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Early Lessons in Moral Reasoning


Finders Keepers



“But I found them!” The little girl clutched her new treasures and gave her brother a defiant stare.

“That doesn’t matter,” declared the boy with all the authority he commanded by virtue of being two years older. “You can’t keep them. You heard what the heralds said. People can’t just keep what they find. It’s not right, the king says. And the king is always right.”

“Is not!”

“Is so.”

“Is not!”

“Is so. Don’t be silly, Míreth. The king beat the Dark Lord and defended Gondor. So when he says you can’t keep what you find, you must obey. Or do you want orcs to come back and attack us?”

Míreth, not entirely convinced by this line of reasoning, pulled a face and stomped her foot.

“What would the king want with them anyway?” she asked.

“Míreth!” The boy’s voice indicated that he was summoning more patience than his sister deserved. “The king doesn’t want them. The king says you have to hand them in so that the rightful owner can come and claim them.”

“And who is the rightful owner?”

“I don’t know. We don’t need to know. We just go and hand them in and that’s our duty done.”

“I don’t want to,” said Míreth.

“Now, listen, if you’re found out, you’ll be in trouble.”

This thread failed to make an impression, so the boy tried a different strategy.

“Imagine you lost your dolly,” he said. “And some other girl would find her and keep her and you would never ever get her back. That would make you sad, wouldn’t it?”

“Yeeees…”

“And wouldn’t you be really, really glad if instead she handed her in and you could get her back?”

“Yeeees…”

“So,” he finished triumphantly, “you know what Mama says. We must always behave in the same way we want other people to behave.”

There was a tell-tale shimmer in Míreth’s eyes, but she knew she was as thoroughly beaten as the Dark Lord had been beaten by King Elessar and his friends. A little while later, and to the astonishment of the elderly clerk on duty, she dropped four shiny conkers on the desk of Minas Tirith’s newly opened Lost Property Office.

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