Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Short Tale - For those who understand

There was a tale about a king of old. He had a dream and was perplexed by it. He gathered all the wise men of his kingdom and told them about the dream, and asked them what the omen was.

When the wise men heard him described the dream they were terrified. None was willing to come forward and offer their counsel. The king was angry. When he could not ask them to present him with their interpretion voluntarily, he commanded the guards to seize the eldest of them and bring the frightened sage before him. Then he commanded that the interpretation be made known to him.

Now the sage had no choice. He was shivering in fear, but he managed to utter a few words. He said, "My Lord! Forgive me, but the dream gives the omen that your daughter the Princess shall die first before you..."

The whole court was stunned. The Princess cried aloud and went to embrace her father the King. The King was even full of wrath. "What...!" he said, "how dare you! Guards, seize him and throw him to the lions..." The royal court was silence in fear, quite surprised at the whole episode.

Everybody could not say a word. The king was in no mood to prolong his presence there. He swiftly moved away, retreating into the palace, followed by the crying Princess. The Princess was his only heir, and a loved one too, especially since the queen died. She was all he had to pour his love...

The king spent several sleepless nights thinking about what the sage said. No, it couldn't be true, he said to himself. It was self-denial. He knew it, but he dared not ask another person again about the dream.

As times passed, however, he heard that there was a learned man living at the edge of his kingdom. This man, it was said, was very wise, and not only that, he was even a likable person. Even the animals seemed to like him, the king was told. So one day he overcame his grief and decided that it might be better if this particular wise man be consulted.

On the appointed day, the king's men went to invite the said sage to come to the palace. They presented him with the royal carriage, but he said he'd prefer to ride on his pony. So he went slowly while greeting the peasants on the way with the cheeriness and humbleness he's well known for. The royal entourage following him were however worried, for he took his time. They could still recall the fate of the previous sage.

At the palace people were already waiting. The king looked unsettled and restless on the throne. He frowned when he saw the learned old man coming in, but somehow, when the old man smiled at him, he felt at ease and assured. There's something special in this man, he thought. Well, he thought, let's see his wisdom. So he narrated the dream to the learned man, who listened attentively. At times he raised his brows, but never was he seen to be worried or frightened.

When the king finished telling about the dream, the court fell into complete silence. Everybody focussed at the sage. The old man looked for a while to the ground then raised his head. He looked at the king, directly but somehow not sharply, in a pleasant manner. Then he turned to the Princess who was sitting by her father. He stayed quiet for quite a while. It seemed like eternity...

Then he began to speak. "Praise be to the Lord, the Master of the Worlds. Your Highness, let it be known to all that indeed, if my understanding does not betray me, Your Highness' subjects will enjoy your rule, for You Highness will be the longest living member of the Royal family."

Suddenly the atmosphere of whole court changed from gloom to merry. The Princess kissed her father, smiling for the first time since the dream. "Lord Chamberlain, bestow the learned man honours and gifts as befitting his wisdom." And the Kingdom celebrated for the next seven days and nights.

The wise old man returned to his village riding his pony, still smiling all the way.

Ainullotfi al-Fikri al-Lamburi

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