The Fountain to See the Future

a fairy tale by Bernard Lietaer

Once upon a time, there was a King who had two sons. When they came of age, he bid them to the throne room and made them the following speech: "You are now both old enough to go into the world and live your lives. But before I die, I want you to look for an enchanted Fountain which I heard about. I have been told that whoever looks into its waters can see the future results of one's actions. Such a Fountain would help make the kingdom a better place for all to live."

The two brothers promised they would search for this Fountain, and left to live in the big town. They both got married, and had in turn children. They both loved their children, but expressed that love in very different ways.

The elder brother felt that the best way to prepare for the tough world out there is to become self-sufficient and self-reliant. So he trained himself and his children to be morally strong and self-disciplined. He also carefully accumulated a treasure chest for his old days, when he would return from the Fountain quest.

The younger brother took the path of empathy. He felt that in order to be useful in the big diverse world out there, he needed to learn to love and understand people different from himself, from different cultures and values. And he brought his children up in a nurturing way so they would embody these qualities, learn compassion, and become trustworthy.

Well, you can guess what happened when the two branches of the family met for a holiday dinner. There was constant fighting--the children just didn't get along. The older brother's children thought the other ones were spoiled softies, while the younger brother's children thought their cousins were selfish and self-righteous. The two families drifted farther and farther apart, and eventually, to the brothers' disappointment, stopped seeing each other.

One day, they both remembered their promise to their father to find the Enchanted Fountain. Without knowing it, they both began their journey at the same time.

The voyage was extremely difficult. The older brother succeeded in vanquishing the mountains and the forests, the rivers and the oceans, by sheer willpower. The younger brother, also through many adventures, managed to get there by making friends and getting support all during his trip.

One Spring day, they both arrived in a very strange land, and as usual asked whether anybody knew about the Enchanted Fountain. Once again, nobody did. But when people learned where they came from, they told the brothers there was some news from their home kingdom. It wasn't good news: a big collapse had occurred back home; the King had become very sick; and people were fighting each other everywhere in the streets. The older brother's treasure chest had vanished into nothingness, and people in the kingdom were suffering like never before.

The brothers left the foreign town in a daze of sadness and grief: the elder, because everything he had worked for, for himself and his children, was now worthless; the younger, because of all the suffering. They collapsed on their knees in a small valley between two mountains, and started crying. Their tears sunk in the earth and joined an underground river. Deep down in the earth, unbeknownst to anybody, the real miracle occurred.

The first to notice it was the old nurse back in the King's castle. She had gone to the castle well, when she saw in the water the images of a feast welcoming the two brothers back into the kingdom. When she tells this to the King, he is relieved: he realizes that his sons had succeeded in a way he had never anticipated: his own well had become an Enchanted Fountain. It turns out that wherever the underground river went, all over the kingdom, all the springs and wells became Enchanted Fountains.

When everybody started seeing the long-term consequences of their actions, they automatically made decisions that were best for their children, and for their children's children. And it is from these thousands of individual decisions that a new and better future was built for the kingdom and all its inhabitants.

the epilogue, in which the tale comes true