Short story -– King and the Blind Beggar: Public Humiliation

HumiliThe blind beggar was sitting on a bench in the royal garden, listening to the chirping of the birds and smelling the fragrance of the flowers. Suddenly the beggar heard someone approach — it was the king himself. The king was cursing and grumbling loudly as he walked towards the beggar.

“Finally I found you,” the king said in agitation. “A great tragedy has taken place. You must help me.”

“What is the matter?” asked the blind beggar.

“I was sitting in my sedan chair,” said the king, “carried by my slaves near town square, and suddenly this man, this cursed hoodlum, came near and started mocking me, the king, in broad daylight, in front of all the people. Immediately I ordered my guards to silence the villain, but he was strong and his mouth was like that of a baboon, a fat, ugly baboon. Even while the guards were putting him down he continued with his insults. And a crowd started to gather; it must have been a hundred people! All listening to this man’s mockery of the king. And do you know what the worst part was?”

“What was the worst part?” asked the blind beggar.

“They laughed at the man’s words! They laughed at his mockery! They laughed at their king! A hundred people all giggling and snickering at their beloved king! I have never before in my life felt such anger and embarrassment. I told my guards to shackle the wicked thug and take him to the filthiest dungeon in the castle and then ordered my slaves to carry me away from the crowd as fast as their legs could move. But it wasn’t fast enough… It wasn’t enough…”

“You cried, did you not?” asked the blind beggar.

“Of course I cried!” the king roared. “I cried and they all could see it! They saw their mighty king start to weep in front of them! And again they laughed! Now you must help me solve this monumental problem. The people are now making fun of their king because he cried when a man insulted him. But not for long shall they laugh at me, for I shall once again show them who I really am!”

The blind beggar remained in silence.

The king continued: “I shall bring that man to the town square, make him strip naked in front of all the people, and tell them that the man is a filthy pig, an animal, and that he has been in sexual communion with a diseased horse. That I shall do so that they will no longer mock me but mock that son of a bastard and laugh at him instead of me, their beloved king. Will I hang him? No. Of course not! He must live so that they don’t forget that man and so they can mock him and insult him for many more years!”

“That is precisely what you must do, oh mighty king,” said the blind beggar.

“What?!” exclaimed the king. “I did not search for you for a quarter of the day only to get a consent for my plans to humiliate that man. You brainless fool, you impotent beggar! I came to you for wise advice, for enlightened guidance, and as a king I shall receive what I want.”

The beggar didn’t say anything for a little while, and the king was becoming more and more anxious. At last the beggar said: “If you desire that the people bow down to their king in town square but secretly speak ill of him in pubs, taverns, and street corners, then go ahead and humiliate that man and persecute him and tell lies about him. But if you desire to be a king whom the people truly respect and trust, then it is not enough to merely poke the eye of the man who offended you. If you desire to be a king who can turn his back on his people and trust that no one will stab a knife in his spine, then you must learn to turn the other cheek and be humbled by your own fallibility as a mere mortal. Maybe you ought to talk to that man. Ask him what his reason was for the mockery and insult.”

The king seemed to become nervous and his face turned red. “What nonsense! More and more I am starting to doubt your wisdom, you filthy rat. That man is nothing but a mad goblin, so why should I, the mighty king, humble myself and try to talk reason to such a tainted human being?”

The blind beggar said: “You are right, oh revered king. That man is nothing but a shadow compared to your shining glory, and he may well deserve a good humiliation in front of a hundred people. But then, wouldn’t that be too easy? The people would laugh and enjoy the show, but deep down they would know that it is arranged only to repair the damage done to the king’s mighty ego. For this reason it must be something more powerful, something that will be more shocking than merely ordering the fool to strip naked and dance like a clown in town square.”

The king became curious of what the blind beggar had in mind and said: “Go on, you hopeless cripple, tell me how I can make the people truly forget my weakness.”

“My mouth is dry, oh beloved king,” the beggar said, “and I think only the best royal wine can mend this malady, so that I can continue to tell you what is the solution to your problem.”

