Financial Fables – A Slave for Great Black Bear
Once upon a time, in the great wilderness, there lived a family of foxes. Mama Fox, Papa Fox, Brother Fox and Sister Fox. Mama and Papa Fox built a snug, safe den to keep out their enemies: the panthers, eagles and bears.
Brother Fox loved trying new things. He teased the eagles that tried to swoop down and eat him – by running in the open and then darting under a fallen tree. He ran close to the hunting humans, trying to catch their scent without being seen. He took lots of risks.
Sister Fox worried about Brother. She knew some day he would get into trouble!
Great Black Bear, an old and wily bear, also lived in the wilderness where the Fox family lived. Great Black Bear was sly and lazy. Over the years he had learned to take advantage of the other animals in the wilderness, to get them to bring his food to him.
One day, Great Black Bear was strolling through the wilderness and came across Brother and Sister Fox playing in a meadow. Great Black Bear quickly hid behind a giant rock and watched the young Foxes playing. A gleam came to his eye as he saw Brother Fox trying out all sorts of new things. The Great Black Bear was thinking up ways to get Brother Fox to gather food for him.
Brother and Sister Fox tired of their meadow games and went back to their den to rest.
The next day, when they came back to the meadow, they stopped suddenly and stared.
In the exact center of the meadow was a little shiny bowl, filled with berries and bugs.
Brother Fox swiftly ran to the bowl and sniffed it. Then he gobbled up the berries and bugs and grabbed up the bowl to play with it.
Great Black Bear watched from behind the rock, smiling to himself.
The next day, Brother and Sister Fox returned to the meadow to see if there would be more berries and bugs in the bowl. Instead, there was a note in the little shiny bowl and there was a huge bowl right next to it. Sister Fox read the note out loud:
“If you will promise to fill this little shiny bowl with berries and bugs every day for the next month, you will get the huge bowl next to it – filled with juicy crickets and even a squirrel or rabbit or two right away!
This is a great deal for you. You just have to find a few berries and bugs each day, but you get this enormous bowl of great food right away!” In very small print at the bottom was an extra note that said “Oh, by the way, you have to return the huge bowl filled with food (just as you receive it) at the end of the month to pay back my loan of food to you”.
“Brother Fox was very excited. He didn’t read the small print. He thought this was a very good deal. He added on to the note to say “Yes, I want that huge bowl filled with juicy crickets, rabbits and squirrels to eat and I will fill the little shiny bowl with bugs and berries each day for a month!”.
Sister Fox wondered if it was really such a good deal. After all, she thought, she could search each day for food and gradually hunt and gather enough to fill that huge bowl – all by herself.
The very next day when they returned to the meadow, Brother and Sister Fox found the huge bowl filled to the top and even overflowing with juicy crickets, berries, two squirrels and a rabbit – food enough for a long while! Next to it was the little bowl, with a note that said “You bought this big bowl of food, now you must, at a minimum, pay me interest each day by putting berries and bugs in the little bowl.”
As he had promised, Brother Fox filled the small bowl with berries and bugs – and he took the huge bowl home to the den to keep for his own. He bragged to all of his friends about how rich with food he was. Instead of hunting and gathering all day, he did just enough to fill the little bowl with bugs and berries. The rest of the day he lounged around, making fun of the other foxes as they hunted and gathered.
Meanwhile, Sister Fox started gathering just a bit more that day then usual. She put the extra food in a tiny pile next to her spot in the den.
Every day, for a week, Brother Fox filled the little bowl with bugs and berries. Every night it was emptied out. By the second week, Brother Fox had eaten half of the food in the big bowl and was tired of looking for bugs and berries.
Sister Fox’s tiny pile by her spot in the den was growing and growing.
At the end of the second week, Brother Fox’s huge bowl was almost empty, but he kept on filling the little shiny bowl with bugs and berries, because he had promised.
Sister Fox’s pile by her spot in the den was almost as big as the huge bowl now, because she was still hunting and gathering more than she needed each day and each day was adding to the food pile.
At the end of the third week, Brother Fox’s huge bowl of food was all gone. He didn’t want to fill the little shiny bowl with bugs and berries only to have it be empty again the next day. He was getting hungry. He wanted to eat the bugs and berries he collected!
So, Brother Fox left the bowl empty one night. Instead of filling it he gobbled up the bugs and berries he had collected.
Right away, the next day, Great Black Bear came to the meadow and sat by the bowl. When Brother Fox showed up in the meadow, he was scared! But Great Black Bear said: “Don’t worry, you just have to fill the bowl with bugs and berries as you promised and you will be safe”.
So Brother Fox went hungry that day and the next and all the rest of the month so he could fill Great Black Bear’s little interest bowl with bugs and berries and be safe.
At the end of the month, Sister Fox had twice as much food as had been in the huge bowl that Brother Fox had bought on credit from Great Black Bear.
At the end of the month, Great Black Bear set out another huge bowl in the meadow, next to the little bowl. The huge bowl was empty, save for a note that said:
“Now that the month is over, you must repay the loan of food that I gave you in this huge bowl. Just fill it up as it was when you got it – with juicy crickets, berries, two squirrels and a rabbit. Oh and also, you must make one last minimum interest payment in the little bowl by filling it with bugs and berries.”
Brother Fox knew he could not collect that much food, all those juicy crickets, scads of berries, two squirrels and a rabbit – all in one night. He decided to just go hide in his den instead of getting any food for the bear.
Sister Fox was scared. She was afraid of Great Black Bear and knew that he would come looking for Brother Fox to get his food. That night, Sister Fox told Mama and Papa Fox all that had happened.
In the morning, the entire Fox family went to the meadow. Mama and Papa Fox talked to Great Black Bear to ask for more time for Brother Fox to fill both bowls, the one he bought on credit and the one for the interest.
Great Black Bear would not listen. “Brother Fox agreed to buy the huge bowl of food on credit and bring me food to pay interest on his loan. He knew he had to pay back the huge bowl of food at the end of the month. I want my payments!”
Mama and Papa Bear knew that they shouldn’t bail Brother Fox out of his troubles, or he would never learn to avoid credit disasters, but what should they do to keep Great Black Bear from killing and eating Brother Bear?
They made a new deal with Great Black Bear. Brother Fox would continue to pay back Great Black Bear for the huge bowl of food, but he would have to pay more food back than he received to start with. Every day, for the next two months, Brother Fox would have to fill two little bowls with bugs and berries each day – to pay back Great Black Bear. One little bowl would be interest and the other would be towards paying back the huge bowl of food. Mama and Papa Fox promised to make sure that Brother Fox did indeed gather food for Great Black Bear each day.
Great Black Bear accepted these terms with a smile. By the end of two months, Great Black Bear would have the equivalent of 5 huge bowls of food PLUS each day he would get a little bowl of bugs and berries. This was a terrific deal for Great Black Bear. Brother Fox was practically a slave to Great Black Bear – all for one bowl of food.
Mama, Papa, Brother and Sister Fox went back to the den where Brother Fox was punished for putting the family at risk and Sister Fox was praised for putting aside so much extra food.
Brother Fox slowly and painfully paid back Great Black Bear and never, ever became a slave to debt again!
Morale: Don’t be a slave to debt.