Ancient Tales of Wisdom: The Stone Cutter

October 21, 2021

Once upon a time, there lived a stonecutter who went every day to a great rock in the side of a big mountain and cut out slabs for gravestones or for houses. He understood very well the kinds of stones needed for the different purposes, and as he was a careful workman, he had plenty of customers.

For a long time, he was quite happy and contented, and asked for nothing better than what he had.

Now, in the mountain lived a wise and kind god who would often help those in need. The stonecutter, however, had never seen this god and always shook his head in disbelief whenever anyone spoke of him.

One day, the stonecutter carried a gravestone to the house of a rich man and saw there all sorts of beautiful things, of which he had never even dreamed. Suddenly, his daily work seemed to grow harder and heavier, and he said to himself, “Oh, if only I were a rich man, and could sleep in a bed with silken curtains and golden tassels, how happy I should be.”

And a voice answered him, “Your wish is heard; a rich man you shall be.”

At the sound of the voice, the stonecutter looked around, but could see nobody. He thought it was all in his head; and so he picked up his tools and went home, for he did not feel inclined to do any more work that day.

When he reached the little house where he lived, he stood still with amazement, for instead of his wooden hut was a stately palace filled with splendid furniture. And most splendid of all was the bed, in every respect like the one he had envied. He was nearly beside himself with joy, and in his new life the old one was soon forgotten.

It was now the beginning of summer, and each day, the sun blazed more fiercely. One morning, the heat was so great that the stonecutter could hardly breathe, and he decided he would stop at home ‘till the evening. He started to get bored, for he had never learned to entertain himself.

That day, as he was peeping through the closed blinds to see what was going on in the street, he saw a carriage drawn by servants dressed in blue and silver pass by. In the carriage sat a prince, and over his head a golden umbrella was held to protect him from the sun’s rays. And the stonecutter said to himself as the carriage disappeared around the corner, “Oh, if I were only a prince, and could go in such a carriage and have a golden umbrella held over me, how happy I should be.”

In a blink of an eye, the stonecutter was a prince. Before him was his carriage drawn by servants dressed in scarlet and gold; a big umbrella was held over his head. Everything his heart could desire was his, but yet it was not enough.

He looked around still for something to wish for; and when he saw that in spite of the water he poured on the grass the rays of the sun still scorched it, and that in spite of the umbrella held over his head, each day his face grew browner and browner, he cried in his anger, “The sun is mightier than I; oh, if I were only the sun!”

And the mountain god answered, “Your wish is heard, the sun you shall be.” And the sun he became, glowing in his supremacy. He shot his beams above and below, on earth and in heaven; he burnt up the grass in the fields and scorched the faces of princes as well as the poorer folk.

But in a short time, he began to grow tired of his might, for there seemed nothing left for him to do. Discontentment once more filled his soul, and when a cloud covered his face and hid the earth from him, he cried in his anger, “Does the cloud hold captive my rays, and is it mightier than I? Oh, if I were a cloud and mightier than any!”

And the mountain god answered, “Your wish is heard; a cloud you shall be.” And a cloud he became, and he hovered between the sun and the earth. He caught the sun’s beams and held them, and to his joy, the earth grew green again and flowers blossomed.

But that was not enough for him, and for days and weeks he poured forth rain till the rivers overflowed their banks and the crops of rice stood in water. Towns and villages were destroyed by the power of the rain; only the great rock on the mountainside remained unmoved. The cloud was amazed at the sight, and cried in wonder, “Is the simple rock then mightier than I? Oh, if I were only a rock!”

And the mountain god answered, “Your wish is heard; the rock you shall be.” And the rock he became, unyielding in his unshakable power. Standing proudly, neither the heat of the sun nor the force of the rain could move him. “This is better than all!” he said to himself.

But one day, he heard a strange noise at his feet, and when he looked down to see what it could be, he saw a stonecutter driving tools into his hard surface. Even while he looked, a trembling feeling ran through him, and a great block broke off and fell upon the ground. Then he cried in his wrath, “Is a mere child of earth mightier than a rock? Oh, if I were only a man!”

“Your wish is heard. A man once more you shall be!”

And a man he became, and with sweat on his brow he toiled again at his trade of stonecutting.

His bed was hard and his food little, but he had learned to be grateful for it, and did not long to be something or somebody else. And as he never asked for things he did not have, nor desired to be greater and mightier than other people, he was happy at last, and he never again heard the voice of the mountain god.

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