The Good Prince

Once upon a time in a land far away there lived  a good King and his lovely Queen. Their first born was a boy, and they named him Prince William.  He  was a good boy and the King and Queen were very proud of him.

His mother, the Queen, wanted him to have the proper appearance for a Prince, so he stood still for the tailor, agreed with his mother about her fabric choices, and wore the clothes she liked.  His mother also wanted him to have proper court  manners, and he dutifully learned how to speak correctly and how to act, and he did both  everywhere he went.

His father wanted him to  be a good horseman, so he took his riding lessons very seriously and became an accomplished equestrian. As he got older his father sought his company on hunts and wanted him to learn the bow and arrow so he could kill wild hogs and other beasts. He got good at that too.

Prince William glowed with pleasure when his parents praised  him. It didn’t  even occur to him that they didn’t ask him what he was interested in.  It was never a problem though, because he didn’t know himself.

Eventually his parents aged, and as his father began to lose his physical strength, it became important to him that his eldest son learn how to be a just and moral monarch.  His father prided himself about his integrity with his underlings, and with the people of his lands. Will paid close attention and soon was the very model of his father’s behavior as king.  The King was very, very pleased.

His father and mother brought several princess to the castle so that Prince Will could choose his bride. The Princesses came from neighboring lands  where a marriage bond between the two countries would be of mutual political benefit.  Will could see the good sense in that.  He had learned to keep an eye on his father’s face and could by now read  approval or disapproval from the most minor facial gestures. It was easy enough to pick the princess his father wanted.

Prince William and his wife had remarkably beautiful children and when his father died Will became a true and moral King.  Occasionally a decision was needed of him about a ruling which William couldn’t remember ever coming up with his Dad, and he had to ask his ministers what to do.  You can be sure, however, he  handled being unsure of himself  with a regal bearing.

But something  funny was starting to happen  in this otherwise paradise.  Unbeknown even to his Queen, King William was having troublesome thoughts. While consulting  with his  finance minister, he found his mind wandering off to creating rhyming lines and even sonnets.  He seemed uncharacteristically removed from his work in all areas, and he kept seeing paintings in his mind of vivid, unfashionable, colors.  Finally this daydreaming began to even interrupt his family life, and he went to see the kingdom’s Wizard.

The Wizard was very old, but King William remembered thinking to himself that the Wizard had always looked old, and never looked any older as time went on.   The Wizard insisted on living in the Forest in a  cave, and the King went to visit him there.  They sat on old and weather-beaten chairs at the head of the cave – in partial sunlight.  The King soon told this Wizard exactly what was happening in his mind.  “Am I going insane?  Is this early unset dementia?”

The Wizard listened gravely to his King and finally said, ” I think it’s time you meet someone you left here as a young boy.” Bewildered, the King followed the old man into the darkness of the back of the cave.  There he found a heavy door with locks bolted deeply into the ground.  “What is this my good man?” King William sputtered to the Wizard. “‘You’ll find a stair case just below the door, and here, you’ll need this Sire,” and he handed a candle to the King.   “Don’t be alarmed by the inhabitant’s problem with the light, he has lived below in darkness all his life.”

Good King William was alarmed, and frowned sternly at the Wizard. “Now, here, here, The King has no business in a dirty dungeon!” The Wizard was quiet, so William continued acting royally indignant : “Well, you must accompany me and lead the way.”   The Wizard stood with a bowed head.  “My Sovereign King, please I must implore you. This trip is one you must take alone. You will see the wisdom of that soon enough.”

King William grimaced and walked cautiously down the earthen stairs and then on to a dirt floor. Holding up the candle he saw rough shelves erected along  the walls, and huge paintings propped up, crowding one another. On further examination he saw that these were exactly the paintings he had seen in his mind.  Oh the colors! But these were finished masterpieces! And so interestingly crafted, to show every part of life, in these wild, beautiful expanses of colors  – he had never seen anything like them.  He walked further and found small tables piled with papers and lettered in a most beautiful, exacting hand.  He saw that these were poems!  He recognized some of the lines he had heard in his mind lately. Going round a bend he heard a man’s voice from the farther reaches, bizarrely familiar: “Who goes there?”

” I am the King,”  and taking careful, steps, holding high the candle, around another bend of wall, he gasped at the sight of another man, who, but for the ragged beard and dirty hair, was a mirror image of himself!  This creature was covering his eyes, “Must you carry that- that – what is it?”

Immediately the King blew out the light , and the other man lowered himself slowly down onto a crude bench. The King followed suit, and there began the strangest conversation William had ever had.

Time held no sway as King William  talked with this other self, for surely this had to be a lost version of himself:  Someone  who gave himself utterly to poetry and paintings, abhorred the idea of killing forest animals, and said he had seen horses once, and he didn’t like them at all. King William almost fell off his bench realizing that these were his sentiments exactly.  On and on they talked, Will delighting in how this man knew  his own inner feelings, had  many independent opinions and querried “How did you ever keep so silent about  what you wanted, and about  your own  feelings and beliefs.   King William thought awhile: ” Nobody ever asked what I was thinking,  my ideas were no good. I wasn’t really important to anyone.”

It  was a whole week before King William emerged from the cave  beneath his every day world. He had learned so much about himself, including that he didn’t much like his wife, or horses.  He invited his long lost, treasured self to live in a splendid rooms in the castle, and they spent hours talking together every day. He found he had many modern ideas about governance that were widely acclaimed He no longer hunted,  and he stopped making his sons hunt  either.  He listen to his children  every day, and encouraged them to think for themselves and to follow their dreams.

2 thoughts on “The Good Prince

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.