The people of Chelm were known far and wide as foolish optimists, and many people liked to test this notion. One day a stranger came to Chelm and told the people there was a great fortune awaiting them in a faraway place.
"To claim your fortune," the stranger told the wise men of Chelm, "you must take a group of people to this land, where they will find bags and bags of gold."
So the wise men of Chelm gathered some of their strongest men, and they planned their journey. "The gold will solve all our problems," the wise men predicted. "We will be able to build bigger houses and better roads. We will be able to buy all the food and clothes we wish to buy -- and luxuries, too."
So the people of Chelm began to dream as the wise men and the strong men set off.
They walked for days and nights, over mountains, across rivers and valleys, following the stranger's directions. At long last they reached the place the stranger had described. Sure enough, there in a field lay bags and bags filled with gold.
The men were overjoyed at the sight, and they began to dream of how this would change their village and their people -- how happy all the people of Chelm would be when they had this gold.
Then the strong men began to lift the sacks of gold onto their backs and follow the wise men, who were going to lead them home. Together, they trudged up mountains, forded rivers and crossed valleys.
After a few days of this, the strong men began to grumble and complain. They looked to the wise men for help. "How can we make our journey easier?" they asked. "Surely with all this gold there is something we can do? Isn't that the point of gold? To make life easier?"
The wise men thought for a while and conferred among themselves. At last they came up with a glorious plan.
"We'll trade the gold!" they said. "We'll trade it for horses and wagons, and then we can travel by horse and wagon back home."
The strong men of Chelm were mightily impressed. "A grand idea!" they said.
They stopped in the very next village and offered all their gold in exchange for horses and wagons. Naturally, the people agreed.
The strong men of Chelm carried on, traveling by horse and wagon, happy to no longer carry the burden of those heavy bags of gold upon their backs.
But a few days into the journey, the horses began to pant heavily, and the men of Chelm looked to their wise men. "Our horses are starving and thirsty," they said. "What are we going to do? We have no money to buy them food."
The wise men agreed: "The horses must eat!" And so they thought for a while.
"We could trade our horses and wagons for food," one of the wise men said.
But the others quickly shook their heads. "Food and water are every bit as heavy as gold," another wise man said. "That is a foolish idea."
They thought a while longer.
At long last, one of the wise men knew just what to do. "Feathers," he said. "Feathers weigh almost nothing. We will sell our horses and wagons for feathers, and they will be easy to transport."
"A grand idea!" all the men of Chelm agreed.
So that's what they did. But when they had bags and bags of feathers, the strong men looked at one another in despair.
"How will we carry all these bags of feathers?" they asked the wise men.
The wise men smiled. "No need to carry feathers," they said. "We'll set them free. Look at the wind."
All the men looked and saw that the wind was an easterly, blowing in the direction of Chelm. "The wind will carry our feathers home for us!" the wise men declared.
The strong men opened the bags of feathers and set them free, and they watched with joy as the feathers began to sail through the sky.
Then, lighthearted and without any burdens, all the men of Chelm set off for home.
When they reached Chelm, they found their village just as they had left it, not a feather in sight.
"Where are the feathers?" the men asked all the villagers who had stayed behind.
"What feathers?" the people asked.
The wise men told the villagers the whole story.
"What?" the people began to shout. "You gave away our gold for feathers? How could our wise men be such fools!"
But the wise men raised their hands and quieted the people. "Listen," they said. "You must have faith. The feathers will return one day. You will see. Just keep your eyes open, and you will one day see the sky overhead filled with feathers, bringing happiness to everyone."
After that day, the people of Chelm walked around waiting for their fortune to arrive, their eyes often looking to the sky. Because they were so certain it would come, they were always happy.
"Tell Me a Story 3: Women of Wonder," the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit www.mythsandtales.com.