The Winter Strawberries
retold by Suzanne Crowder Han
There was a wealthy, ill-natured man who took great pleasure in harassing his servants. Then one cold winter day he called a manservant to his study and said, “These days I don’t feel very good. I think my body could do with some strawberries. Go pick some and bring them to me.”
“Begging your pardon, sir, but what you ask is impossible. Strawberries don’t grow in winter,” said the servant.
“How dare you say my request is impossible?” stormed the master. “Haven’t you ever heard of the man who dug bamboo shoots in the snow to feed his parents? You should serve your master as you would your parents! Now go, but be sure you bring me some strawberries tomorrow!”
The servant knew that his master was terribly stubborn and unreasonable, but he could not help feeling sad and embarrassed at being openly rebuked by him. With a heavy heart he trudged home through the thick snow, knowing that he would have to face him empty-handed the next day and no doubt be punished.
“Daddy! Daddy! What’s wrong?” cried his young son. “You look as if you can hardly walk. What’s the matter?”
“Nothing. Nothing,” said the servant, shaking his head as he went inside and sat down. Then he told his wife what had happened.
“Don’t worry, Father,” said the boy, after listening to his father and mother talk. “I will go see the master tomorrow and talk to him. I will tell him something that will make everything all right. Just get some rest. There’s nothing to worry about.”
Hearing this the servant and his wife just smiled and they all three lay down and went to sleep.
The next morning the young boy slipped out of the house before his parents had a chance to protest and went to the big house.
“What are you doing here?” snarled the master. “Did you bring the strawberries I ordered your father to get?”
The boy lowered his head. “Yesterday my father went up the mountain to look for strawberries,” he said, letting his voice trail off.
“Well, where the hell are they?” shouted the master.
“He got bit by a poisonous snake so he’s home in bed,” said the boy.
“Why you impudent little child! What kind of fool do you take me for?” screeched the master. “Everyone knows that snakes don’t come out in winter! It’s too cold!”
“Then, sir,” said the boy in a very loud voice. “If there are no snakes in winter, how can there be strawberries?”
The master’s mouth fell open and his face went scarlet. He turned and without a word retreated into his study. Needless to say that from then the master did not make any silly demands of his servants.