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Angry King

2006-07-13 21:24

  In the mountains of southern Luzon, there is a land of tobacco-growers. Many, many years ago, this land was ruled by a king named Hari Ka Buskid. He was a wise king, and during his reign the people of his kingdom were rich and prosperous.

  The king did not scorn to go among the tobacco-growers and advise them on the best methods of tending their crops. It was not surprising, therefore, that this kingdom was known to have the best and largest crop in the land. From miles around, the people of neighbouring kingdoms would come to barter their goods in exchange for the rich, golden tobacco of King Hari Ka Buskid's kingdom.

  One day, the king called a meeting of all the elders of his kingdom. I am off on a long voyage, he told them. I do not know when I will return, for my journey is a long one as I have much work with the kings of neighbouring and far-off kingdoms.

  All the men present expressed sincere regret that their king would not be present at the great occasion of the tobacco harvest. I regret too, said the king, that I cannot be here for the harvest celebrations. But I am sure that I can depend upon all present here to see that everything goes well. If I do not return soon, you must see to the planting of the next crop. It must be done, as always, in a way that will ensure a healthy crop, so that our land remains known for its good tobacco.

  The very next day the king set off. Everyone wondered where the king's travels would take him.

  He is going to the other side of the mountain,“ said some. No, said others. His path carries him across the seas to lands that lie further than the eyes of an eagle can see. But nobody could say exactly where the king had gone, for he had told no one of his plans.

  Harvest time came and the crop was beyond the expectations of the people. Our good king has taught us well, they said. That year, the tobacco was greatly praised by everyone, and the good folk of King Hari Ka Buskid's kingdom became richer than ever before.

  This is excellent, said the elders. But we must not forget the king's instructions.

  At once they began working on the mountainside so that a new crop could be planted. If the king could have seen them then, he would have been proud of their diligence and labour.

  For ten years the people worked hard, and each year the crop was better than it had been the previous year. But the king still had not returned from his journey. Slowly he became no more than a memory to the people.

  If the king returned to his kingdom then, I wouldn't have been surprised if he didn't recognise it at all. For it was ten times richer than when he left. What had been small cottages, were big houses now. And the people dressed in finer clothes.

  Perhaps this is what changed the course of events. For now the tobacco-growers began to scorn working in the fields.

  Is it right, they asked, that we should go out into the fields and ruin our fine clothes by working in the mud?

  The tobacco fields began to take on a neglected air. What had been virtually a garden of golden plants now looked dry and dusty. Not surprisingly, the harvest was poor. It has been a bad year,“ said the people to the merchants who came to buy the tobacco.

  It had been a bad year indeed, but nobody did anything to improve matters. The people still continued to worry about protecting their clothes and riches, and the tobacco fields continued to be neglected.

  In a few years, the kingdom was poorer than anyone could remember. The fields which had been ignored for so long failed to yield even the smallest of harvests.

  We shall starve, complained the women. And are we better off than you? asked the men angrily. But they preferred to sit and quarrel, rather than till the fields. Slowly the fine houses began to look less grand.

  Still the people sat idle. Nothing, I think, except an earthquake could have shaken these people out of their idleness. Strangely enough, this is exactly what did happen.

  The ground rumbled and roared, and the people rushed out of their houses in terror. For years, nobody had moved so fast. Shrieking, men and women and children began to run down the mountainside.

  STOP! roared a commanding voice suddenly.

  Not one of the fleeing people could disobey the order. As one person they stopped and turned slowly around.

  An astonished gasp escaped the first man who recognised the figure standing on top of the mountain.

  The King! he cried, and then everybody remembered their old king. King Hari Ka Buskid did not hide his towering rage from his people. You have betrayed me, he shouted. Did I not command you to look after your fields in my absence? Do you think those dry patches of ground are fields worthy of being in this kingdom?

  There was silence all around. Even the mountain had stopped its massive rumbling.

  Bring me the tobacco you have harvested this year, commanded the king.

  Several men hurried to obey him. With great shame they placed the meagre harvest before their king. King Hari Ka Buskid looked at the tobacco for a long while.

  I shall not forget your disobedience and idleness, he said at last, until once again I see a good crop of tobacco on the mountainside.

  He then picked up the small amount of tobacco that had been placed before him. Turning away from the people of his kingdom, he smashed his fist into the mountain. A huge hole appeared where his fist struck. The king leapt into the hole, leaving his people lamenting.

  King Hari Ka Buskid is still waiting in the mountain. When he is in a good mood, he smokes some tobacco and the smoke can be seen rising above the mountain, reminding the people that he is still there. I hate to think what happens when he's in a bad mood, don't you?

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