By Bruce Farrow on April 16, 2015
A long time ago in a land far away, a Princess waved goodbye to her love at the dock.
The so called ‘wise men’ of the land had deemed it appropriate that the adventurer should journey to far-off lands and bring back something unusual, special and valuable to prove his love for the Princess. The nature of his gift would determine whether he would be given permission to marry the Princess.
Neither the Princess or the adventurer agreed with this ridiculous challenge, however, because they both wanted to be with each other, they had to follow the ‘rules’ of society and the adventurer was forced to go about his task.
As he set sail across the wide, unforgiving ocean, he reflected on the reasons he was risking everything for his Princess. She was incredibly beautiful, not only in physical appearance, but also in personality. He had never met anyone quite like her. In fact, he truly believed there was no-one as special as his Princess anywhere on the planet. He would do anything for her and that was the reason he had undertaken this dangerous task.
His sailing boat was old and not really equipped for the dangers of the ocean. The sails were old and weathered by long exposure to the elements, the rigging had seen better days and there was the odd leak in the wooden hull. It was all he had and as the sun dropped below the horizon he adjusted course for a new territory, one that he had heard rumours about, one that according to the stories, if they were to be believed, was a land of riches.
He pondered what gift would be enough to win over the ‘wise men’ – what would impress them? As the night drew on he pondered this question. Gems? Probably not special enough. Precious metals? Once again there was plenty of that around in the kingdom. Perhaps a feather of a rare bird that could be made into a beautiful quill? He needed more than that. What would be the most special gift?
Many miles away, the Princess sat alone in her parent’s castle thinking about the love of her life. Such a brave man and this situation was so unnecessary. All they both wanted was to be together and now her love was risking everything just to prove something she already knew. The ‘wise men’ of the kingdom were not as wise as they thought themselves to be! Stupid people stuck in the ways and the rules of the land from centuries ago and they thought that was clever! She was surprised at how her parents, the King and Queen, supported the views of the wise men but tradition was important to them and they rarely did anything that was not ‘written down’ somewhere in the culture of the land. She cried and hoped that her love would be safe and return.
Then anxiety washed over her. What if he never came back? What if he died trying to find this ludicrous gift? She would never know – he just would never return. What if he met a more beautiful woman and decided to spend the rest of his life with her? Thoughts overwhelmed her. Then she told herself that he would return and it was she that he wanted. She looked in the mirror and started to pick holes in what she saw. Surely there were more beautiful women than her. She criticized various elements of her physical appearance – not seeing what everyone else saw. The perfect beauty. She desperately hoped that he would find a way of returning.
On the boat, dawn had risen over the sparkling sea and the man was still deep in thought. For the entire night he had contemplated various possibilities of potential gifts that he could obtain and had discounted each, one by one. Another chain of thought came into his mind. What if no gift was good enough for the ‘wise men’? What if this whole mission was a ruse to get him away from the kingdom forever? Perhaps they had a hidden agenda in getting him away from the Princess. The more he thought about it the more he concluded that this might well be the case. So what to do? After many hours, indeed days, of thought, he came up with a plan that would solve the problem.
He would indeed find a special gift for the Princess – but not because the wise men had told him to, but because he wanted to. This was not all he was going to do though!
After a considerable amount of time he came upon land. From the boat he could see beautiful beaches and behind that a thick jungle and he knew that somewhere within the jungle lay his prize.
He went ashore, gathered everything that he would need for his trek and set off through the jungle. It was thick and sapped his energy, yet he kept going, always thinking about the end result. Some days the jungle was so thick that he only managed to travel a few hundred yards in the whole day. He kept going. Often exhausted, often bruised and bleeding, yet he kept moving forwards.
One day he came to a stream and in the stream, something sparkled. He bent and picked it up. It was a stunning diamond about as large as a walnut. The clarity of the stone was exceptional and he was delighted that he had found something of worth for his Princess. But then he thought, would that be good enough for her? Would that alone be good enough for the wise men and he already had the doubt in his mind that nothing would be good enough for the wise men. He pocketed the stone and moved on.
Later that day he came to another stream where, once again, his eyes were drawn to an object reflecting the sunlight from the bed of the water. He picked it up and saw that it was a gold nugget, about the size of a plum. Its perfect colour glinted in the sunlight bathing everything near it in a yellow aura. It was beautiful and pure. Was it good enough for his Princess? He knew he could do better. He placed the nugget in his pocket and moved on.
Several days later he was sitting on the edge of a clearing when something moved behind him. He stayed very still as he watched a baby tiger emerge from the jungle. It looked at him and then bounded over to him. He didn’t know what to do because he was aware that where there is a baby tiger, the mother tiger is not far behind and he really didn’t want to get into a fight with a fully grown tiger!
