Wednesday, 4 February 2009

King John and the Abbot

From "Fifty Famous Stories Retold" by James Baldwin, retold by Shimagoma

There was a king called John in England and he was a very bad king because he was mean to his people. There was an abbot who lived very well and King John heard it and wanted to see him.

When the abbot came to the palace, King John asked him three questions. The first question was how long would he live. The second question was how long would he take to ride around the world. And the third question was what was King John thinking.

Then the abbot said, “I think it will take two weeks to figure out these three questions.” So King John said, “Very well then. If you don’t answer my three questions after two weeks, I will have your head chopped off and I will have your land.”

So the abbot went home sadly and went to a university school to ask the professors but they just shook their heads. After a few hours, he went to another university school to ask the teachers but they also just shook their heads. Then the abbot was very sad and went home.

When he was going home, he saw a shepherd. The shepherd said, “What’s wrong my master?” The abbot said, “King John told me to answer these three hard questions which I can’t answer.” Then the shepherd said, “What are the three hard questions? Maybe I can help you.” So the abbot told him the three questions and the shepherd said, “Easy. I know the answers.” The abbot said, “Thank you. Tell me the three answers.”

But the shepherd said that he has to borrow his horse and his coat and his knights to go to King John’s palace to answer the three questions himself. He was trying to disguise as the abbot.

The shepherd disguised as the abbot and went to the palace to answer the three questions. When King John saw the shepherd, he said, “Do you know the three answers?” And the shepherd said, “I know the three answers.”

Then the king said, “Good. How long will I live?” And the shepherd said, “You will live until the day when you die.” Then the king said, “Very good. Let’s pass that question.” The king asked the second question, “How long will I take to make it around the world?” The shepherd said, “You have to rise with the sun and ride with the sun and when you finish riding it is the next day and it takes 24 hours.” The king said, “Very well, let’s pass the question.” He asked the third question to the shepherd, “What am I thinking now?” The shepherd said, “You are thinking that I am the abbot but I am not. I am the shepherd.”

“Good for you. You have answered the three questions.” So the shepherd was happy for his master.

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