A Tale from Tibet, adapted by Laura Simms ©2001.
Two old men lived near each other high up among the mountains in a small village. Each owned a small garden. One old man was very generous and thoughtful. He never thought about doing things that were kind, it was just his nature. The other old man was greedy. All day long he thought only about how he could become wealthy.
One day the kind old man found a little bird that had fallen out of its nest. Its wing was broken and it could not fly. The old man felt sorry for the bird and took it into his house. He fed and cared for the bird until it was healed. One morning, he opened his door and happily watched the little bird fly away.
Later that day the little bird returned carrying a single seed in his beak. The bird placed the seed in the old man’s hand and flew away again. The old man said to himself, “I have received this single seed as a gift. It must be the finest seed in the world.” And he planted it.
The old man watered the seed everyday. He watched as a vine grew up out of the earth. Day by day it grew taller and stronger until one day, a squash appeared on the vine. Within days the squash grew to an enormous size. When the weather turned cold and the squash was ripe, the old man tried to pull it from the earth. The squash was so heavy that he had to call five neighbors to help him pull it up and carry it into his house.
When the old man grew hungry, he decided to cut open the squash and cook its sweet fruit. But when he cut through the skin, to his great astonishment, he found that the inside was made of solid gold.
After that, the old man thanked the little bird every day and made certain that everyone in the village received some gold so they would not go hungry during the winter.
The second old man heard about the remarkable squash made of gold and came to visit his friend. Without hesitation, the kind old man told him the story about the little bird. The greedy old man went home immediately. He took a bow and arrow and waited for a bird to land in his garden. When a little bird landed, he shot an arrow at it, wounding its wing. “Poor bird,” he said and took it inside to feed it and heal it.
Sure enough, one day the little bird flew away freely. The old man waited anxiously, afraid it would not return. But the bird did return with a seed in its beak. “Now I will be richer than my neighbor because I will not give my gold away,” the old man thought to himself as he planted the seed.
A vine grew and a giant squash appeared just as it had happened to his friend. But when the greedy old man cut open the squash, a fierce little man leaped out and said, “I was sent by the King of the Lower Realms to give you a reward equal to your actions.” The old man scratched his head, waiting for his gift. But the fierce little man chased him down the mountain.
They had not gone far when the fierce little man stopped and said, “Had you not healed that bird, I would have thrown you off the side of the mountain.” Then he began to chase the greedy old man again and as far as I know they are running still.