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The Farmer and the Samurai

A Moral Tale

A long time ago in Japan's past history a farmer lived alone in an eastern province. He did not own the land but worked it for an overlord.   In effect he was a slave to the land, toiling day after day for little or no return, his life held in balance, depending on the weather and the whims of his lord. He prayed to his personal deity for one good crop so at least he could survive one more year; but suddenly his survival was terribly interrupted. One day whilst leaving his barn, burdened down with all of his tools, he startled a passing horse which promptly threw its rider to the ground.   As the farmer went forward, in a dazed rush, to help the rider his worst nightmare came to pass. The rider dumped in the road was the local lord's senior Samurai, a man of great strength, ability and of cruelty.   The farmer fell to the ground sobbing and begging forgiveness pleading to be spared, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. 'Listen you stinking pig', growled the warrior, 'At this time tomorrow morning, I will come here to you and remove your lousy head from your body, so enjoy your last day on this earth'. Then with a swift kick at the farmer he remounted his horse and rode off. The farmer was devastated, all his sacrifices all these years and now to die like a dog. There was no point in running as he would soon be caught, and he could not fight as he did not know how to.   But in his whirling mind a glimmer of hope arose, the hermit monk on the mountain, he would know what to do, he would be able to help. After all, rumour had it that once he was a great and skilled swordsman, he would help. The farmer set off at once, sure his problems would soon be over.   At last the farmer came to the hermits cave, and bowing and falling to his knees poured out his tale of woe. For a while he was inconsolable, but eventually the hermit calmed him down. The hermit said that he would consider the problem and give him an answer.   Eventually the hermit looked at the farmer, who on meeting his gaze asked if a solution had been reached. 'Oh yes' said the hermit, 'there is an answer', the farmer was overjoyed, gratitude pouring from his mouth.   'You obviously will be killed' said the hermit. The farmer gasped, 'but I thought you could solve the problem'. 'I have' the hermit said, 'Obviously you are not able to fight a trained swordsman, you are also not able to avoid a meeting because he will kill you just the same if you do not fight, therefore, you will surely die'.   The farmer let this true statement sink into his mind Run away? He could not. Fight and be killed? Not fight, and still be killed? It looked like all roads ended in the same way. Now farmer' said the hermit, 'prepare yourself for your death, since there is nothing that can save you. It is useless to worry about your life, sit here by me and rest until tomorrow's dawn. Empty your mind of thoughts of your worldly possessions, after all they do not matter any more. Consider only how you are going to die, the release it will bring you the peace and solitude that will be yours for ever more'.   The farmer, accepting these words settled down and relaxed for a long silent night.   In the morning the farmer was at total ease with his situation and was composed and ready to meet his fate.   'I will walk with you' Said the hermit, 'in order that I might watch you go so bravely to your end'.   On arriving at the farm the hermit said 'since there is nothing for you to lose you may as well make a gesture and die with a sword in your hand. Alas' said the farmer, 'I do not have a Sword'. 'You may borrow mine' replied the hermit drawing a gleaming blade from beneath his robe, shiny and worn with use and age. ' Your sword?' ' Yes, take it' said the hermit, 'it is the man who makes a sword. Listen to what I have to say, for you might as well make a good impression at the end. Hold the sword over your head, grip it firmly and close your eyes when the samurai appears. The moment that anything touches you, strike down with all your might'.   The farmer nodded and took the sword in both hands.   Eventually the samurai arrived and drawing his blade walked towards the farmer, who stood composed and breathing freely. The farmer's arms rose slowly above his head calmly and his eyes closed, showing no strain at all.   The samurai suddenly stopped a few feet from the farmer. He gazed at the calm motionless figure before him, noticed the raised sword held in steady hands. His brain took in all this information and calculated the risks. Etiquette compelled him to meet his opponent head on, but in doing so, as his sword touched the farmer's body, the raised blade would sweep down and at least mortally wound him. The samurai was not afraid to die, but what glory would be gained in giving up his life to kill this scum. He reached his decision, returned his blade to its scabbard, turned, mounted his horse and rode away.   The hermit came forward, 'you can open your eyes now', he said gently.   'Where is the samurai?' 'Gone', said the hermit. 'Gone? But why did he not kill me?' asked the farmer. 'Because' said the hermit, recovering his sword, 'he could not sate his pride without risking his life, whereas you had nothing to lose and only victory to gain'. With that the hermit turned and returned to his cavern, leaving the farmer to himself.
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© 2016 Mahoutsukai Dojo

The Farmer and the

Samurai

A Moral Tale

Articles of Interest
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