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THE STORY THAT HAD NO END
Once upon a time there was a king who was so fond of hearing stories told that he would listen to them all day long. He cared for no other kind of amusement and he was always angry when the story came to an end. “Your stories are too short,” he said to the many story-tellers who tried to amuse him. Indeed no one had ever been found who was able to tell him a story that lasted long enough.

All the people of his court had tried again and again to please him. Some had told stories that lasted three months, some had told stories that lasted six months, and a few courtiers had been able to carry on their stories for one whole year. Still the king complained, for sooner or later the story was sure to come to an end.

At last he sent out the following proclamation to all the people of his kingdom:
PROCLAMATION

TO THE MAN WHO WILL TELL ME A STORY WHICH SHALL LAST FOREVER, I WILL GIVE THE PRINCESS, MY DAUGHTER, IN MARRIAGE; ALSO, I WILL MAKE THE SUCCESSFUL ONE MY HEIR AND HE SHALL BE KING AFTER ME. BUT MARK, LET NO MAN PRETEND THAT HE CAN DO SO, AND FAIL; FOR, IF THE STORY COMES TO AN END, THE STORY-TELLER SHALL BE THROWN INTO PRISON. THE KING.

The king’s daughter was a very beautiful princess, and there were many suitors in the kingdom who came to the court in hope of winning such a prize. But it was all of no use. Each tried as hard as he could to spin the story out, but sooner or later it came to an end and the unfortunate one met the fate the king had threatened.

This grieved the princess very much, and each time she begged the king to lighten the punishment of the poor story-teller who had risked so much for her sake.

58At last one man sent word to the king that he had a story which would last forever and ever, and that he was ready to come to the court at once. On hearing this the princess sent for the man and warned him of his danger. She begged him not to be so rash as to try the king’s patience, for no one had ever pleased his majesty, and she feared he would meet the fate of all those who had tried and failed. But he said he was not afraid, and he asked to be taken at once before the king.

“So you are the man who is to tell me a story that will have no end?” said the king.

“If it please your majesty,” answered the man.

“If you can do this, you shall be king after me, and you shall marry the princess, my daughter. But if you fail, you shall be cast into prison.”

“I understand, O king. I have a story about locusts which I shall be pleased to tell you.”

“Very well. Begin the story.”

59The story-teller began his tale.

“O king, there was once a ruler who was a great tyrant. He wished to be the richest in the land, so he seized all the corn and grain in his kingdom and had it stored away. Year after year he did this until all his granaries were filled full. But one year there came a swarm of locusts and they discovered where all the grain had been stored. After a long search, they found near the top of the granary a very small hole that was just large enough for one locust at a time to pass through. So one locust went in and carried off one grain of corn; then another locust went in and carried off one grain of corn; then another locust went in and carried off one grain of corn; then another locust went in and carried off one grain of corn—”

Thus the story-teller went on day after day, week after week, from morning till night. After hearing about the locusts for nearly a year the king became rather tired of them, patient though he was, and one day he interrupted the story-teller with:

60“Yes, yes, we’ve had enough of those locusts. Let us take for granted that they got all the grain they wanted. Now go on with the story. What happened afterwards?”

“If it please your majesty, I cannot tell you what happened afterwards until I have told you all that took place in the beginning. I go on with the story. Then another locust went in and carried off one grain of corn; then another locust went in and carried off one grain of corn.”

Another month passed by. At the end of this time the king asked impatiently, “Come, sir, how long will it take those locusts to carry away all the corn?”

“O king, I cannot tell. They have cleared away but a small space round the inside of the hole, and there are still thousands and thousands of locusts on the outside. Have patience, O king, there are enough grains for each locust to have one, and in time they, no doubt, will all pass in and each in turn carry away one grain of corn. Permit me, O king, to go on with my story. 61Then another locust went in and carried off one grain of corn; then another locust went in and carried off one grain of corn—”

“Stop, stop,” called out the king at last. “I cannot stand those locusts any longer. Take my kingdom, be king after me, marry my daughter, take everything, only never let me hear about those ridiculous locusts again.”

So the story-teller married the princess and succeeded to the throne upon the death of the king.


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