The Cobbler and the Lord

Rachel jenkins, 15

Let me tell you a lovely little anecdote; it may or may not be true, but that is up for you to decide. Once upon a time, there was a humble cobbler. A cobbler, if you didn’t know, is someone who makes shoes. Well, this particular cobbler was quite adept at his art, and was well known all throughout the land. He made all sorts of shoes: work shoes, dance shoes, little girl shoes, little boy shoes, every sort of shoe you could ever wish for. There were shoes for practicality, shoes that pleased the aesthetics, and everything in between.

But, more importantly, he was a very amicable man. Everyone liked this particular cobbler, because not only was he a hard worker and sold his wares for a fair price, but he was also very affable. He loved to engage in small talk with his customers, and made everyone feel at ease. He helped alleviate the worries of people who were worried about their shoes, and with an alacrity which shocked newcomers, could find a solution for troublesome soles, pinching toes, and every other sort of shoe-related malady, ameliorating every sort of painful situation.

Unfortunately, you see, not everyone was so fond of the cobbler. There lived a man, a high-born lord, who lived in the next kingdom, who was quite doubtful of the cobbler’s talents. “Surely,” he said, “there must be a mistake. For who can make shoes like this humble man, in such a marvelous way that they do not hurt the feet, do not chafe the bunions, or pinch the toes? Nay,” he cried, “this is an outrage! For such a man is an anachronism in itself!”

Very doubtful, the lord gathered a group of his most trusted soldiers. He told them to go find the most worn out, uncomfortable, painful pairs of shoes in his kingdom, and bring them to him. Then, he allocated a pair of shoes to each soldier. He told them to travel one by one to the kingdom where the cobbler lived, and see if he could fix the shoes. After they left, he laughed to himself. “Surely,” he said smugly, “no cobbler in the entire world, not even this magical cobbler, could fix these shoes.”

But, the soldiers came back one by one, each bearing their pair of shoes. And each pair was fixed; no longer did the nails in the soles poke the bottoms of their toes, no longer did the tips squeeze the feet until they turned purple. The cobbler had fixed them all. “What is this!” cried the lord. “What an outrage? I fear that you weren’t an example, but merely an antecedent!” he shouted so at his soldiers. “For now, I shall have to travel to find this cobbler, and see what magic it is he spins.”

So, the lord set off, riding on a lovely steed. This time, he bore with him not one pair, but seventeen pairs of shoes. These shoes were the absolute worst shoes in the entire world. These shoes deserved not just one verb to describe them, but were ambiguous to many! They were torturous, painful, agonizing, terrible, horrifying, lethal. Anything you could imagine, and more!

The lord arrived at the kingdom of the cobbler, and immediately set off to find his shop. Upon locating the humble shack, he leapt from his horse, and untied the crate of shoes from the back of his saddle. “Good man,” he cried. “Where are you?” The cobbler came out from the shack, and smiled. “Yes, sir?” The lord held out the crate. “I have many pairs of shoes which need to be fixed. I have heard that your services were the best in this kingdom and even its neighbors. I have come to test your skills.”

The cobbler, who was very amenable to any sort of suggestion or challenge, smiled. “Well, you’ve come to the right place. Step inside.” The lord followed the cobbler into his shop, and sat down on a stool. He shifted awkwardly, for though the shop was quite neat and tidy, the furnishings were not very comfortable, nor what the lord was used to. The cobbler brought out his tools, and his leather, and his accessories, and then reached out for the crate of shoes. “May I see them?”

The lord handed the cobbler the crate of shoes, and watched as the cobbler reached inside. The first pair of shoes was one which pinched the toes horribly. The toes came into a point, for goodness sake! The cobbler shook his head. “My, my. Whoever invented such a design was a silly, silly man. These may be fashionable someday, but who would wear them? Such a painful style.”

The lord watched as the cobbler took apart the shoe and began to fix it. When he had finished, the cobbler had stretched out the shoe to better accommodate a normal set of toes. “There,” he said with a proud smile. “We still have the stylish pointed toe, but now it is more comfortable.”

The lord was shocked, and ambivalent still. Part of him wanted to believe in the cobbler’s strange ability, but the other part of him was still skeptical. So, he leaned back in his chair, well, as far back as one could on a rickety stool with no back, and gave the cobbler an imperious look. “Well, my good man. Your skills are fine indeed. But I need further proof that you are in fact the best cobbler in all the land.” The cobbler did not look surprised, but nodded instead.

And so, for the rest of that afternoon, the cobbler fixed the shoes. By the time the sun was beginning to disappear below the horizon, and the lanterns in the streets were lit, the cobbler had finished all seventeen pairs of shoes. The lord, who had fallen asleep, was startled awake by the sound of a thump. He leapt to his feet, and saw that the thump was of the crate of shoes landing on the floor by his stool. The cobbler stood by the crate, hands clasped in front of him. He smiled broadly, and gestured to the lord. “Please, inspect your goods before we discuss any payment.”

The lord opened the crate, and was shocked. All the shoes were fixed, and they were gorgeous! The pinchers no longer pinched! The pokers no longer poked! The lord gaped at the shoes, and then looked back up at the cobbler. To his surprise, the cobbler did not look boastful or prideful, but merely satisfied with a day’s work.

The lord fumbled at his belt, and pulled out a pouch full of coins. He handed it to the cobbler, who opened the pouch. The cobbler gasped. “My lord, this is gold! I work only for silver or copper!” The lord shook his head. “Nonsense! Stay here where I can find you, my good fellow. For on the morrow, I will bring you many chests of gold, and the deed to a fine property!” The cobbler’s mouth worked silently as the lord saddled his horse, and loaded the crate on the back. “But… my lord. Why all the riches? I merely fixed several pairs of shoes.”

The lord turned in his saddle, and shook his head. “My good fellow, you did not merely fix my shoes. You made me believe.”