Note from the Editor: the following essay won our 2016 Voices in Bioethics Essay Contest in the Global Challenges in Bioethics category. Ms. Cheung’s essay appears in the form of its original submission, and has not undergone additional editing.
by Allison Cheung
There is an old Romanian folk tale about a young boy and a magical ox named Tellerchen. The boy, abandoned by his cruel stepmother, is starving when he is found by a kind, rich man. The young boy works on the man’s farm for seven years, and when he is finally old enough to leave, the rich man gifts the boy with Tellerchen, the magical ox, as a thank you for the years of hard work. Tellerchen has the ability to produce just enough bread and wine from his horns to feed the boy. The boy returns home, hoping to regain the favor of his stepmother, but she is jealous of the boy’s good fortune and demands that the boy slaughter the ox. The boy is distraught, and that night, tries to set Tellerchen free. However, Tellerchen tells the boy to trust that it is okay have him slaughtered. The ox tells him to save only his horn after he is killed and to open the horn once he is far away. The boy reluctantly slaughters Tellerchen the next day, saving only the horn before his stepmother banishes him from his home. The boy is starving without Tellerchen and desperately wishes that he had not slaughtered his magical ox. However, the boy remembers to open Tellerchen’s horn, and a herd of magical oxen appears, with powers even greater than Tellerchen’s. The boy is saved from starvation, and he lives the rest of his days wealthy and prosperous. The moral of the story? A seemingly unthinkable action, which may appear to lead to negative consequences, can, with trust and faith, instead favor those brave enough to take the leap.