become so large and bright that he climbed inside, and found himself at his own home.

Soon afterward he married a beautiful girl, and began to grow prosperous.  He took to wearing fine clothes, and spent his time in study.  The following year, having passed his examinations, he was made a magistrate, and in the space of a few years rose to become Prime Minister.  For a long time, he was the Emperor’s trusted advisor.

Then came the day when he got into trouble.  Accused of treason, he was sentenced to death.  He was taken with several other criminals to the place of execution.  Made to kneel, he shut his eyes against the dread sight of the executioner approaching with his sword.  Just as the blow landed, he opened his eyes to find himself at the inn.

Barely able to breathe, he could only stare at the priest resting with his head on his bag, while the landlord still stirred the porridge, which was not quite ready.  He didn’t say a word, and when the food was ready, he ate his meal in silence.  Then he got to his feet and bowed to the priest.  “I thank you, sir,” he said, “for the lesson you have taught me; I know now what it means to be a great man.” With that, he took his leave and went back to his work, enjoying a quiet sense of newly discovered peace.


What I like about this tale is the idea that greatness is innate, not tied to wealth or great deeds.  And that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side.