Monday, September 5, 2016

Story: The Shortcut to Treasure

D is for deceit -
it's more than a trick.
For when you're a cheat
you're also a dick.

G is for greed,
wanting more than you should.
When enough you exceed,
you are doing no good. 

John rushed to Paul’s hut, eager to show him what he discovered during his shift.  Paul’s eyes widened as he realized the significance of the tethered piece of parchment – it contained coordinates.  These weren’t just any coordinates... they appeared to be the coordinates to the fabled map that led to King Henry’s treasure. Legend has it that many decades ago, a thief stole old King Henry’s gold and jewels and buried them in the woods.  Before the thief could return to retrieve his spoils, he was caught and hanged.  Although many have searched for the treasure, it has never been found, and it soon became a legend in the surrounding villages.  John and Paul were impoverished young men, both with families and low-paying jobs digging irrigation ditches, so a chance for riches enticed them.  They were fortunate enough to have some time off, and both had a few coins to spare, so they didn’t think twice about embarking on the journey. They packed a few things and left.

After a long day of travel, the men approached a village that matched the coordinates. The parchment contained a sketch of a tree, which the men were sure was the spot containing the map.  They searched for the old, enormous tree with a large knot in its center, which they eventually found behind a small tavern. It was late and the men didn’t see anyone lurking around outside, so they began to dig.  They quietly dug for several minutes before Paul’s shovel finally struck a wooden box.  They opened the box and gazed at the crudely drawn but surprisingly well preserved map when they suddenly heard a voice behind them.  John and Paul quickly turned around and attempted to conceal the map without appearing suspicious.  In front of them stood two men who appeared to be around their age, dressed in raggedy tunics, their faces dusted with soot.  Paul and John quickly surveyed the men and determined they were not dangerous.  The men all began chatting; the strangers seemed friendly enough.  Eventually the men all went into the tavern for some drinks where they shared stories of their lives and struggles.  Paul and John empathized with the two men, and after a few drinks, they began discussing their quest for the legendary treasure.  The discussion soon became an offer for the young men to join them on their journey, as they were also in need; what could just two men do with so much treasure anyway? The men - David and Frank - happily agreed, and the next day the four men set off.

The Treasure Map. Credit: Mario_ruckh on Flickr

After three long days of walking, the men were about halfway to their destination.  Although they were eager to reach the treasure, they were tired and felt like a drink.  They stopped in a small town and found a bustling tavern. After several whiskeys, the men were having a grand time, laughing and sharing their fantasies about what they’d soon find.  Frank excused himself and walked out back toward the outhouse, not noticing that he was being followed.  After Frank exited the tavern, a crippled, ancient man grabbed Frank’s arm and began whispering to him.  The man told Frank that he knew of a shortcut to the treasure – he claimed the legendary thief was his great-grandfather, and that by taking this shortcut, he could arrive at the treasure in a mere day.  Frank was hesitant, but the man went on about how much better it would be to split the treasure between just two people, and that he was never able to make the trip due to his disability.  Frank had always been greedy, so he convinced himself that he was the worst off of the four men, and that they didn’t deserve the treasure or his help finding it.  The man drew Frank a map, which Frank recognized as the same destination as Paul and John’s map, just with a different, much shorter route.  With a wide grin, Frank slipped the map into his shirt and slid back into the tavern.

The next morning the men awoke and saw Frank’s bed empty.  They found a note on the pillow, which explained that Frank had turned back because he felt homesick and was worried about his wife.  David confirmed that it was Frank’s handwriting, but he was confused by his sudden disappearance.  The men spent an hour searching the town for Frank, but decided to move on without him.  Meanwhile, Frank followed the old man’s map to the treasure, working to get there as fast as possible.  After a full day of walking, Frank reached the chest, overgrown with moss and ivy.  Frank eagerly opened it, but found nothing.  He frantically scoured the nearby area in hopes of finding even a few gold pieces, but alas, nothing.  He plopped down in defeat.  The next morning he followed the shortcut back to the town.

The Empty Treasure Chest. Credit: Christopher Porter on Flickr

It was day six of Paul, John, and David’s journey, and they estimated they had but a day left of travel before they reached the treasure.  As they were walking, Paul wandered off the trail to use the restroom, and tripped over what he thought was a rock.  After he fell to the ground, he realized that it wasn’t a rock, but a skull covered in moss and leaves.  He called the others over, and the men hesitantly uncovered the body. They were shocked to discover that the body was lying on top of a large velvet bag brimming with gold and jewels.  The men decided that it was best to assume this was the treasure, split it evenly, and head back to their villages; perhaps what lay ahead was responsible for this man’s death, and they did not want to find out.  John, Paul, and David lived happily ever after, their financial troubles over forever, while Frank was never heard from again.  The last place he was seen was the tavern where he met the old man....  

Author's Note: This story was initially inspired by The Ass and His Driver from Aesop for Children with illustrations by Milo Winter.  In this story, a stubborn ass wants to take a shortcut down a cliff, but his driver tells him no.  The ass is stubborn and attempts to take the shortcut anyway, which results in him tumbling down the cliff, presumably to his death.  The moral of this story is "they who will not listen to reason, but stubbornly go their own way against the advice of those who are wiser than they, are on the road to misfortune."  Although the story is more about listening to well-intentioned advice, I wanted to focus more on the "taking shortcuts" element.  As my story went on, I noticed it involved another theme too, which was partly inspired by The Ass, the Fox, and the Lion.  In this story, a fox attempts to betray a donkey into being killed by the lion, but the lion sees through his tricks and kills the fox instead.  The moral of this story is "traitors may expect treachery."

