By Jocelynne Rowan
There once was a very industrious squirrel that lived in a beautiful forest. Every day the squirrel went about its business, scuttling up and down trees, relentlessly searching the branches and the forest floor for nuts and seeds to store away for the winter.
The squirrel carried on busily, while many of the other forest creatures looked on, wondering what motivated the squirrel and why it spent all day, every day – every waking moment in fact – hunting for nuts and seeds to hide. They all knew that, although the squirrel worked hard and collected and hid mountains of acorns, hazelnuts, pine cones and seeds, when the winter came, it only ever remembered a few hiding places. Most of the squirrel’s stash was lost forever and never made it to the squirrel family’s winter feast!
One day, the wise owl said to the squirrel: “Stop your work for a few minutes. I have a secret to share with you, which will give you all the resources you need to provide more effectively for your family during the winter.”
The squirrel, cheeks bulging with the hazelnuts it had collected, stopped in its tracks, frozen to the spot. Owls have a reputation for snacking on squirrels! When the squirrel realised it wasn’t going to be the owls lunch, it tucked the nuts under a nearby pile of leaves, put its head on one side and listened to the wise old owl.
“Go to the centre of the forest,” said the owl, “and there you will find the oldest tree – a great oak with huge spreading branches, laden with acorns. However, you must leave the acorns on the branches, because the real gift of this magical tree lies in the knotted roots at its base.
“In a curl of the root is a wonderful acorn made of pure gold. This beautiful acorn holds many secrets and any creature that lays its paws on it will receive many treasures.”
So the squirrel took a break from its industrious collecting and scampered from tree to tree until it came to the centre of the forest. There, just as the wise owl had described, was the ancient oak tree, its branches laden with plump, delicious acorns.
Remembering the words of the owl, the squirrel searched the base of the tree, and found, nestling in the knotted roots, glistening in the half-light of the forest floor, the golden acorn, which the wise old owl had said holds so many treasures.
The squirrel took a few hops forward and stretched out its paws towards the golden acorn.