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The Foolish Farmer and the King

The Foolish Farmer and the King

The Foolish Farmer and the King

Once there was a foolish Farmer, who had a son at court, serving the King. This Farmer was a very poor man, and all he had to plough his fields with was one pair of oxen. Two oxen was all he had, and one of them died.

The poor Farmer was in despair. One ox was not enough to draw the plough over the heavy land; and he had no money to buy another. So he sent a message to his son, that he was wanted at home.

When the son came, his father told him that one of his oxen was dead, and he had no money to buy another. So he begged his son to ask the King to give him an ox.

“No, no,” said his son, “I am always asking the King for something. If you want an ox, you must ask him yourself.”

“I can’t do it!” said the poor Farmer. “You know what a muddle-head I am. If I go to ask the King for another ox, I shall end by giving him this one!”

“Well, what must be, must be,” said his son. “Anyhow, I cannot ask the King: but I’ll train you to do it.”

So he led his father to a place which was dotted all over with clumps of grass. The young courtier tied up a number of bundles of this grass, and arranged them in rows. “Now, look here, father,” said he, “this is the King, that is the Prime Minister, that is the General, here are the other grandees,” pointing to each bundle as he said the name. “When you come into the King’s presence, you must begin by saying: ‘Long live the King!’ and then ask your boon.” To help him to remember, the son made up a little verse for his father to say, and this is the verse:

“I had two oxen to my plough, with which my work was done.
Now one is dead: O, mighty king, please give me another one!”

“Well,” said the Farmer, “I think I can say that.” And he repeated it over and over, bowing and scraping to the bunch of grass that he called the King.

Every day for a whole year the Farmer practised; and how the ploughing got on meanwhile I do not know. Perhaps he lived on the seed-corn, and did not plough at all.

At the end of the year he said to his son:

“Now I know that little verse of yours! Now I can say it before any man! Take me to the King!”

So together father and son trudged away to the King’s palace. There on a throne he sat, in gorgeous robes, with his courtiers all around him, the Prime Minister, the General, and all, just as the young man had told his father. But the poor Farmer! his head was beginning to swim already.

“Who is this?” said the King to the Farmer’s son, who, as you know, was a courtier, so the King knew him.

“It is my father, Sire,” he answered.

“What does he want?” the King asked.

All eyes were turned on the Farmer, who by this time was as red as a turkey-cock, and hardly knew whether he stood on head or heels. However, he plucked up courage, and out came the verse, as pat as a pancake:

“I had two oxen to my plough, with which my work was done.
Now one is dead: O, mighty king, please take the other one!”

The King couldn’t help laughing; and he saw there must be a mistake somewhere. “Plenty of oxen at home, eh!” said he, keeping up the joke.

“If so, Sire,” said the Farmer’s son with a bow, “you must have given them.”

The King thought that rather neat. “If I have not given you any so far,” said he, smiling, “I will do it now.”

And when the pair got home, the Farmer in despair at his blunder, lo and behold in his cowhouse were half a dozen of the finest oxen he had ever seen! So the poor old Farmer got his oxen, though he did make a muddle of the verse.

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