To Win A Princess

Many years ago, there was a small kingdom in northern India ruled by a monarch who was a good king in many ways. His only daughter, a lovely princess, was the centre of all his thoughts and affection.

The King always felt that the princess would marry a great prince and become the queen of a vast empire. Unfortunately when she was, but eighteen years of age, the princess fell ill with a mysterious disease that no doctor in the land could fathom.

Doctors, sages, astrologers and sorcerers came to the palace, each suggesting this or that as a cure. Still, it was of no avail, and it was evident to everyone that the princess’s condition was gradually worsening. The King was in the depths of despair.

As a last resort, the King sent out a proclamation far and wide that he would give the princess’s weight in gold to any doctor who could cure her of this terrible illness.

Eventually, two doctors from Vijayanagar came to the court and sought an audience with the grief-stricken King after examining the princess.

“Your Majesty, this disease is virtually unknown,” explained the elder of the two doctors. “No ordinary medicines are of any good, but a special type of orange is available. If the princess can be given three of these oranges, then she will be restored to health.”

The King was perplexed because he had never heard of anything called oranges. “What are oranges? And where can we obtain three?”

“Sire,” replied the physician, “The orange is a fruit, and this special kind of orange only grows in certain areas of central India, a long journey from here.”

The King immediately made it known throughout the land that he would give his daughter’s hand in marriage to any man who obtained the three oranges necessary to cure the princess.

An older woman with three grown-up sons lived not very far from the palace. The two elder sons did not believe in work, only in the idle pleasures of life. But the youngest of the three was hard-working; he was the home’s mainstay.

When the eldest son heard of the King’s proclamation, he was excited at his dreams of marrying the lovely princess and ruling the whole kingdom one day. He quickly got around his mother to pack some food and give him what money she had, so he could set off on this journey through India to find the three oranges.

After weeks of travel, he found the oranges and packed them safely in a basket, lost no time on his journey back to win the hand of the princess.

With the kingdom in sight but tired after so many weeks of travel, he decided to rest by the roadside. As he lay dreaming of his good fortune to come, a significantly older woman came strolling along the road, and when she reached our traveller, she asked him what was in his basket.

“Frogs, you silly old woman”, came the impatient reply.

“So let them be,” replied the old woman, and she went her way

Later the youth arrived at the palace clutching his precious basket, and when he was taken before the King, he exclaimed: “Here, your Majesty, are the three oranges; now I can marry the princess.’

The basket was opened, but instead of three oranges being inside, out jumped three fat frogs.

The King was rightly annoyed at such a trick and ordered the youth to be given twenty lashes and thrown into prison.

Meanwhile, the second son, feeling sure that his elder brother must have failed, having been away so long, also set out to find the three oranges. Like his brother, after weeks of travel, he found the beautiful oranges, which he packed in a basket and then made haste to return home.

Now it was almost at the same spot that this brother decided to rest, and he had hardly closed his eyes when the same older woman, who, eyeing the basket he held so tightly, asked him what was inside.

“Snakes, poisonous snakes, now be on your way,” shouted the youth in a threatening voice.

“So let them be,” said the old woman as she strode off.

After resting, this son quickly went to the palace and, when confronted by the King, held out the basket, saying, “Here are the three oranges; please now announce my marriage to the princess.”

When the basket was opened, instead of three oranges, out slithered three hissing cobras. The guards quickly killed the snakes, and the King ordered the erring youth to be given fifty lashes and imprisoned.

Now the youngest brother, wondering at the prolonged absence of his two brothers, also decided to try and find the oranges. Eventually, he found the oranges and, like his brothers, rested by the roadside near the end of his travels.

He was awakened from his slumber to see the same older woman standing close by, and she also asked his brother what was in his basket.

The youth looked at her with a smile: “Mother, I have three- oranges which I gathered many miles away. And these oranges will cure the illness of our fair princess.”

“That is wonderful,” said the old woman. “And now you will wed the princess.

The youth shook his head: “I do not think the King will be pleased to see his daughter marry a poor fellow such as myself. I will be quite content if rewarded with a little money, which will keep my mother in comfort.”

“How can a king break his word,” said the old woman. “Maybe he will try to get out of his promise by asking you to perform some impossible tasks.”

The old woman pondered for a while: “I will help you. Here is a magic whip, a gold ring and a silver whistle.”

“But what do I do with them?” queried the youth. The older woman whispered in his ear about the uses he could make of these magical items.

The youth duly went to the palace, and when he told the King he had brought the three oranges, the King remembering the past baskets, wondered whether he would see frogs, snakes or perhaps scorpions this time.

But when the lid was removed from the basket, there lay the three golden oranges. A miracle seemed to happen as soon as the princess ate them, for she was immediately transformed into radiant health.

The King was overcome with happiness, and suddenly, he remembered his promise that the princess would marry whomsoever obtained the oranges. An ordinary working youth, this would not do, and the King frowned at such a thought. All the courtiers wondered whether or not he would keep his promise.

The King clasped the youth on the shoulder and said. You have done well and shall marry the princess, providing you do three simple tasks.”

The youth readily agreed to undertake any tasks that the King desired.

“Well, your first task is to rid my garden of all the birds that flock there,” said the King.

With a smile, the youth went out into the palace garden, cracked his magic whip three times, and every bird flew away.

The King was astonished. And quickly tried to think of a task beyond the youth’s ability to perform. Then it came to him: “Your second task is to get rid of all the hares doing so much damage in my garden.”

Off went the youth into the garden and, putting the silver whistle to his lips, played a lilting tune, at which hares loping up to him from all directions. Still playing his whistle, the youth walked back into the palace with all the hares following at his heels.

The King was more than shocked. Then he had a brain-wave. Here, at last, was a task no one could do. Turning to the youth, he said, “For your third task, choose the hare I like best.”

The youth knew that the King would say it was not right whichever hare he selected.

“Certainly, your Majesty,” said the youth. “But before I choose the hare, let me place this gold ring on the finger of the princess.”

The King could not see how this would help the youth in his task, so he agreed, and the child put the ring given to him by the old woman onto ‘the princess’s finger.

The ring on her finger no sooner began to shrink in size, causing the princess to cry out in pain: “Father, this ring is killing me. Please marry me to this youth at once.”

The King realised the youth was too clever for him, so in a begging voice, he promised that if the child loosened the ring, he should marry the princess that very day.

So the youth and the princess were married. His brothers were released from prison, and his mother lived in comfort for the rest of her life.

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