I wrote this following Rudyard Kipling’s short stories, such as “How the Leopard Got His Spots.”
There once was a time, oh so long ago, when the tree could talk. Yes, and if you were especially quiet walking through the wood, you might even hear it sing. But the tree loved to talk and could tell you all sorts of things, for, you see, it could look a great ways into the distance, and had lived a long, long time.
Now, the tree is a very big creation, ‘specially the tree that grows by the water, for then, its great roots, like straws, can drink up the moisture and grow and grow and grow. It has a strong, sturdy trunk that stretches way up into the sky. Many smaller trunks branch off the main one, and even smaller trunks branch off these, and even smaller off these, until they get so small they sprout leaves. These leaves spread all over the tree, like little umbrellas soaking up the sun and displacing the rain. So the tree grows, in strength and beauty.
The tree’s arms, spreading out in many directions, form a canopy over the mossy banks, a shelter for weary travelers. High above in its boughs, birds make their nests in security, protected from the rain. Squirrels find their food, dropped from these mighty trees. Far and wide, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field flocked to the tree.
But the tree grew very proud of its grandeur. Daily it would peer over the banks of the quietly murmuring stream and gaze at its reflection –green and brown and golden in the sunrays. When naught but the stream could hear, it would sing into the waters, sing of its might and its beauty. It would toss its arms in the wind, dancing over the glassy water. Soon the tree could think of nothing else and say nothing else, so exclusively set as it was on itself.
No longer did one have to creep about the forest in hopes of hearing the tree sing, for now it chanted its tune at any time, regardless of its hearers. Birds of the air and beasts of the field sought shelter and food elsewhere. The weary legs of travelers, seeking a rest beneath the tree, could close their eyes in respite and wish to close their ears instead. But the tree cared only for itself and merely laughed at the people below with fingers shoved in their ears.
Report and complaint of the tree’s voice spread far and wide until it reached the ears of the Master of the wood. Girding his bootstraps and sharpening his axe, he followed the voice of the tree to its root by the water.
Then, tilting his head, he gazed into the mighty boughs and bellowed, “Oh mighty tree, you think you are the mightiest of all. And yet, you must sing your own praises. The greatest praises are not sung by yourself, but by others.”
With that, the Master swung his axe.
Now, the tree shuddered deep in itself, but answered the Master, “I am mighty whatever you say, and I will stand firm whatever your axe does.”
“Foolish tree,” the Master replied, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? I am the Master of the wood; I plant the trees, and cut them down as I choose. I feed the animals. I send the wind, the rain, the sun.”
Now, the Master did something very strange. He did not swing his axe. Nor did he bring out a saw. No, instead, he blew. He blew and a great wind was stirred up. This wind rushed at the tree. Though the tree, flailed its arms, trying to protect itself, it could not resist this wind. It began to moan inwardly, realizing it could not stand. With a great, shuddering cry, the tree fell. Down, down, down, to the ground it fell, till lying beside the waters, it cried, but said not a word.
Birds of the air and beasts of the field often come and sing the praises of the tree. But, since that day, the tree has never spoken. Even if you were especially quiet walking through the wood, you could not catch a whisper. Only, when the wind blows, the tree remembers – and moans.