What is money for?

Once upon a time, two brothers lived in the same kingdom. One was a successful merchant; the other a successful farmer. The merchant had a great deal of money, and the farmer had a great deal of food.

One season, the farmer had an unusually healthy crop of zucchini squash. One squash grew much bigger than the others, and the farmer left it on the vine to see what would happen. The squash grew and grew until just before the first frost. When the farmer harvested it, he wasn’t even sure how to get it to the barn. He had to get help from two horses drawing a large a cart.

For a few days, the farmer wondered what he should do with this marvellous, unique plant – this supernatural production of nature. It was too heavy to add to a cart bound for the market, too big for any ordinary household to eat, and too special to chop up for canning. How could he honour this miracle?

Suddenly, he knew! He would give the squash as a gift — to the King. With the help of two farmhands, he loaded the squash onto his cart, hitched up two strong horses, and travelled two days’ journey to the palace of the king. The king and queen were delighted, amazed, and honoured by such a personal and unusual gift. They thanked the farmer by filling his cart with bags of money, jewels, fine clothing and works of art.

The farmer returned home and told his merchant brother about his audience with the king and queen. The merchant thought, “Wow, they rewarded him so handsomely for a big vegetable! If I bring a gift, what will they give me?” He rented a large cart, with a driver and two strong horses. He filled the cart with bags of money, jewels, fine clothing, and works of art. He travelled on the cart two days’ journey to the palace of the king.

The king and queen were delighted to receive such a generous gift. In return, they wanted to honour the merchant with a special gift. The king said, “The most special gift I have to offer is this unique, marvellous squash, evidence of a miracle in our own kingdom!”

Three servants loaded the squash onto the confused merchant’s cart. He returned home and told his farmer brother what happened. “I don’t get it!” he said.

“Beloved brother,” said the farmer, “What is money for?”

And who, really, is the King?

— Story originally collected & recorded by Jakob Grimm (1785-1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786-1859). Retold by me at Simchat Torah in honour of the 12 lb. zucchini brought to Or Shalom by farmers Deborah, Ari and Shayna. Photo by Eli Kaplan. The plate is a full-sized dinner plate.

*In traditional Jewish fairy tales, the King represents God. Enjoy reflecting on this!

  1. Laura, this is such a great tale. Makes me smile….How silly we are, us
    humans…so wise…Thank you.

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