“THE VILLAGE OF KLEPTOGRABITZ”
A Fairytale by Ellen Hecht © 2012
No one in the little Bulgarian hamlet of Kleptograbitz knew how the town’s economic demographics had been established. Basically, it was split right down the middle, with the Eastsiders made up of the Haves and the Westsiders who were made up of the Have-Nots. There was no middle class whatsoever.
There was a reason that no one who lived in Kleptograbitz knew the town’s history. There were no libraries or a town hall. There were also no churches or schools. There was no written record of the town’s history. And no one knew how to read, not even the Haves. Not only that but for generation upon generation no one had passed along a single word of oral history either.
Over the years it became less and less likely that any outsiders would happen upon the town and settle down there since the town wasn’t located on a major thoroughfare.
No one in Kleptograbitz knew why all the wealth was owned by the Haves and none of it by the Have-Nots. They didn’t know that only the Haves on the Eastside were direct descendants of the founding fathers, the first families who had settled there establishing the village. Because they had no written or oral history, only you and I know that, but they did not.
There was very little reason for the Haves and the Have-Nots to mingle. The lines were clearly drawn by the wealth of the Haves and the poverty of the Have-Nots.
The people in the Haves’ side of town married each other and eventually gave birth to little Haves. I don’t have to tell you that on the other side of town, the Have-Nots were marrying each other and giving birth to little Have-Nots.
The Have-Nots lived a hand-to-mouth existence, hauling coal from a hillside mine. Each family mined their coal at different times of day. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, they went to the center of town where they sold their coal.
Because the Haves lived in the best part of the hamlet where the weather was consistently pleasant, and because they could afford to build their homes with insulation and had money to buy well-made clothing to keep them warm, they didn’t need to purchase the coal that the Have-Nots mined and sold on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Instead, the Have-Nots, without an education and an understanding of economy, did not grasp that since the Haves didn’t need coal, the Have-Nots were only able to sell their coal to each other. If you try to make sense of this you will go blind or insane. So don’t. This was the basis of the financial infrastructure, such as it was, in Kleptograbitz.
To make matters even more odd, roughly half of the families on the Have-Not side of town sold their coal for a higher price than the other half of the families did. Since the families that sold their coal for less, couldn’t afford to buy the coal from the families who’s prices were higher, they were doomed in a downward spiral of poverty. Such is the price of ignorance. This went on for a time until one by one, the families who sold their coal for so little that they could not afford to buy coal from the families who sold their coal for a higher price . . . you guessed it . . . they froze to death in their beds.
But that is not the end of the story. Oh no, my friends, however, it is closer to the end than the beginning, so keep a sharp eye for the end as it approaches.
After half of the Have-Not families had died, (if you were paying attention, they were the ones selling their coal for so little that they couldn’t afford to buy the more expensive coal of their neighbors) the other half realized there was no point in mining the coal because there was no one left to whom they could sell it.
Desperate, the women who survived (who were brighter than the women who had perished in the cold) taught themselves to knit. They knitted socks and they knitted scarves. They knitted themselves gloves without finger tips so that they could still knit during the winter months. They knitted warm hats for their sons and husbands and warm skirts and sweaters for their daughters. Soon there was no need for coal at all because everyone of the surviving Have-Nots was cozy and warm in their little, spartan homes.
But the Have-Not men were despondent. They had lost a sense of purpose to their lives. They no longer needed to get up early each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday when they traditionally mined coal from the hillside. A meeting was called among the men of the Have-Nots. They discussed the dilemma they all shared; the lack of motivation, the lack of something to do, and not one of them was bright enough to realize they also had no way to earn a living.
They decided that even though they had no need for coal themselves, now that their wives were keeping them warm with all the knitting going on and because there were no families who were willing to purchase their coal, they would get up the following Tuesday and go to the hillside anyway. They would dig in the mine, leave the coal in piles and come home at night. They would be occupied. They would still be able to socialize amongst themselves. They would still be able to get exercise and they would still be able to sing the mining songs they would make up as they worked the mine.
The following Tuesday, the men trudged uphill to the mine. They did what they set out to do and they continued to do so for several Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, until one day, they chanced upon an area of the mine they had never been in before. One at a time they entered the dark cavern. They each brought their torches and examined the interior of the cave. It looked as thought it was just an ordinary cave filled with more coal. They were just about to leave when one of them spied a rolled up scroll with lines and circles and dots drawn on it. Since none of the Have-Nots knew how to read, they decided to take it back to the village.
In the center of town there lived one family that none of the Have-Nots ever spoke to. None of the Haves spoke to them either. That family was the only family in Kleptograbitz that had intermarried. Yes, a young man from the Eastside Haves had married a young woman from the Westside Have-Nots.
After it was discovered that the couple had married, the Haves and Have Nots would cross the street to avoid speaking with them. They had difficulty finding vendors who would sell them fruits and vegetables at the market. Eventually they had to pack up and leave Kleptograbitz. They put everything they owned into baskets and loaded those few things onto a cart. The couple walked away from the town and didn’t look back. They reached another town that was a three-day walk from the village and settled down there. That town had a town hall, a church, a museum and a school.
