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King Strawbeard in the Country


A long time ago, when children were taken seriously, there lived a King in a big castle. His name was Strawbeard, and he put many taxes on his subjects, he sent many soldiers out to plunder the villages and rob what they could find, and therefore he had many guards as well, because he had to be afraid that the people would storm into the castle, take back what was theirs, and crown another King.
For thirty years King Strawbeard did not dare to leave the castle for fear of the people. But one day he felt the urge to see his country once more. 'I've grown older the last thirty years,' he thought, 'and, anyway, my subjects probably forgot my face. Apart from that,' he continued, 'most of them are too young to know me at all.'

That night he secretly left the castle in ordinary clothes, so that no one would recognise him, and walked across the fields and through the woods.
After he had been strolling along for a while, he heard a cart approaching from behind. The driver slowed down and asked him, 'Where are you going, stranger?'
'I'm just walking through the forest, watching the sunrise and listening to the birds.'
'Jump up the cart then,' said the driver. 'I'm going as far as the clearing.'
Now King Strawbeard didn't know what a clearing was, but he agreed and sat down beside the driver. After having talked about the weather for a little while, the cart stopped at the clearing.
The King saw this empty place in the middle of his forest, where his trees were chopped down and their trunks piled up in the centre of it.
'This looks horrible,' said the King to himself, 'and the noise must give anyone a headache. As soon as I'm back in the castle, I shall issue a law that forbids clearings in my kingdom.'
The driver got off and put the trunks on the back of his cart. Then he came back and said to the King, 'I have to go to the sawmill now. Do you want to come with me?'
King Strawbeard had no clue what a sawmill was, but he agreed. After having talked about the mild air for a while, the cart stopped at the sawmill.
The King saw the plain building standing amid his pastures, polluting them with sawdust, and he heard the continuous sawing from the inside.
'This looks appalling,' said the King to himself, 'and the noise must make anyone deaf. As soon as I'm back in the castle, I shall issue a law that forbids sawmills in my kingdom.'
Meanwhile the driver had unloaded the trunks and put a lot of long rods from the sawmill on the back of his cart.
'I'm going to the smith now,' said the driver. 'Do you want to come with me?'
King Strawbeard had no idea what a smith was, but he agreed. After having talked about the warm sunshine for a while, the cart stopped at the smith's.
The King couldn't even see the house, because it was completely covered in smoke, but he was well able to hear the banging of the hammer against the anvil.
'This looks disgusting,' said the King to himself, 'and the noise and the smoke surely destroy the hearing and the eyesight of anyone coming too close. As soon as I'm back in the castle, I shall issue a law that forbids smiths in my kingdom.'
The driver unloaded the rods and brought them into the smith's house. Then he returned with a large amount of spears and put them on the cart. 'I have to go to the castle now,' said the driver. 'Would you like to see it?'
'I'd love to,' answered the King and, pointing at the load, he asked: 'What is that for?'
'Those are spears,' explained the driver. 'They chop down trees to get the wood, cut them in the sawmill, and the smith puts the tips on them.'
'And who gets them?' asked the King.
'The King's guards need them to protect him from his subjects, or else the people would storm into the castle, take back what is theirs and crown another king.'
So finally King Strawbeard returned to his castle, but he didn't issue any laws.


6238 RT (1997 CE) by Frank L. Ludwig