~ The Prince and the Beggar ~

Leo Tolstoy once said that all the happy families resemble one another, and that each of them is miserable in its own way. This is a tale of a royal family. As in every family, the happiest are the days when babies are born. Bells were heard in the kingdom that day; a big celebration, not yet seen, was about to take place. The soft crying of the children was heard in the royal chambers. The Queen was smiling gently and the King was overwhelmed by feelings of happiness because of his two heirs. Beautiful gold coins, very carefully designed for that day, glittered beside their little heads. The King even opened the door of the dungeon, thinking that it was the right way to show his gratitude to God for being blessed with two sons. Everybody was happy, even the court beasts roared, contributing to the general celebratory mood that had been created. The celebration went on for days, until one morning, everything suddenly became still. In the royal chambers only the cry of one of the children was heard. The other Prince disappeared without a trace. The King alerted the entire army; everyone was in search of the Prince like mad, but with no success. As the time went by, the little Prince grew up and the King, living in fear that he might lose him too, treasured him like the apple of his eye. Even though the Prince had everything he wished for at the court, he was lonely and miserable. He would sadly stand beside the window for days and watch the mountains in the distance. He dreamed of other people, other kingdoms. He even fell in love with a beautiful Princess; yet, he was miserable because he could offer her nothing besides his sadness and an enormous wealth. The King, seeing his son's grief, decided to offer a big reward to the one who could make him happy. Many people from other kingdoms gathered. The Prince was waiting eagerly for this day, hoping his life would change at last. And just when everyone thought that nothing could be done, a quiet voice was heard: "Your Royal Highness, would you like to change places? Maybe this new experience will change your life." A beggar, in rags, stood humbly in front of the Prince and watched him constantly. - And who are you? - Prince asked. - I'm a beggar, master - he answered. The Prince found this idea so interesting that he accepted it. He put on the beggar's clothes and, at the break of dawn went into the unknown. Thus, the Prince became the beggar and the beggar became the Prince, and both of them began wholly new lives. The Prince wandered around for days and nights, begging for some food. At first, his best friends were stray dogs, but after a while he started meeting other beggars who told him different stories which were mostly half-true. It was quite a new world in which hunger and coldness prevailed and the Prince felt that, apart from everything, sadness was slowly fading away from his heart. He had some new desires that he hadn't been aware of before. He was fighting for his own life and survival. Having discovered that he possessed new abilities, he felt happier. He had his freedom, he made decisions about his life on his own, and that seemed very interesting to him. At the same time, the beggar enjoyed the benefit of the court; he even made the land of the kingdom larger. Leading the life of a beggar taught him not only to make something out of nothing, but also that wisdom is the greatest virtue of all. The King and the Queen loved him as their own son. One day, a beautiful Princess, who was once loved by the Prince, came to the court and fell in love with the beggar. Upon seeing her, the beggar was stunned by her remarkable beauty and fell in love at once. He told her about various adventures from his life until, one day, he decided to reveal his greatest secret to her. - I have something to show you - he said, and pulled out a beautiful, wrapped gold coin. - The man on his death bed, who took care of me when I was little, left me this, saying that I shouldn't show it to anyone; the truth will come out when the time is right. The Princess immediately told her nanny everything and soon the Queen herself heard the story which helped her find her missing son after so many years. The bells were heard in the kingdom again, announcing the wedding, and the King decided to be righteous; he looked at the mountains in the distance, waiting for the Prince. During that time, the Prince had many adventures while wandering around the world until one day he realized that he wanted to come home. He dreamed of his Princess, of his kingdom. Does this tale have a happy ending? You decide. Someone once told me that everybody should know when to stop. This is the right moment, isn't it?
The Prince and the Beggar, author Suzana Stojanović, February 18, 2007