IN the Kingdom of Fools, both the king and the minister were idiots. They didn’t want to run things like other kings, so they decided to change night into day and day into night. They ordered that everyone should be awake at night, till their fields and run their businesses only after dark, and go to bed as soon as the sun came up. Anyone who disobeyed would be punished with death. The people did as they were told for fear of death. The king and the minister were delighted at the success of their project. One day a guru and his disciple arrived in the city. It was a beautiful city, it was broad daylight, but there was no one about. Everyone was asleep, not a mouse stirring. Even the cattle had been taught to sleep by day. The two strangers were amazed by what they saw around them and wandered around town till evening, when suddenly the whole town woke up and went about its nightly business.
“In the Kingdom of fools” is an interesting Kannada folktale taken from A K Ramanujan’s “Folk Tales from India”.
Once upon a time, there lived a king and his minister. They were considered to be idiots because they lacked intelligence and seemed to be fools. The reason behind the statement was that the king and his minister wanted to change their kingdom to a new one. They made the decision that they did not want to rule their kingdom like other kings. So, they thought of different plans to make some changes in their kingdom.
A foolish king
At first, the king and his minister planned to change night into day and day into night. It was impossible to turn night into day and day into night, as it is a natural phenomenon. However, the story did not refer to the changeover from day to night. It meant that whatever work should be done during the day should be done in the night, and vice versa. For instance, usually, people used to work in the fields or shops throughout the day. But the people of the foolish king’s kingdom were ordered to work in the fields or run their business at night. When the sun rises, the kingdom’s citizens will have to go back to bed and sleep.
People would sleep during day and work at night
On the other hand, the people were unable to speak out against their king. If they raised their voices against the king, they would be sentenced to death. So people were afraid of the foolish king and his official. They were dissatisfied with the new rules. The kingdom’s citizens had no other options. If they wanted to stay in the city, they had to obey their king or else the king would punish them. Later the king and the minister became delighted because their plan got succeeded. Gradually, everything started to change according to their desires.
While the strange things were happening in the city, a guru and his disciple came to the city. The city seemed to be very beautiful. As it was daytime, the guru and his disciple could not find a single person outside the home or street. They were surprised to see that no one was there. As the guru and the disciple were new to the city, they were unaware of the kingdom’s new rule.
A guru and his disciple
Nobody in the city was awake, and not even a mouse could be seen outside. It signified that not only the humans were accepting the orders but also the mouse were following the foolish king’s command. On the other hand, cattle like cows, goats, and sheep were trained to sleep during the day. Therefore, the total kingdom was found to be asleep during the daytime.
Mouse and cattle were sleeping during the day
The guru and his disciple roamed here and there till evening because they could not find anyone in the town. The night had come. Immediately, the whole town woke up from their sleep. People came to their shops and fields to start their night work.
Meanings of the difficult words:
|Idiot||A stupid person or a person of low intelligence|
|Awake||Stop sleeping; wake from sleep|
|Fool||A person who acts unwisely or a silly person|
|Kingdom||A country, state, or territory ruled by a king or queen|
|Business||A person's regular occupation, profession, or trade|
|Disobey||Fail to obey rules, a command, or someone in authority|
|Delight||Feeling or showing great pleasure|
|Success||The accomplishment of an aim or purpose|
|Stirring||Moving briskly; active|
|Cattle||A group of animals that includes cows, buffaloes, and bison, that are often kept for their milk or meat|
|Wander||Walk or move in a leisurely, casual, or aimless way|
|Amazed||Greatly surprised; astonished|
|Stranger||An unknown person|
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2006). Moments. In the Kingdom of Fools– A K Ramanujan (pp. 19-24). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.