A powerful king once ruled a poor, small kingdom and he forced its people to blindly obey his strict orders and decrees.
He took most of what his people gained by force leaving them poor and without any sufficient money or valuable possessions,
while his people had to work on their lands to plant and cultivate crops every year, and then the king took most of their crops.
Only few lucky people could work in commerce or industry because the king’s taxmen rarely left any money or valuables for anyone to use them for trade or starting any new useful projects.
The people of that kingdom lived like slaves owned by that king for many years.
There was also a respectable wise man of knowledge who lived in that kingdom and used to teach people many things about life, science, literature, history, wisdom and religion without taking any charges from them.
The people liked and respected him for his good deeds and extensive useful knowledge.
Hundreds of students used to come to attend his classes almost everyday.
Many of them sent their children to him to learn the basics of different subjects from him.
The wise man was a humble, kind man who respected all the people even the children and teenagers who came to attend his classes continuously.
They liked him to the degree of enduring walking for long distances in the cold winter or the hot summer days to come to his classes.
They admired the knowledge which he had because he taught them about how to take care of their health, plant their trees and corps well, cure their diseases and organizing their work to finish everything on time.
The more educated men enjoyed listening to him telling them about the history of their kingdom, the old, brave, legendary heroes who lived many years ago and fought many battles to protect their country.
One day, the king heard about that wise man and knew that many people used to go to learn from him without paying him any fees.
The greedy, selfish dominant king wanted to use that wise man to gain more money for himself.
He summoned him and said to him: “You are teaching people freely… that is not allowed in my kingdom.
Everything in my kingdom should be taxed.
From now on, all your students should pay taxes to me to attend your classes".
The wise man said: “But, my lord, the people are poor and they cannot pay any money for anything except for some food.
Most of my students will never attend my classes if you force them to pay taxes."
The king replied carelessly: “I do not care if they attend or not.
Even if one student attends every month and pays one penny for taxes, it will be mine and I want it."
The wise man reluctantly obeyed the king and informed the people that he has to start to take taxes from his students for the king.
This decision made most of the student upset and sad because they realized that they can never attend the classes again because they cannot pay the required taxes.
After a few weeks, only a few rich students could come to attend the wise man’s classes and the poor people felt they lost the joy and fruits of the wise man’s knowledge and started to tell the wise man that they missed his classes and teachings.
The wise man deeply hated the king and wanted to let the poor people benefit from his knowledge despite the king’s decision.
However, many people came to him to ask him about how to treat their sick children and how to plant their trees and lands.
He gave them free treatment and advises because he did not consider that like formal teaching.
After a few weeks, the king knew from his spies what was happening and summoned the wise man to his palace immediately.
He said to him: “You are still giving many people advice and teaching them many things without paying taxes."
The wise man replied: “But, it was not teaching as before.
They only asked me about how to treat their sick children and how to take care of their plants and corpses.
The king said nervously with a warning tone: “They have to pay for everything you tell them about; even if it is a simple piece of advice or just a guidance regarding what to do for anything.
You will not tell them anything for free from now on; I am ordering and warning you.
This is your last chance to obey me and make them pay taxes.
The wise man had to bow and say reluctantly: “I will do as you wish, my lord."
The wise man had to inform the people in public of the king’s new order and warning.
They felt more disappointed and sorry for that decision.
Some of them came and knocked at the wise man’s door seeking treatment for themselves and for their children, but when he told them that they have to pay the tax, they returned without treatment because they did not have anything to pay.
The wise man’s heart was tormented because he could not help them to end their pains and sufferings.
However, when many poor people started to come to his house in winter with their children suffering from cold, fever and other diseases, he could not let them go without treatment.
He started to give them the medicine and advice secretly at night free of charge to help them and ease the pain in his heart.
After a few weeks, the king knew from his spies that the wise man was treating the ill, poor people without paying taxes.
He summoned him urgently and said to him: “You are still treating the sick people without paying taxes.
I have warned you before.
Now, you have to pay the taxes and a big fine for disobeying me.
If you don’t pay that, you will be punished by death; no one can avoid or refuse paying taxes in my kingdom.
Do you have enough money to pay me a compensation for my losses or not?"
The wise man said: “No, my lord, I don’t have anything to pay you.
I am just a poor man who wanted to help the sick, poor people.
I have never taken any money from that for myself."
The king said: “That’s punishable by death.
I will not put you in prison and pay for your food there."
The king ordered his executioner to hang the wise man for his crime.
The wise man seemed sad and silent when the soldiers took him to execute him.
His heart was filled with sorrow because he was thinking about how to help the people whom he loved and who loved him after he dies.
