A little tree stood in the midst of a forest. Instead of leaves, it was covered with fine, sharp needles, which pricked the fingers if one sought to gather them. One day the little tree said, in a complaining way, "All of my comrades have beautiful leaves, and I have only needles. No one comes near me; all pass me by. If I could have my wish, I would have leaves of pure gold."
When night came, the little tree slept. On awaking early in the morning, behold, it was clad in leaves of shining gold! Oh, what a splendid appearance it made! How it glistened in the sun! then the little tree said,
"Now I am proud. No other tree in the wood has golden leaves."
But as evening drew nigh, an old Jew, with a long beard, came walking through the wood, carrying a heavy sack on his shoulders. When he saw the tree, with its brilliant, glittering foliage, he quickly plucked the golden leaves, one by one, thrust them into his sack, and hastened away, leaving the tree empty and shorn. Then the poor little tree was overcome with grief and vexation. "The golden leaves have only been a trouble to me. How ashamed I shall be before the other trees! If I could only have another wish, I would wish for leaves of pure glass."
The little tree slept again; and again, on waking, behold, another surprise! All the branches were filled with lovely glass leaves! How they danced in the sunbeams! "Ah!" said the little tree, "now I am happy! No tree in the woods glitters as I do!" But soon there arose a great storm, with a mighty wind, which came rushing through the forest, and when it had passed, there lay the glass leaves shattered and broken upon the grass. Then the little tree said, sorrowfully, "See, now, there lie my beautiful glass leaves in the dust, and the other trees with their green leaves stand unharmed! If I still could wish, I would have green leaves."
Again the tree slept, and in the morning it was clothed in green. Then the little tree laughed aloud and said: "Now I have leaves like the others, and have no cause for shame!" there came along just then an old goat, looking for food for her young. She saw the little tree, and in a twinkling stripped it of all its leaves. Once more the poor little tree stood forlorn, with its empty branches, and said: "I will wish for no more leaves, neither green, yellow, nor red. If I had only my needles back, I would not complain!"
Sorrowfully the little tree went to sleep, and sorrowfully it waked. Then it saw itself in the bright sunshine, and laughed, and laughed, and all the trees laughed with it; for in one night it had received again all its needles. Now at last it was content, and indulged no longer in foolish wishes.
The Discontented Tree
A Fictional Short Story by
Agnes Taylor Ketchum & Ida M. Jorgensen