The Coconut Prince
Once, in faraway Indo-China, there lived a poor woman. She had only one son, a very strange lad who looked so much like a coconut that he was always known as Coconut-head.
He seemed to have no arms and legs but just a tiny headset on a body which was precisely like a coconut. However, he was so wise and clever that it was impossible not to like him.
One day, little Coconut-head said to his mother, “Go to the king and tell him that I want to be made the keeper of his oxen.”
“How can you look after oxen when you have neither arms nor legs?” asked the surprised mother, but her son only said, “Don’t bother your head about that. Leave it to me.”
The king agreed to see Coconut-head and was so surprised by the little man’s intelligence and wisdom that he decided to make him the keeper of the oxen.
The next day, a servant seated Coconut-head on the back of one of the oxen, and he led the herd to the pasture.
The king had three daughters, who had been brought up very simply and taught to do all the household tasks. At midday,
the youngest was sent to the pasture with some food. When Coconut-head saw her, he rolled over the grass and stopped at her feet. The girl gave him his food and returned home, and that night, when Coconut-head brought the oxen back, the king was pleased to see that not one was missing.
“Tomorrow,” he said, “take this scythe with you and cut as many tough vines as you can to repair the roof of my house.”
The next day, the scythe was tied to the back of one of the oxen, and Coconut-head set out.
At midday, the youngest Princess took Coconut-head some lunch and curious to see how he was getting on, she approached the field silently and hid behind a large tree trunk. To her surprise, she saw that many servants surrounded him. Some looked after the oxen, while the others cut down vines.
After watching for some time, the girl called out and pretended that she had just arrived at the field. At once, Coconut-head made a sign, and in a twinkling, the servants vanished.
When he arrived that night, bundles of vines were tied to the back of each animal.
“Tomorrow,” said the king, hiding his amazement, “take this axe with you and cut down as much wood as you can so I can use it to make a new wing on my house.”
The next day, the axe was tied to the back of an ox, and Coconut-head set out for the field. The Princess, full of curiosity, went silently to the area at midday and climbed up into a tree. She saw Coconut- head, again surrounded by servants, who were busily cutting down trees. Then, to her amazement, the coconut shell split open and out stepped a tiny man, who proliferated into a handsome youth.
The Princess watched for a time and then called out, pretending she had just arrived. At once, the servants disappeared, and Coconut-head returned to his shell.
That night, a terrible storm broke out as Coconut-head returned with the oxen, and he took refuge in the kitchen, where the king’s three daughters were preparing a meal. The eldest two were very rude. “Your place is the stable, not the kitchen,” they told him unkindly, but the youngest smiled.
Coconut-head saw that she was as kind as she was beautiful. It did not take him long to fall in love with her, and he sent his mother to the king to ask for her hand in marriage.
The king was impressed by the little man’s wisdom and courage and said he would undoubtedly consent if his daughter agreed. The Princess said yes at once, to his surprise, so the wedding was quickly arranged.
They settled down to a life of great happiness. By day, Coconut-head was just the coconut prince, but at night he stepped out of his coconut shell and became a handsome young man. He told his wife that he was under the protection of the Genie of the Forest, who had given him magic powers.
The Princess, however, did not like her husband turning back into a coconut, and one night, she hid the shell so that the following day it was nowhere to be found, and the prince had to remain a handsome young man. When everyone saw the change, they were amazed and delighted, except the two older princesses, who were full of rage and jealousy.
Sometime later, the prince set out with his wife and her two sisters on a long voyage. The Princess wore a ring with a magic emerald, given to her by her husband. It was beautiful, and her two sisters asked her to take it off so they could see it better.
She did so, and the two sisters took the ring and looked at it closely, but they began to quarrel and argue and let it fall over the side of the ship into the sea. Without stopping to think, the youngest Princess plunged into the water after it.
She did not reappear, and although they searched for a long time, they could not find her. The prince returned home in deep despair from which nothing could arouse him.
The Princess had managed to clutch her ring as she plunged, but she found that she could not reach the surface again, so she called to the ring for help. At once, she grew smaller and smaller until she was tiny enough to be hidden inside a mother-of-pearl shell. Then the body was washed up on a distant beach, where a fisherman found it.
He opened the shell and found the tiny girl delighted with her; he took her home to his wife. As they had no children, they kept her with them and looked after her well.
One day, the Princess heard by chance that the city where her father and her husband lived was some distance away.
Overjoyed, she persuaded the older man to buy her a length of fine linen and some thread from the nearby market, and she set to work to make a gown, which she embroidered finely and trimmed with lace as only she knew how. Then she gave the beautiful garment to the old fisherman and asked him to take it to the city and sell it to no one but the king.
The journey was long, but, wishing to please her, the older man set out. When he reached the city, he took the gown to the king. He saw how finely it was worked and knew at once that only his youngest daughter could do such beautiful embroidery.
He sent at once for the unhappy coconut prince, and they asked the old fisherman who had made the gown. He told them about the tiny girl he had found in the sea shell, and he remembered that she wore an emerald ring.
At once, the prince leapt into a carriage and, taking the fisherman with him, set out for the cottage.
When the Princess saw them coming, she begged the ring to restore her to her former size, and at once, she began to grow until she had reached her average size.
The prince was overjoyed to have his bride again, and they returned to the king, where a sumptuous welcome feast was prepared. The young couple were so happy that they did not wish the two wicked sisters to be punished too severely, and they were sent to live in the fisherman’s tiny cottage by the shore while the fisherman and his wife were given a lovely house and a little farm to live on.
The two elder sisters soon repented of their jealousy, and everyone lived happily for many years afterwards.