Martin Auer: The Strange War, Stories for Peace Education
The Strange People from Planet Hortus
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On the planet Hortus lived the Apple people, the Plum people, the Pear people, and the Raspberry people. The Apple people lived on applesauce, apple pie, apple jelly, and apple cake. The Plum people lived on plum sauce, plum pie, plum jelly, and plum cake. And it was pretty much the same with the Pear people and the Raspberry people.
For a while things went pretty well, but one day the Pear people felt like they were stuffed to the gills with the everlasting pear jelly. And one of the Pear people said, "You know what? We ought to become robbers!"
"Robbers? What's that?"
"Simple: at night, we'll sneak up on the Plum people, and when they're all asleep we'll bushwhack them and beat them up. Then we'll take as many plums as we can carry and run away. And then we can finally eat plum sauce, plum pie, plum jelly, and plum cake."
"Bravo! That'll be fun!"
And they sneaked up on the village of the Plum people, and when they were all sleeping, they swooped down on the village, broke into the houses, and beat up the Plum people. Then they took as many plums as they could carry and ran away.
The Plum people were scared to death and sad. "What was that? That's never happened before."
"Maybe the Pear people have gone crazy? We ought to send Mrs. Prunestem to them!"
You see, old Mrs. Prunestem was able to make an ointment from plum stones that could cure every sickness, except broken legs.
So Mrs. Prunestem set off with her pot full of plum stone ointment.
But in the evening she came back again. "They don't want to be cured," she said. "They threatened to beat me and sent me away again."
"That's bad! What're we going to do now?"
"If they don't want to be cured, then they're not sick, they're just bad. We've got to punish them!"
"Yeah, that's what we'll do! We'll descend on them and take their pears. That's only justice!"
And they all cheered and shouted willy-nilly, and only Mrs. Prunestem looked worried and just shook her head.
So the Plum people went on the warpath, and that night, they launched an attack on the Pear people and thrashed them. Then they took as many pears as they could carry and ran away.
"And what are you going to do, if they come and attack us again tomorrow? And everybody looked worried, but young Mr. Stone said, "We'll just post guards all around the village, with long poles, and if they come, we'll beat them up."
And that's what they did, and when a few nights later the Pear people came again, they got an awful thrashing.
"Well, what did I say! We'll really gave it to them! They won't dare ambush us again so soon."
"Fine, fine. But do you know what: we've been standing guard every night for two weeks, and we've been sleeping all day. In the meantime, we've eaten up all our plum cake and all our plum jelly, and we haven't had time to do any cooking or baking!"
"Then everybody should give you guys something! Because you've been standing guard for everybody!"
So all the Plum people gave something to the guards, and Mr. Stone got the most. "Because I've got to take care of everything! I'm carrying the responsibility!"
But after a while some of the Plum people started grumbling because before there had always been just enough for everybody, but now that all the young men were standing guard, instead of taking care of the plum trees and cooking and baking, now there wasn't enough for everybody.
"Right," said Mr. Stone, "whose fault is it that our young men can't work but have to stand guard instead? The Pear people's! So the Pear people have to pay for that!"
And with his men he marched to the Pear people's village to rob them again. But the Pear people had posted guards too, and there was a terrible brawl midway between the two villages, and the Plum people couldn't get to the pears.
Then Mr. Stone said, "We've got to weave nets and throw them over the Pear people's guards. Then we can defeat them and loot the village!"
So all the Plum people had to weave nets, and this time the raid succeeded. Proudly Mr. Stone led the troops back, and each of the young men was carrying a sack of pears on his shoulder. Mr. Stone was carrying something too: responsibility.
In the middle of the village, Mr. Stone had everybody pour his pears onto a big pile. Then he divided the pile into three smaller piles. "So," he said, "one pile will be divvied up among all the villagers, so that everybody has enough to eat. One pile will be divvied up among my soldiers because they fought so bravely. And one pile is for me because I carry the responsibility for everything."
And everyone shouted with joy and patted Mr. Stone on the shoulder. Only old Mrs. Prunestem looked worried and shook her head, and said, "And what if the Pear people weave nets too?"
"I know! We'll build a wall around the village, so they can never again ambush us."
And so the Plum people had to build a wall around whole the village.
But the Pear people didn't want to be stuck with the shame of their defeat. And when their scouts reported that the Plum people were building a wall around their village, the Pear people built a wall around their village too. And they weaved nets to catch the guards. And they also built themselves ladders so they could climb over the Plum people's wall. And one night, with their ladders, they invaded the Plum people's village and robbed them of everything they had.
"That's enough! We've got to teach these soft pears a lesson that they'll never recover from." And Mr. Stone ordered the Plum people to construct a huge tower on wheels. He was going to push it up to the walls of the Pear people's village, and then throw balls of fire down on the Pear people's houses. But, in the meantime, the Pear people were building a huge catapult that they were going to use to demolish the Plum people's village wall.
And one night, the army of the Plum people crept up on the Pear people's village, and the army of the Pear people crept up on the village of the Plum people. And because the night was dark and foggy, the armies crept past each other without noticing it. When the Plum people had erected their tower in front of the wall of the Pear people, Mr. Stone climbed up to the top and yelled, "Open the gates and surrender, or we'll set fire to your whole village."
And because the Pear people's army was away, the villagers opened the gates and let the Plum people inside.
And when the Pear people had pushed their catapult up to the wall of the Plum village, their leader wrote on a scrap of paper: "Surrender, or your whole village will be pumped full of lead! And he wrapped the note around a rock and had it fired over the wall. And the Plum people too opened their gates and let the Pear people inside.
