Bedtime Stories for Kids - The Fool's Cap

 The Fool's Cap

There was a king who had a very clever and charming daughter. Since she was his only child, the one to marry her was to be the heir to the throne. But the princess said that she just won't marry up by her relatives, "I shall marry the man who can prove superior to me in wit!" she said. Many came, but they retreated hastily. None was found to be wittier than the princess. "My daughter," said the king, "at this rate, I don't think, I'm going to have a heir to the throne ever. Let us change the condition. Let us declare that one who can cheat me shall win your hand in marriage." "Let it be so, dear father," agreed the princess. Now, while announcing the new condition, the king also made it clear that those who failed in their effort to cheat the king would be whipped hard. Again, many came, but none succeeded in cheating the king.

They went back carrying stripes on their backs. A poor widow had a son. His friends took him to be a fool. Indeed, they had once ceremoniously presented him with a fool's cap. "Mother, mother, bless me. I'm going to try my hand in winning the hand of the princess," one fine morning the young man informed his mother. "Why not, my son! I bless you all right. If you succeed, you can return the fool's cap to your friends ceremoniously," said the mother. "Mother, thank you for reminding me of the fool's cap." The young man took out the cap and put it on and strode forth smartly. At the turn of the road, he saw an old woman out to sell some earthen pots. "What will be the total value of the pots you're carrying in your sack granny?" asked the young man. "No less than three coins, son." "Good. Will you do as I say if I pay you five coins?" The young man handed out the amount to the old woman and whispered to her what he will like her to do. Both reached the square in front of the king's palace. "Smash a pot!" commanded the young man. At once the old woman picked up a pot and dashed it on the ground. The young man asked her to do the same thing once again and the woman did it without any hesitation. This went on. Several pots were smashed. That was the time when the king in the habit of taking a stroll. The unusual situation attracted his attention. "Why are you smashing your pots?" he demanded the woman. 

"I cannot say, my lord! This stranger commands me to do so and I cannot but do so!" the woman replied humbly. "Why do you ask her to do so?" the king now asked the young man. "My lord, although I should not reveal the reason to anybody else, I cannot keep it a secret from you. This cap I wear has a strange power. One would do whatever I ask one to do with the cap on my head. I had not used it for a long time. This morning I felt like trying it," explained the young man. The king got curious. He took the cap and put it on his own head and commanded the lady to smash yet another of her pots. She did so without the least hesitation. The King was bent upon buying the cap. After some bargaining, the young man sold it for a hundred gold coins. In the evening the young man met the king. There was no need for much dialogue between them, for the king had by then realized that he had been cheated. "Well, I've no objection to your marrying the princess, provided you know who the princess is!" said the king and he asked the young man to come back in the morning.

As soon as the young man arrived, he was led into the inner apartments of the palace. At one place he saw a dozen damsels waiting for him, all dressed in the same way and of more or less the same age. "Find out who the princess is. I give you two minutes. If you succeed, you marry her, if you fail, Heavens have mercy on your back!" said the king. The young man was ready. He brought out a folded handkerchief from his pocket and emptied it which had a rat on the throng of those young ladies. There were shrieks and the ladies got scattered. But one of them fainted right away. At once the other sat down, crying, "O dear princess!" and tried to revive her. "There is my princess my lord," declared the jubilant young man. "You win!" said the king. The marriage was a grand affair, Years later, when the old king died and the young man ascended the throne, he wore the fool's cap under the crown. "This secured me the princess and the kingdom!" he said to his near and dear ones.

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