The Cornucopia Tree

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Once upon a time, there lived a man who owned a very special tree called a “cornucopia tree.” Now, as we all know, the word “cornucopia” comes from the 1270765_38669260_Cornucopia_Tree_royalty_free_stock_xchng_300Latin word meaning “horn of plenty.” Ancient mythology held it as a horn producing an endless supply of food and drink. Traditionally, Americans display a cornucopia at their Thanksgiving table, symbolizing our gratitude for all the Lord has given us.

Well, this cornucopia tree produced everything the man’s family needed to survive. From its branches grew all sorts of food and drink, the wood they needed to build their house and to heat it, as well as the clothes they wore to protect them. One day, the cornucopia produced two identical eggs. The man, now very old, knew what this meant, so he called his two sons.

“Boys,” he began, “the tree has generated everything we’ve ever needed. Today, it has made something it has never yielded before, something for each of you – two seeds so you can each grow your own cornucopia tree.”

“But,” asked the eldest son, “why would we need to grow more cornucopia trees? This one has always provided exactly what we’ve needed.”

“Yes, that is true,” answered the father, “but this tree is old and won’t be around much longer. You must help these seeds grow into mature trees, so the new cornucopia trees can continue to provide your own families what they will need to live on.”

So the sons took the seeds, planted them, nurtured them and eventually each had his own cornucopia tree. From its branches they built their families houses big enough for their needs, fed their young families and kept them in warm clothes. All was well and the two sons – now grown men – enjoyed pleasant, though modest lives.

One day, a man in fancy clothes from far away came up to the eldest son and asked the son to sell him his cornucopia tree. The eldest son asked the visitor why he should do such a thing. After all, he and his family already had everything they needed.

“But don’t you want more?” queried the stranger.

The first born look around, then said, “Sure enough, our house could be a little bit bigger, my family’s clothes could be a little more fancier and, by golly, I would sure like to have an opulent feast every now and then, but, all the same, thank you very much. We already have enough to live on.” With that, the man left.

Soon the outsider came upon the younger son and again offered to buy his tree. And, again, the son replied, since the tree already gave his family everything it needed, what possibly could the stranger offer that would make him sell the cornucopia tree?

This time, the out-of-towner prepared himself. “Why,” he began with a churlish smile, “this house seems a little tight for your growing family – wouldn’t they be better off with something a little bigger? I could offer you that. And those clothes your family wears – no one wears that style anymore. Wouldn’t it be nice if your family is viewed with respect as they travel through town? I can furnish that. And when’s the last time you really celebrated an occasion with a fabulous feast? Wouldn’t it be great to have a sumptuous banquet every night for the next five years? I can give you that. Why wait for the tree to produce all this when I can bestow it upon you today?”

The younger son thought about this. This stranger was right. Why should he wait? His family could benefit immediately. So, the young son sold his cornucopia tree to the transient. And with the money, he built a bigger house – and he wasn’t worried about keeping it warm for he now had enough money to buy all the firewood he needed. He used the money to buy fancy clothes for his family. And, for the next five years, every night he used the money to buy a big feast for his family. His older brother looked on, but didn’t mind living in a cramped house, wearing yesterday’s fashions and eating only enough to stay healthy.

Then, after five years, something happened. The younger son had used up all the money. He couldn’t heat his house anymore. The fancy clothes he bought shortly after selling the cornucopia tree no longer represented the latest fashion. But, worse, he had no more food to feed his starving family. So, he had to sell his house to buy food, but then he didn’t have anywhere to live. And, very soon after, even that money ran out, leaving his family starving again.

The older brother watched this with pity. He’d offer to share his cornucopia tree with his brother, but then he and his family would have less – and they had just enough to survive now. But blood runs deep and the plight of the younger brother saddened him immensely, so, despite the consequences to his own family, he invited his brother and his brother’s family to come live in his house, share his clothes and share his food.

And, wouldn’t you know it, the very minute the younger brother moved his family in with the older brother’s family, the older brother’s cornucopia tree started producing more. Each family had enough to live on, and they were forever thankful for the cornucopia tree.

So, the next time someone offers you an incredible deal for something you’re already satisfied with, think twice before trading security for instant gratification.


  1. Chris Carosa says

    Author’s Note: I used to watch a lot of Bullwinkle the Moose when I was a kid. The show had a little diversion called “Fractured Fairy Tales.” I wrote this piece in that style, meaning, while ostensibly written for a child, it contained just enough to keep an adult interested. It was always my intention to tell this story at a Cub Scout pack meeting, but the opportunity never arose.

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