However, the baby tiger appeared to want to play and he relented and started stroking the tiger and tickling it behind its ears. He gave it some water from his water bottle which it lapped furiously, as if it hadn’t drunk in some time.
Eventually the baby tiger tired itself out and fell asleep by him.
As the evening drew in there was a rustle from the jungle and a large, adult tiger emerged and stopped, staring at the sight of the baby tiger asleep alongside the man. It appeared to be very tired and its coat was dishevelled. The man didn’t move, anticipating what would surely follow. A tiger attack.
The adult tiger slowly moved towards the man and lay down, looking at him with large sad eyes. Finally it spoke to him.
“I am sick and will die soon. My baby lies with you. Her name is Sundaratā. Take her and care for her. Look after her, I can sense you are a kind man. She is the most special tiger in the world. I can care for her no longer. I am old and sick.”
The man was taken aback by the tiger speaking to him. He had thought that it would want to eat him! He looked into the tiger’s eyes and saw great sadness.
“I will look after Sundaratā, and will treat her as if she was my own. Do not worry about her, I will give her everything that she wants and will love her as much as you love her.”
The old tiger nodded, closed its eyes, licked the baby tiger for the last time and drifted off into an eternal sleep.
When the baby tiger awoke, it sensed what had happened in the night and sniffed the large tiger sadly. The man stroked it gently and picked it up and hugged it. The baby tiger put a paw either side of the man’s neck and hugged him back. The two had become one.
The man buried the adult tiger later that day and both he and the baby tiger stood by the grave alone in their thoughts and prayers. Finally they turned and walked away. They were heading back for the boat.
After many days of travelling through the jungle they arrived back at the boat. They had become the best of friends and the man loved his new companion and the tiger adored his new parent.
They got on the boat and set sail for the kingdom. There was a steely determination in everything the man did. He was on a mission.
After several months of sailing, they finally arrived off shore of the kingdom from whence the man came and the man put on different clothes and disguised himself before they both went ashore. He had things to do before he let the people of the kingdom know that he had returned, hence the disguise of a peasant. In the months on the boat the baby tiger had grown rapidly, a stunning beauty. It was the epitome of power, grace, elegance and beauty. The tiger reminded him, in many ways, of his Princess.
The man and the tiger moved through the kingdom over many days and whilst people took notice of the peasant with the tiger, they left him alone and did not recognise him as the man who had been sent on the impossible errand by the ‘wise men.’
The man needed to find out about the so-called ‘wise men’, so he headed deep into the mountains where, it was said, there was a place where all truths could be found.
After journeying for many days he came across a small pond, high up in the mountains Next to the water sat a wizened, old man who inspected his visitors with great interest.
The man just knew he was in the right place and said “My name is Sharguu and this is my friend, Sundaratā. We have travelled many months and many miles and we are seeking the man who knows all truths.”
“You have found the man you are seeking”, replied the old man, “and I have been expecting you because I know everything that happens in the kingdom. I welcome you and your beautiful tiger and extend to you the courtesy of asking me 3 questions to which you require a truthful answer.”
Sharguu sat down and thought for a moment. He needed to ensure he didn’t waste a question.
“Thank you, Sir, I appreciate the opportunity. My first question is: are the wise men of the kingdom truly wise enough to know what is right and what people should do in the kingdom?”
The man of truth roared with laughter. He laughed and laughed and finally, when he got his breath back he replied.
“The wise men are only wise in their own minds. They have convinced themselves of their wisdom of which they actually have none. In fact, they are incredibly stupid and have no reason to think or suggest that they are wise. Indeed, they have never, ever done anything in their lives that has been of value. They tell people what to do and claim that it is the way of the kingdom and that this knowledge has been passed down to them from many generations. They tell people of their accomplishments and the fact is they have accomplished nothing in their lives. They claim to have written many scrolls yet they have written nothing. They make themselves out to be wise thinkers, yet the only thinking they can possibly do is about themselves. They are in fact all frauds and failures and do not have the wherewithal to achieve anything. Their sole mission is control.”
Sharguu was not surprised by this answer and asked his next question.
“If people think they are wise and they are not, how will the kingdom rid itself of these stupid men?”
The old man laughed again.
“That was a waste of a question since it is never the responsibility of others to do anything for you. You need to take responsibility yourself if you wish to do a service for the kingdom and humanity.”
Sharguu thought about this for a moment and considered his last and final question. He wanted to ask if the Princess loved him, yet he knew the answer to that question so he asked,
“How can I rid the kingdom of these stupid and bad men?”
