Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Strange King

            ‘Grandpa,’ said Nawiti, ‘Tell me a story about a bad king.’
          ‘Ha ha,’ I laughed, ‘That’s a good one! A king is always good because he tells you he is good and what he says is right because he is the king.’
          ‘That’s not right!’ said Nawiti, ‘I don’t believe you.’
          ‘Why don’t you believe me?’
          ‘Because you’re not the king!’ she laughed.
          ‘Let me tell you the story of a rather strange king. Hundreds of years ago the Kingdom of Zed had a very strange king called King Chumbu…’
          ‘Was he a bad king?’
          ‘I’ve told you, in those days all kings were good. What the king said and did was what was meant by the word ‘good’, and if anybody said or did anything different, that was bad!’
          ‘So did anybody dare to say or do anything different?’
          ‘Good gracious no. To say or do anything different would be to insult the king. In those days you would be thrown in jail for that! The king was like a little God. Every time he spoke, everybody had to shut up and listen. The king told everybody everything, but nobody could tell the king anything. Because he knew everything. Because he was the king!’
          ‘Nothing could be stranger than being a king,’ laughed Nawiti. ‘But why are you telling me that Chumbu was a strange king when they were all strange? Was he more strange than the others?’
          ‘King Chumbu was strange because, even by kingly standards, he used to do some very strange things.’
          ‘Such as what?’
          ‘One day he assembled all his ministers and told them to their faces that they were all fools!’
          ‘Oh dear,’ said Nawiti, ‘that was very bad.’
          ‘No,’ I said. ‘That was very good. He was trying to provoke them, to see if they would dare to answer him. But they all sat quiet.’
          ‘Very respectful,’ said Nawiti. ‘That was good.’
          ‘No, it was very bad,’ I said. ‘It showed the king that his ministers had no backbone or brains.’
          ‘Then the king began to worry that his people were too silent, too polite, and too respectful, and always waiting to be told what to do instead of having ideas of their own.’
          ‘Which was very bad,’ said Nawiti.
          ‘Yes,’ said, ‘But very good that Chumbu was worried about his people, because most kings only worry about themselves and their money.’
          ‘So what happened next?’
          ‘Something very strange happened. One man in the entire land showed a bit of courage. A man called Ha Ha stood up and told the king to stop insulting his people and behave like a king!’
          ‘Very bad,’ said Nawiti, ‘to talk to the king like that!’
          ‘But very good,’ I said, ‘that somebody could stand up to the king.’
          ‘Maybe people were now starting to laugh at the king?’ suggested Nawiti.
          ‘Very likely,’ I laughed. ‘But Chumbu didn’t seem to see the danger of his position. In those days, once you were a king you were always a king. And he was now beginning to enjoy himself.’
          ‘Oh dear,’ said Nawiti. ‘What did he do next?’
          ‘Chumbu insulted all the old men in the Land of Zed, saying their heads were bald, and the next time he saw a bald head he would chop it off!’
          ‘Which was a bad thing to say!’ said Nawiti.
          ‘That’s what Paramount Chief Kukuchikuku thought, and he loudly complained to all his Kuku people that he had been insulted. So the king laughed and sent his army to throw the chief out of the Palace of the Paramount Chief.
          ‘Then HaHa spoke up again and told the king to stop his silly quarrels and start governing the country, because while the king was busy talking nonsense there were foreigners who were stealing the gold and people who were starving.
          ‘Now the king was not used to be answered back, so this sensible advice sent him into a senseless rage, ranting that HaHa was just a nobody who knew nothing, and didn’t even know his own father!’
          ‘That was very bad,’ said Nawiti.
          ‘It was very bad indeed,’ I admitted, ‘because half the women in the country had brought up children without the help of the children’s fathers, who had a bad habit of running away. So the women’s leader, Gorgeous Grillo, gave the king a grilling, telling him that he had insulted all the women of the Kingdom of Zed.’
          ‘Now people were beginning to gang up on him,’ suggested Nawiti.
          ‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘These people had more brains and voice than the king had bargained for. They all converged on his palace and presented him with a piece of paper, called a constitution, setting out the Rules for the Proper Behaviour of a King.’
          ‘And did the king promise to behave himself?’
          ‘Not at all!’ I laughed. ‘He tore up the piece of paper and threw it out the window, then turned to them and asked Where is this constitution you people are talking about, I cannot see any such thing!
          ‘So what did the people do then?’
          ‘They threw him out of the window so he could look for the constitution. Then they set up the Peoples Republic of Zed, ruled by the people themselves and without any need for a king.’
          ‘So was he a bad king?’ wondered Nawiti.
          ‘Not at all,’ I replied. ‘He was a very good king, because he was the one who brought democracy to the Land of Zed.’
          ‘Very strange,’ said Nawiti.


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