The Land to the North

Amy Pan

There was once a man who lived in a great city, a bustling center of commerce and festivities in the heart of the land. The man led a decent life there, and though he was not rich, he never had any lack. He was, however, not satisfied with his lot. So, one day, he took only the bare necessities amongst his belongings, leaving the rest behind, and set off on a journey to the north, to a land of many legends.

After a few days' journey along the road, the traveler sat down to rest on a tree trunk by a farm. The farmer was away that day, and his donkey was resting nearby. The farmer's donkey saw the traveler sit down and, out of curiosity, approached him. "Excuse me, sir," said the donkey, "if you don't mind my asking, I have never seen you in these parts before. Where do you come from?"

"I hail from the great city in the south," the traveler replied. "I am on a journey to the north, to a land I have heard many stories about."

"The great city," exclaimed the donkey. "I've heard many things about the great city, how its streets are wide and fair, and how its people are prosperous and happy. What would make you leave such a place?"

The traveler shook his head. "Great though it may be, it is not so free as you make it to be, so I left to seek a better home in the north. I have heard that the land is abundant, where the choicest fruits can be found on wild trees and bushes. A sower hardly needs to scatter his seed, and his crops grow unattended. Every man and beast may freely partake of the abundance of the land."

The donkey thought about it, and then said, "That sounds like a wonderful place. I would very much like to be able to eat apples and carrots freely. To tell you the truth, I am a bit envious."

"Well, if that's the case, there is nothing to keep you from coming with me," said the traveler.

"Oh, no, I couldn't leave my master, the farmer," said the donkey. "It is a long journey, and I don't know if I could go so far from home. Besides, I have a place to sleep and enough food to eat. I am really alright with the way things are."

"I would never force you, friend," the traveler assured. "Nevertheless, I bid you well." With a tip of his hat, he parted ways with the donkey and continued to the north.

Not long afterward, the traveler entered a forest, where the road grew into a rougher trail between the trees. Now, a fox who lived in the forest heard the footsteps of the traveler and went into hiding, thinking that it was a hunter. As the fox observed from afar, the traveler went a little way in before sitting down on a fallen tree to rest. Upon realizing that the man was not a hunter but only a traveler, the fox cautiously drew near and began to speak.

"Good day, sir," said the fox. "I can tell that you are a stranger to these parts of the woods, since the only kinds of men who come here are hunters, woodcutters, and outlaws. Pray tell, what is your business here?"

"Friend, I come from the great city in the south," said the traveler. "I am heading to the land to the north, and I am only passing through this forest."

"If you are from a great city, then why are you traveling?" asked the fox. "You are not really an outlaw from the city, are you?"

"No, nothing of the sort," the traveler replied. "Rather, I am seeking a better home in the north. I have heard that the land is a peaceful one that has never known war. There is neither hunter nor hunted, oppressor nor oppressed. Men and beasts live together in harmony, and each one lives free from fear."

The fox laughed. "It is a beautiful dream, sir, but who will be fooled by such empty promises? Never in my life have I heard of a predator who has given up his rightful prey. He may promise the sweetest mercy, but the moment the poor fool turns around, the hunter has won his supper. By law of this world, the weak and the foolish will always pay the price. Therefore," said the fox with a smile and a bow, "I will never be deceived."

With that, before than the traveler could even tip his hat, the fox turned tail and dashed out of sight. The traveler stayed there for a little while longer, then brushed himself off and got up to continue his journey.

After the traveler had gone a long way into the forest, where the trail had all but faded into the undergrowth, he began to grow tired. Finally, he reached a quiet clearing, and sat down to rest under a great oak tree. A rabbit heard the sound of the traveler in the clearing. Timid but eager, having never met a man before, the rabbit drew near to the oak where the traveler was resting.

"Sir," said the rabbit. "I don't mean to disturb you. But I have never met your kind before, so I couldn't help but talk to you. Where are you going, so deep in a forest such as this?"

"I am only a traveler passing through," he answered. "I am on a journey to the north, to find a home for myself in that land."

"I have never left the forest before, nor have I heard of this land," said the rabbit. "What kind of place is it?"

"I have heard many things about the land to the north," said the traveler. "But above all, I have heard that the land itself is living. The trees and the mountains, the wind and the rivers, are alive, and they see and hear and speak as we do. They are even wiser than men and freer than beasts. And no man or beast is ever alone, for the land itself is his friend and his home."

The rabbit listened to the traveler's words in awe, and said, "Many nights I wondered if, as you said, the wind could hear my voice, and if the trees whispered their replies. Yet I have never dared to believe it could be so. Is what you say really true about this land to the north?"

Amy illustration

"I cannot say," the traveler replied, "but I believe it is, and I have already set my heart on the journey. If you would like to, you can come and see for yourself."

After a time of deep thought, the rabbit admitted, "I do want to know for myself if what you say is true. If it is, I couldn't ask for more. And yet, how can I leave behind my only home for a land I know nothing about? Truthfully, I don't know if I can go with you right now."

"It is your decision, friend," said the traveler, "and I do respect it. I can tell you that for many years I thought the same, haunted by uncertainty, until one day I could not bear the emptiness any longer. Do not rush yourself. Yet, I do hope that we can meet again one day."

Rising from his rest, the traveler tipped his hat to the rabbit in a kind gesture. Then, turning again towards the north, he set off on his journey. No one in those lands ever saw him again, but the rabbit lingered in the clearing for a long time before returning home, wondering all the while what lands lay north of there.

whoever has ears, let him hear:
are any among you hurt or hungry?
those who follow this path of sorrow
will find at last a better country

To the author of Hebrews 11:13-16, who is the inspiration for this story and much more.

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