Not long afterwards, the couple discovered they were going to have a child. Over the next few years, they had three children and the couple and their children learned to read.
On birthdays and national holidays they missed their families back in Kleptograbitz. They wished their children could have a relationship with both sets of grandparents. They decided to move back home.
They found when they returned that they still weren’t welcome to live in the Eastside with the Haves nor were they welcome to live on the Westside with the Have-Nots. Instead, the couple and their children had to settle in the center of town, because they weren’t welcome anywhere else.
Things became even worse because, not only had they intermarried, it also became known that they knew how to read. The Haves and Have-Nots began to refer to them as “The Family That Can Read” and they were shunned even more than before.
The group of men who brought the scroll from the coal mine gathered outside the front door of the The Family That Could Read and knocked. The door was opened and they were greeted cordially and invited inside.
They were each offered a warm glass of tea and a seat around the kitchen table. One of the men placed the scroll on the table and made it known they would like help to decipher its meaning.
The eldest member of the Family That Could Read unrolled the scroll and began to read quietly. As he read, his eyes grew very large. He looked up at the men and then down again at the scroll. His lips moved and his eyebrows went up and down. When he finished reading, he cleared his throat.
“Gentlemen,” he began. “What you have here is a written history of how the village of Kleptograbitz was founded.”
“It says, ’Long ago, there lived two families. They were all poor peasants and lived within a few yards of each other in makeshift tents along a river’s edge. One night, under the cover of darkness, the family that lived the closest to the river crept stealthily into the tent of the family farthest away from the river and stole the few things they had of value, being one wooden bowl, one pair of shoes and one bow and arrow. They ran to the water’s edge and swam to the other side and kept going, hiding in bushes during the day and traveling at night. They continued on until they came to a town where there was a market place. They planned to sell the items they had stolen. But while they were in town, they realized the outdoor market was a great place to steal more items and they went about here and there, all that day, taking whatever they could. After people began to notice that things were going missing, they abandoned the market, expanding their stealing spree into the neighborhoods, taking anything of value that any of the townsfolk had on their windowsills or hanging from their washing lines.
“They traveled on to the next town where they sold those things and continued on, day after day, week after week, stealing at one town and selling what they had stolen at the next town.
“The young men of the family even stole young women from the towns along the way and made them their wives.
“Finally they had amassed such a fortune they were able to settle down, build a town of their own and live in fine houses. They decided that the only way to keep the secret of what they had done, would be to never write anything down. They didn’t teach their children to read or write to ensure the keeping of the secret. Only the tiniest clue was evident; the town’s name, “Kleptograbitz.”
“Early on, a few people passing through saw that the town seemed prosperous. Everyone already living there appeared to have plenty to eat and drink. They were all wearing nice clothing and their homes were filled with beautiful things. It wasn’t long before those strangers began to build homes and settle down in the town.
“Oddly enough, every time a newly-arrived family began to settle in, anything of value that they had would mysteriously disappear overnight. While the founding families thrived, the newer arrivals’ families seemed to have less and less as anything they made or purchased of value would vanish. For this reason they grew poorer and poorer until they had nothing. If they were at all bright, they would leave the town. Those who were less bright stayed. The only way they could make a living was to dig coal out of the earth on the hillside.
“The town was established on the backs of those the original families had stolen from and their decendents became the present-day Haves. The Have-Nots were everyone else – the descendants of those families who had everything of value stolen from them by the Haves.’
“So, now you know the secret; the founders of ‘Kleptograbitz’ were thieves.” The scroll had exposed the secret kept so closely guarded by the first families of Kleptograbitz.
The men sat in silence letting the enormity of the information that the head of the household of the FTCR had just divulged to them sink in. Solemnly they returned to their homes in the west side of the village and shared the revelation to the rest of their family members.
As a result, every single individual, including every woman, young girl, every boy and even the toddlers became enraged. Every male member of the Have-Nots gathered up their mining shovels and pick axes and became an angry mob, storming the homes of the Haves on the Eastside.
In a fury, they murdered every last one of them. In the center of the village, only members of the FTCR were spared.
The word spread throughout Bulgaria that the hamlet of Kleptograbitz had a zero-tolerance for thieves.
The citizens also changed the name of the village; it is no longer known as “Kleptograbitz.”
Learning the folly of being ignorant of history, every citizen in the village (which they have since re-named “Itsallarznow”) has learned to read and write. Currently, they have the largest middle class in Bulgaria.
If you didn’t get the moral of the story from the first reading, you are invited to read it again. And be grateful you can read, not like the people of Kleptograbitz, who were, for generations, victimized by their own ignorance.
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A tale of a small town in Bulgaria – where everything belonged to the wealthy and nothing belonged to the poor. In the telling of this fairy tale, we learn why and so do they.