The Good Prince
Before you read the story
- Must children always obey their parents?
- Do you always obey your parents?
- If parents ask their child to do a bad thing, must they obey?
- What do your parents do if you don't obey them?
This story is long. There are three parts to it. Answer the questions to each part before you read on.
A blind king once ruled the city of Harar. He was very unhappy because he could not see. He called many doctors from different countries but none of them could help him.
One day, a fortune teller came to Harar. The king called him to the palace.
"Tell me," he said, "will I always be blind? Or will my sight come back to me? Can anyone help me?"
"Yes," said the fortune teller. "One person can help you. You have a son, a good, wise prince. Send your son to the sea. There he must find the King of the Seas, the great whale. He must catch the whale and bring him to you. Then your sight will come back to you and you will see."
The king was very happy. He called for the prince and said, "Take two soldiers with you, my son, and go to the sea. Catch the whale, the King of the Seas, and bring him to me. Then my sight will come back to me."
The prince was brave and good. He took two soldiers with him and they went down to the sea. They hunted the whale for a long, long time, and at last they caught him.
Now the whale was very big, and from his head to his tail he was covered with gold. He lay in the prince's net and looked at him.
"Why did you catch me, Prince?" he said.
"I will take you to my father," said the prince. "He is blind. Only you can help him to see."
"I can't help your father," said the whale. "And if you take me out of the water, I will die."
"Is that true? Can't you help my father?" asked the prince.
"No," said the whale.
"And if I take you out of the water, you will die? Is that really true?" asked the prince.
"Yes," said the whale.
"Then I will let you go," said the prince.
"Thank you, oh thank you," said the whale. "You have saved my life, and now I want to help you. One day, you will need me. Come down to the edge of the sea and call to me. Then I will help you."
The prince and the soldiers left the sea, and went back to the king's palace.
"Well, my son?" said the king. "Did you find the whale?"
"Yes, Father," said the prince.
"And did you catch him?" asked the king.
"No, Father," said the prince. "The whale is the King of the Seas. He is too strong for me. I could not catch him."
The king was sad.
"Now I will always be blind," he said. "I will never be able to see."
But the prince's two soldiers were greedy.
"Let's go to the king and tell him the truth," they said. "Then perhaps he will give us some money."
So the two soldiers went to the king.
"Your Majesty," they said. "The prince, your son, did not tell you the truth. We did catch the whale, but the prince was sorry for him. He let him go."
"What?" said the king. He was very angry now. "My son caught the whale, but he did not bring him to me? He is not my son, and I am not his father! Find him, and kill him! My son is now my enemy."
The two soldiers were sorry now. They liked the prince. They did not want to kill him. They went to him and said, "The king is very angry and he wants to kill you. Come with us. We will take you far away from the palace, and there we will let you go. We will come back to the king and we will tell him that you are dead."
The prince was very sad when he heard this. He did not want to die. So he went with the soldiers far away from the palace. Then they said goodbye to him and let him go.
Now the poor prince had no home and no father.
"What can I do?" he thought. "I must travel through the world alone."
The prince began to walk along the road.
Suddenly, an antelope ran in front of him.
"Oh sir, please help me," said the antelope. "The hunters are chasing me! They are going to kill me!"
The prince was sorry for the antelope.
"Come here," he said, "and put your head down."
The antelope came close to the prince and put his head down. The prince took one of his horns and held it.
Soon the hunters ran up.
"That's our antelope!" they said. "Give it to us."
"No," said the prince. "This antelope is mine. I chased him and caught him myself. But there was another antelope, bigger and faster than this one. He ran that way, down the hill. Run fast and you will catch him."
So the hunters ran away down the hill.
The antelope was very happy.
"You saved my life," he said. "and one day, I will save yours. When you need me, call me, and I will come and help you."
"I will remember that," said the prince, and he went on down the road.
Suddenly, a little mouse ran across the path in front of him.
"Oh please, sir," said the mouse. "Some boys are chasing me. They want to catch me and kill me. Please save me!"
At once, the prince took off his cloak, and threw it over the mouse. Then he sat down beside it.
Soon, the boys arrived.
"What are you doing?" the prince asked them.
"We're hunting a mouse," answered the boys. "Have you seen it?"
"Yes," said the prince. "I saw a mouse. It ran into a hole in the ground. You will never find it now."
The boys went away, and the prince picked his cloak up off the ground. The little mouse thanked him again and again.
"You saved me!" she said. "You saved my life! I am very grateful. One day, you will need me. Call to me then, and I will help you."
The prince smiled.
"How can a little animal like a mouse help a man like me?" he thought, but he thanked the mouse, and walked on, down the road.
For many days the prince travelled on, over high mountains, through deep valleys, and across fast rivers. At last one evening, he was very tired, and very hungry.
"Where will I sleep tonight?" he thought.
He looked up, and saw, far away, a beautiful, big house. It was shining like gold in the last light of the evening sun.
Quickly, the prince ran towards the house.
"What kind of house is this?" he thought. "It is made of gold!"
