Once upon a time, in a kingdom at peace but with a more than unpredictable future, a king was feeling his time had arrived and was worried about the succession to the throne.
Indeed, having three sons, seemingly identical triplets but with radically different personalities, he was forced to choose which of the princes would be able to defend the kingdom in front of the adversities looming on the horizon. Such an important choice had to be objective, but the idea of choosing according to his fatherly preferences was tempting. Each of them of course had his own qualities and defects, but, like any parent, the king had in his heart an order of preference.
The first, the prince who loved the hard facts, just like his father. He was gifted with his hands to build all kinds of things. From a piece of wood, he was able to shape a weapon, a tool or even a child’s toy. He was definitely a down-to-earth, sometimes cold, for him the strength of man lied in his hands and, if well used, with it he could overcome anything.
The second, the prince in love with nature, like his late mother. He was a hearty eater, knowing how to make the most delicious dishes from the fruits of the land. He was an optimist of all hours, a little naive, who believed in the power of nature and its indulgence, knowing how to respect and tame it, one could receive from it anything that man needs to live.
The third, the prince passionate about words and of whom the king did not know what to do. He did not get either from his mother or his father, his love of the beautiful poems that he spent days writing, and that he would then read in the streets of the city. He was a dreamer, a little lazy, he contented himself with taking life as it came, as long as he could share his poetry with others.
How to decide? Was he supposed to know, what his kingdom was going to need in the future and which of his sons would be the best to provide it to his people?
He finally found the solution: a trial requiring wisdom, perseverance and devotion to the kingdom. In the attic of the castle were three large abandoned rooms of identical sizes. Each prince would be given a room and a week to completely fill it with something that would be essential for the kingdom in times of crisis.
The first prince began to fill his room with logs. With the help of his many fellows: lumberjacks, cabinetmakers, carpenters, blacksmiths, he set about the massive cutting of wood in the forest and its transport to the castle.
The second prince began to fill his room with bags of wheat. Supported by his farming friends, millers and traders, he embarked on a major campaign of collection of most of the wheat available in the kingdom in exchange of the various products harvested on the royal lands.
And lastly, the third prince, as usual, continued to go for walks by the water, to tell his poems to passers-by, and to daydream for hours. But his room was remaining empty.
The end of the week approaching, and the hours going by, the void of the castle’s gloomy rooms gave way to an impressive pile of wood and wheat. The king saw with pride and excitement his sons scrambling to overcome this titanic trial and to obtain their right to ascend to the throne. But this was not true for the third prince and his room, which was still as empty as in the beginning of the trial. For the king it was sure, he could not count on this son to succeed him. All the week he could observe him spending idle afternoons in the castle’s gardens to observe in detail the fauna and flora, meddling in the street children’s games until the evening, or listening to the numerous endless memories of the oldest servant in the castle. Yet, not a hair had entered his room.
Finally, the « D-Day » had come. Until the last hour of the night, men and women worked hard to help the princes in their heavy task. But the time for the verdict had arrived and the king would have to give his final decision.
He opened the first prince’s room and found himself face to face with a wall of logs. The prince explained, for him, the strength of man was indeed in his hands but, still, he had to be healthy to use them: the winters being harsher and harsher in the kingdom, it would take wood to heat oneself and in large quantities. The king was conquered, but since he had to be objective and meticulous, he pressed one of the logs, and it went deep, completely dislocating the first pile. With disappointment the king announced his failure to his favorite: he had chosen a useful item, of course, but had not been able to fill the room as requested.
The king then passed to the second room, a bag of wheat fell to his feet as soon as the door opened. The second prince justified his choice: remembering that the last harvests had been meager and his feasts far less successful, he found his solution, people with full bellies meant a kingdom that was doing well. The king was proud of his son’s choice and work, but again he wanted to be sure of it before deciding. He was no longer very fit but found enough energy to remove a few bags and make his way to the ceiling of the room. Once he went down, he announced to the surprise of his second son that he had also failed: indeed his room contained an essential element but it was not full, due to the space left empty between the bags and the ceiling over the whole room.
In view of the situation and his attentive observation of the last prince, the king was already about to decide between the two others with a sword duel or a horse race. Still, he entered in the last room, unsurprisingly, empty and dark, just like his expression was. But without saying a word, the third prince entered in the windowless room where you couldn’t even see what he was up to in there. When suddenly a faint glow appeared and grew until it illuminated the whole room. The prince, whose childish smile was now visible, approached his father to put an end to the confusion his face was betraying. He clarified his decision. According to him, whatever difficulties the kingdom would face, it would need light. The light that makes children’s eyes shine, the light that warms the hearts of all, especially when they feel empty and useless, the light that is everywhere around us and in us, the light which, above all, must be shared. As a king, constantly maintaining this light in the realm would be his top priority, from that everything else would follow. The king, amazed and moved by his son’s words, had to admit that obviously the room once bathed in a thick darkness was now filled with the light projected by a simple oil lamp. He finally had a winner and he had found his successor.
And so, became the poet prince king, to everyone’s surprise but for everyone’s happiness – and for many years. With the help of his brothers, he guaranteed his kingdom peace and prosperity, a kingdom now called the Land of Light.
This article was inspired by a story heard on Jean-Louis Gaillard’s radio show « 365 Histoires ». I could not find the original story, so I allowed myself to tell it with my own words. If you want to find other stories like this, you can access the audio versions on this website https://www.365histoires.com/audio/ for free and translated in many different languages, as well as the videos on this YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/365histoires (in French only).