As Wise As An Owl

Arabia was once ruled by a Sultan who was not only very capable and learned but very handsome too. So much so everyone wondered which princess he would choose for his wife.

But one day, when hunting, he saw the most beautiful Arab maiden. She not only took his breath away, but he fell in love with her on the spot. Alas, the girl was of humble birth, and the queen’s mother and his ministers strongly advised him against marrying anyone of humble birth.

The Sultan was loathed to accept such advice. He ate little, grew thin and bad-tempered, and refused to take any interest in the affairs of his country. In the end, the chief minister was sent to the girl’s home and gave her parents a large sum of money, soon obtaining their consent to the marriage of their daughter to the Sultan.

The wedding was a great festive occasion, but afterwards, things were no better; they were worse. The Sultan was so deeply in love with his beautiful wife he could not bear to be out of her sight. As a consequence, state affairs were sadly neglected, and seeing that the Sultan took no interest, all the officials did likewise. Taxes were not collected, canals were not repaired, and floods devastated the countryside and destroyed most crops when the rains came.

Famine swept the country, many people died, and many left the country to find somewhere to live better.

The court was very sad, and everyone pleaded with the chief minister to use his influence with the Sultan.

The chief minister agreed to do what he could, but he knew that a direct approach to the Sultan would mean an angry rebuke, perhaps even the loss of his head. So a cunning solution had to be found.

One evening the chief minister persuaded the Sultan to walk with him in the palace gardens. Two owls were busy hooting away in a nearby tree in the gathering darkness. In a horrified voice, the minister suddenly covered his ears with his hands and begged the Sultan to leave the gardens immediately.

The Sultan was amazed and asked the minister if he understood bird language. On the minister replying that he did, the Sultan asked what the owls were saying.

“Your Majesty,” said the minister very meekly, “I dare not say because the owls are talking treason.”

“Treason or not, I order you to tell me,” demanded the Sultan.

“Sire,” said the minister, “The two owls are discussing the marriage of their offspring. The boy’s father is demanding a dowry of fifty empty villages. And the other owl, I said there would be no difficulty about that because soon there would be hundreds of empty villages in the country.”

The Sultan pondered for a while, and then he stood. Turning to his minister with a smile, he said, “You can now tell your owls that they will be unlucky.”

From then onwards, the Sultan worked night and day to bring prosperity back to his country. Throughout each day, he rode around the country, arranging food for the starving. When the people saw their ruler helping them, they took heart and started working hard and helping themselves.

It is of little wonder that people said the chief minister was as wise as an owl.

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