Tales : All must serve

It happened once upon a time that the king of a certain country commanded all the heads of all the villages to come to his court and attend an assembly. There were so many that they could not enter the royal throne room; instead they gathered in the courtyard of the palace, and there the king addressed them.

“Do you know why I have summoned you here?” the king demanded.

All the village leaders looked at each other, and then shook their heads.

“You are here so that I can tell you that you and all the people of your villages are my servants! Every person in the the kingdom is my servant. Only I am not a servant. I serve no-one!”

There was silence as the village leaders thought about this. Then an old man, leaning on a stick, said, “But your majesty, that is not so. All men serve each other.”

“What?” the king said angrily. “What are you talking about? I serve no one!”

The old man repeated, “It is true of every person in your kingdom, majesty. All men serve each other.”

The king was now furious. “Do you say that I – I, the king! – serve anyone? Never! Prove what you say, or pay with your life!”

The old man said, “I accept your challenge, your highness. And in my village, when we accept a challenge, our custom is to touch the feet of the other person.” He hobbled forward to stand before the king. “Now I must touch your feet – hold my stick.”

The old man laboriously knelt, touched the feet of the king, and then said. “There, I have touched your majesty’s feet. Give my stick again.”

The king handed the staff back to the village head, who climbed to his feet with the aid of his staff. Then the old man said, “Do you require any further proof?”

The king, bewildered, said “What are you talking about?”

“You held my stick so I could kneel and touch your feet. You gave me the stick again when I needed it to stand up. It is proof,” he concluded, “that all men, including the king, serve each other.”

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