The king who loved trees – a tale about tree ordinances
Once there was a king who loved trees. The good king was shocked to see his peasants felling their beautiful trees and thus he asked his wisest counselors how to save the trees.
The eloquent counselors advised the king to enact an ordinance, which would strictly forbid the peasants from cutting down their trees. The king did so and thereafter the unhappy peasants were no longer at liberty to cut their trees as of old. No more were they freely able to let in the sun, see the view, keep their houses safe from falling trees, or get wood to keep their families warm. Some cut their trees in the night, suspicious of their neighbors. None planted trees, as they had no hope of future reward.
The king was pleased with his law since he saw the trees of the realm grow larger and larger. The peasants no longer appeared to cut them down. However, he failed to see that they no longer planted new trees. The peasants taught their sons that it was unwise to plant a tree. The king hired soldiers to enforce his order, emptying his coffers to pay them.
After many years, the big trees began to sicken and fall to the winds. Since there were no new trees the forest declined. The king, now very old, walked alone into the dying forests of his realm. He sat upon a fallen log, wept, and said to the forest, 'I have loved you, but for all I have tried, I cannot save you.'
An ancient peasant, passing through the forest, overheard the good old king's despair. The peasant approached his king and humbly said, 'We also loved our beautiful trees, but you took them from us. When you would no longer let us use them as we wished, we stopped planting them. A man plants a tree but can only dream of its shade. Let us again dream of our own forests and we will plant trees for our children.' The king wisely listened to the peasant.
The king returned to his castle and dismissed his foolish counselors and costly soldiers. Then he helped the peasants plant their trees. The peasants tended and cut their trees again as they wished, with the wisdom of ancient times. With their hope of reward renewed, for every tree cut the peasants would plant a hundred more. The planted trees grew large, others followed and the forests thrived once more. The peasants sang the merry songs of peace to all their neighbors and told their grandchildren how wise it was to plant a tree.
The forests of the realm continued to prosper even long after the king's reign. His wisdom earned him the love of the peasants - and his gold the love of his heirs.
Shakespeare, praising the rule of Elizabeth I, the greatest of England's monarchs:
'In her days every man shall eat in safety,
Under his own vine, what he plants; and sing
The merry songs of peace to all his neighbours ...'
- Henry VIII, Act V, Scene v
Craig Chisholm and Suvi Chisholm are lifelong residents of Lake Oswego and lovers of trees.