An Irish folk tale's lesson for Joe Flacco

Letter writer Ruth Fleishman's fear that quarterback Joe Flacco may not renew his contract with the Ravens reminded me of an old Irish folk tale ("Flacco holding out? Say it ain't so, Joe," Feb. 16).

In a small town in the west of Ireland along the Hills of Connemarra, there lived a precocious boy named Seasamh (pronounced "SHO-sav"). Seasamh was quiet, but inside him burned a desire to make his talents known to his fellow townspeople.

Each year, all of the towns in the west of Ireland would send a representative to compete in a brutal contest of physical ability. One year the town could not decide whom to send. An older villager named Osborne the Elder — who was revered by the villagers for his wisdom and knowledge — spoke up and said that he had seen great potential in young Seasamh.

But Seasamh was only 6 years old, and the townspeople questioned whether he could compete against battle-hardened warriors. Yet they also loved Seasamh and had learned to trust Osborne's judgment. So Seasamh was sent many miles away to compete for the town's honor.

Despite what seemed like overwhelming odds, Seasamh prevailed, and the town was elated. Upon his return, Seasamh was treated to a hero's welcome, and Seasamh's name became known throughout the whole of Ireland. The town was overcome with pride and hope.

Yet Seasamh was not satisfied. He set out to show the town that in addition to his strength and physical ability, he also possessed great wisdom, just like Osborne the Elder. He intended to prove his intelligence by outsmarting Osborne.

So Seasamh walked deep into the woods, where he found a raven's nest and inside it a newborn raven, which he picked up and carried back toward town.

With the raven cupped in his hands, he planned to tell Osborne that he held in his hands a young bird, and to ask: "Do you know, old man, whether the bird is alive or dead?"

If Osborne answered that the bird was dead, Seasamh would open his hands to reveal that it was in fact alive. If Osborne answered the bird was alive, he would crush the baby bird to prove Osborne wrong.

On his return from the woods, Seasamh approached Osborne in the town square. As the townspeople looked on, Seasamh told Osborne that he held in his powerful hands a baby raven and, as planned, asked whether the wise elder could say if it was alive or dead.

Osborne looked around the square at the worried townspeople, then said to Seasamh: "The young raven is neither dead nor alive; rather, its life is in your hands, Seasamh."

The townspeople looked on, transfixed, hoping with all of their hearts the young hero would make the right decision.

Conor O'Croinin, Sykesville

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