When the executioner took the wise man to hang him, he asked him: “What is your last wish before you die?"
The wise man said: “I want to plant a small tree near my house."
The executioner was astonished when he heard this simple, strange wish, but he let the wise man plant a small apple tree next to his house on the side of the road where there was a small grassy square.
The people watched the wise man planting the small apple tree happily and watering it quietly before he was hanged next to it.
His last words to his children, neighbours, friends and students were: “Take care of that apple tree; it will help you to get a better future through hope and knowledge.
The executioner did not believe what the wise man said and he told the king about that.
The king laughed and said: “That man is a fool.
He just wanted to make fun of the people and give them false hopes.
How can a tree give them a better future?"
After the death of the wise man, the people started to come to that small apple tree to water it and remember his last words without understanding how a small apple tree would help them to get a better future.
No one understood what the wise man meant with his last words, but they obeyed him because they loved him and wanted to fulfil his wish.
After many years, the small apple tree grew and became a wonderful big tree, and the people started to come to sit under it everyday and chat for hours.
They wanted to know how an apple tree would help them in future.
That was a puzzle for them and they could never anticipate what that tree would do for them.
However, their meeting under the tree almost everyday made them speak and remember what the wise man had taught them for years.
They started to consider him a very reverend man and some of them even considered him a holly man who was sent to them by God to help them.
All of them hated the king for hanging him because he deprived them of the best man who could help them to improve and endure their miserable life. So, their daily favorite speech was about the teachings of the deceased wise man
and the oppression of their king. Some of them decided to write all the teachings of that wise man in books to preserve that knowledge for the coming generations while they were sitting under that tree,
and then they copied these books and sent them to the other villages and cities to spread that knowledge everywhere.
When the king knew about what the people were doing he was annoyed.
He hated the tree and did not want his poor people to sit under it any more.
So, he ordered his guards to cut the tree down to end the people’s daily meetings under it.
The soldiers came and cut the tree while the people were watching them helplessly and sadly.
All those who saw the tree falling down felt that the hope of a better future which was promised by the wise man was falling apart.
They gathered around the fallen tree and started to cry for hours.
They looked at each other hopelessly and started to ask each other questions like: “How can the tree help us to get a better future?"
“Will the future be better or not if the tree is cut?"
“What shall we do now?"
One of the wise man’s students suddenly said to the people: “We can take some branches of the tree and plant them in other places.
Trees can grow again if we plant some of their branches elsewhere and water them.
That’s what the wise man has taught us one day.
Our hope will not die with this tree."
Many people cut branches from the tree and planted them in many other places in the kingdom.
They felt so happy while they were watering and watching the small apple trees growing slowly as they were giving them more hope of having a better future.
The small apple trees grew after a few years and the people started to gather again under many of them.
They used to look at the new trees with happiness and more confidence because they had more hopes to have a better future.
They started to say that the king failed in killing their hope and now they have many apple trees again.
Some of the wise man’s students started to say to people that perhaps that was what the wise man wanted from them because obviously one tree may not be able to do anything by itself; many apple trees are better than one tree.
Some of the students asked themselves: “How did the wise man think that an apple tree could give people a better future?
Why did he want us to believe in a tree and not to believe in other things like our religion or strength?"
None of them could answer these questions, but no one would ever dare discredit people’s beliefs in the new apple trees.
When the king knew what the people were doing and saying about their new hopes, he was enraged and ordered his soldiers to burn all the new apple trees where his people where meeting under them.
The soldiers obeyed his order and burned all the new apple trees, and they did not allow any man to take branches from the trees before burning them to plant them again anywhere.
The people watched the apple trees burning while they were crying because they thought that they lost all their hopes to have a better future as the wise man has told them.
They became more desperate and did not know what to do after that.
Suddenly, one of the wise man’s students said to his friends: “We can meet under any apple tree as usual.
All apple trees are alike and no differences between them.
It is better to meet and speak everyday till we find a solution."
His friends agreed and told all the other people about that idea, and again they started to meet under many other apple trees.
Soon they forgot the old apple trees and found no differences in sitting under any tree.
They discovered that what they say and learn everyday is more important than the trees themselves.
The mighty king became so furious and upset when he knew about the new meetings under the trees, and he immediately ordered his soldiers burn all the trees in the kingdom to stop people from meeting under them.
The soldiers obeyed his order and burned all the trees in the kingdom.
The people became very sad and desperate again.
No one could believe what the king did.
However, after a few weeks, the people started to miss all the types of fruit.
Most of them lost many fruit trees from their lands and became poorer than before.
The king’s irrational order made the kingdom as a whole lose the main financial income after the trees were burnt.
