The Prince And The Peacock

Once, on a far-away island in the sunny South Seas, a king lived with only one son.

The people were happy, for the sun always shone, and there was always plenty of food. Only the king was sad, for his little son had been dumb from birth. No one had been able to make him utter a sound.

On the same island, there lived a lively, jolly rogue named Pango, who loved lazing in the sun and playing tricks on people but hated work of any kind. When there was work to be done in the fields, Pango was usually nowhere to be found.

At last, the villagers grew tired of this, and they said to Pango, “We will not do all your share of the work for you any longer. Go out into the world and earn your living.”

Pango left the village and set out to seek his fortune. At last, he felt hungry and stopped at a little wayside house, hoping to be given some food.

The woman who lived there gladly shared her meal with them. While they ate, she told him all the news of those parts. She told him about the king, who lived in a fine palace not far away and the rich re- ward he had offered for anyone who could give his little son a voice.

“He has offered a room full of food, a room full of gold and a room full of fine clothes, but so far, no one has claimed the reward,” she told Pango.

Pango decided to travel to the king’s palace and try to find the prince a voice, so he set out once more, pondering the problem deeply, but however hard he racked his brains, he could see no solution at all.

Soon he came across a little older man. He seemed the most senior and frailest man Pango had ever seen and was carrying a bundle that seemed almost as large as himself.

Being a kindly soul, Pango stopped and said, “Good day to you, father. That looks like a heavy bundle. Let me carry it for you.”

“Thank you, my son, you are very kind,” said the old man, and as they went on to- together, he asked Pango where he was going.

“Oh, I am on my way to the king’s palace to see if I can find a voice for the prince,” replied Pango. “But I do not yet know how I shall do it. The problem is a tough one. However, the reward is great.”

“Is that all?” said the little old man. “It is quite simple. All you have to do is find a beautiful voice that can charm all who hear it and make sure the prince hears it, too. It will charm him also so much that he will feel he must imitate it, and the moment he opens his mouth to try, the voice will belong to him.”

With that, the older man took his bundle from Pango and went.

Pango was delighted with his piece of good fortune, and as he went along, he met a pig. “Tell me, my friend, what would you say if you went to the palace to talk to the king?” he asked.

“Grumph, grumph, grumph,” the pig and Pango shuddered. “That is not a fit voice for a prince,” he said.

Next, he met a goat. “What would you say if you went to the palace to talk to the king?” he asked.

“Bleh, bleh, bleh,” replied the goat, and Pango thought, “That is not a fine enough voice for a prince.”

Farther along the road, he met a hen, so he stopped and said, “Tell me, little hen, if you went to the palace to talk to the king, what would you say?”

“Cluck, cluck, cluck,” replied the hen, and Pango shook his head sadly. “That is not nearly good enough for a prince,” he thought.

Pango was almost in despair when he saw an ugly, dull grey peacock sitting on the fence. “What would you say if you went to the palace to talk to the king?” he asked.

The peacock stared at him proudly. “I would say nothing,” it replied haughtily, “for I would only have to open my mouth and sing, and my voice would charm them all into silence.” With that, the peacock opened its mouth and sang a beautiful song that even the wind stopped rustling the leaves and fell silent.

Pango was delighted. “Surely that is a voice fit for a prince,” he thought.

Pango went to the palace, asked to see the king and pro- missed to find the prince a voice.

“You must hold a cont├ęst in the palace,” Pango said, “and offer a great reward for the finest singer.”

When the day for the contest arrived, the king and queen and all the court were gathered to hear the singers. Only the little dumb prince could not be seen, for Pango had placed him out of sight and told him to listen carefully. “When you hear a voice which charms you, you must open your mouth and imitate it,” Pango told him.

First, the pig sang a song of grunts and snorts, most unmusical.

Then the goat sang, and his voice was rough and gruff. Then the hen sang, crowing and clucking and finally, all three sang together, making a terrible din, so the king longed to put his hands over his ears.

The dull, grey peacock lis- tened haughtily. Then, it walked proudly forward and opened its mouth. It sang a song beautifully that the whole court was silent and still.

The little prince thought he had never heard anything so beautiful, and he opened his mouth to imitate the song. To everyone’s surprise, the pea- cock’s theme was repeated from a different part of the courtyard, and the delighted king saw that it was his son who was singing.

The peacock opened its mouth, but now only an ugly croak came out. “You have tricked me,” it cried in a fury.

The king was delighted. “You have done a great service and shall be well rewarded,” he told Pango. “However, you must also be punished for tricking the peacock. You shall have the room full of food and gold, but the room full of fine clothes shall go to the peacock. In the future, he shall always be a beautiful bird to compensate for his voice’s loss.”

So it happened. Pango received his reward, the peacock lost his voice but was dressed in gorgeous colours and stayed as proud as ever, and the little prince gained a voice. He was so happy that he sang wherever he went, and all the island’s people heard him and followed his example, making their island a land of song and sunshine.

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