by Ali Dening


In the beginning, back before our lands grew apart and the seas rose and fell, back before the age of ice and even before the great rain of fire, an old man named Wisdom stood in a summer field with his dog and learned the smell of flowers. Wisdom wore a small box around his neck, which he never removed. The box, which was also Wisdom’s mother, was called Ignorance. It contained the only secret in the whole world, because at the beginning of things, everyone knew everything. Every plant, animal, and person knew every skill they could ever need to practice, and could recall all the mistakes of their forebears. Though many terrible things were known, such as pain, loneliness, and hunger, many beautiful things were known too, like family, joy, and the value of fleeting things. On the whole, most living things were quite happy.


Fox, like everyone else, knew all things except for what was in the box. As is the nature of foxes, he was curious. One day, when he was hunting for his dinner, he met Wisdom in a summer field, struggling to make a fire. Fox asked Wisdom why he could not start a fire. Wisdom replied that he had put all his knowledge of fire in his box. This caused him to forget his knowledge of making fire, allowing him to learn the skill again and thus gain wisdom. Fox asked why Wisdom did not simply open the box and reclaim his knowledge of fire all at once, this being a much more efficient way to gain wisdom. The old man replied that wisdom is not like knowledge. It cannot be given or taken. Wisdom can only be earned, through struggle. Fox did not understand Wisdom’s box, or his peculiar habits, and he wished to learn so that he could once again know the answers to all things. Fox asked if Wisdom would open the box, so he could know ignorance. Wisdom replied that it is impossible to know ignorance and hid the box under his shirt.


Fox was infuriated by Wisdom’s refusal to give him answers, and his curiosity was like an itch he could not scratch. He decided he would steal the box. Though he followed Wisdom for many days and nights, Wisdom never took his necklace off, and he clutched the box tightly while he slept. Each day Wisdom placed a piece of his knowledge in the box and relearned it, traveling the land with Hound, his best friend. Hound could smell Fox and chased Fox away whenever he drew too near.


After a long time stalking Wisdom with no luck, Fox approached Wisdom. Fox told Wisdom that he had accepted that Ignorance was unknowable. He asked Wisdom if instead of learning Ignorance, he could put pieces of his knowledge in the box, so that he might become wise. Though Wisdom knew Fox was lying, he allowed Fox to join him so long as he actually placed a piece of his knowledge in the box, hoping to win the trickster over with his lessons. That day, Wisdom placed his knowledge of war in the box. Because all knowledge is connected to other knowledge in an infinitely intricate web, attached to war in a thousand trailing strands were greed, spite, rage, hunger, and dozens of other things. Wisdom wadded these all up and stuffed them in his box, forgetting them for the day so he could learn them again. Fox placed his knowledge of what color his fur was in the box, not deeming it very important and loath to give up any of his cleverness. 

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Author Bio

“I’m a writer! Surprise!”