But when the armies wanted to start plundering, there was hardly anything there. Just a few pots of apple jelly or plum jelly, a few dried up cakes, and some leftover pie, but even that was already moldy.
"There's nothing left," said the Pear people to the Plum soldiers. "We haven't had time to cook or to tend the trees. The war took up all of our time."
"We have nothing," said the Plum people to the Pear soldiers. "We haven't had time to take care of the trees or to bake cakes. The war took up all of our time."
"Rats!" said the leader of the Pear soldiers and turned back again.
"Damn! Damn!" said Mr. Stone and led his army away again.
At daybreak, both armies met midway between the two villages, and because they were so angry they started slugging each other. But the two field marshals didn't join in. Each one stood on a small hill, gave each other dirty looks, and brooded.
When they felt the two armies had been brawling long enough, they gave the command to retreat, and with their armies they marched back home.
The next day Mr. Stone called the Plum people together and said, "All right, now we've got to get busy right away and quickly bake a few plum cakes. We've got to bake faster than the enemy, so that we'll be ready quicker than they are for the next battle!"
But Mrs. Prunestem said, "We can't do that because there aren't any plums because nobody has been taking care of the trees. They all rotted on the ground. And there's also no flour for the cakes. And anyway we can't go on doing things this way. What sense does it make to rob each other? If we want to have enough to eat, every one of us is going to have to work all day; we'll have to and the Pear people too. Robbery doesn't make plums grow or pears either. We've got to make peace with the Pear people!"
And the Plum people, who finally wanted to start taking care of the plum trees and make pies again agreed with her.
The only one who was teed off was Mr. Stone. Because if there was no war, he couldn't command and carry responsibility, and there wouldn't be any loot from which he could take the lion's share.
He wandered into the village of the Raspberry people and said to them, "Listen. The Pear people don't have anything to eat anymore. They spent everything on the war. So there's a big danger that the Pear people will start robbing you next!"
The Raspberry people scratched their heads and said, "We never did anything to them!"
"That doesn't matter," said Mr. Stone. "They're robbers and will take their loot where they can get it."
"That's terrible!" said the Raspberry people. "What should we do? We don't understand anything about waging wars."
"But we do!" said Mr. Stone. "I have a suggestion: give us a few bushels of raspberries - and we'll protect you from the Pear people."
"All right," sighed the Raspberry people. "What other choice do we have?"
And then Mr. Stone went back to the Plum people's village and told the Plum people, "It'll be almost one year before the next plum harvest! What do you expect to live on in the meantime? If we make peace, we'll be hungry for a whole year! But if we team up with the Raspberry people to fight against the Pear people, then we'll get raspberries from them right away."
"Yeah, that's better," shouted the young men, who had already gotten used to fighting. "We're better at fighting than at raising plums."
The other Plum people scratched their heads and said: "To be hungry for a whole year! Who can stand that?" And they too went along with Mr. Stone.
Only Mrs. Prunestem looked worried and just shook her head.
But, in the meantime, the Pear people's field marshal had formed an alliance with the Apple people. And so everything started all over again: the Raspberry people and the Apple people had to build walls around their villages too, and weave nets, and build catapults and siege towers, and besides that they had to give their protectors half of their fruit. And when the year was up, on the whole planet there was nothing left to eat and nothing left to steal.
Then Mrs. Prunestem called all of the women on the planet together - that was possible because there were only four villages - and she said to them,
"We can't go on living like this. Robbing and fighting wars don't make plums and raspberries and apples and pears grow. Somebody has to do the work or there wouldn't even be any loot. And since we only have just enough when everybody does his or her work, we just can't afford all this robbery! You can't eat nets and ladders and catapults and walls and siege towers!"
"Right!" said the women.
"So, tell your husbands that they should shake hands with each other and get back to the orchards at once! Or we'll all starve to death!"
"All right!" said the women.
And so a treaty was concluded, and the men all shook each other's hands and mumbled, "Excuse me, it won't happen again." And then there was peace on the planet Hortus again. And after two, almost three years, everyone once again had enough to eat, and Mrs. Prunestem made gifts of pots of plum jelly to the other villages, and the women from the other villages sent apple cake and pear sauce and raspberry pie.
And because peace reigned for so long, the people also had time to reflect a little and to invent things. One person invented special tongs that you could use to pick apples without climbing up into the trees. And another person developed a variety of raspberry bushes that had no thorns. And one person invented a tool that made it easy to take the stone out of a plum. And another invented a special knife for peeling pears.
"This is fine," said the women, "now everybody only needs to work half a day, and there's still enough for everyone."
But one day Mr. Stone stood up and said to the Plum people, "This is no good. People are lying around doing nothing half the day just because our work has become easier with the new plum de-stoner. What if the Pear people decide to ambush us and force us to work for them the other half of the day? The Pear people invented a new pear peeler. That poses a big danger because, if they don't have to work the whole day anymore in order to have enough to eat, then they now have time to build new siege towers and catapults! So we can't waste half the day playing games and telling stories: with our new plum de-stoner we now have enough time to think about our defense. Instead of just working half the day, it would be better if half of us worked the whole day, and the other half built catapults and spent time in training exercises. Now we can afford to support a standing army. That's the only way to protect ourselves from another attack by the Pear people, who will one day enslave us!"
And so the whole thing would have almost started all over again, if . . .
. . . if Mrs. Prunestem hadn't stood up and slapped Mr. Stone in the face with everybody watching. And he sat down nice and quiet and never said a word again.
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