Only Their Names Were Different - Part 1
Steve Rosner

For a change of pace, but not direction, we bring you a two part fairy tale I wrote a number of years ago. Can you find the Biblical overtones and guess the point?

Once upon a time to come, in a quiet, pretty, little village, lived a hard working couple by the name of Nam and Namow. Although they lived in the Computer Age, when most people merely pushed buttons to get things done, life in the village—Nedesville—was quite simple. People worked hard, took pride in what they did, and were content. The strife that existed in the rest of the world was unknown there and in the surrounding area. Only occasionally would the sound of an airship overhead be heard, briefly interrupting the serenity of the green hills.

Nam was the village shoemaker and took such pride in his work that all his shoes fit like gloves. Each pair lasted seven years and were so well made that not once were they returned for repair. Nam was also a kind and charitable person. Several years earlier, an ancient bearded stranger came into his shop just before closing. The man, a newcomer to the village, was barefoot and wished to purchase a pair of shoes. But since he had no money, he offered to work for them instead.

"I'd gladly employ you," Nam told him, "but my little shop has room and work for only one. However, you look to be my size and I just finished making myself a new pair. I shall give them to you."

Sure enough, they fit perfectly on the stranger, and with profound thanks he went on his way.

Later that year, a pair of twins were born to the hardworking couple. The little boys were identical in every respect, from the size of their feet to the number of hairs on their little heads. They even weighed the same: five pounds and five ounces. As they grew, their mother, Namow, dressed them in clothes sewn by her own hand, and once a year their father made them each a pair of leather sandals. The boys were so identical that they ate equal portions of the same food, drank the same amount of apple cider, and even slept the same number of hours. And yes, they had the same dreams. In school, they received the same marks. Both were very good in arithmetic, but had a little trouble spelling. In fact, they both misspelled the same words. No one could tell them apart except for their parents, who just knew.

Only their names were different! One was called Niac and the other, Leba. Since they were both good boys and wanted to make it easy for people, they would wear little blue name tags on their lapels. Of course, you can imagine how close they were and how much they loved one another. When they weren't helping their parents or doing homework, they would play together, read to each other, or take walks along the village path. Everyone led happy and peaceful lives until one day, a little past the twins thirteenth birthday, Nam called his family together.

"My beloved wife and children," he began, "it's more and more difficult to earn a living in this village. As you know, my shoes are finely made and last a long time, so I am getting fewer and fewer orders. However, today I spoke to Natas, the old innkeeper from the village of Nomed across the river. He told me there is a great need for my services there since the shoemaker is too old to work much anymore, and he doesn't have children to take his place. "Therefore, tomorrow morning as the sun rises, I will travel to Nomed to measure the townspeople for new shoes. Since I will need assistance, I will take one of you boys with me. The other will stay home to help and look after his mother. We will be gone for three days."

When the twins heard their father's words, they were not sad that they would be separated for a while. Rather, they knew as they grew into men, it would be important to be self-reliant. In unison, they both asked, "Can I go, Papa?"

"Well," Nam replied, "since you both wish to go, we will let lady luck have her say." He took two twigs from the fireplace and placed one in each hand. "Niac, you choose a hand. If you pick the larger piece you will go, else your brother."

Niac chose his father's left hand, but the twig in the right hand was larger. So early the next morning Nam and Leba started on their journey . . .

They hiked all morning, stopping to rest occasionally, and by noon they had gone halfway. Leba missed his brother but could feel Niac's spirit with him and was at peace. And as they walked, his father told him about his own childhood and the history of the village. Toward late afternoon they came to the banks of a small river. Winding its way down the mountainside, it was a beautiful sight to behold. Nomed was only a mile from the far side, but the travelers had to wait for the ferryman in order to cross it. He was on the far bank but, when he saw the two travelers, jumped on his wooden raft and started back.

"Get some rest, my son," said Nam. "It will be a little while till the ferryman arrives."

Leba spotted a big oak tree ten yards from the river's edge and went over to sit in its shade. Suddenly he gave a loud shriek. "Papa! Papa! A snake has bitten me!"

Nam turned in time to see a small but poisonous viper crawl toward the woods. He grabbed a big branch and ran as fast as his legs would carry him to where the snake was slithering. Lifting the branch high above his head, he brought it down with all his might, and with one blow killed the animal.

He ran to pick up his son, who was crying softly of pain and fright. "Now, now," he reassured him, "you will be all right." Waving his arms, he signaled the ferryman to hurry. "Help me," he shouted as the ferry approached, "my son has been bitten by a wicked snake."

"Hurry, bring him on the raft!" said Esseh, the ferryman, and he rowed to the far shore faster than he ever had before.

"Follow me," he cried, tying the raft to the wooden pier. "My house is near. We will make him comfortable and I will get the doctor."

Nam placed Leba in the ferryman's bed, while Esseh hitched his horse to the wagon. Hurriedly, he drove into town in search of the physician.

Leba was a brave lad and had stopped crying although he was very much frightened. "Will I die, Papa?" he asked the old shoemaker.

Nam took his son's hand and rubbed it softly. "Leba, my son," he said with tears in his eyes, "I'm just a simple shoemaker and don't know the ways in which the Lord works. But you are a worthy lad: kind, compassionate, hard-working. And I believe and I will pray that will protect you from the evil we have encountered."

Leba closed his eyes and soon fell into a deep sleep.


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And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?

(Genesis 4: 8-9)

Articles in Steve's Page are designed to get one to think critically; to look beyond the superficial and the obvious. Why not spend 20-30 minutes or so, with a loved one if possible, examining the idea in question and discussing possibilities and alternatives. See whether you agree with the author. (There are no right answers, just opinions.) Readers who feel columns would be of value to others are free to copy it and/or send it on.

©2012 Steve Rosner
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