Boëthius and His Talking Ox
Turnip farming long hath been, and long will it continue to be, the lowliest occupation in all of the Kingdom. Turnip farmers are, in fact, so base in status that they are hardly above even the basest of serfs! But, alas, from tyme to tyme, even a mere turnip farmer doth try to rise above his station, only to be humbled by Fate, as all things ultimately are. The story that follows shows us how accepting our place in this world, no matter how pitiable it may be, and not challenging the just system that put us there, is the only true path towards happiness.
I tell thee, my friends, that once I was a’passing through the village of South Peasanton — being as it was the season for a’passing through places — when I chanced a word with a turnip farmer by the name of Boëthius Turnipfarmer.
Passing through as I was, I had acquired a prodigious thirst. Seeing this local turnipmonger plying freshly brewed flagons of turnipwine at his farmstand, I approached him and said thusly: “’Allo, kind turnipmonger! Long I have travelled and many places have I passed through. I now find myself passing through this village and past thy farmstand, and I find mineself stricken by thirst. ‘Twould be the kindest of friends who wouldst dampen my parchéd throat, and I shall pay a fair price in golden Bilges.”
Hearing of my plight, the turnipmonger replied thusly: “’Allo to thee, kind passerby! My name beeth Boëthius Turnipfarmer, and thou canst certainly mend thy parchedness on my fyne turnipwine:
“For any man
Is a friend o’ moine
Who doth pay
In golden coin.”
This Boëthius was a stout and able fellow, with a strong back and roughened fingers on account of a lyfetyme spent prying turnips from the ground. But despite his lowly station in lyfe, I took a liking to this turnipmonger. As we proceeded to moisten our fipple flutes on Boëthius’ wine, our idle chit-a-chat soon blossomed into a lengthy conversation, and the longer we spoke, the more it filled me with mirth.
After many hours of interlocution and several jugs of turnipwine, we casually cameth to talking about the Grace of His Majesty and the goodeness of all things when put in their proper place. Turnipwine, as thou well knows, is quite the potent concoction, and once thou hast begun to imbibe of it, ‘tis impossible to tell wherefore the night will lead. Hence the saying:
Have a sip o’ turnipwine
To lo’er thy defenses.
Then have thee another
To clobber thy senses.
Our senses thus clobbered, Boëthius and I wrawled through the night, telling stories of The King’s courage in battle, and of heathen enemies who met their end not soon enough. But, to this day, the story that hath stuck with me more than any other was of the lyfe of B. Turnipfarmer himself, which went as follows:
Not ten years heretofore, Boëthius was in the fields one day pulling turnips, as he did every day, when up to him walked a great red ox. Much to Boëthius’s surprise, the ox proceeded to speak to him thusly:
“Good day, fellow subject! I see thou art pulling turnips. Whilst I am but an ox, and mine hooves are not fit for pulling turnips, I believe I can be of service to thee in some other way, for, as thou can see, I possess the ability to speak, which, judging by the surprised look on thy face, is quite rare for an ox. Take me as thy companion, and I shall help thee in any way I can.”
Being thus in amazement, and not knowing how else to address this talking ox, Boëthius said thusly:
“Monsieur Ox, thou hath rightfully comprehended my surprise at the fact thou art now speaking to me. For not only is it quite rare for an ox to speak, but until just a moment ago I thought it quite impossible! By offering to help me in any way thou can, thou hath clearly shown thy worth as an upstanding subject, and I shall happily treat thee as mine own kith and kin.”
Throughout that day and the ones that followed, the ox entertained Boëthius whilst he pulled turnips with stories of his lyfe as an ox, and the many adventures he had undertaken and far away places he had seen. The ox’s stories brought Boëthius great pleasure, and made his long days toiling in the fields that much the merrier.
After some weeks of this, word of Boëthius’s ox spread far and wide. Not only was he the only peasant in the village who ever owned an ox, he owned a talking ox at that! This made him by far the richest person around, and perhaps the richest turnip farmer in the Realm, and thus he caught the eye of all the prettiest peasant girls in the village and had his pick of the litter on whom to marry.