The old man smiled and said,
“That was a better question. Consider this. These men are cowards and hide behind a front that many people believe. They have no courage, no morals, no integrity and love to believe the façade that they have created about themselves. I can tell you this. You will be the one to remove these bad men from the kingdom and your friend, the tiger, will help you in a way you cannot even imagine. Just remember that a coward runs from danger. That is all I will say. You have asked your three questions and you can now go on your way and I wish you and Sundaratā the best. Now go!”
Sharguu and Sundaratā started down the mountain and, when they were half way down, the tiger turned to Sharguu and said,
“You have been kind to me. You took me in when my mother was sick without question. You have cared for me and have loved me. Together we will rid the land of the so called “wise men”. You cannot do it alone. I know how.”
Sharguu was surprised that the tiger had spoken to him but there again, his mother had spoken to him in the jungle so it kind of made sense that Sundaratā had the same powers.
They set out for the capital of the kingdom, where the King and Queen and the Princess lived in the castle and where the so-called “wise men” conducted their business.
When they finally arrived, Sundaratā, the tiger, made himself scarce since neither wanted to draw attention to themselves.
Sharguu changed his clothes and walked into the main square where he announced to the crowds that he had returned from his journey. There was excitement in the crowds and the King and Queen and the Princess appeared on their castle balcony, overlooking the square.
The crowd parted as the procession of 6 wise men walked to the front of the commotion.
“Show us what you have brought back so we can decide whether you are worthy of the Princess.”
Sharguu laughed in their faces. “I have brought gifts for the Princess, not because you have told me to, but because I wanted to and I will happily display them to you all but when I have done that, I have a message from the Old Man of Truth for everyone in the kingdom.”
The ‘wise men’ looked uncomfortable; they had a bad feeling about this.
‘Show us,’ they demanded.
Sharguu pulled out of his pocket the walnut sized diamond and said, “I have brought for my princess this diamond to reflect her beauty. It is of exquisite clarity, like her skin and it sparkles like her eyes and is incredibly valuable.”
The wise-men looked at the diamond at dismissed it “Diamonds are easy to find and the Princess is worth more than a diamond.”
Sharguu then pulled out of his pocket the nugget “This nugget of gold, I bring for the Princess since it is soft, like her heart and has an aura of light that reminds me of her.”
The wise-men laughed “Is that all you have brought? Remember we are wise and only we can decide what is good for the Princess. After all, we know everything.”
Sharguu drew himself up and addressed the crowd “My Princess, Your Royal Hignesses and people of the Kingdom. My third gift is to everyone. Not just for the Princess, but a gift to everyone in the Kingdom.”
The crowd stood still and there were murmurs of anticipation.
“What is this?” said the ‘wise men’. ‘We told you that you had to bring back a gift for the Princess and you have not followed what we have said.’
Sharguu continued “For many years the people of this Kingdom have been essentially controlled by these so-called ‘wise-men’ that stand before you. I have a message from the Old Man of Truth for you all. These men are frauds. They are not wise at all, in fact they are stupid. For many years, they have fooled you all with their stories of how wonderful they are. Yet they are nothing but charlatans. Worst of all they are cowards.”
The ‘wise men’ shouted for the guards yet the guards did not move. There was something that was beginning to ring true in the words of Sharguu.
“This is rubbish. We are indeed very wise and very brave indeed and we renounce all your claims to marry the Princess.”
Their rhetoric was interrupted by a deep growl behind them. Sundaratā had appeared.
The ‘wise men’ turned and saw the tiger and froze and the tiger spoke. “What Sharguu says is true, these so called wise men are worthless and have fooled you for a very long time.” He then moved closer to the ‘wise men’ and they tried to back off but the crowd stopped them.
“You 6 stupid and cowardly men are finished. No longer will you be able to control the kingdom because you have been found out. You are nothing but selfish, hopeless failures and this kingdom and its people do not welcome you anymore. So I challenge each one of you. Fight me. If you win, you stay, if I win you die.” The tiger drooled.
The ‘wise men’ did perhaps the wisest thing they had ever done in their lives and ran. They ran and ran and ran out of the city, with the laughter of the crowds ringing in their ears, their clothes stained by the rotten fruit thrown by the more angry elements and they just kept running until they escaped the kingdom.
Meanwhile the Princess had run down to Sharguu and had thrown herself into his arms. They held each other in front of the crowd for what seemed like ages and the crowd cheered.
Then the crowd went quiet as the tiger approached the pair. He nuzzled up against Sharguu who kissed his massive head and he then stood on his hind legs and wrapped his paws around the loving couple and hugged them.
From above there was a massive crack of thunder and everyone ducked. When they stood again they looked in the direction of the Princess and Sharguu and the tiger. The tiger was gone. Disappeared without a trace. The Princess and Sharguu looked around for their friend but there was no sign of him.
“Where has Sundaratā gone?” Sharguu said, looking for his friend. The buzz of the crowd grew louder and no-one noticed the Princess’s response.