While I was watching I couldn't help remembering a section near the end of 'Last Chance to see'
Sifting through the embers
by Douglas Adams
There’s a story I heard when I was young that bothered me because I couldn’t understand it. It was many years before I discovered it to be the story of the Sybilline books. By that time all the details of the story had rewritten themselves in my mind, but the essentials were still the same. After a year of exploring some of the endangered environments of the world, I think I finally understand it.
It concerns an ancient city – it doesn’t matter where it was or what it was called. It was a thriving, prosperous city set in the middle of a large plain. One summer, while people of the city were busy thriving and prospering away, a strange old beggar woman arrived at the gates carrying twelve large books, which she offered to sell to them. She said that the books contained all the knowledge and all the wisdom of the world, and that she would let the city have all twelve of them in return for a single sack of gold.
The people of the city thought this was a very funny idea. They said she obviously had no conception of the value of gold and that probably the best thing was for her to go away again.
This she agreed to do, but first she said that she was going to destroy half of the books in front of them. She built a small bonfire, burnt six of the books of all knowledge and all wisdom in the sight of the people of the city, and then went on her way.
Winter came and went, a hard winter, but the city just managed to flourish through it and then, the following summer, the old woman was back. cont...