Monday, 19 May 2008

The Watermelon Story

Taken from: Nick Owen’s “The Magic of Metaphor” p.145

A traveller was crossing a broad and barren plain. He’d been travelling since morning and now he was hot, tired, and hungry. He watched the sun setting towards the mountain in the west and began wondering where he might find a place to rest and somewhere to sleep that evening.

He reached the edge of the plain and gazed down over a deep valley. Far in the distance he could just make out a distant village, smoke from the chimneys curling lazily into the evening sky.

He urged his horse down the switchback track to the valley floor. He was already anticipating an ice cold drink to quench his thirst, the taste of local deliciacies, and good companionship.

When he reached the edge of the village it seemed deserted. There was just one street with houses and a few shops each side. But through the haze of the evening he could barely distinguish some kind of activity at the far end of the community.

Urging his horse forwardhe realised all the villagers were gathered around a fence, which surrounded a field. As he drew closer he could hear the nervous shouts of the people. When they saw him they pleaded, “Help us, Sir. Save us from the monster.”

The traveller looked into the field. All he could see was a huge watermelon.

“Please save us, Sir. It’s going to attack.”

“That’s not a monster. It’s a watermelon. It’s just a rather oversized fruit.”

“It’s a monster, and it’s going to attack. Help us.”

“It’s a watermelon.”

“It’s a monster.”

“It’s a water...”

But before he could finish the enraged villagers pulled him from his horse and threw him in the fishpond. Afterwards they tied him to his horse and harried him out of the village.

An hour or so later another traveller was following hard on the heels of the former. The sun was lower in the west, and he was even thirstier and hungrier than the first traveller. He too contemplated a drink and good honest food of the region.

He snaked down the side of the valley and reached the outskirts of the village. He saw the crowd agitated and shouting by the fence.

“What’s the problem?” he asked.

“Look, a fierce green monster. It’s going to attack us.”

“So there is,” said the traveller. “It’s big, and it’s certainly fierce. Let me help you.”

He drew his sword, spurred on his horse, leaped the fence, and in no time at all bits of watermelon were flying everywhere. The villagers, covered in red slush and black pips, were cheering and clapping. The traveller was carried in triumph through the village and invited him to stay as long as he wished.

They put him in the best room at the hotel, they paid all his expenses, they served him the best food and the best wines of the region. And in return he took time to listen and learn about their culture, their history, their stories, their way of life.

And, as he did so, little by little, he won the trust and confidence of these people. He began to tell them about his culture, his history, his stories, and the way of life of his own people. And very gently and delicately he began to teach them the difference between a monster and a watermelon.

And so in the fullness of time, the villagers began to plant and cultivate watermelons in their fields. And when the time finally come from the traveller to leave he passed by the fields now full of rows and rows of massive watermelons awaiting harvest. And a villager said, “Thank you so much, Sir. You have taught us many things. And you have shown us how to tame the watermelon and make it work for us.”

And the traveller said, “You indeed have fine watermelons. But always remember, even watermelons can sometimes be monsters.”