The king chooses the strongest man

Once a king wanted to have the strongest man in the kingdom work for him. The prime minister said, “There are three very strong men. Which one is the strongest, I cannot say.”

All the three were commanded by the prime minister to present themselves before the king. The prime minister said, “It seems that they are equally strong. Some will say the first one is the strongest, some will say the second one, and some will say the third one. O King, please decide who is the strongest.”

The king said to the three men, “My guards will take each of you to a different place in the desert. The distance from each place to the palace will be the same. You will be taken there by cart, and you have to return on foot. You have to prove that you are strong. To the one who reaches the palace first I will give three hundred rupees. The second one will receive two hundred rupees, and the last one will receive one hundred rupees. Now you go.”

The first strong man said, “If I have to go there, please give me shoes. I will be walking on scorching sand, so I need shoes. Will you not give me a pair of shoes?”

The king was surprised by this man’s audacity. “All right,” he said, “I shall supply you with shoes.”

Then the second one said, “Please, please, allow me to take your son, the prince, with me. If your son goes with me, I am sure you will send me to a place that is a shorter distance from here. You will not want him to endure a gruelling ordeal.”

Everybody started laughing. One wanted to have a pair of shoes so that he could walk on the sand. The other one wanted the prince to accompany him so that he would not have to walk as far.

The king was a little bit amused. He said to the third one, “Now what do you want? Do you need something special? Or are you ready to leave?”

The third strong man said, “I am not ready because I am not going.”

The king asked, “Why?”

The fellow replied, “It is not worth three hundred rupees to risk my life in the desert. Let one of the other two be the winner. I will not mind. O King, I do not need your three hundred rupees. I know you will take me far away. If I have to walk fast in the blazing heat, I will collapse. It is not worth the money. I am not going.”

The king was puzzled. He had never encountered this kind of disobedience. He had so many soldiers. Easily he could order them to kill these men.

Then the king said to the prime minister, “What kind of men have you brought? They are so haughty! I am only trying to decide how to punish them.”

The prime minister said, “Did I know their characters? You asked me to bring you the strongest man in the kingdom, and I was doubtful who was actually the strongest. People said that these three were very, very strong, so I brought all of them. But did I know that they would be so arrogant? Please forgive me, O King. I did not know they would be so bad!”

The king said, “I have been thinking over the matter. I have misjudged them. It is not arrogance that they are demonstrating, but something else. I need this kind of spirited man. I want this kind of independence.”

Then the king awarded the first prize of three hundred rupees to the one who refused to go. The second prize of two hundred rupees he gave to the one who said he needed shoes. And the third prize of one hundred rupees he presented to the one who wanted the prince to accompany him.