This he did so with haste, for the daughter of a neighbouring turnip farmer was the comeliest wench upon whom his eyes did e’er lay, and the mere sight of her in the fields pulling bulbs from the earth caused his turnip to sprout most vigorously. They celebrated their nuptials in style in the grandest wedding the village e’er saw.
Things were looking up for Boëthius, who now had a talking ox with whom to enjoy his days in the field and a lovely bride with whom to enjoy his nights in the hovel, and he figured he might have been the happiest turnip farmer that e’er did live.
But Fate giveth and Fate taketh away, and for a lowly turnip farmer ‘twas always the latter ‘twould be his sordid outcome. For, not a fortnight after he was married, his bride came down with the typhoid and died. Boëthius was greatly saddened by his loss, but there were still many turnips to farm, and thus he mourned whilst he toiled. After the required period of mourning was complete, the village women lined up to taketh his hand, for he was again the richest and most eligible bachelor who e’er pulled a turnip.
Within the season, he was married to another lovely lass, and his days with his ox and nights with his maiden were once more filled with joy. But woe is the lyfe of a poor turnip farmer, for soon again his wyfe cameth down with the typhoid and died, and again he mourned whilst he toiled.
So this pattern repeated itself se’en tymes in all, with Boëthius marrying se’en beautiful brides then losing them one and all to the typhoid. In this tyme, he and his talking ox had become quite goode friends, but the ox feared that it was he who was bringing Boëthius’s sad fate upon him, so one eve whilst returning from the fields he said thusly:
“My dear friend Boëthius, we have grown quite close o’er these past years since thou tooketh me into thine home and I didst thrill thee each day with my stories. But, to this day, I have seen thee lose se’en young wyves to the typhoid, and I fear it is because of me that Fate has smitten them. Thus, I fear it is tyme for us to parte ways, and I hope that, upon doing so, thy luck will improve and thou wilt live long and happy with a lovely turnipmongress. I bid thee bring me to His Majesty’s Royal Ox Byrnes, whereupon I can loyally ply my storytelling abilities in service to The Crowne. This action, I think, will but thee in the Goode Graces of His Majesty, and Fate will shine more brightly upon thee.”
Boëthius was greatly saddened by the ox’s words, but he knew in his heart that he was correct. So the next day Boëthius travelled with the ox to the Royal Ox Byrnes, where they parted once and for all, wistfully recalling their many fyne days spent together in the turnip fields.
Whilst no longer rich on account of his talking ox, the ox’s wisdom soon rang true, for, within the twelvemonth, Boëthius was betroth’d to the most beautiful maiden in the village that had not already succumbed to the typhoid. So technically she was the eighth most beautiful maiden in the village since the previous seven wert dead. We assume she was still in the top fifty percent at least, but no one knows how to do math so there beeth no way to be sure.
As of the tyme he told me his story, he and the eighth most beautiful maiden in the village were still happily married and had been for some years.
For the ox’s part, The King Himself soon heard rumour of his tale-telling ability and summoned him to the Royal Court to see if the rumours were true. Before a banquet of the noblest lords and ladies in all of the Kingdom, the ox recited one of his legends, and he did not disappoint. Much to the contrary, The King took a great liking to his tales, and to this day he remains the most celebrated bard in all of the Realm. E’en the tale of Boëthius Turnipfarmer himself hath been told in the Royal Court, to much laughter at the sad peasant’s expense.
Thus went the story of the lyfe of Boëthius Turnipfarmer, the moral of which, mine esteemed companions, is that if thou art a lowly turnip farmer, not even a wise talking ox or many dainty young wyves can elevate thee above thy lowly station in lyfe. For Fate has seen fit to make thee destitute, and, as long as The King shall reign—which is fore’er—destitute thou and thy descendants shall remain. ‘Tis only when thou gives thy most prized possessions to The Crowne, and resigns thyself to a lyfe of humble misery, that Fate will finally smile upon thee.