“You are nothing but a rapacious leech, an unthankful bloodsucker, who plays tricks over my troubled mind and whom I should immediately behead with my sharp sword and whose rotting body I should throw to the rats to gnaw so that only your fragile bones are left. But because I have made a promise to let you live for five years, I must spare your worthless life and serve you as my noble guest.”

The king’s servants brought the best wine from the royal wine cellar and the beggar drank so much of it that he tumbled off the bench onto the grass and the king became worried that the beggar might fall asleep and said: “You ugly creature, get up and tell me the solution to my problems! Or else I shall order my guards to put you away and you shall never see daylight again.”

The blind beggar rolled over to a sitting position already visibly tipsy from the strong wine and said to the king: “You are most generous, for you are the great and powerful king and I am nothing but a measly old man, and yet you serve me your best wine and let me listen to the chirping of the little birds of your royal garden, even when I have nothing to offer you but my modest words.”

The king was anxious to hear the beggars solution, and he ordered his servants to cast cold water on him to make him stop with his nonsense.

“Right,” said the beggar, “now is the time to reveal the solution to your blight. As I said, you need means more powerful than merely to humiliate the sorry thug who offended you in front of a hundred people near town square. You need means that will reassure the people once again of your great might and your strength and your infallibility. For that reason, you must show the people that it wasn’t due to the man’s bitter words that you shed up a tear. You must show them that no amount of humiliating speech can do you harm. Only by demonstrating that you are the mighty ruler and that you cannot be hurt by mortals and their wicked deeds can you restore your dignity in the eyes of your people.”

So the very next morning the king ordered all the people to gather in town square and he himself was standing on a wooden stage in front of all the people. And the king spoke to them: “Yesterday a great misfortune took place, as a pitiful man spoke to me, his dignified king, with words that a mere mortal would have considered hurtful and malicious, but because I am the mighty king, such words do not affect me and they are nothing but ticklish rustle in my ears. But so it happened that as this encounter took place, I was returning from the marketplace and there was a pouch of freshly cut onions in my chair right next to me, and for that reason drops of water came out of my eye. And it is possible that some unenlightened citizens believed that I was crying because of the words of this wretched, unfortunate man, but I must assure you that this is not how it went. The onions in my chair caused irritation in my eyes and for that reason water came out of them.”

The people were completely silent and listening to their king.

“But it is possible,” the king continued, “that some of you might not believe my words, even when I am the almighty king, and for this reason I must demonstrate to you that I am not affected by such silly things and that a king cannot be humiliated.”

Then the king began to take off his decorations one by one, and after the decoration he took off his boots and then his elaborate silk coat and his tunic so that he was left with only his crown and stockings. Many women in the crowd gasped in shock and covered their eyes and also the eyes of their children. Then the king took off even his stockings and some women screamed in horror as they saw the king naked with only the royal crown on his head.

The king spoke: “Look, my people. Now I am standing here naked before your eyes to prove you that a king doesn’t suffer from humiliation, because a king is above such worldly matters. Now go and find that man who tried to insult your king yesterday morning near town square and make him your new laughingstock!”

To further his point, the king started to dance like a clown and make all kinds of peculiar noises and he started to flap his arms like chicken wings to prove his point.

When the king returned to the royal palace to see the blind beggar, he was exhilarated by the success and ingeniousness of the beggar’s plan.

“It worked!” exclaimed the king to the beggar, whose feet were being massaged by the king’s servants. “It truly worked, and now the people have forgotten about me and they are laughing at the silliness of the fool who tried to insult me.”

The beggar told the servants to stop massaging his feet and sent them to fetch him some fruits and wine and said to the king: “So, you listened to my advice and undressed in front of the people and danced like a clown to let them know that you are above humiliation?”

“Yes, yes!”, the king said. “I did exactly as you told me and it all worked perfectly. I’m sure they are already searching for this low-life and making fun of him and his stupidity.”

“Good,” said the blind beggar. “you have surely reclaimed your authority in the eyes of the people. You don’t need to worry anymore.”