The Fisherman and the King’s Chamberlain
By Maung Htin Aung
——Provided by Myanmar Embassy in Beijing
Once there was a King who could not eat any meal unless there was included a dish of fried fish. One day, there blew a great storm and fishermen could not catch any fish. The King could not eat any breakfast because there was no fried fish and he was very annoyed. Lunch time came, but there was no fish and the King was very angry. Dinner time approached, but still there was no prospect of any fried fish, and the King was now desperate. ‘Let it be announced by beat of gong and drum’, ordered he, ‘that the Fisherman who brings me but one single fish will be given any reward that he may name’. However, the storm continued to rage, and the waters remained turbulent. At last at dusk, a Fisherman, trying with a mere line and hook, caught a fat and oily fish, and he ran with all his might to the King’s palace. The guards, seeing the fish in the Fisherman’s hand, threw open the gates, and the Fisherman reached the King’s chamber without let or hindrance. But at the chamber door, the Chamberlain said, ‘Promise me half your reward and I will let you in.’ ‘One-tenth’, promised the Fisherman. ‘Oh, no,’ said the Chamberlain, ‘one half, and no less,’ ‘Agreed’, replied the Fisherman, and in great glee, the Chamberlain announced to the King the arrival of a Fisherman with a fish. The King, in great joy, seized hold of the fish, and the Fisherman’s hand, and rushed into the kitchen.
After the fish had been fried, the dinner laid before the King, and the King and eaten, he sat back hugging his well-filled stomach, and asked, ‘Fisherman, name your reward. Do you want to have a priceless ruby, or a well-paid post, or a pretty maid from the queen’s bower?’ ‘No, Sire, no, Sire, ‘replied the Fisherman, falling on his knees, ‘I want twenty lashes with your cane.’ ‘The poor fellow is flabbergasted’, mused the King, ‘and he does not know what he is saying.’ So he said gently to the Fisherman, ‘My man, you mean twenty rubies, or twenty elephants or even twenty horses.’ ‘No, Sire, no, Sire,’ replied the Fisherman, ‘I want just twenty lashes with your cane.’ ‘I am sorry’, sighed the King, ‘but I must keep my promise and give you what you ask.’ So saying, he took up a cane and beat the Fisherman gently. ‘No, Sire, no, Sire,’ said the Fisherman, ‘ not so soft, Sire, please hit me hard.’ The King feeling annoyed, wielded the cane with some vigour, but when he had given the Fisherman ten lashes, to his astonishment he saw the Fisherman jump away, ‘ Have I hit you too hard?’ the King inquired with concern and pity. ‘No, Sire, no, Sire,’ explained the Fisherman, ‘but the remaining ten lashes are your Chamberlain’s share.’ ‘The poor Chamberlain now had to confess what he had done, but pleaded, ‘My Lord, I asked for a half share of his reward and not of his punishment.’ ‘But this is my reward, and not my punishment’, argued the Fisherman. The King sent for the Princess Learned-in-the-law to come and decide the case. ‘My Lord King,’ said the Princess Learned-in-the-Law after she had arrived and listened to the two litigants, ‘the Chamberlain and the Fisherman were partners in a business, ‘to wit, to supply a fish to the King, and they agreed to share. But, my lord, in a partnership, the agreement to share does not mean that only the profits are to be shared, but it means that gain and loss, income and expenditure, success and failure, reward and punishment are to be equally shared.’ The King accepted the judgement of the Princess, and gave the Chamberlain ten good lashes with his cane. Then he said, ‘The partnership is now dissolved as the business has ended. As a consequence, however, I order that the Chamberlain be dismissed for corruption and disloyalty, and the Fisherman appointed Chamberlain in his place.’
The Fisherman and the King’s Chamberlain,
(By Maung Htin Aung)