In a certain kingdom there were three thieves. These three thieves used to steal like anything. The king was so sad that he was unable to do anything to punish these thieves. In so many ways his ministers had tried to catch them, but always they failed. The king was physically very strong and powerful. “In some way I will have to catch these thieves,” he said.
So every night he went out of his palace in disguise, wearing most simple clothes like those a thief wears. During the night he went in search of the culprits. He would go by the houses of his friends, the way a thief does, moving around in a very secret manner. He told his friends not to tell anyone what he was doing.
One night it happened that the king, who was posing as a thief, actually saw the three thieves near the house that he was pretending to steal from. So he jumped in front of them and said, “Look, you are thieves. Let me join you. I will be the fourth.”
They said, “Who needs you? We don’t need you.”
He said, “You don’t need me? It is good to have one more. And I tell you, I shall always please you. I am a great thief, just like you are. I have been hearing so much about you. Now I would like to be a member of your group.”
They said, “What kind of special capacity do you have?”
The king said, “Oh, I have no special capacity, but may I hear what special capacities you have?”
One thief said, “I can unlock any door in the twinkling of an eye. I have that kind of capacity.”
Another one said, “I know where the wealth is. He can unlock any door, but I can easily tell in which room or in which place the wealth is.”
The third one said, “I can remember people. Once I see someone, I can always recognise that person even if his face or his body has changed. Even if everything is changed, still I can recognise the person. I have that kind of retentive faculty.”
Then they said to him, “Now you have to tell us what capacity you have. If you don’t have any special capacity, why should we take you in our group?”
The king said, “Look, I have got a ring. If I press my ring, immediately I can kill people. And if I raise my hand, immediately I can save people.”
They said, “Oh, you have that kind of capacity! Then we can use you.”
The king said, “Today, let me take you to the King’s palace. There is no need to be afraid. We have a silly king. Since you have the capacity to unlock doors and the capacity to know where the wealth is, today let us go to the palace and rob the king.”
The three thieves agreed. “This is a wonderful idea, a wonderful idea,” they said.
So in disguise the king brought them to the palace. Then the fellow who knew how to open the lock immediately opened the door. The other one who had the capacity to find the wealth, did so. Then immediately the king summoned the guards and the thieves were arrested.
The following morning the minister brought them before the king. The king said to the robbers, “I played this trick and caught you. Now you shall be executed. Yesterday I told you that if I press my ring, then whomever I want to kill will be killed. See, I am pressing my ring. Now you will be executed.”
The three thieves started crying and crying. Now the three thieves realised that he was the king and he had caught them. They said, “But you told us that you also have another capacity. You said that if you raise your hand, then you can save anybody you want to. Will you not show us that capacity too? Will you not raise your hand and save us?”
So the king raised his hand and said, “All right, I will save you three. But now you have to take an oath that you will never steal again. Better yet, I will give you some work here in the palace. Then you will be always under supervision and you won’t be able to steal from anybody else.”