Bedtime Audio Stories - The King, Farmer's Daughter And Golden Bell

 The King, Farmer's Daughter, And Golden Bell

Long, long ago in a village in Italy lived a farmer and his daughter. The farmer was honest and hardworking and the daughter, fair and intelligent. One morning as the farmer was tilling his land, his plough struck something solid. He dug a little and, to his amazement, unearthed a bell. After he wiped it clean he discovered that it was no ordinary bell. It was made of shining gold! "This can only belong to a king!" thought he. "I shall present it to him and am sure he will reward me handsomely." On reaching home, he showed it to his daughter and said that he proposed to carry it to the king. "It is no doubt a beautiful bell! But when the king sees it he will find that something is amiss and you may land yourself in trouble," warned the daughter whose name was Teressina. "Well, what can be wrong with such a perfect piece of workmanship?" said the farmer, still charmed with his discovery.

"Take it to the king then," replied Teressina, "and be prepared to hear him comment, It is a lovely bell! But where is its clapper? O my good old farmer! Could you kindly tell, Will the bell ring? Will the bell sing?". Paying no heed to his daughter's words, the farmer marched straight to the palace. Bowing low before the king, he began, "Your Majesty, I found this wonderful bell while hoeing my land. I feel that it deserves to be hung atop the tall palace tower." The king took the bell, turned it upside down and round and round, even sniffed at it, but then said, "It is a lovely bell! But where is its clapper? O my good old farmer! Could you kindly tell, Will the bell ring? Will the bell sing?" in a firm tone. "Good heavens!" the farmer couldn't help but exclaim, "She guessed it, word for word!" "Who guessed what?" asked the surprised king. "Your Highness," replied the farmer, "my daughter had told me that the king, upon seeing the bell, would say just those words, but I turned a deaf ear to her." "Ah!" said the king with a grin, "This daughter of yours must be very clever indeed!" He asked one of his attendants to bring a basketful of cotton balls. "Take these and ask her to make a set of dress for each of my courtiers. She should complete the job before the sun sets tomorrow." The dumbfounded farmer, leaving the bell behind, for which he received not even thanks, what to speak of any reward, picked up the basket and set out for home. He told his daughter all that had happened in the palace and about the king's order too.

Teressina went to the barn and returned with a basketful of chips of wood. "Do not be anxious, dear father, now go right back to the king. Tell him that I do not have a wheel to spin the cotton nor a loom to weave the cloth. If His majesty could have them made for me out of this basketful of chips of wood, his order will be carried out to the letter." The king was only too happy to learn that such an intelligent young girl resided in his domain. "That daughter of yours seems to be very sharp," he said to the farmer. "Send her to me so that I may have the pleasure of her company. But see to it that she comes to me neither naked nor clothed, neither having eaten anything nor having drunk, but on a stomach neither full nor empty, neither on foot nor riding and neither during the day nor at night. If she fails to fulfill these conditions to every single detail, then both father and daughter will be banished forever from my kingdom." The farmer returned home in the lowest of spirits. "What is the matter?" asked Teressina. He told her the task the king has set before her and the fate that awaits them should she fail to accomplish it. But she consoled him, saying, "Do not worry father, everything will go perfectly well." Just before dawn the next day, the people of the kingdom witnessed an unusual but amusing sight. A damsel draped with a fishing net and straddled on a pony but with one of her feet dragging on the ground and the other dangling in the air, was slowing making her way to the palace. The guards on learning that she was only carrying out their master's summons, escorted her to the royal chambers.