The king himself lost a lot of money because the people had less income from their lands and they did not pay taxes as before.
So, he regretted and knew that he made a fatal decision when he was blinded by his anger and frustration, but it was too late to undo it.
He said to himself: “Why did that wise man say to the people that the apple tree would give them a better future?
This is not a better future for anybody in this kingdom.
He has cheated them and destroyed this kingdom with that stupid prophecy."
The people’s anger and despair increased gradually as they became poorer and felt that they do not have any hope in life and within a few months, many people became hungry, homeless and sick.
Some of the wise man’s students felt that they need to talk about what happened and what to do and they started to go to the place of the apple tree which the wise man planted before he died to meet and talk everyday.
Although the people were suffering from abject poverty, they started to come to attend the meetings again in the first place where they used to meet and speak about their sufferings and hungry children.
Moreover, they started to speak secretly that their money was with the king because they had been paying high taxes for many years.
One day, one of the wise man’s clever students said to them: “The king has caused all our problems because he imposed high taxes on everything we gained or did.
He is the cause of our misery and poverty”.
Those who listened to him agreed on what he said immediately and all of them decided to that they should find of a way to take their money back from the king.
However, after a long discussion for all the possible solutions, they believed that there was no legitimate method to take their money from the king and finally one of the wise man’s students said:
“We have to rob the king property because he took all our money and property illegally, otherwise our hungry children will die soon." Many people agreed and they started to plan how to do that.
This decision spread secretly throughout the kingdom and then some young men started to form secret groups to rob the king’s property at night.
Many people approved on that action because there was no other way for many of them to survive.
The king could not stop the secret groups from robbing his property and he lost more and more of his possessions every day.
The number of the secrets groups increased and could rob more of the king’s property and they also started to carry weapons to fight the king’s soldiers when they try to prevent them during their robberies.
After a few months, most of the men in the kingdom had weapons and started to rob the king’s property and kill his soldiers.
The king knew from his spies that those who used to meet under the apple trees where the leaders of the secret groups.
So, he decided to arrest and execute all those who used to meet in the square near the wise man’s house and sent a battalion of soldiers to them.
The people resisted them because they had weapons and many men were wounded or killed.
In the end of the battle, the battalion could not kill or arrest all the people and the soldiers were defeated and ran away.
One of the wise man’s students said to the people: “Let’s go and attack the king’s palace; otherwise he will send his entire army to kill us”.
Many people obeyed him, carried their weapons and rushed to the king’s palace.
The king was surrounded in his palace by thousands of angry armed people and that made him scared and nervous.
When the leader of the army knew about what happened, he went with his army to fight for the king.
But, when he reached the palace, he stopped and discussed the situation with his officers.
He said to them: “Those who are surrounding the palace too many and they have weapons. Many of them are our relatives and friends.
If we fight them, we may win or lose. If we win, many of them will be killed and we will lose many of our soldiers.
The king will not give us good rewards for our sacrifices because he is stingy; he will not even give the families of our martyrs sufficient compensation to sustain them and protect them from hunger for a long time.
If we lose the battle, we will lose everything anyway, the king will also lose everything and our families will be hungry and miserable forever.”
The officers agreed with him that the situation was as serious as he described and none of them wanted to fight the people.
So, the leader of the army said: “It is better for us to join the people against the king.
This would save the lives of thousands of people and the king will be defeated soon and we will gain the respect and admiration of the people forever.”
The officers agreed with him on that decision and they joined the people against the king.
The siege of the palace lasted for a few weeks because it was surrounded by high walls. However, when the food finished, the king and all his soldiers inside the palace suffered from hunger for many days.
So, he realized how hunger was painful and he said to his guard: “I understand now why all these people are angry and hate me; it’s because I made them hungry for many years.”
Finally, one of the hungry guards opened the gate of the palace secretly at night to the people and let them occupy the palace because they promised him to give him some food and save his life.
So, they killed the king without mercy, and they found piles of gold hidden in his safe. They distributed the gold among them and felt satisfied about what they did.
The time of oppression and poverty was over and they all were optimistic and foresaw a better future after getting rid of the king.
After a few days, the people gathered again in the same old square where they used to meet near the wise man’s house.
One of his students said to them: “What our deceased mentor had foreseen became true.
The small apple tree he planted before his death helped us to kill the king and get a better future.
We can choose a better ruler for ourselves now, and we are sure that he will never be as bad as our former king.
The wise man wanted us to meet under the tree to speak and learn more and more continuously every day; with our unity and knowledge we could make a better future for ourselves.
That was the tree of hope and knowledge he has given us, and we will keep that hope and knowledge alive in our kingdom forever."