In a time long ago and a place far away, there lived a king, queen, and their son, the prince. The king and queen made sure he had the best teachers and the most knowledgeable sages to instruct him in all that he should know in order to be a wise and kind ruler when he became king.
One day, the prince began to act like a rooster. He took off all his clothes, flapped his arms as if they were wings, began to crow, and stopped speaking the language of the kingdom. He refused to eat anything but corn from the floor, under the table, all by himself.
The king and queen were very upset and called in the best doctors and healers, begging them to treat the prince, to turn him back into a man, but nothing anyone did made a difference. The roosterprince continued to crow and flap his arms, hop around the palace, and eat under the table.
Just when the king and queen had given up all hope, an old man came to the palace and said, “Your Majesty, I would like to try to cure the prince.”
The king asked, “Where are your medicines and potions? What is your plan?”
The old man replied, “I have my own ways. Allow me seven days with the prince. All I ask is that you leave us alone and make no comment, even if my requests appear strange.” Reluctantly, the king and queen agreed to let the old man try.
They brought the old man to the prince and left the room. The first thing he did was to take off his clothing, jump under the table, and sit opposite the roosterprince who stared at the old man for a long time. The old man was patient and said nothing. “Who are you and what are you doing here?” crowed the roosterprince.
“I’m a rooster. Can’t you see that?” answered the old man using the prince’s language.
“Oh, I’m a rooster, too. Welcome,” replied the prince. Time passed and the two companionably crowed and flapped their arms.
The next day, the old man got out from under the table and began to walk around, a little straighter each time he circled the table. The roosterprince had grown so fond of the man he began to follow him, hopping wherever they went.
The next day, the man put on a shirt and a pair of trousers. “What are you wearing, my friend,” asked the roosterprince. “Roosters don’t wear clothing.”
“You’re right dear prince, but I was a bit chilled. However, I assure you, you can still be a good rooster, even with clothes on. Try it.” The roosterprince put on a shirt and a pair of trousers and continued crowing and flapping his arms.
On the third day the man sat at the table and ate some corn from a golden platter. When the roosterprince joined him and started eating, the man signaled to the servants, and soon the table was set with silverware, goblets, golden plates, and platters of delicious food. When the old man began to eat, using a fork, a knife, and a spoon, the prince imitated him. After they had eaten a whole meal, the roosterprince crowed happily.
The following night, the man went to sleep—on a bed, once again assuring the roosterprince, “Don’t worry, my prince, you can be a good rooster even if you sleep in a bed, so the roosterprince slept each night in a bed and ate at the table.
Soon after, the man began to discuss the philosophy of life with the roosterprince, but he objected. “Wait a minute! Roosters don’t have to think, and they certainly don’t have to debate the merits of a way of life.”
“You may be right,” agreed the old man, “but you can be a good rooster and still engage in discussion. After all, you know you’re a rooster and that’s what matters.” The roosterprince thought this over and began to discuss philosophical ideas with the man.
On the seventh day, the old man bid farewell to the roosterprince. Before he left, he said, “Please remember—roosters are fair game for hunters so always pretend you are a human prince. This way you will live a long and interesting life. Act wisely and help others. Farewell, dear roosterprince.”
In time, when he became king, ruling over the kingdom, no one beside himself knew that he was still a rooster.
Wit and wisdom from around the world and through the ages. Tales by Nancy King.