The Mysterious Orchard
A cold wind blew across the dry plain as Rishad stroked his ram’s coat. He looked up at his friend, Abzal. “The illness is worse. My flock is going fast.”
“It’s been a hard year with the drought,” agreed Abzal. “But things will get better.”
Rishad sighed heavily. “Since we were boys, I loved tending sheep, and moving my yurt from place to place. It’s time for a change.”
“What do you mean?”
“I—I could go to the city,” said Rishad. “I am a hard worker. I’ll find a way to survive.”
Abzal shook his head. “And leave me here alone on my potato farm? Who will make me laugh through the long winters? And listen to me play my kobiz?”
Rishad smiled. “True, not many would listen to you. But my flock is dying, and—”
“I’ll give you half of my land,” said Abzal. “There is more than I can farm on my own.”
“I couldn’t take your land. You’ll have a family one day.”
Abzal clapped him on the back. “We are like brothers. You’ll always be part of my family. No more arguments.”
Rishad accepted his friend’s generous offer.
That spring, as Rishad was preparing his half of the field for planting, his hoe struck something hard. Puzzled, he kept digging. He rapidly uncovered an old wooden chest. “Wow! Abzal, come quick!” he called.
Abzal rushed over, and they pried open the chest. A wealth of gold coins sparkled inside.
“Abzal, you’re rich!” Rishad gasped.
“Not I, my friend. You found this on your land, so it belongs to you.”
“No,” Rishad insisted. “You were so generous. This treasure can be my payment.”
Abzal said, “I gave you the land as a gift, and I want nothing in return. Use the gold to buy a new flock of sheep.”
But Rishad shook his head. “You could use the money to visit your parents in the south. You’ve always wanted to see more of the world.”
The two men bickered, each wanting the other to keep the gold. Finally, Abzal said, “Let’s go to the wise woman in the woods. She'll know what to do.”
At dawn, they began their journey into the mountains, carrying the chest of gold. In a pine forest, they found the wise woman’s hut.
“Qosh Keldinizder!” she greeted them. The friends eagerly told their story and asked for her advice.
The wise woman was quiet as she slowly added honey and lemon to her tea. Then she said, “Take your gold and buy as many fruit seeds you can. Plant them on your farm. When the trees grow, they will bear enough apples to feed many. Trees are good for the land and for all of God’s creatures.”
“But trees take years to grow,” said Rishad.
She nodded. “When you do what's best for the earth and the future, all will be well.”
Abzal and Rishad talked as they sipped tea. They agreed to the plan and set off for a village market.
At a crossroads, they met a caravan of camels led by a merchant dressed in fine silks. Each camel carried dozens of birdcages. Birds of every size, shape, and color were trapped inside, squawking loudly. Some looked sickly and pecked at the bars. Others struggled and shrieked with fear, trying to break free.
Rishad called, “Sir, where are you going with those birds?”
The merchant looked down haughtily from his camel. “To the market, of course. I will sell them for a great profit. Some will be eaten, and some will be pets. Why do you bother me?”
The birds shrieked louder. Abzal and Rishad looked at each other, their eyes full of pity for the creatures. They nodded without speaking.
Abzal asked, “How much for all the birds?”
The wealthy man looked down at them and snorted. “More than you’ll ever see.” He turned to move on.
“Wait!” Rishad yelled. He opened the chest of gold.
The merchant leaped from his camel with a greedy smile.
Rishad and Abzal greeted the birds as they opened each cage. The creatures created a rainbow of color as they flew up and away—mighty steppe eagles, owls, swans, egrets, finches, sparrows, and more. A golden oriole rested on Abzal’s shoulder and peered at him.
“This is the end of our plans for an orchard,” Abzal said to Rishad. “We’ll never see that much gold again.”
“But we couldn’t let the creatures be harmed.”
Abzal stroked the oriole’s head, and she flew off with the others.
The merchant watched the farmers and gloated, “Such fools! Wasting your money on worthless birds!” He dragged away the chest of gold.
Empty-handed but with light hearts, Abzal and Rishad made the long journey home. It was dusk when they arrived, hungry and exhausted. But what they saw filled them with wonder.
Birds of every size, shape, and color covered their little field. The birds dropped seeds from their beaks into the ground, then used their feet and wings to cover them with soil. “I can’t believe what I’m seeing. It’s . . . the birds we saved!” cried Abzal.
“And their friends, too,” said Rishad, as more birds swooped in.
The farmers watched with huge eyes. No sooner were the seeds in the ground than they started to sprout! The birds took to the skies as rain began to fall. Rishad’s remaining sheep ate the grass and clover that sprang from the ground.
Many people came from far-off villages to visit the orchard. No one could explain how the trees grew so fast. That very summer, they bore the sweetest fruit anyone had ever tasted. And they provided homes for hundreds of birds and other creatures.
The magical orchard flourishes to this day, and its fruit grows even better each year—a delicious sign of the power of kindness.
Kazakh: kobiz = A stringed instrument similar to a violin; Qosh Keldinizder = Welcome
For a printable version, download a PDF of this story.Fiction35 Kindness80 Story49 Play and Create527 Challenges134 Folktales26