The King and the Fisherman

Long ago, there was a king who ruled over a large kingdom. The king lived high on a mountain in his castle. From his window, he could look down on the towns and fields which surrounded his castle on three sides. On the fourth side, the king could see the sea, and endless blue ribbon stretching out toward the horizon. It was a beautiful view from the castle, and so the king assumed that everyone lived as happy a life as he. Down in the valley, however, there was great unhappiness. Little rain had fallen in more than a year. The drought brought hunger, because the crops were meager that year. The people were hungry and feared starvation. The king's granaries, however, were full. He treasury was filled with gold, and his royal pantry was well-stocked with foods from all over the world, including a hundred different delicacies. The king was unaware of what was happening in his kingdom, because he rarely spoke with his people and did not care much about their lives.

The people in the kingdom worried. No rain fell, the crops dried up, and the people grew hungrier and hungrier. They knew that the king's granaries were full, and some people suggested that they approach the king and ask for food, but everyone was afraid to go to the castle.

Finally, in desperation, an old fisherman volunteered to go speak with the king. "Why not?" he reasoned, "I am old and will soon die, anyway. If I don't die of old age, I will surely die of starvation." And so he set out, trudging up the mountain to the castle.

The king received the man graciously. After all, he rarely had visitors from among his subjects. The old fisherman described to the king what was happening in the towns and villages of his kingdom, how the drought had affected the crops, how the people were hungry, and how they feared starvation.

The king yawned, looking bored, and replied, "That's not my concern. I don't feel hungry and I don't feel their hunger."

The old fisherman could feel anger welling up inside him. He thought he would explode with anger, but he realized that this would accomplish nothing. He thought quickly. Then he responded, "I see your point, Your Majesty. And, naturally, you are right. And just so that you know I mean you only well, I would like to invited you come fishing with me. I have heard that you love to go fishing, and I know the most wonderful spot. The water is stiff with fish, and you will have a wonderful time."

Now the king couldn't resist an invitation like this, and so he went with the fisherman. They got into the fisherman's tiny, delapidated, rowboat. The old fisherman rowed hard, and the king rested, sunning himself. Finally, after an hour of rowing along the shore, they arrived at a beautiful little inlet. The king looked around, but saw nothing but rocks and seaweed.

"This is the spot from which we head out to sea, Your Majesty," said the old fisherman, and he rowed straight out away from from shore for another half hour. Then the old fisherman pulled his oars into the boat, took an awl out of his back pocket, and began chipping a hold in the bottom of the boat under his seat.

"What are you doing, old man?" exclaimed the king in alarm. "Stop that this instant! Do your realize what you're doing? You're going to sink the boat!"

"Yes, I know. That is what I intend to do," responded the old man quietly. "I am trying the sink the boat. I am so hungry, like all the people in your kingdom, that I want to die."

"But I do not want to die!!" shouted the king.

"No, Your Majesty. I know that. That is why I am only making a hole under my seat in the boat, at my end of the boat. What happens at your end of the boat is not my concern."

The king's anger turned to laughing, and then to sadness. "I see what you are saying, my good man. You have made your point well. I have closed my eyes to what others feel because I did not feel it myself. Please row me back to shore -- safely -- and I will open my granaries to everyone. And I thank you, old man, for your great wisdom in teaching me a lesson I sorely needed to learn."

The king made the old fisherman his trusted advisor, and the old fisherman was placed in charge of the granaries where, like Joseph of old, he dispensed food and kept everyone alive until the drought ended. The king and the old fisherman became good friends, and frequently went out fishing together.

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