Christin Myrick Shepherd

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The Meaning of Power: a short story


The Parable of the Farmer + the Deer

Once, there lived a farmer at the edge of a darkened wood. His palms were coarse and his crops were plentiful.

Every year he worked the land and every year the food came. Every year except for one. On this particular year, for no particular reason, his crops wouldn't flourish. No amount of attention or care, no amount of coaxing or wishing, no amount of prayer would invoke them from their seeds.

The farmer worked his way through his reserves of food, watching them dwindle as the season passed. Finally, when the snows had reached their deepest, there was nothing left to eat. The farmer despaired and cried out, “Help me!  Please, this hunger is unbearable.”

At first, there was no reply except the silent snows that drifted from the sky and the farmer waited. Hungrier and hungrier he became, but still he waited. 

Until, softly, from the edge of the wood, a stag emerged. Pale as a ghost, it crept onto the powdery field. As the farmer approached, the stag lay its body down, extended its neck and whispered, “I have brought you what you need.”

The farmer knelt upon the cold earth, and took the stags head in his hand. With his other, he sliced his blade across the throat. In all his time as a farmer, the land had given him much. But in this season of sorrow and longing, the stag had given him more.

The farmer took the body of the stag and harvested the meat, he took the fur for warmth and the bones for his broth. He whittled the horns for tools and took courage for what was to come.

The farmer weathered the winter and the many that followed, always remembering the gift of the stag's life and death. 


The story asks you now, dear reader: who had the truest power? The farmer or the stag? 


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