But the doors were closed. Then as the first streak of light was filtering in through the darkness, Teressina gently pulled the pony's ears and it gave a loud neigh. Out rushed the king, still not fully awake. "I'm the farmer's daughter, Teressina, they call me. In compliance with your order Here I stand before thee. No food nor drink for me nor for my pony, What we have lapped a little is neither solid nor liquid but honey!" The king at once burst into fits of laughter and almost split his well-rounded sides. Realizing that she had proved smarter than himself, he said, "Teressina! Dear, dear! What a lovely name! You are the girl that I was long waiting for. I shall forthwith make you my queen. But on condition that you should never meddle in my kingly duties." The wedding was celebrated with much pomp and fanfare. People from all over the land thronged in the capital. A farmer, who had come with a pregnant cow, hoping to get a good price for it, could not find a place for the night nor a barn to put the animal in. 

At last, a kindly innkeeper told him that he could tether the cow to a cart that a villager had kept before the inn and himself lie down in the warmth of his kitchen. Early the next morning the farmer was happy to find a calf born to his cow during the night. As he was about to lead them away he was stopped by the owner of the cart. "You may take your cow if you like, but not the calf. For the calf goes with the cart," said he. There were heated arguments followed by a scuffle. Meanwhile, the guards arrived and took both the men to the royal court. The king heard attentively the two sides and thought for a while. Then amidst pin drop silence, pronounced his judgment, "The calf goes with the cart." The farmer was shocked. Alas, what could he do? The king's words were final. The good innkeeper, seeing him so depressed, asked him to go to the queen and seek her advice. "No," said the sentry at the palace gate, "the king has strictly forbidden the queen to hear people's cases. You cannot meet her." The farmer, determined to meet the queen, climbed the walls, and espied her in the garden tending roses. He bowed to her and told her of the injustice that had been done to him. 

Teressina instructed the tearful farmer as to what he should do. The next morning the farmer equipped with a net went to the dry lake in the forest. Lowering the net into the lake he pretended to catch lots of fish. The king and his retinue passed by this lake on their hunting trip. Seeing the farmer's efforts at catching fish in a dry lake, the king almost fell off his horse laughing. "My dear friend, you've surely gone out of your mind. How many fish have you caught, may I know?" he asked the farmer. "Your Majesty," answered the farmer, "if a cart can give birth to a calf then why can't a dry lake yield fish?" The king understood that somebody else had a hand behind this play-acting. "Goodman, have you been lately speaking to some wise person?" he asked the farmer. The farmer spoke the truth and the king revised his order, this time awarding him the calf. At the palace, he called the queen and said, "Dear Teressina, I had asked you not to interfere in the state's affairs. You have not honored my wish. You may take any object, but only one, which you like most and leave for your father's house and lead the life of a farm girl once again." "Your Majesty, grant me one more night so that we may dine together for the last time," humbly pleaded Teressina. "All right, so be it," said the king. This time what did clever Teressina have in her mind? She ordered the cook to prepare dishes that were most palatable and at the same time induced sleep. Since it was a farewell dinner the king obliged the queen by eating and drinking whatever she offered him.

Still in his chair, the king soon fell into a deep slumber. Teressina asked the servants to pick up the chair along with its content and follow her quietly. On reaching home she knocked the door and called her father. "At this time of the night! Had I not feared that one day, sooner or later, the king will turn you out? Nevertheless, I've kept your work clothes all ready," said the old man in a remorseful tone. But when he opened the door he could not believe his eyes. He rubbed them to make sure he was not dreaming. Teressina, requesting him not to question her for the rest of the night, put the king to bed. Then she asked the servants to wait in a nearby hut. In the morning the king woke up to the symphony of various sounds of birds and animals and found the room flooded with bright sunshine. He could no longer recognize his bed-chamber. "Where am I?" he asked Teressina who was beside him. "My lord! Didn't you ask me to leave for my father's house with only one object that I like most? I liked you the most, your Majesty," she answered with a sly smile. The king gave out a hearty laugh and sent for his chariot and returned to the palace with Queen Teressina. And they lived in harmony for the rest of their lives. But from that day onwards the king always took the queen to the royal court of justice. "You must help me in judging the cases, dear," he said. And there was never a wrong judgment, even though the jolly king often went to sleep amidst the trials!

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