Two immoralities in my story are deceit and greed, both demonstrated by the character Frank.  He deceives his friend and fellow travelers because of his greed - he'd rather split the treasures with one other person instead of three.  In the end this does Frank no good, and in fact may have caused him harm.
The theme of an immoral alphabet comes from A Moral Alphabet by Hilaire Belloc, 1899. The letters D and G are courtesy of Maelle K on


  1. As I was reading your story I was actually thinking about Aesop's Fable "The Ass, the Fox, and the Lion" since it is one that I may use for my project for this class. I really like that as I was reading the story I thought it was just another folktale, you really captured the essence of them. I also like the theme that you went with how while taking shortcuts may seem like a good idea you may end up missing out on the actual treasure. I really liked reading this story and I look forward to reading your others this semester.

  2. When I first started reading your story I truly thought that you were giving a brief summary of a story you had read. Then I kept on reading and I really enjoyed you story. You did a great job of retelling the story! I think you did a great job of conveying the concept from the original story. I liked the detail that you added to the characters in your story.

  3. Sara,

    First, is the poetry at the beginning original? It is a great way to draw readers into your story and prepare them for what is to come.

    I have also read Aesop's Fables for this class, and I really liked how you combined the influences of two different stories to make them your own in an original story. I find the "window dressing" in your version much more compelling than the original style of using mostly or just animals in the stories. Something about having human characters makes it more relevant to me, even if the point is the same. I also like the new elements of treasure hunting and mystery in your story, the tension really keeps me engaged.

    Thanks so much for sharing your work. This is a really strong start to your portfolio. I look forward to reading more of your stories throughout the upcoming semester.


    1. Yes, I made those poems up! Haha. Thank you!

  4. Hi Sara,

    I have to say I am incredibly impressed with the creativity of your theme. It is something I would never have thought of but is very interesting and I think I will be coming back to your portfolio soon to read more and see what else you've done with this. The poetry at the beginning is genius and it is a great way to draw in readers, it definitely got my attention and I can't believe you made those up! I think you should continue to do those poems and have them be a little preview of the immorality in your stories. Continue doing what you're doing and I think this will be a great project. The only revision I would say would be to add some dialogue if you're interested in that, it always adds another element to the story if we can hear the characters talk and what they have to say. Great job!

  5. Haha! Sara you never fail to make me laugh. Your poems are genius. I enjoy how they perfectly sum up the story before you even read it. It helps the reader to remain focused on what the theme is. It would be great if you could incorporate poems for other immoralities in your other stories.

    I really like your idea of creating stories that focus on immoral deeds done by others. It is both novel and refreshing. Growing up, I was always told stories of what could happen if you did good to others and had a good moral compass. It would be cool if you could eventually incorporate the capital vices of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth into your subsequent stories. I think that you have a lot of freedom to do what you wish with this idea. You can make characters have immoral characteristics or you can even personify immoral actions or feelings and depict the travesty that they ensue.

  6. Sara,
    What a strong story to start your portfolio off with. The attention to detail you give in your story really highlights what is going on. I could really picture every scene. You also do a really good job at keeping your reading engaged and grabbing their attentions at the beginning of the story. The poetry is a great way to grab your readers attention. The one thing I think you could improve one would be your choice in photos. I think the box photo works but the drawing of the map almost pulled me out of the story's time period and into modern day. Causing me to focus more on the map instead of what was happening in the story. I feel if you find a better map photo or ever get someone else to draw you one this will help give your story an even stronger image.

    Over all very nice job!

  7. Sara,
    Wow! I laughed so hard at your beginning poem. It was so unexpected! I’ll admit I don’t really remember the fables you based your story off of. Even so, your story was so captive! It roped me in and I just couldn’t look away! The ending, where Frank couldn’t find the treasure, makes me wonder if perhaps the old man had cursed him at the tavern. Perhaps he did find the treasure after all, but his curse prevented him from realizing it, and so he got lost and died, holding the treasure. Maybe to explain how rotten and all that the corpse that they found was, perhaps wild forest creatures had found Frank’s body? That’s what I was thinking at the end of the story. It was really convenient that they tripped over the corpse that had the treasure! All throughout the story, it was beautifully written and captivating.

  8. I LOVE your writing style- I love the humor and the personality that you put into your stories. The poems at the start of this story is really creative and adds a really cool element to this story.

    I've always been fascinated with treasure maps and seeking out treasure- because usually the treasure is not really what you thought it would be!

    The image that you added really contributes to the suspense of your story. Although it wasn't created specifically for the story, it seems as if it could have been!

    This story was really cool, and has a cool lesson to learn from it. I think you did a great job putting elements of mystery and suspense into this story. You definitely made this story your own. Great job!


  9. Sara,
    I was thoroughly engaged in the story the whole time I was reading it. You are very good at establishing a backstory and motivation for the main characters, and you do it in a way that follows the natural flow of the story. The treasure map and hunt is a golden idea, and I like the twists you added along the way. I was surprised that John and Paul were quick to let Frank and David join them on their quest. I wouldn't be one to advertise that I have a secret treasure map! I really see the connections between the fables you used as inspiration, and I think they help to move your story forward and support the overall theme of immorality. The images you included were great additions to your story, and I like how they broke up the story into sections. And the poems were great! I love that you wrote those yourself. Keep up the awesome work!