The Seabright Tales (The Saebeorht Tales) are a collection of short stories by a man called Thomas (sometimes, alternatively referred to as Thamus). The tales are well-known by all those that inhabit the Realms of Arcadium and have been shared with Adventurers for many years.
Among the most well-known is The Four Shepherds’ Tale. A version of this story is below for your reading pleasure,
The Four Shepherds’ Tale
Long ago, four Shepherds and their neighbour, an Old Farmer, lived harmoniously on their respective lands. The Shepherds were four siblings, three brothers and a sister; Merrick, Mara, Frewyn and Fain. Each of them had eyes, dark as the boundless night sky under which they slept, and hair that was golden-brown, spun with the light of the sun under which they lived. They each loved one another as much as they loved their blessed lives.
After many years of living alongside one another in peace, one day, the Four Shepherds grew greedy and crossed the boundary to the Old Farmer’s land. When the Old Farmer discovered them, instead of anger, he looked upon the four younger Shepherds with kindness. And, perhaps because of loneliness or perhaps because of wisdom, the Old Farmer invited them to lunch.
Together, the group found an open field and sat upon a ring of stones. Here, the Old Farmer went to each of the Shepherds, one by one, observing them for a moment before giving to them each a unique selection of the food he had collected for his own meal. As he gave the final Shepherd his gift, the Old Farmer gently told all of the Shepherds that he was happy to share and only asked that they stay and share this meal together. However, the food was of a kind that the four Shepherds had never seen before and they handled the farmers gifts with great pleasure, scarcely listening to the Old Farmer’s words.
When the Old Farmer turned to take his seat the Four Shepherds, who were young and foolish, ran away to savour their special gifts. The Old Farmer did not attempt to chase them but was filled with a sadness that broke his heart.
The Shepherds ran and ran until they cross the boundary returning to their fields. Each of them delighted with the food that they been given by the Old Farmer and admired the food of their siblings. However, in time the Shepherds became filled with guilt. The delight which they had found in their stolen foods was short-lived and with the knowledge that they had hurt their neighbour, they found that they could no longer find comfort in their own fields. They decided that they would go and apologise to the Old Farmer. The Shepherds’ first apologies were met with stony silence for the Old Farmer would not see them. The Shepherds then returned to their fields and determined that the only way to make it right would be for each of them to collect gifts for the Farmer; replacements for the food that they had stolen. However, the food that had filled them with such delight was rare and unusual and it would be no easy task. Yet, the Shepherds would endeavour to do all they could seek the forgiveness from the Old Farmer for they believed it would be the only way to return to the harmony that they had known in the past. It became their greatest fear that the Old Farmer would pass before they could be forgiven.
As connosieurs of seeking the truth behind the unbelievable tales of legendary artefacts and mysterious objects, we know that stories are often grounded more truth than it may first appear. Why this particular tale of The Four Shepherds became so popular is not well understood but we have theorised that it has served as a sort of fable for the Locals. The Four Shepherds were not punished for their curiosity about what lay in their neighbour’s fields, nor even when they wronged the Old Farmer. In the end, it was their own guilt from having acted wrongly that ruined their comfort. Perhaps there can be no greater punishment than the punishment we earn and inflict upon ourselves. Even so, perhaps what we can also take from this tale is that we may act poorly from time to time, but we can always endeavour to right our wrongs.
Do you have any other interpretations of this popular tale?
Pictured below: A painting by Nicolas Poussin completed between 1638 – 1639 that may depict the Four Shepherds of this tale.