This fable – an obvious allegory of Socialism – was first posted on September 7, 2012. It was topical then because of the possible re-election of Obama. It is topical again now because of the popularity of Bernie Sanders as a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination as its presidential candidate.
The Tsoig is unique as a species in that it is both animal and plant, and also sapiens: animal in its beginning, plant in its maturity, and in both conditions able to think and talk much like us.
Tsoigs had been known on the Mainland for centuries, but at last one came to the Island.
It arrived on some raft, it was thought, since though Tsoigs can walk until the age of about one hundred they cannot swim; and had this one merely been cast on the waves, the tides would have carried it in quite a different direction. So from the very beginning, one must assume, this particular Tsoig had a positive intention of coming there – a design on the Island, one might say.
On arrival it walked at once to what it judged to be the center of the Island, and there sent down its roots which were already fairly well grown and needed only to be burrowed in for the Tsoig to attain a firm grip and commence its thenceforward vegetable life, spreading very slowly at first.
Contrary to many a tale now told of it, it never did demand that it be ‘worshipped like a God’. To attribute such an idea to it is to give it at once a totally mistaken character. It never ‘demanded’. It never ordered. It had no peremptoriness, no shortness of tone, no sharpness of expression. It had so much self-confidence that it never needed to resort to a commanding or an oracular manner. It always used a tone of gentle persuasion; it wooed, it soothed, it sympathized. There was a touch of the mournful in it at all times, to the point at last of reproachfulness, but never the least trace of insistence or officiousness.
‘Confide in me,’ it would plead, in a rather bland, not very deep voice. ‘Let me be a comfort to you in your trouble.’ That sort of thing. ‘You can rely on me.’ ‘Come and tell me all about it.’ And when you had told it what you had to tell, when you had confided in it, it would say little but ‘There, there, I am sorry.’ For it was not a solution-giver. It hardly seemed to want troubles to end or ills to be cured. Indeed, some biologists are of the opinion that Tsoigs need human sorrow for survival as they need air, water, light and the salts of the earth: that they thrive on sadness, regret, heartbreak; that human sighs are the food of its spirit. And of course if a Tsoig by its spiritual nature could take in our unhappiness, transmute it, and give out happiness, as by its ordinary vegetable nature it takes in the carbon-dioxide of our breath and changes it daily into the oxygen we need, the species would surely be among the most valuable of earthly creatures. However, they do nothing of the kind.
Still, this particular Tsoig was much valued for its mere willingness to absorb whatever was complained to it. Valued by women, that is. Men did not take to it.
The women liked to sit on its root-humps, leaning up against the rather soft ‘bark’ of its trunk (known in the timber and hide trades as Sorgderm, or, more colloquially, Soigeen), and telling it all sorts of nonsense that women can fortunately seldom find anyone to listen to. What the Tsoig gave them, apart from soothing sounds and plenty of attention, were its flowers – rather small, of a dullish pink, and of a slightly unpleasant scent if any at all. It shed them lavishly on these ladies, who persistently expressed their gratitude and insisted to their indifferent husbands that it was ‘a kind old thing’.
But most of all it was sought by the children. And to confound the theories of biologists it seemed to require nothing of children but their delight. It tossed them in its branches, gently and tirelessly, and set them down again lightly on the ground. ‘Climb me, jump on me, play all over me,’ it invited them, and they did. ‘I love, love, love you, little ones,’ it would say, in a phlegm-thick voice, so that it sounded like ‘I l-huv, l-huv, l-huv you, l-hittle ones’.
And on them it showered its all-the-year-round fruits, luscious things, over-ripe as soon as formed, full of juice (known as Tsoigdrain), thin of skin, so that they always burst, you could never find one whole, and the flavour was sickly-sweet, relished by children – and at first by the women, who soon got tired of it. Certain medicinal properties were attributed to Tsoigdrain, but were never proved. The children would overeat of course, and sometimes get sick on the stuff. And all of them, as they grew up, would begin to find the fruit too cloying, and it was seldom that anyone over the age of fifteen would touch Tsoigsimmon (as the fruits of the Tsoig are called).
