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ONCE UPON A TIME there were four brothers: Chatter, Toil, Battle, and Wisdom. Chatter was tall and skinny with long, tousled hair. Constant movement of his body and wild gestures caused his long curls to fling about his neck when he spoke. He was so loud that no one else could be heard. Narrowing his eyes, he talked quickly and nonstop, spraying his listeners with spittle. 

Short in height but robust and hardy, Toil was always busily moving things around. He was so strong that he could pull a tall tree from the ground, complete with all its roots, using just one hand. When there was nothing more to do, Toil emptied out his already tidy and organized toolshed and organized it over and over again. 

Tallest and strongest of all the brothers, Battle fought against everything, good or bad. From a distance you could notice him on horseback, riding rapidly from field to field, swinging his sword in the air. 

Wisdom was small and thin, quiet and still. No one paid any attention to him. Slowly, the others forgot he even existed.  

One day the three brothers Chatter, Battle, and Toil gathered together and shared an idea to go change the world in the way they knew the best. The three brothers walked through wide lands, beyond green forests and beautiful meadows.  

They climbed over sandy hills and tall mountains, passed through distant towns, tiny villages, and nomadic tribes. They swam through mighty oceans, deep seas, and long rivers until they reached the edges of the Earth.  

On their journey the brothers met people of all kinds, and wherever they went, they taught the people what they knew the best. Chatter taught them how to talk without listening. Toil demonstrated how they could move things around faster. Battle trained them how to fight against anyone and everything.  

Consequently, the world became louder, busier, and angrier every day. Before winter, people already were making summer plans. There was a fight against anything and everyone. Conversations became nothing but quarrels. And soon nobody knew what was actually right and what was wrong.  

The days grew long and tiresome. Very soon the people of the world forgot friendship and how to be compassionate with one another. Joy and creativity slowly faded away from people’s lives. The brothers became confused by the turmoil they created. It was clear they had made the world worse, not better. “But why,” they wondered, and “What was our mistake?” 

Very soon the people of the world tired of fighting all the time. Noise made them sad and exhausted. They became overwhelmed by so much action. Finally, they had to stop.  

Silence slowly filled the air. Suddenly, they heard a whisper. Wisdom was talking to them; his voice was soft and comforting, his words soothing. He said, “Change happens from the inside.” 

“From the inside?” someone asked. “But how can we notice the change?” 

“Close your eyes and look inward,” Wisdom answered. 

And they did. Multitudes of people all around the world settled down, closed their eyes, looked inward, and listened. 

“Yes, I see,” said the Elder, breaking the silence. “A lot has changed since the beginning.”  

“I don’t see! Tell me!” the Child pleaded.  

And the Elder began telling a story: Once upon a time . . .  


Sadagat Aliyeva was born and raised in Turkan, a suburb of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, during the Soviet Era of Stagnation. Her burning desire for freedom brought her to the United States, where she settled in Des Moines, Iowa.