THE KING WHO RULED NOTHING

The King Who Ruled Nothing is a whimsical parable about a cruel king who ended up a lonely pauper when his subjects stopped obeying his commands. It was published in the October 2005 issue of Global Bits, a newsletter from New Zealand.

"The men think?" screamed the King. "What do I care what the men think? The men do not rule this kingdom—I do. Hang the men who will not fight."

Once upon a time there lived a cruel King who ruled with an iron fist. He was the most powerful King in the world, with a powerful army and an abundance of gold. One day the General of his army came to him with some rather bad news.

"Your Lordship," said the General, "my men are tired of war. They are tired of bad food and mud and blood and they wish to come home. We have already conquered half the world and the royal treasury is bursting with gold. The men think enough is enough."

"The men think?" screamed the King. "What do I care what the men think? The men do not rule this kingdom—I do. Hang the men who will not fight."

"I have, your Highness. I've executed hundreds. But they still will not fight anymore. Now the executioners are refusing to hang any more soldiers."

"Then hang the hangmen," ordered the King.

"Me personally? I'm afraid I couldn't do that. They are all close personal friends."

"Then I'll have you hung. Guards! Seize him!"

But try as he might, the King could not find anyone willing to arrest the General.

"I'll kill you myself then," screamed the furious King.

Just then a palace guard came in and announced that hundreds of women and children were gathering outside the palace gates and demanding that their men be allowed to come home from the wars.

"Tell them to go home," said the King.

"We have," said the guard. "But they won't leave."

"Have them hung then."

"We don't have enough rope."

"Arrest them."

"We don't have enough dungeon space."

"Then let them stay there until hell freezes over," shrieked the King.

"How will we get supplies into the palace, your Highness?" asked the guard.

"We have plenty of supplies for now. All this disobedience has made me hungry. Where's my lunch?"

"The cook has joined the people outside," said the guard.

"Well I still have my gold," said the King. "Have the palace treasurer give a gold coin to everyone who will obey me."

"The palace treasurer has joined the people outside as well," said the guard. "And the rest of the staff is packing their bags."

So the hapless King was forced to cook his own meals, wash his own clothes, dress himself and make his own bed. As time went by, the people surrounding the palace began to go home and resume their lives, and the soldiers straggled home from the wars. The King was forced to take all his gold and move into a small cottage that didn't require so much upkeep.

But still no one would obey him—not the neighborhood children when he told them to get out of his garden, not even his own dog. Day after day, the King would sit and count his gold that no one would accept. Sometimes one of his old subjects would come by and they would enjoy a game of chess, but unlike the old days, they wouldn't let the King win.

Meanwhile, the people in the Kingdom prospered in peace and lived happily ever after.

1990

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