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40 The Man Who Knew All about Animals, Diamonds, and People’s Character T O L D B Y S H M U ’ E L R E C A N A T I T O H E D A J A S O N Once there was a poor man who had ten sons. One of them was clever and knew all about animals, diamonds, and people’s character. But he had no luck and no job. His father went to the king. He told him, among other things, “I have a son who understands animals, diamonds, and people’s character.” “Fine,” said the king, “bring him here.” When the young man arrived at court, the king instructed his cook to give him [the man] half a loaf of bread every day. Fine. This went on for one day, two days, a week, a month. The young man saw how things were going. “This is a living?” One day someone gave the king a present, a horse. But this was no ordinary stallion. There was none more handsome in the whole world, with such a long neck, and such legs—it had no peer. The king was very pleased with the gift. Suddenly he remembered. “There’s someone at my court who knows all about animals. Call that man!” They summoned the young man. When he came, he glanced at the horse. “You must not ride this horse, Your Majesty. It will kill you.” “How do I know that’s true?” “Get them to bring a condemned prisoner, and then you’ll see.” So they fetched a condemned prisoner. “Mount this horse and run away,” the king told him. “It’s your chance for freedom.” This prisoner was astounded at this turn of events. But freedom is freedom ! So he climbed on the horse and galloped away, farther and farther. The king watched as he galloped out of sight, still visible only through field glasses. “What’s this?!” demanded the king of the young man. “You said it would kill me!” “Patience, Your Majesty. Wait just a bit longer.” Just then the horse threw the prisoner and trampled him to death. 312 40 / Man Who Knew All about Animals  313  “Give this man another half a loaf every day,” the king instructed his cook. Time passed. One day, someone brought a diamond to the king and offered to sell it to him. The price: its weight in gold. But you’ve never seen such a large diamond! The king was eager to buy it. His servants brought a balance and began to fill the other pan with gold. However much they put in, though, it wasn’t enough. What was going on? Then the king remembered the young man. “Fetch him here,” he ordered. They brought him to the king. “You understand these things?” he asked the young man. “Yes.” “How much is the diamond worth?” The young man went over and removed the gold from the balance. In its place he took a pinch of ashes and set it on the pan, opposite the diamond . At once the pan with the ashes fell and the pan with the diamond shot up. “What’s going on here?” “It’s not a diamond. It’s a cow’s eye.” They kicked the merchant out. “Give this man another half a loaf of bread every day,” the king told his cook. The young man went back to his place. Some time later, the king said, “We’ve asked him about two of his specialties, but not yet the third. Summon him.” They called him before the king. “Tell me, you also understand people ’s character? “Yes.” “Then tell me. What do you understand about me? Who am I?” “You?You’re a bastard!” “What?!!” “That’s right.You’re a bastard.” When night fell, the king went and knocked on the door of his mother’s house. “Who’s there?” “It’s me, your son.” She opened the door and he entered. He drew his sword and stuck it up against her stomach. “Tell me, who am I?” “You? What’s the matter?You’re a king, the son of a king.” “If you don’t tell me the truth I’ll kill you!” And he brought the sword even closer to her skin. “You? Well, you know your father, that is, the king, wasn’t worth anything . And we had a baker, who was so handsome, so strong. You came from...


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