From Dr. Boli’s Fables for Children Who Are Too Old to Believe in Fables.
ONCE A LITTLE girl was walking along in the cheerful summer forest when she came across a man who was tied to a tree by every sort of chain and shackle.
“Oh, you poor prisoner!” the little girl exclaimed. “I’ll run and get help for you immediately!”
“No, no, you misunderstand,” said the man, who was bound but not gagged, so that at least he could say anything he liked. “I am a completely free man.”
“You don’t look free to me,” said the little girl. “For one thing, you’re chained to the tree by that thing around your waist.”
“Oh, I put that chain there,” the man explained. “I wanted to be safe from falling down, so I chained myself to this tree, which as you can see is quite sturdy. This way I’ll never fall down and bump my head. No price is too high for security, you know.”
“But your legs are shackled together,” the little girl remarked.
“You’re very observant,” the man answered. “If my legs could move freely, they might slide apart, and I would start to slip down the tree, which would be very uncomfortable. So you see, since I’ve chained myself to the tree, it’s much more comfortable to have my legs shackled.”
“But your right arm is chained to this big branch with a bronze chain,” the little girl said.
“It’s gold,” the man replied.
“It looks like bronze to me,” the little girl said.
“I was assured that it was gold,” the man told her. “A very rich man came along with this beautiful gold chain and told me that, if I would let him chain my right arm with it, then I could admire his gold chain all the time, and I would never have to stop looking at it.”
“But your left hand is tied to the chain behind your back,” the little girl said.
“Yes,” the man agreed. “You see, I’m right-handed, so it’s not much use to me to have my left hand flailing about, is it?”
“I see,” the little girl said. “And you’re sure you don’t want me to go find someone to untie you?”
“Oh, no,” said the man. “I have chosen every one of my chains and shackles with absolute freedom. There is not a man on earth who is freer than I.”
So the little girl told the man that it had been pleasant talking with him, and the man wished her a very good day, and the little girl went on her way into the lovely green forest, thinking about what she had seen and heard.
“Well,” the little girl said to herself as she walked, “I suppose he seems happy enough. But still, I’m glad I’m not free. I don’t think I’d like it at all.”