How the Descendant of Noah Taught the Prince to Reason

Long ago, somewhere in the mountains, a prince was traveling through his father’s lands and saw a peasant carrying earth in sacks on his back to a rocky slope in the gorge, tending to a garden. The whole mountain slope was already filled with his layered plots stretching wide and deep.

He would carry a sack to a new plot, pour the earth onto the stones, level it – and then back to his home to fill the sacks with earth again.

“Hey, father,” the young prince called out to him, “what are you doing here? Isn’t the gorge yours?”

“Long live the prince, the gorge is not mine, but it’s not royal either. Everything that is below or above the earth is God’s: the sun, for example, or spring water, or fish in the river, or the gorge, or stone or ore – if it exists.

May God grant a long life to your father, our king, but he is the ruler of everything that lives and grows on our land. But what is above and under it is God’s, which means it’s communal.

When I grow a crop – consider that it partly belongs to your father: I will pay tax from it. But for now, the gorge is God’s – and mine, since I work here.

“Okay,” laughed the prince, “but why do you need extra land? Look how much you already have. What will you plant in the earth?”

“Onions,” the old man replied.

“What?” the prince was surprised, “such a huge field – and only for onions? What will you do with them?”

“I’ll sell them,” the farmer answered.

“And what will you do with the money you earn after paying tax to the royal treasury?” the prince became interested and slowed down.

“One part will go to pay off debts,” the peasant replied, sitting down and wiping sweat from his face, “another part I will keep for myself. I will give another part as a loan. And I will throw the fourth part into the water. And now, young prince, guess what these parts are.

“Well, paying off debts is good,” the future ruler of the country began to ponder. “Although it would be better not to accumulate debts, it’s not good.

Lending money for interest is even worse, it’s not our way. And it’s especially bad to throw hard-earned money into the water… No, I don’t understand, father, explain your riddle to me, and I will make you rich.”

“With my explanation, I will make you rich,” the Armenian peasant smiled, “but you must also keep your word. So, one part of the money I will spend on the maintenance of my parents, to whom I owe an unpaid debt.

Another part I will use to feed and educate my sons, who will grow up and take care of me in my old age, just as I care for my parents.

And with the fourth part of the money, I will raise and nurture my daughters, who will marry into other families, become part of them, and continue their lineage, not mine.

“What’s your name, wise man?” asked the astonished prince.

“Just like my great-grandfather, Norayr, but briefly – Noah,” the peasant replied with a bow. In our homeland, among the Armenians of the Black Sea coast, from where my family came, ‘new’ is not ‘nor’, but ‘noy’.

“So why are you, a direct descendant of our progenitor – a simple farmer, and not at least a prince?” the prince wondered.

“Every person has two scales, and only one of them is full. When one scale is heavy, the other one rises from lightness,” the peasant smiled. “A wise man does not need power, wisdom has already filled one scale.

Let the other one rise from freedom. And vice versa: he who strives for power inevitably has an empty scale for wisdom… And few have managed to fill it.

by Lia Avetisian

Translated by Vigen Avetisyan

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