And when a boy reached the age of fifteen or thereabouts – a little later if he was backward, a little sooner if he was forward – he would not only stop eating the plenty which the Tsoig provided, but would even start shunning the tree, as he might an aunt who continued to treat him as a child too long: and even perhaps developed some sort of unconfessed fear of the thing – its reaching branches, its spreading roots, its ‘come hither’ tones, its ‘I I-huv you so, why don’t you come close and let me I-huv you, I don’t ask anything of you but that you let me l-huv, l-huv, l-huv you’. It moaned too, and got rather moist round the joins where the branches came out of the bole, and gummy in the ‘eyes’ where lesser branches had dropped off.
But the children continued to play on it, and women to confide in it until the men began to notice that the Tsoig was spreading too far and taking up too much space.
‘You must stop spreading,’ they told it, ‘or you will grow right into and through and over our houses, and take up so much of the land that we shall not be able to use it.’
‘I only want to please you all,’ it replied in a hurt tone, ‘and protect you all, and shelter you all, and feed you all … if you have me to do all this for you, you do not need houses or land.’
‘Stop!’ they begged it. But the Tsoig shed gummy tears, and spread a little further, saying, ‘Why do you retreat from me, and speak to me so roughly? Why do you want to hurt my feelings? I only wish for your good. I do everything for you. I l-huv you. Come near and let me embrace you. Here, here, here are flowers for you. Here is fruit – eat, eat!’
‘Just don’t go too far,’ the men said, who didn’t really want to be hard on the Tsoig. And grumbling a bit they went away and left it to the women and children.
But the Tsoig spread further yet, and went on spreading, until at last the men had to tell it, ‘You must go. Get up if you can, and leave the Island. If you can’t we’ll help you. But you must let go with your roots, and take them up, and let us lift you and put you on a raft and take you to the Mainland. There is not enough room on the Island for you and us. Either you must go or we must go, and as we are many and you are one, we suggest that you go somewhere else, where there is more space for you.’
The tree moaned and wept. But it told the Islanders that it would forgive them their cruelty. And the children were full of compassion for the Tsoig, and sat in its branches, and leant their cheeks against its soggy derm, and stroked the oozy bumps and humps of the good old Tsoig.
So the tree stayed, and spread. And it shed so much fruit on the earth that the rank smell of the Island was detectable far out at sea, and even on the Mainland.
‘The Island has been cursed with a Tsoig,’ the Mainlanders said. ‘They should have killed it before it rooted itself firmly. Once a Tsoig has established itself there’s no way to destroy it. The Islanders will soon be putting out to sea.’
‘Tsoig,’ the people of the Island pleaded – this time the women too, ‘please, please go, or else we must leave our homes, and leave the Island, and leave you here all alone. We know that you like to be where there are people. You love people, don’t you? Well, if you went to the Mainland and took root there, all the people of the Mainland would come and see you, and there are many more people there than here, and plenty of room for all. You could spread and spread for another hundred years. And you would not be lonely. But on the Island there is not enough room for you and us. We are many and you are one. You should go. If we go we shall be scattered, separated from one another. We shall have to go to strange new lands and work hard for years to build new houses and recover what we have lost. And we shall be lonely, and homesick for the Island we were born on.’
But the Tsoig only wept, and spread faster, further and further, and splattered its round wet fruits on them.
Then the women took the children into the houses and shut the doors and drew the curtains and the men fetched axes and saws. Ignoring the sobs and cries of the old tree, they hacked furiously at it. But they soon found there was no way of cutting it down or cutting it back; for as fast as a Tsoig is wounded it heals itself, and as fast as its limbs are cut off it grows more, stronger than before, and it had grown too tough to be poisoned. Whatever was poured on its roots and leaves seemed only to nourish it.
So the people had no choice but to get into boats and put out to sea.
Because of the tides those who left from one side of the Island never again found those who left from the other side. Families were broken, and friends lost each other. And worst of all some of the smaller children were snatched up at the last moment by the Tsoig, swung up high, and held fast and unreachable in the embrace of the tree they had trusted. Their parents could not rescue them, and had to abandon them to the Tsoig.
To these young children, clasped helplessly and desperately weeping in the coils of the wet, fruit-erupting branches of the ever more lovingly, closely holding, the ever growing, ever more tightly tangling tree, the Tsoig expounded the moral of its story: ‘L–huv Conquers All.’