Handicraft Above Everything

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A king, with his wife and daughter, once made a pleasure trip upon the sea. When they had sailed some distance from the shore, a storm arose which drove the ship upon a foreign land, where both the king and his kingdom were quite unknown, and of which land they themselves had never before heard. Upon gaining the shore the king did not dare tell of his rank; and as he had no money, and was ignorant of any handicraft or other means by which he could support himself and his family, he was obliged to hire himself as a keeper of village cattle.

After living some years in this way, the son of the king of the country fell in love with the herdsman’s daughter, who was now well grown and beautiful. The prince told his parents that he would never marry any other maiden than the daughter of the cattle-keeper of that village. Father, mother, and all the courtiers endeavoured to dissuade him from this course, saying, that for him, who could choose a partner from among imperial and royal princesses, to take the daughter of a herdsman for his wife would be a shame and a disgrace. But all in vain; the prince only replied,—

“Either this maiden or none!”

When they all saw that nothing else was to be done, one of the councillors was sent to the cattle-herd to tell him that the king had chosen his daughter to become the wife of his own son. The councillor made his way to the herd, and told him of the king’s decision; but the village cattle-keeper demanded of him, “What handicraft does the king’s son understand?”

Upon which the messenger, disgusted, made answer,—

“Heaven be with you, oh man! What should a prince know of a handicraft? People only learn handicrafts to support themselves by; but the king’s son possesses countries and cities.”

But the cattle-herd simply replied,—

“That may be; but unless he understands some handicraft I cannot give him my daughter.”

Then went the councillor home again and told the king what the cattle-keeper had said; at which the whole court was perfectly astonished. People had believed that it would have been the herd’s greatest joy and pride that the king’s son should take his daughter to wife,—and here he was asking what trade the prince understood! The king sent a second councillor; but the cattle-herd made him the same answer:—

“So long as the king’s son has not learnt a handicraft, and cannot bring to me some of his own work as a proof of his knowledge, he and I can never become closer friends.”

When this councillor also returned and informed the king that the cattle-herd was not willing to give his daughter to the prince until he had learnt some handicraft, however simple it might be, the prince went himself forth to find out among the different workshops what trade would be the easiest to learn. As he went from shop to shop, and saw what the various masters worked at, he came upon one where work-people were busy plaiting rush-mats; and as that appeared to him to be the lightest of all handicrafts, he set about to learn it at once. And when in a few days he had learnt to work he plaited a rush-mat all by himself, which a messenger took to the cattle-herd and explained that the prince had already learnt a handicraft, and that the rush-mat was a piece of his own work.

The cattle-herd took the mat in his hand, and looking at it on all sides, demanded,—”How much is this worth?”

And they answered him,—

“Four paras.”

“Ah!” he exclaimed. “Good! Four paras to-day, four to-morrow, that makes eight, and four the day after to-morrow, that makes twelve, and so on. If I had understood this handicraft, I should not be tending cattle this day.”

Then he told them who and what he was, and how he had come there. They were all delighted when they learnt that they had been wooing the daughter of a king and not of a cattle-herd; and the marriage of the youth and the maiden took place amid the greatest rejoicings. Then they gave to the father of the bride a ship and a guard of warriors, and he went over the sea and reached his own kingdom.

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