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I had the pleasure of reading a tale in a new series of fables for grown-ups called Tales by Trees. They are a Finnish book series that is launching in English. Each one is short, more extra-long story than novella. There are lovely illustrations too.

The story I read, The Carpenter, is a bittersweet story about a gifted carpenter who becomes the emperor’s master of all things wood. He makes cabinets and decorations and whatever the emperor desires. His work is so beautiful people come from across the empire to see it.

One evening his children are playing on the floor and his daughter kills an ant that was carrying a large leaf back to its home. The carpenter’s son scolds his sister telling her, “You shouldn’t break anything you don’t know how to build.” This gives the carpenter pause. Back at work the next day, his heart is no longer in it and eventually the beauty and art of his craftsmanship begin to fade.

The emperor decides the carpenter must be burnt out, after all, he has only ever had the chance to create what he has been told. So he tells the carpenter that he can take his time and create something for himself. He can have as long as he wants. The carpenter agrees on the proviso that the emperor cannot see his creation until it is complete.

And so the carpenter closes himself up in his workshop. The years pass. His wife dies and his children grow up, marry and move away. And still the carpenter works. After 30 years the workshop falls silent. The emperor stands outside the door, waiting. After three days there is still no sound. The emperor has his men break down the door. Inside the carpenter is dead at the foot of his his creation.

What the carpenter made is not what the emperor expected. He is furious and has it destroyed and the wood used to fuel the palace fireplaces. As the carpenter’s creation is burning, the emperor dies and does not see the beautiful miracle that happens.

I will not tell you what the carpenter made nor what the miracle was. It is all connected back to what his son said at the beginning. It is a wonderful story well-told and I enjoyed it very much. If this is any indication of what the series is like, they will all be good reading.

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