Latvian central bank offers old man's mitten

Take note – story published 7 years and 2 months ago

Showing that it does more than offer tax advice to the Finance Ministry, Latvijas Banka (LB), the country's central bank, announced March 27 it is bringing out yet another commemorative coin, this one being concerned with the fate of an old man's mitten.

As ever, we leave it to the central bank itself to describe its latest product in its own inimitable style:

"The coin celebrates [a] fairy tale about an old man's mitten, with its message being communicated through a seemingly funny and innocent yet somewhat sadly-ending story. The lesson of wise living is presented in a metaphorical form: in the name of universal happiness, every human being must learn to include all living things in the circle of their respect, compassion and empathy, to lend a helping hand to the miserable, to support and to assist."

While some might take this as an invitation to raise the minimum wage and social support for the unemployed, that is probably not what the central bank intends, bearing in mind its recent tax proposals.

The Old Man's Mitten has been struck by UAB Lietuvos monetų kalykla in Lithuania.

"The obverse shows a patterned colourful mitten, with the lower parts of a bear and a wolf protruding from it; featured on the obverse are also a fly, a rabbit and a mouse. The reverse of the coin bears the images of fairy tale heroes bear, wolf, mouse and rabbit joining in a jolly dance and a fly fluttering in between them," says the central bank.

Previous fairy tale coins showed cats and hedgehogs, so collectors who have all three will by now be in possession of a considerable menagerie.

The coin's maximum mintage is limited to 10,000 and it costs €47.00.

And we can't possibly leave you hanging without telling you the story of the Old Man's Mitten. So settle back, close your eyes and let the spellbinding storytellers of the Latvian Central Bank whisk you away to the land of magic and fairies...

The Tale Of The Old Man's Mitten

 "Once upon a time, there lived an old man. On a cold winter day, he went to the forest to cut firewood. He wanted to light his pipe and was looking for it, tobacco and lighter in his pocket. While doing so, he lost one of his mittens. Lost is not lost, for someone else finds it. The mitten becomes a cosy shelter on a cold winter day for a queen of flies, a squeaking little mouse, a white-tailed rabbit, a short-eared wolf and even a lumbering bear. Nobody is refused shelter, and all the animals wish to join dancing.

This strong unity of theirs is suddenly under a threat. In this tale, the rooster's morning song frightens the animals, causes disaster and ruins their unity. All the friends get so frightened that they jump out of the mitten and run to escape so vigorously that the mitten bursts. There is no news afterwards about the fly living in the king's castle, the mouse feeding in the potato cellar, the rabbit hiding in the oats, the wolf resting in the bushes, and the bear lumbering in the forest. But one thing is certain: up to this day, the old man is walking with only one mitten on.

Puzzled? We are too. Luckily, the central bank is on hand to explain this frankly psychedelic state of affairs:

This fairy tale, like all others, has its own edification delivered in a seemingly funny and humorous yet sad manner. The lesson of worldly wisdom is first meant for children, the main audience of fairy tales. The story of wise living reaches them in a metaphorical form. Every human being must learn to include all living things in the circle of their respect, compassion and empathy, to lend a helping hand to the miserable, to support and to assist. These are the true values that have underpinned the human relationship and helped people survive wars, crises and other calamities brought down on them.

The old man's mitten figures here as a symbol of wisdom and sagacity, an expression of good sense and involvement. These qualities conjure up a cosy and welcoming atmosphere, rescue in an evil hour those who are wise enough to unite. That is why, though squeezed and cramped in the mitten, the bear, the wolf, the rabbit, the mouse and the fly can dance in perfect unison. They are brought together, by fate, to become a part of the mighty tree of great reality that is called life.

Nor is that all, for as the central bank adds, the fairy tale can also be "extended to the world of grown ups":

It being so versatile and complex, do we not engage in role playing sometimes representing, though only symbolically, a bear, a wolf, a rabbit, a mouse or a fly? And how destructive the lack of unanimity turns out when the rooster raises panic and commotion by its crowing in the morning! When people are not united in their actions and activities, when their sense of unity gets lost somewhere, and when their daily routine makes them forget about compassion, solicitude and kindness, the old man's unmendable mitten is all that is left behind.

Sad as the story is, Latvijas Banka presents its instructive message by optimistic, funny and even humorous images on the collector coin. The joy of reality and being is dominant. Put aside sadness, let's dance! The Latvian nation has often been dancing down the road to light and enlightenment. Let the old man's mitten struck in silver give warmth to souls and minds of both children and adults! Let this coin of wisdom bring joy to everybody who will hold it!


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