Once upon a time there lived a magnificent magical king. He came from a long line of them and no one could quite remember when this royal line had acquired their magic. But it was there, nonetheless, after several generations.
This magnificent, magical king ruled his happy kingdom with a firm, loving hand. He consulted the great college of the minds. He helped till the fertile fields with his loyal farmers. He even met with the great yak dairymen, whose prized yak’s milk made the most delicious yak’s cheese that was renowned throughout many, many kingdoms.
But the king’s greatest joy came from the royal gardens, where he fashioned great hedges in the shapes of all manner of creatures. His children laughed and played in the tree houses and mazes he created for them.
All the while his smiling eyes crinkled when he laughed and the court’s helpers would capture those magical drops of tears that shot out each time his eyes crinkled up in merriment. These magical tears were then sprinkled on the fertile fields, dropped into the yaks’ water and even dripped on the great sculpted animal hedges in the king’s garden.
The magnificent, magical king’s kingdom was abundant, green and his people were happy.
All of them, except one.
The king married a beautiful woman, a princess from the neighboring kingdom whose college of the minds was not so acclaimed, whose fields were not so fertile and whose yak’s produced watery milk that could not become cheese. And while the queen was beautiful, her heart was cold with jealousy and covetous for the great magic from the king. She thought she could acquire it by having his children. And though she bore many, the magic drops never sprang from her eyes. Sadly, only sour grey salt water came forth; and only when she cried bitterly, for she rarely laughed and never so much as to cry tears of joy.
So one day the queen stole the king’s magic bucket full of happy, golden tears. She went back from where she came and the magnificent, magical king fell into a grieving darkness. For even though she was unworthy, the goodly king loved her as the mother of his many dear children. He was despondent at her abandonment.
The kingdom was plunged into a long, dark night. The great college of the minds was closed, the fertile fields sowed no more fruit and the yak’s milk went sour.
But then a miraculous thing happened. The great court physician heard a whisper in his ear. Why, yes, he thought, maybe if we could find a way for the king to laugh again…maybe, just maybe we could find a new golden bucket to catch his magical tears. Maybe.
A call was then issued for a new court jester; some fool who could make the king laugh. And only a young woman arrived. Even though she was dressed like a fool, she didn’t look very foolish at all.
Nonetheless, a decree had been issued, so she was put to the test.
“Tell me a joke,” said the king.
“I have none to tell you that would make you laugh,” the maiden jester replied. “But I have a question and if you can answer it, precisely, your kingdom will be restored.”
“Okay then,” said the king. “Give me the question.”
“How many stars are in the sky?” asked the fool.
“How many?” The king asked, incredulous. “How can I answer such a question? My people would be counting forever. We would be lost with our heads in the clouds.” And with that he slightly chuckled, just ever so little, at the ridiculous thought of it all.
The great court physician, who had just finished a cup of tea, saw three magical tears form and caught them – quite unnoticed by anyone else – in his teacup.
“It is a fair question my king,” he answered, winking at the fool, who was the only other living thing in the kingdom who noticed the tears. “Let us try to answer this great question, for your kingdom’s sake.”
So the king set his court helpers to counting. Since the whole kingdom lived in darkness, they could count and count and count.
Soon it became obvious how hard the task was. So the king summoned the maiden jester again.
“This is a ridiculous question,” he demanded. “How can I answer such a thing?”
The maiden fool just smiled. Then she replied, “You used to have such a great college of the minds. Why don’t you travel there and consult them for answers? For isn’t a ridiculous question just a riddle? Maybe they can help.”
The king assembled a royal entourage and brought the maiden jester with him. First, they traveled through the once-fertile fields. “Why don’t we stop here?” she suggested.
“I have not visited my fields in so long,” said the king. “It would be good to consult with my royal farmers again.”
So they stopped. The king walked the once-fertile fields and learned that even though the kingdom was dark, the farmers were still hard at work, turning compost and yak’s manure into the earth.
He smiled at their ingenuity and three more tears sprang forth, quickly and quietly caught by the court physician in his teacup.
The king was inspired and asked the maiden jester if they could visit the yak’s dairy before consulting the great college of the minds.
“Of course,” said the jester, smiling a knowing smile; for she noticed that not only had the king shed three more magic tears but the darkness was lessening. A grey, pre-morning twilight gathered in the sky above. The king’s sadness was lifting.
When they arrived at the dairy what did they find? Why, a herd of pregnant yak cows happily munching on sweet hay in their stalls. They rested in glowing dairy barns, lit with the warmth from a stone mason’s immense fireplaces, constructed in the center of each barn.
The king simply stared in amazement. He was unable to speak, humbled at the sight of it all.
The head dairyman approached the king. “As it was dark and we had no milk to make cheese, we thought it was an appropriate time to strengthen and grow our herd. With all of the abundance these many years, we’ve stored up much grain and hay. These have fed and fattened our pregnant yak cows.”
“But don’t you worry about what will happen when you use up all the food stores?” The king pleaded. The maiden fool watched closely as the head dairyman paused thoughtfully before replying to the king.
“You are a magnificent, magical king sire,” he spoke softly. “Even as such, there will be times of darkness in our kingdom. It is at these times that we rest and renew ourselves so we may be ready for the light to return.”
At this, the king wept. Not tears of sadness but tears of release, of forgiveness, then gratitude and finally, of joy. So many golden magic tears fell out of the crinkles in his smiling eyes that the dairy men and maids filled all their buckets, milk jugs and finally, all the watering troughs. Morning sunlight came.
It burst out in abundance over the far horizon, painting the sky with a myriad of pastel colors. All those who saw it were filled with awe and wonder at this immense sign of restoration to their magnificent, magical kingdom.
The king turned to the maiden fool and said quietly “as you asked, I know the precise answer to your riddle about the stars in the sky.”
She smiled a radiant smile and replied: “Then tell me now, my king.”
“It does not matter the number of stars in the sky my maiden fool,” he said, still wiping golden tears of gratitude and joy from the crinkles in his smiling eyes. “It matters that they are there to light the darkness through the long and gloomy night. And, it is infinitely more important that their constant presence guides our way until the daylight returns.”
At once, the maiden fool reached for the physician’s tea cup and drank the six tears left by the magnificent, magical king. She was transformed into a glowing fairy princess – revealing her true nature and removing the maiden fool’s disguise.
And the two rode tighter in the king’s coach, inspecting fields, visiting the great college of the minds, all the while falling in love with each passing day.
“Thank you for rescuing me,” said the king as he kissed her gently yet another time.
“Thank yourself, my magnificent, magical king,” replied the fairy princess. “Your joy was inside you all the time, and like the stars in the sky, I was only there to guide you and light your way until your soul was restored.”
And they indeed did live, mostly, happily ever after. Even in the times of darkness, their love and joy helped restore them – for themselves, each other and the kingdom they shared.
So, then what of the beautiful, but jealous queen?
Of course she returned when her magical bucket of tears was empty and the kingdom was green, abundant and happy once more.
The king, whose heart was full of joy, held no resentment toward the queen. In fact, he filled the bucket once more for her before sending her on her way.
“When you learn to crinkle your eyes in a smile and cry your own tears of joy and gratitude, you will fill your own bucket with magic,” the king said kindly. “My wish for you is to learn how to fill it yourself.”
And whether she did or not, we will never know. For that is her journey and yet another story.
For ours was fun, but now it’s done.