Armenian folk tales / The Shepherd Became the King's Vizier
They say that in ancient times there lived a poor Armenian peasant in a large Armenian village. The man’s house lay at the edge. A cool spring flowed near the house and a large oak grew near the spring.
A sizable and wide road was built by the poor man’s house. All the passing caravans would stop under the oak, quench their thirst, have a rest, and then continue their way.
Once a merchant came and stopped under the tree next to the spring with his caravan. In that moment, the poor peasant was standing near his house. The merchant called him over and said, “I will trouble you to bring me food worth one gold coin.”
The peasant went and fetched some loaves of bread, two pieces of cheese, and ten boiled eggs from his house for the merchant. When the peasant came back, he did not ask for the gold coin. And soon the merchant loaded his caravan and went away, forgetting to give the gold coin.
Five years passed since that day.
One day, the same merchant came and stopped under the same tree near the same peasant’s house with his caravan. Again, he saw the peasant standing at the threshold of his house.
The merchant asked the peasant to approach him and said, “I am very sorry. Five years ago, I came here and took some food worth one gold coin. You did not ask for the gold coin, and I forgot to give it to you. Now, it will be fair that I give you five gold coins instead of the one.”
The peasant rejoiced, thanked the merchant, and clattering the gold coins in his palm, went home.
As it turns out, the head of this village was a great plotter. He saw the merchant giving gold coins to the peasant from a distance. He called the peasant and learnt what the matter was.
“The merchant has deceived you,” he said. “He must give you more gold. Let us go and see him. I will take the gold from him, and we shall share it later.”
They went to the merchant, and the village head said to him, “After five years, you shouldn’t have given the peasant five gold coins, but fifty gold coins because if ten eggs were put under a hen to be incubated, ten chicks would be born. In a year, these ten chicks would become hens, and each one would lay one hundred eggs. The peasant would have new hens and would breed them. If we go on counting like this, you will have to give your caravan to the peasant before you go on your way. But you have a way out: give us fifty gold coins and we will go away. Otherwise, we will go to the king and complain to him. We will take your caravan, and you will be left empty-handed.”
The merchant did not agree with them and said, “An unfair trial. Let’s go and complain to the king.”
They made up their minds to send the village head and one of the merchant’s servants to the king to deliver the complaint. Soon, the village head and the merchant’s servant brought a message back from the king, according to which, the trial conducted by the village head was fair and the merchant ought to give the peasant fifty gold coins.
“It’s unfair,” said the merchant. “That will not happen.”
He then suggested to the peasant, “Let’s you and I go to the king.”
They agreed. Each one mounted a horse, and they headed out to the king.