He put out his hand and touched the wall. It was hard and cold. It was made of pure gold.
The door opened and the guard came out.
"Who are you?" said the guard. "What do you want?"
"I'm a poor man," said the prince. "I'm tired and hungry. I need a bed for the night, and something to eat. Who lives here, in this beautiful house? Will they let me come in?"
"Ah, my poor friend," said the guard. "You must be very careful. The owner of this house, my mistress, is a sorceress. She is very beautiful but she is cruel. Many men fall in love with her. They want to marry her. She gives them a test. She sends them away to hide, then she looks for them. 'If I cannot find you, I will marry you,' she says, 'but if I find you, you must die.'"
"And does she find the men?" asked the prince.
"Always," said the guard. "Many men have died. Look, here are their bones."
The prince looked inside the gate, and saw the bones of the dead men.
"Tell me more about your mistress," he said to the guard. "Is she really very beautiful?"
"Very, very beautiful," said the guard. "She is the most beautiful woman in the world."
"Then I will take the test," said the prince. "I will hide, and if she finds me, I will die. But if she does not, I will marry her and be happy."
The guard was sorry for him.
"Don't do it, sir," he said. "I told you. My mistress always wins."
But the prince did not listen to him.
"Take me to her," he said.
The sorceress sat in a golden room on a golden chair. She was the most beautiful woman in the world. At once, the prince fell in love with her.
"Marry me," he said.
The sorceress looked at him. He was handsome, and good, and wise. She liked him.
"I want to marry you," she said, "but first you must break my evil magic. Hide yourself. Come back after four days. If I cannot find you, I will marry you. But if I find you, you must die."
The prince agreed.
"You will not find me," he said.
The next morning, very early, the prince left the golden house and went down to the sea. He stood at the edge of the water and called to the King of the Seas. At once, the whale came.
"The sorceress wants to kill me," said the prince. "Hide me, or I will die."
The whale opened his great mouth, and the prince jumped into it. The whale swallowed him, and the prince went down into the whale's stomach.
For three days and nights, the sorceress hunted for the prince. She ran through the mountains. She searched the valleys. At last, on the fourth day, she picked up her magic telescope.
"I'll find him now," she thought. She looked and looked, and at last she saw him.
"There he is," she said. "He is hiding in the whale's stomach."
At the end of the day, the whale swam back to the edge of the sea. He opened his mouth, and the prince walked out of it, on to the land. Then he returned to the golden house.
"Here I am," he said to the sorceress. "You did not find me, and now you must marry me."
"But I did find you," said the sorceress. "I hunted for three days and three nights, in the mountains and the valleys. You were not there. Then I looked through my magic telescope, and I saw you, in the whale's stomach."
The prince was very sad.
"So I will die," he said.
"Not yet," said the sorceress. "You hid yourself well, and I will give you another chance. Go and hide again."
At once the prince ran back along the road.
"Antelope!" he called out. "Where are you? Come to me! I need you now."
The antelope heard him. He ran quickly to the prince.
"Please hide me," the prince said to him, "or the sorceress will kill me."
The antelope took the prince into the high mountains, and he hid him in a cave.
"She will never find me here," thought the prince.
For three days and nights, the sorceress hunted for the prince. She ran through the deserts. She searched the forests. At last, on the fourth day, she picked up her magic telescope.
"There he is," she said. "In the antelope's cave."
At the end of the day, the prince came out of the cave and returned to the golden house.
"Here I am," he said to the sorceress. "Where was I? Did you find me? If not, you must marry me."
"Yes, I did find you," said the sorceress. "I hunted for three days and three nights, in the deserts and the forests. You were not there. Then I looked through my magic telescope and I saw you, in the antelope's cave."
The prince was very sad.
"You must kill me now," he said.
The sorceress looked at the prince. He was very handsome.
"I will not kill you yet," she said. "Your hiding place was a good one. You nearly won. I will give you one more chance. Go and hide again."
The prince hurried away from the golden house.
"Mouse!" he called out. "Where are you? Come and help me!"
The mouse heard him. She ran quickly to the prince.
"You must hide me," said the prince, "or the sorceress will kill me."
So the mouse took the prince to a great hole in the ground. The prince followed her for a long way, down into the earth. At last, they came to the palace of the King of the Jinns.
"Hide here, under the king's throne," said the mouse.
So the prince hid under the throne of the King of the Jinns. He stayed there for three days and three nights.
The sorceress hunted for the prince through the whole world, in the seas, and the islands, the forests, the deserts, the mountains and the valleys. She looked through her magic telescope again and again but she couldn't find him anywhere.
At the end of the fourth day, the mouse came back to the prince. She took him out of the palace of the jinns. The prince followed her up through the earth and out into the world. Then he returned to the golden house.
The sorceress was waiting for him.
"I hunted everywhere for you," she said, "in the forests and deserts, the mountains, the valleys, the sea and the islands, and I could not find you. Now my evil magic is broken, and I will marry you."
So the prince married the sorceress. She never used her evil magic again, and they lived happily in the golden house for many, many years.
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