The Greedy King

The Greedy King

From the author who discovered Thomas Merton's worldly possessions

A Fairy Tale for Peace-Loving Adults

by John Smelcer

Long ago and far away there was a kingdom that was said to have a great treasure hidden somewhere in the castle. The treasure was so great, so it was said, that the people of the kingdom lived happily and in peace. It was said of the king of that happy kingdom that kindness was his second nature. The people of neighboring kingdoms wondered what the treasure was. Some said it was a mountain of diamonds and emeralds and rubies. Others said it was mounds of gold and silver.

Everyone thought about the treasure, especially King Craven. He couldn’t stop thinking about how rich he would be if he had the treasure all for himself. He could make his castle bigger than any other castle in the realm. He would have a golden bejeweled crown for each day of the week. In his royal dining hall, there would hang a diamond chandelier above a table made of gold. The goblets and plates and bowls and candlesticks would be gold. The forks and knives and spoons would be silver. In his royal chamber, he imagined combs and brushes and an ornate mirror made of gold. His bed would be made of gold and rubies. His royal carriage would be made of silver with blue sapphires in the wheel spokes.

One day, the greedy King spoke to his subjects as they gathered below a castle window. “We have all heard of our neighbor’s magnificent treasure. Why should they have all that treasure for themselves? Are they better than us?”

“No!” shouted the people.

“Is it right of them to keep all those riches for themselves?” bellowed the king.

“No!” screamed the mob.

“We are the greatest kingdom in the world!  We are the most righteous! We deserve that treasure!” declared the king. “Think of all the good things we could do with it and how it could make our lives better,” he said, though he was really thinking only about himself.

Soon, the crowd was shaking their fists and screaming, “We deserve the treasure! It belongs to us!”

“We should take it for ourselves!” someone shouted.

greedykingThe next day, all of the men in the kingdom marched toward the neighboring kingdom with swords and spears and shields. Some rode atop huge horses with shining armor. Some pulled catapults and a castle door battering ram and cart loaded with long ladders for climbing high castle walls. Flags of King Craven waved in the wind while trumpets blared and drummers set the marching pace.

(Illustrations by David T. Wenzel; used with permission)

When the army arrived at the neighboring castle, the king of that kingdom stood on the rampart above the closed gate and welcomed King Craven.

“Welcome friends!” said the kind king. “To what do we owe the honor of your unexpected visit?”

“We have come for your treasure!” demanded King Craven.

The neighboring king looked down at the vast army below.  “No army on earth can take our treasure by force,” he said with a sigh. “But we will gladly share it with you.”

But that wasn’t good enough for King Craven. He didn’t want to share the treasure. He wanted it all. “We are the greatest kingdom in the world! We are the most righteous! We deserve all of the treasure! Surrender it or we will attack!” he bellowed.

When the neighboring king repeated that no army could take their treasure, King Craven ordered his army to storm the castle.

greedyking2When the battle was over and all of the people of the neighboring kingdom were defeated, including the king, King Craven’s soldiers all but destroyed the castle in search of the secret chamber. When they finally found it, soldiers broke down the door, and there, in a beam of slant light surrounded by a pool of water with flower petals floating on the surface and with a simple stone bridge, was a book lying open on a large stone. The greedy king read what was written.

Love one another. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Too late, the greedy king understood what the selfless king had meant when he said that no army could take their treasure, but they would gladly share it.

Inspired by the song “One Tin Soldier” (1971) performed by Coven


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