The King Who Hated Old People
Long ago in a far off land, there lived a wise old King. The King always surrounded himself with elders to advise him in the decisions he had to make. His kingdom was wealthy. His people were happy.
All was well in the kingdom except for one thing. The King's son did not like seeing all the old people around the palace, especially the old men who met with his father. "Why must you surround yourself with those white haired men?" he asked his father. "They have old ideas, and they don't like to try new things." What really bothered the lad was that the old people reminded him that his father was aging.
The aging King tried to tell his son how wisdom could be gained from elders who had lived through good times and bad. But, the son wanted to hear no part of what his father said. "Things will change, when I become King," the young man said.
It did not take long for the boy's words to become true. The old King became ill and died, and the young prince took his father's place as king. Though the boy had loved his father, the new king did not losten to his father's words. As soon as the crown was placed on his head, he did as he had promised and ordered things to change. The new King surrounded himself with youth. He would not grow old like his father had.
Every old person was commanded by the new king to leave the kingdom. The people tried to talk to the new king. But, he surrounded himself with young advisors. Old was bad! Young was good! The new king's mind could not be swayed.
Everyone was forced to send their aged parents far away to live in other places. Some left on their own in carts pulled by oxen. Some needed help. Sons carried their fathers, and Daughters led their mothers. All over the kingdom, tears were shed, except by one young man.
One of the young advisors for the new King did not obey the order to send his father away. He hid his father in a secret room in his house. "I cannot send you away, father," said the young man. "You have given everything to me as I grew up," he told his father. "Now it is my turn to take care of you."
It was not very long after the new King had sent the old people away when a messenger came to the palace from a powerful nearby kingdom. He told the King, "My master sends me with a message for you. I hold in my hand a stick from a young tree in the forest. My master demands that you tell him which end of the stick comes from the higher part of the tree. If you answer his question correctly, he will leave your kingdom alone. If you answer wrong, he will conquer you with his large army and make slaves of all your people! You have seven days to give my master your answer."
The king surrounded himself with his youthful advisors. "You are all young and smart," the King told them. "You are the children of my father's advisors. Bring me the answer to this riddle, so we can avoid going to war!"
But, the advisors had not had to till the soil or work in the forests as the older King's advisors had. They had no answer for the King.
Six days passed. The youthful King grew more worried each day. He did not want a war, but he could not answer the question and prevent it.
The young advisor who had refused to send his father away showed worry on his face when he came before his father.
"Why does sadness cover your face, my son?" said the only old man left in the kingdom?"
"We will soon be at war with a nation stronger than we are," said the son." Then he told his father about the messenger with the riddle.
"My son, do as I tell you now, and there will be no war. Our kingdom will remain at peace."
The next morning, the young advisor went before the King with a smile on his face. "If it pleases your highness, please order a bowl of water to be brought before us." When the water arrived, the advisor placed the stick from the messenger into the bowl of water. One end of the stick sank down. The other end stuck up out of the water.
"The end that is higher now grew higher on the tree. The end that sank was lower on the tree," the advisor told the messenger. The messenger smiled at this correct answer and bowed as he left the king's presence to return to his master and end the war before it started.
"How did you know the answer" asked the young king, "when no one else did?"
"I cannot lie!" stated the young advisor. "Because of my love for my father, I did not obey your command to send him away. I kept him hidden away inside my home. He may be old, but his wisdom saved our kingdom." Then he stood silent, ready to accept his punishment for disobeying the king.
"I have been wrong," said the young King. I hated everyone old because of my fear of becoming old. "Yet I now see that wisdom comes with age and experience. I see the value of being old and wise, especially when many of us are young and less knowing."
That same day, a new command was given. All the elders were to be brought back home to a kingdom where they would be honored by everyone. Then, the King who used to hate old people ruled wisely and lived to a happy old age.
Dr. Mike Lockett is an educator, storyteller and children's author from Normal, IL. Dr. Lockett has given more than 4000 programs across the USA and as far away as eastern Asia. Contact Mike by writing to Mike@mikelockett.com in order to book him for a storytelling program or young authors program or to inquire about purchasing his books and CDs.