Once upon a time, in a land far away, there stood a very large and beautiful kingdom, ruled by a wise and gentle King who was loved by all the people of the kingdom. The King began to grow old and knew it was about time for his oldest son, the Prince, to take over the kingdom in his stead. The King called for the Prince, who was just beginning his nineteenth year of age, and then explained his wishes.
“Son, I am getting old and soon it will be time for you to take my place. Because it is hard to reign over a people you do not know or understand, I have made arrangements for you to live with the chief peasant of a nearby village for one year. During this time, you will learn the ways of the villagers—how they work and how they live. The villagers are what make this kingdom so prosperous. Without them, we would not have a kingdom to rule. Therefore, this experience will allow you to get to know them so that you may better serve them as their future King. This experience will also serve you as a time to do whatever you would like as a youth, without any judgment or repercussions from me or the other leaders of the Kingdom. All I ask is that at the end of this year of freedom and experience, you will report back to me, ready to undertake your duties as King.”
Early the next morning, the chief peasant of the nearby village and his son arrived to escort the young Prince to their village. The chief peasant’s son was delighted to be able to meet the Prince and show him their way of life. They worked together plowing a field all of that day, and as the night began to fall, the peasant’s son told the prince enthusiastically, “You will love our nightly celebrations! Every day, we work hard. But at night…we celebrate! There will be more food and wine than you can dream of, and I am sure that every young maiden will jump at the chance to dance with you!”
The Prince only nodded, but as they arrived at the village’s center where the women and young maidens of the village had prepared the food and drink to greet the men, the Prince asked the peasant’s son quietly, “These festivities do look lovely, but just for tonight, I wish to retire early that I may rest and be prepared for tomorrow. Will you please show me where I will be sleeping?”
The peasant’s son was disappointed by this response as he had wished to show the Prince the best part of being a peasant. He assumed the Prince was probably just unaccustomed to the hard labor of a peasant and that the next day, he would join the festivities.
However, much to the peasant son’s surprise, the next night, the Prince once again skipped the festivities and retired early to his bed.
Halfway through the year, the peasant son exclaimed to the Prince in frustration, “I do not understand! You have one whole year to do as you please without any repercussions from the King! You could be celebrating every night—drinking the best wines and meeting the most beautiful maidens—and yet you retire early and miss it all. Why will you not celebrate with us?! You work hard in the fields during the labors of the day, so I do not feel that you see yourself as better than us, but you choose not to participate in the best tradition we have as villagers. Why will you not take advantage of this freedom you have been granted and join us in our nightly festivities?!”
To the peasant son’s complete dismay, the Prince only nodded quietly and replied, “I will give you the answer at the end of the year.”
That day finally arrived, and as the Chief Peasant’s son and the Prince journeyed toward the castle to return the Prince to his home, the Prince honored his word to the Chief Peasant’s son. “You have been good to me during this year,” he started, “so I will tell you the reason that I did not participate in the nightly festivities of your village. You wished to give me the best of your traditions as a peasant, but you forget that I am not a peasant. And although I may be surrounded by peasants and love them for who they are and the work they do, I could never be like one of them because I am not one of them. I was born to be a King, and I choose to act as such. Only a Prince who has forgotten who he is would choose to live the life of a Peasant.”
The peasant’s son was quiet for a time, and then asked, “And what about me? I am not royalty and have no hope of becoming such. I have always been a peasant, but I have never truly felt like one until now.”
The Prince smiled broadly, clapped his hand on his friend’s shoulder, and exclaimed, “Now that you see the difference, allow me to teach you how to be a Prince! For by conducting yourself as a Prince, you will be far closer to the life of a King than by continuing to follow the ways of a peasant.”
And the Prince took the peasant home with him and helped him begin his new life.
Moral of the Story: Each of us has the power to live and conduct ourselves as royalty, regardless of our circumstances. Choose today to elevate your life and find a path that will lead you closer to the life you have always dreamed of, instead of staying in the routine that keeps you living far below your capabilities.
(Image Credit :The Prince Arriving at the Castle, Věnceslav Černý
Story Credit: Unknown. I heard part of this story at a conference a few years ago and took the liberty of adding and expanding on the story. I do not know where the original story comes from.)