There was nothing that the great Emperor Babar would hesitate to do for his subjects. He used to regard his subjects as his own children. From time to time Babar used to go out of the palace grounds and walk along the streets to mix with his subjects and see the conditions in which they were living. Often if he saw someone who was poverty-stricken, he would help him out. People did not recognise him because he dressed very simply at those times. Also, he wore a kind of turban over his crown, so it was impossible for people to know what it was by seeing only the outside of it.
Now it happened that there was a young man who cherished tremendous jealousy towards Babar because everybody appreciated, admired and adored him. Everybody always extolled Babar to the skies for his bravery, kindness, nobility and other divine qualities. For this reason the young man had long been harbouring a desire to kill Babar. He had heard that from time to time the Emperor walked in the city all alone. So he always carried a sword, hoping that someday he would meet the Emperor when he was by himself and have the opportunity to kill him.
Usually when Babar went out, his guards would secretly follow him to protect him. Although Babar didn’t want anyone to go with him, his guards were afraid for his safety. Babar was the ruler of the whole kingdom, but in this respect his own bodyguards wouldn’t listen to him.
On one particular afternoon, the Emperor managed to go out alone, without his guards. As Babar was walking along incognito, he saw a mad elephant coming down the street. People were shouting and running away from the elephant, and everybody was panicking. But there was one little, helpless child who could not run fast enough to get out of the way. Everybody was frightened to death, but nobody dared to try to save the child. Just as the elephant was about to trample the little child, the Emperor ran over at top speed and snatched the child out of the way. Babar saved the child, but as he was running away with him, his turban fell to the ground.
When the mad elephant had passed by, some men ran to pick up the turban of the brave hero. When they saw the inside, they realised that it was actually the crown of their Emperor. The young man who wanted to kill Babar was one of those who had seen the Emperor save the life of the child. Although he himself had known that the child’s life was in danger, he had not been brave enough to try to save him, and he had run away, just like everybody else. When he realised what had happened, he fell at Babar’s feet and said, “Forgive me.”
Babar said, “What have you done?”
The man said, “I have been cherishing the desire to kill you for many years, because I was terribly jealous of the admiration you receive. Now I see that you truly deserve it. As Emperor, you are more precious to the kingdom than any of us, but you were ready to give up your own life to save an ordinary human being. What I have learned from you is that it is infinitely better to give life than to take life. This is what you have taught me. Now, instead of taking your life, I am giving you mine. Please take my life.” Then he offered Babar the sword with which he had planned to kill him.
Babar took the sword and said, “I taught you how to give life. Now I am going to take your life. Come with me. From now on you will be one of my bodyguards. I can see that your sincerity is truly remarkable, and I am sure you will be a faithful guard.”
So Babar took the man’s life, only to make it into a useful and fruitful one. Instead of killing him, instead of punishing him, Babar made the man one of his personal bodyguards.