A traveller and a citizen argue with one another in a crowded marketplace. Painted by Juan Artola Miranda.

The Citizen & the Traveller (Robert Louis Stevenson)

The Citizen and the Traveller is an old parable, perhaps first told by Robert Louis Stevenson (the author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). This is my own retelling, written in my own words.

Slashes made by an enraged barbarian fabulist.

A long time ago, far away from here, a weary traveller arrived at the gates of a bustling city. Drawn by the scents of various spices and two strong horses, he soon found himself in the heart of the city’s market.

As he wandered the market, he encountered a vendor selling exquisite silk garments. The silk trader, noticing the traveller’s foreign attire, greeted him warmly and boasted, “Welcome, stranger! Behold, you are now in the largest market in the world!”

The traveller, having journeyed to many lands, smiled gently and replied, “This market is indeed impressive, but I have been to Chang’an in China, and their market is much larger than this one.”

The vendor’s pride was slightly wounded, but he persisted, “Well, perhaps our market is not the largest, but it is surely the finest in quality and craftsmanship.”

The traveller shook his head and shared his experience of the Grand Bazaar in Constantinople, where the most skillful artisans gathered and displayed their masterpieces.

Growing increasingly irritated, the vendor proclaimed, “Well, we may not have the biggest or the finest market, but we have the warmest and most welcoming people in our city!”

Before the vendor could finish, the traveller interjected, “I am afraid you are mistaken again. The people in the city of—”

His words were cut short as a nearby fruit seller, now consumed with anger, struck the traveller down. Several nearby merchants had heard the whole thing. They rushed over to help. Together, they buried the traveller outside the city walls, where he belonged.

Juan Artola Miranda

I am Juan Artola Miranda, a fabulist living in the Mexican Caribbean. My friends know me by the name of my father's father, but that name grew into something bigger, my writing reaching tens of millions of readers. It was too strong for me to control. Artola Miranda is the name of my mother's mother. It's a better name for a fabulist.

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