Once there was a kingdom that had fallen on hard times. The King’s wife, the Queen, had been very sick and nearly died. The King’s doctors tried to save her, but the Queen got sicker and sicker.
In desperation, the King went to a famous Witch Doctor, who was known to have extraordinary powers. The Witch Doctor was also known to charge high prices for his cures. The King came with wagons filled with jewels, gold and silver.
The Witch Doctor offered to save the Queen, but he didn’t ask for precious things. Instead he asked the King to heed one request: “Take care of your sons, take care of your daughters.” The King did not understand his request, as he had no sons, but he agreed to it.
“If you fail to comply, the Queen will die.” The Witch Doctor warned.
The King returned to his castle, unsure what would happen. To his great relief and joy, the Queen returned to health. He celebrated this change with celebrations, fireworks and games. People throughout the kingdom gave thanks for the Queen’s health, though rumors spread about the sudden recovery.
The King and Queen tried to have a child, but none survived past infancy. They were sad about this, but they still had each other and were as happy as any man and wife could be.
One day the Royal train traveled from one province to another. At some point the coaches stopped to change horses, and the King stepped out for some air. The Queen came out too.
A little peasant girl dressed in rags saw the Royal coach was empty. She slipped in the back and saw a beautiful compartment with silken seats. On one of the seats lay an elegant embroidered purse. It was filled with shining coins and precious jewels.
She knew it was wrong to steal, but she had not even had a morsel of food in days. She thought, why not just take one little pearl, who would notice?
A footman saw her leaving and stopped her. “Where do think you’re going, little thief?”
The little girl shook and panicked. “I’m sorry. I-I’m hungry.”
The King returned to his carriage and heard the commotion. He was furious to learn that someone had dared to steal from the Royal train.
“Do you know what we do to thieves like you?” The King shouted.
The little girl broke down and cried. She begged the king not to hurt her. The Queen, moved by the girl’s piteous pleas, asked the King if they could help the child, maybe raise her as their own.
The King would hear none of it. He angrily ordered that the little girl be thrown in the dungeon for breaking the law. He said he was being merciful by sparing her life. That done, the Royal train continued.
A week later the Queen fell violently ill. Again the doctors tried to treat her, but to no avail. In desperation, the King again went to Witch Doctor, who was now very old and feeble. The King again begged him to do anything to save his wife’s life.
The Witch Doctor asked the King if he remembered his pledge to care for his sons and daughters. The King replied that he did, but that he had no children.
The Witch Doctor replied that since the King was the Father of the people, every child was his child. He said that because his wife was ill, he knew he did not take care of them.
The King asked if there was anything he could do. The Witch Doctor said because the King had failed in his promise, there was nothing he could do. The King threatened great harm upon the Witch Doctor for failing to cure his wife. The Witch Doctor looked away sadly and said the magic was gone. The King saw the truth in his eyes.
A week later the Queen died. Afterwards the King went to the dungeon to see the little girl he had imprisoned. The guards told him that the girl had died of hunger and illness.
Instead of having a new daughter, the King had lost his Queen. He never married again, but little girls and boys were never thrown into dungeons again.