The Magic Box

a fairy tale by Bernard Lietaer

Once upon a time, in a far-away country, there was a small village. But this village had definitely known better days: many houses, public spaces and gardens were run down; the sidewalks were broken up in many places; the children's playground was abandoned and strewn with broken toys. Even the trees lining the streets were getting sick from the lack of care and attention.

The Mayor, who was an energetic man, gathered all the elders of town and asked them, "What is happening to our village? Why is everything running down?" The elders first talked it over among themselves, and finally came to an agreement: "Nobody has any time anymore," they told the Mayor. The Mayor decided to do something about this. So he placed a large announcement on the LOST AND FOUND bulletin board in front of his office:

Reward for anybody who can bring it back to the Mayor

A few days later, a group of children were playing hide-and-seek in the oldest part of the village, where the forest has started to cover up ruins from olden times. One of the children, while hiding in an abandoned cellar, stumbled on a large stone box, engraved with the word TIME in big bold letters. He called all the other children to see the box, and proudly they carried it to the village ground in front of the Mayor's office. The report of their discovery spread like wildfire from home to home, so that by the time the Mayor came out, the whole village had gathered around him. There was a hushed silence when the Mayor lifted the stone lid of the box....

But the box was totally empty. There was a big sigh of disappointment from the crowd. The Mayor got angry with the children, and even accused them of having played a prank on him. Everybody went back home, and the Box remained abandoned in the center of the village grounds.

A week later, one of the children was playing around the box and noticed a small drawer hidden under the dirt on one of the sides of the box. He managed to open it, and to his surprise found a small piece of parchment, all wrinkled up, with some words on it which he could not read.

He no longer dared to bring anything to the Mayor, so he decided to show it to his teacher instead. The teacher unrolled the piece of parchment with care, and slowly deciphered the old words:


The teacher asked where he had found the parchment, and they went together to inspect the box again. But they couldn't find anything new, and the text did not make much sense to them.

They were ready to give up when the child asked whether the teacher would be willing to teach him how to read such old scripts. The teacher thought about it for a minute, and said, "Well, if you really are interested in learning to read old texts, I am willing to teach you." And they shook hands right there above the box.

Suddenly they heard a little noise in the box. And when the teacher lifted up the lid, to their amazement, there was money in it--exactly the amount the teacher would normally charge for such a lesson!

"Whoever agrees", they started to understand, meant that at least two people should agree and shake hands above the box. And the Magic Box would then create the money necessary to complete their agreement.

The teacher went to explain everything to the Mayor, and together they showed the village people how the box should be used.

And that is how, in this village, Time was found again.....

the epilogue, in which the tale comes true