By Rev. Sam Trumbore September 6, 1995
There once was a kingdom with fertile fields, beautiful mountains, valleys, clear rivers, small neat, well kept towns and enough of what was needed to satisfy the kingdom's subjects. King Merryman was a fun loving old soul who held many festivals, patronized the local artists and musicians and was very generous to his people.
His son, prince Grabbit, was not such a hospitable fellow. He was a very serious sot who preferred reading books on math and theology to dancing in the streets. The court clowns and fools would tease him hoping to change his somber mood but this only drove him further inward.
A university had just been started in the next kingdom over so king Merryman decided to send prince Grabbit thinking an education would help him shake of his gloominess and prepare him to be a good king. Prince Grabbit was eager to go see the world and be exposed to books and ideas from around the world.
As fate would have it, good king Merryman died in his sleep while prince Grabbit was finishing up his university education. Prince Grabbit returned home very sad at the loss of his father but full of new ideas about how a kingdom should be run. We know how dangerous freshly minted scholars can be. So did the sensible women of the court who were quite concerned because King Merryman had not skillfully passed on to his son the ways and wisdom of the kingdom.
Nevertheless, the coronation was a grand event and as many as possible came to greet and pay homage to the new king. Toward the end of the day it was the clowns and fools who came to entertain king Grabbit. They joked, spoofed, did all sorts of pranks, gags and stunts which had all those present laughing until their sides hurt - all but king Grabbit. He hadn't been very fond of them to begin with and he had been learning about cost cutting, efficiency and productivity improvement techniques at the university. "All this foolishness is a waste of productive resources." thought King Grabbit. When the clowns and fools were done with their performance and had taken their bows, King Grabbit called them over, thanked them for their show and encouraged them to seek more useful employment as their services would no longer be needed. The Clowns and fools thought he was joking until they were not paid and turned out from the palace.
King Grabbit set to work immediately to make his kingdom more productive. He told the artists and the musicians to lay aside their canvasses and instruments and find productive employment in the fields and factories. The festivals were canceled because they took people away from their work. King Grabbit required the workers to carry clocks and calendars so they would work harder and longer.
The effects in the peaceful kingdom were not what King Grabbit expected. More fields were planted than ever before but the ground was not very productive and the harvest was not as good as before. There were more fights in the streets, discord in the home, and more trouble with disobedient children. Crime went up in the streets and the shops as a cloud of seriousness descended on the population.
This confused King Grabbit so he returned to his books for an answer. Soon he found it. The books predicted such a response to the changes as a normal adaptation to higher productivity. Seeing the prediction in a book put King Grabbit's mind at ease. "We will just have to suffer through this if we want higher productivity" thought King Grabbit.
Well try as we might to control this world, the one place we generally fail is in our dreams. King Grabbit's mind was at ease until a favorite pleasant recurrent dream turned into a nightmare.
Frequently as a child, Prince Grabbit would dream of a beautiful meadow at the edge of a great forest. The sun would be shining and a gentle cool breeze swayed the flowers. In the meadow was a white lamb grazing and watching the butterflies flitting from flower to flower. Out of the forest would come a huge lion many times the size of the lamb. The fire in his eyes softened as he saw the beautiful meadow and the lamb. The lamb would come over to the lion and rub up against his leg and the two would lie down together in the sun. Prince Grabbit would wake from this dream feeling rested and refreshed.
But now the dream changed. Instead of a beautiful meadow, he now dreamed of barren rocky soil on the edge of a burned out forest with the smell of charcoal in the air. Clouds obscured the sun as a cold cutting wind drove a sleety rain against the ground. A dirty thin lamb scrabbled over the rocks in search of something to eat. Out of the forest would come a huge lion many times the size of the lamb. The lamb would become frightened and begin to run. The lamb's fear inflamed the lion's hunger and the lion would chase. The lion would catch the lamb, crush the life out of it with its powerful jaws and devour it. Prince Grabbit would wake from this dream feeling terrified and anxious.
The dream came more and more frequently and King Grabbit was profoundly disturbed. He asked his wise men and women for advice but none understood the dreams or if they did, they didn't reveal what they knew for fear of losing their spot in the court if they displeased the king
Word of the king's troubles finally got out to the streets of the town where the fools and the clowns now begged for food. They had tried to get jobs but fools and clowns generally don't make very productive workers. They immediately understood the dreams and decided to elect a leader to go see the king and explain his dream. Sillygirl, the wisest and silliest clown of the troop, was unanimously selected to go see the king.
When Sillygirl presented herself to King Grabbit, he scoffed that she might have any idea what the dreams meant. "You fools and clowns are useless and certainly have no diploma in dream analysis." Sillygirl was undeterred and responded in a mock serious tone, "Listen to my foolish counsel before you dismiss it at your peril." King Grabbit was pretty disturbed by now and figured he had nothing to lose so he consented to hear her out.
Sillygirl reached into her bag of tricks and pulled out a mortar board, a university gown, and a pair of thick spectacles to prepare her to pretend to be a scholar. Once she was attired she found a podium and began to pontificate in a professorial tone:
"O Good King Grabbit, your dreams speak of the state of our kingdom. When you were young, all was good and peaceable in our kingdom and your dream reflected that truth. Now, the people are troubled and the cloud of seriousness you have brought upon us is working to destroy your kingdom."
King Grabbit was shaken by these words. "How can this be? I have studied at the university all the latest ways of governing. The books all say we should be experiencing greater productivity which creates greater happiness."
Sillygirl broke into hysterical laughter throwing her hat and glasses aside. "Unfortunately you have not studied the most important book in the kingdom which is your good father's wisdom. He would have understood the message of your dream clearly. I must now explain it to you."
"In the first dream the lion lies down with the lamb because they please each other and the lion enjoys the soft touch of the lamb's fleece. The pleasant climate and surroundings relax them and make them forget one is predator and the other prey. But in the second dream, the harshness only excites their hungers and fears. The lamb and the lion cannot escape their hunting and hunter roles.
"So it is in our kingdom, when the people are happy and loved by their king, they thrive and peace abounds. When conditions are hard and the king demands more and more, the people become cross, fight and there is no peace in the kingdom." Sillygirl finished her speech ran over to the king's throne and threw herself to the floor in mock adulation. "Have mercy on me," she cried "for I speak only the truth."
The court was silent and courtiers shuffled nervously. King Grabbit was speechless. No one had spoken to him so directly before. Fortunately for Sillygirl and the rest of the kingdom, King Grabbit was his father's son. He had inherited his father's heart, only not known quite how to open it up. In the tumult of the moment, a warm smile spread across his face and he began to laugh. It was the magical laughter that emerges when one's foolishness becomes transparent and the desire to prove the correctness of one's errors disappears.
King Grabbit called his guard to round up all the fools and clowns and asked them to return to the court. Then he organized the grandest festival the kingdom had ever known and paid the artists and the musicians twice their usual fee to try to help lift the cloud of seriousness plaguing the kingdom.
You can probably figure out the rest of the story. Yes, the fields returned to their former productivity, tranquility returned to the homes and children began listening to their elders again. King Grabbit continued with his productivity improvements, but now remembering the well being and enjoyment of his people and was much more successful.
And Sillygirl? Well, strange as these tales can be, the King took her back as a trusted, although unorthodox, adviser and eventually married her and made her his queen. I wouldn't say they lived happily ever after ,as King Grabbit still didn't like to be teased or mocked, but the palace was never short of laughter and in my book that's enough.
Copyright (c) 1995 by Rev. Samuel A Trumbore, All Rights Reserved.