Monday, March 6, 2017

The Potter and the King

      The Potter and the King
                                     By Valerie L. Egar

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, a potter lived in a modest hut near the river. She used clay she found by the edge of the river to make bowls and jugs for oil and water. She decorated them with paintings of plants and animals. Everyone agreed that her pottery was beautiful, the finest in the kingdom.
            One spring day, as the potter sat painting pots and singing, a messenger on a white horse galloped up.  He handed the potter a letter, sealed with wax. She opened it and read, “You are commanded to appear before the Royal Court to make pottery decorated with paintings of the castle for Princess Sabra’s wedding.”
            “Hmm,” she thought. “An invitation would be much nicer, and what happened to the word ‘please’?” She looked at the messenger. “Tell His Majesty, thank you very much, but it’s time to plant my garden. Other potters will be pleased to make pottery for the princess, I’m sure.”
            The messenger’s eyes widened.  “The King commands you,” he said. “You aren’t allowed to say  ‘no’.”
           The potter resigned herself to going. She’d heard the King had beautiful gardens. She might see peacocks or fine horses. She gathered a supply of clay, paint and paintbrushes, fresh clothes, hitched her small donkey to a cart and followed the messenger to the castle.

  How beautiful the castle was from a distance! Set high on a hill overlooking the valley, its white marble gleamed in the sunlight. 

As the potter drove closer, she saw wide golden gates and beyond them, lush gardens thick with flowers. As the gates opened, the messenger turned to her,  “You can’t drive that rickety, old cart here! Go around back!” He galloped in, leaving her to find her own way.

            The potter’s trusty donkey labored up a dirt road that wound its way to the back of the castle. How different it looked from the front!  The windows were boarded, the yard full of rubbish and broken glass. A shack stood under a dead tree and a rough man pointed the potter towards it.  Damp and musty, thick with cobwebs, the shack was nothing like her happy cottage on the river.
            The potter woke the next morning and began working. Day after day she labored, and as each day passed, she grew more homesick. She longed for the song of the river that slipped past her door, for the whisper of the breeze through the forest, for the bright flowers that grew in her garden. She missed seeing blue birds in the

nearby field and dragonflies flying among the water lilies in her pond.  Everything around her was ugly and left her heart feeling heavy.
           After two months of steady work, she finished. Hundreds of plates, dozens of bowls and jugs of all sizes lined the shelves in the castle’s basement. Not once had the King come by to ask if the potter needed anything. Not once had the princess sent a sweet cake or a pot of hot tea to the potter as she worked.
The King and the Princess came to the basement to view the dishes. “They’re ugly!” the Princess screamed. Drab brown and grey, the paintings on each showed the back of the castle with its broken windows and rubbish filled yard.
            The King was furious. “I ordered paintings of the castle!” he yelled.
            “Yes,” said the potter, “and this is the castle I saw from where I stood.”
            The potter’s words pierced the King’s heart. He was ashamed. He paid the potter generously for her work, beautified the back of the castle, stopped using the word ‘command,’ and finally learned to say ‘please.’ Best of all, he threw open the front gates of the castle to all of his subjects, whether they were riding a fine horse or driving a donkey cart.
            The spoiled Princess thought her father had gone mad and moved with her Prince to another Kingdom.
             The honest potter returned to her modest cottage and joyfully made pots for the rest of her days, singing as she painted.

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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published March 5, 2015 in Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).

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