No one knows who made the first snide remark, whether it was the roots or the trunk or the branches or the leaves. Common consensus blames it on the soil, although the soil vehemently denies this assertion.
The soil, it is said, grew weary of its lowly station, beneath all other things. In its insecurity, it began to assert its superiority. The soil, it is true, is intimate with the internal rhythms of the earth. Most soils in the world find delight in this intimacy. But the soil beneath the tree began to wonder what it was missing out on by being mere soil.
"Tsk," it whispered to itself one autumn. "I don't know why I waste my time beneath this tree listening to the noisy rustle of falling leaves, things of little consequence, when I could be beneath a great city, hearing the deeds of great men."
Thus the soil came to the conclusion that it was superior to the tree, and it began to pass its time thinking about how it could arrange a move to the city.
Roots, you may know, are sensitive, gentle beings, and when they overheard the musings of the soil, they were much affronted.
"What's the soil getting so high and mighty about?" the roots said to one another. "It may know the rhythm of the earth better than we can, but it certainly cannot sense the mood of things like we do. And it puts the nutrients it creates into such awkward places for us to reach, so we are forced to keep growing."
The roots became angry with the soil, and began to waste their days gossiping with one another about the soil’s rudeness.
The trunk, being connected with the roots, overheard their gossiping, and though it was slow of mind, it gradually understood that they were dissatisfied.
"Why are the roots complaining?" the trunk said. "They live in a warm bed of soil, and they are only there because they are weak and could not stand firm in the mighty winter winds as I do. They have no toughness or strength."
The branches overheard the words of the trunk and, understandably, they became annoyed.
"Why does the trunk think itself better because it is strong?” they asked one another. “We may not be strong but we have learned to taste the winds and to dance to their wishes. No one dances quite like us."
The leaves begged to differ. Not only did they believe themselves to be better dancers than the branches, but they were also the ones who had made friends with the light.
"Who do the branches think they are?" the leaves asked one another. "If we had not made friends with the light, we wouldn't be able to share with them the life light gives to us."
Eventually, after a year of bickering between the soil and the roots and the trunk and the branches and the leaves, autumn came again, and the leaves fell, as they did every year. And the soil complained again about the noisy inconsequential rustle the leaves made.
Winter passed and spring came, but no leaves grew on the tree.
Later that year, it died, and when the mighty winter winds arrived it fell to the ground of the forest with an empty thud.