Thursday, May 6, 2010

The 1188 Battle of the Cutting of the Elm

Supposedly the following is a true story. I turned this into a bedtime story for my sons when they were young.

In the Middle Ages, it became customary for the Kings of England and France to try to avert war by meeting and negotiating under an 800 year old elm tree in the middle of a large field near Gisor, France. The elm was enormous, and provided the only shade in the vicinity.

In the year 1188, the English under Henry II and the French under Philippe II made arrangements to negotiate under the tree. It was a terribly hot day. The small English army arrived first and gathered under the tree in the shade, following a kind of "first come, first served" rule. The French army arrived shortly afterwards, and waited in the sun, while the leaders negotiated.

The hours dragged on. As the sun rose higher and higer in the sky, the the French army sweltered, while the English enjoyed the cool breeze under the elm. The French soldiers grew impatient and demanded their turn out of the sun, in the cool shade under the boughs of the tree. The English army refused to budge.The negotiations were going nowhere fast.

Finally, a cocky Welshman in the English army responded to the anger of the sizzling French in a singularly unwise fashion. He loaded an arrow onto his bow, fired it over the heads of his English friends, and, THUNK, it pierced the chest of a French soldier.

That was too much, of course. The two armies exploded. The French began to yell, "Cut down the tree! Cut down the tree!," and they began to hack their way through the English army with swords and axes, to gain access to the tree trunk.

The English soldiers began to strip off their armor and wrapped it around the tree's trunk, to protect it.

The angry, disgusted French soldiers succeeded in getting to the trunk, and they began to chop away, while the English fought to save the tree. Suddenly, the trunk groaned loudly, and the tree fell.

The two armies, exhausted, and thoroughly disgusted, packed-up and went home.

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