There were two brothers who were both soldiers; the one was rich and
the other poor. The poor man thought he would try to better himself;
so, pulling off his red coat, he became a gardener, and dug his ground
well, and sowed turnips.
When the seed came up, there was one plant bigger than all the rest;
and it kept getting larger and larger, and seemed as if it would never
cease growing; so that it might have been called the prince of turnips
for there never was such a one seen before, and never will again. At
last it was so big that it filled a cart, and two oxen could hardly
draw it; and the gardener knew not what in the world to do with it,
nor whether it would be a blessing or a curse to him. One day he said
to himself, 'What shall I do with it? if I sell it, it will bring no
more than another; and for eating, the little turnips are better than
this; the best thing perhaps is to carry it and give it to the king as
a mark of respect.'
Then he yoked his oxen, and drew the turnip to the court, and gave it
to the king. 'What a wonderful thing!' said the king; 'I have seen
many strange things, but such a monster as this I never saw. Where did
you get the seed? or is it only your good luck? If so, you are a true
child of fortune.' 'Ah, no!' answered the gardener, 'I am no child of
fortune; I am a poor soldier, who never could get enough to live upon;
so I laid aside my red coat, and set to work, tilling the ground. I
have a brother, who is rich, and your majesty knows him well, and all
the world knows him; but because I am poor, everybody forgets me.'
The king then took pity on him, and said, 'You shall be poor no
longer. I will give you so much that you shall be even richer than
your brother.' Then he gave him gold and lands and flocks, and made
him so rich that his brother's fortune could not at all be compared
When the brother heard of all this, and how a turnip had made the
gardener so rich, he envied him sorely, and bethought himself how he
could contrive to get the same good fortune for himself. However, he
determined to manage more cleverly than his brother, and got together
a rich present of gold and fine horses for the king; and thought he
must have a much larger gift in return; for if his brother had
received so much for only a turnip, what must his present be wroth?
The king took the gift very graciously, and said he knew not what to
give in return more valuable and wonderful than the great turnip; so
the soldier was forced to put it into a cart, and drag it home with
him. When he reached home, he knew not upon whom to vent his rage and
spite; and at length wicked thoughts came into his head, and he
resolved to kill his brother.
So he hired some villains to murder him; and having shown them where
to lie in ambush, he went to his brother, and said, 'Dear brother, I
have found a hidden treasure; let us go and dig it up, and share it
between us.' The other had no suspicions of his roguery: so they went
out together, and as they were travelling along, the murderers rushed
out upon him, bound him, and were going to hang him on a tree.
But whilst they were getting all ready, they heard the trampling of a
horse at a distance, which so frightened them that they pushed their
prisoner neck and shoulders together into a sack, and swung him up by
a cord to the tree, where they left him dangling, and ran away.
Meantime he worked and worked away, till he made a hole large enough
to put out his head.
When the horseman came up, he proved to be a student, a merry fellow,
who was journeying along on his nag, and singing as he went. As soon
as the man in the sack saw him passing under the tree, he cried out,
'Good morning! good morning to thee, my friend!' The student looked
about everywhere; and seeing no one, and not knowing where the voice
came from, cried out, 'Who calls me?'
Then the man in the tree answered, 'Lift up thine eyes, for behold
here I sit in the sack of wisdom; here have I, in a short time,
learned great and wondrous things. Compared to this seat, all the
learning of the schools is as empty air. A little longer, and I shall
know all that man can know, and shall come forth wiser than the wisest
of mankind. Here I discern the signs and motions of the heavens and
the stars; the laws that control the winds; the number of the sands on
the seashore; the healing of the sick; the virtues of all simples, of
birds, and of precious stones. Wert thou but once here, my friend,
though wouldst feel and own the power of knowledge.
The student listened to all this and wondered much; at last he said,
'Blessed be the day and hour when I found you; cannot you contrive to
let me into the sack for a little while?' Then the other answered, as
if very unwillingly, 'A little space I may allow thee to sit here, if
thou wilt reward me well and entreat me kindly; but thou must tarry
yet an hour below, till I have learnt some little matters that are yet
unknown to me.'
So the student sat himself down and waited a while; but the time hung
heavy upon him, and he begged earnestly that he might ascend
forthwith, for his thirst for knowledge was great. Then the other
pretended to give way, and said, 'Thou must let the sack of wisdom
descend, by untying yonder cord, and then thou shalt enter.' So the
student let him down, opened the sack, and set him free. 'Now then,'
cried he, 'let me ascend quickly.' As he began to put himself into the
sack heels first, 'Wait a while,' said the gardener, 'that is not the
way.' Then he pushed him in head first, tied up the sack, and soon
swung up the searcher after wisdom dangling in the air. 'How is it
with thee, friend?' said he, 'dost thou not feel that wisdom comes
unto thee? Rest there in peace, till thou art a wiser man than thou
So saying, he trotted off on the student's nag, and left the poor
fellow to gather wisdom till somebody should come and let him down.