The superlative fool

There was once a superlative fool. Nobody could be compared with him, for his stupidity knew no bounds. Wherever he went, people would poke fun at him and make his life miserable. Finally, the poor fool went to the king. He showed the king his sad face and said, “Your Majesty, please help me! Everybody is saying I am the worst possible fool. Nobody takes me seriously. Is there any way you can change my reputation?”

The king sympathised with the fool and said, “All right, let me examine you. If I find that you have some wisdom, then nobody will dare to call you a fool again.” The king thought for a few moments and then said, “I have a wife, as you know. People call her the queen. My wife is very, very beautiful. I have a daughter who is also extremely beautiful, and talented as well. She has a younger brother who is the prince. Although he is still a child, he is already quite strong. So these are three of the members of our family. But we actually have four members. Can you tell me who the fourth member is?”

The fool was stupefied. He said, “How do you expect me to know? Have I been inside your palace? Do I know your family members personally?”

The king felt genuinely sad, for the fool was even more dull-witted than he had imagined. He said, “The answer is so simple: I am the fourth member of the family.” Then the king added, “Although you could not pass my examination, let me see what I can do for you.”

The fool was so happy and proud that he had been permitted to have an audience with the king and also to know the answer to the king’s riddle. He was dying to show off his knowledge, so he went to see his dearest friend and said, “I have a very beautiful wife, an excellent daughter and a very strong and powerful son. There are four members in our family. Can you tell me who the fourth member is?”

The friend said, “Of course I can! You are the fourth member.”

“Oh, no,” said the fool, “you are wrong, you are wrong!”

The friend said, “In what way am I wrong?”

The fool replied very dramatically, “The king has told me privately that he himself is the fourth member of the family. I cannot tell a lie. The fourth person is the king!”

Eventually the king came to hear what the muddleheaded fool was saying, and he felt that the time had come to fulfil his promise to the fool. The king appointed a very learned member of his court to give this stupid fellow as many free lessons as he wanted. Not only would they be free of charge, but each time he attended a lesson, he would get some gold coins from the king. In this way, the king hoped to have one less fool in his kingdom.