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  • Writer's pictureFolkloristan

The King and His Seven Daughters


This artwork is copyrighted & has been created for the initiative #WhenArtHasAVoice

This is the story of a king and his seven daughters.

The King was kind, just, and chivalrous. He had often heard people praise him but he longed to hear even one of the princesses appreciate him. His relationship with them was one on the fringes of existence.

One day he said, “Well! The whole world speaks well of me. I want to hear it from my daughters too now!”

He invited all the princesses to the dastarkhwan. He asked them, “What have I not given you? You are bestowed with title, wealth, respect, a kingdom. I lay everything you ask for at your feet. Yet, I have never heard you acknowledge it. Do you not love me?”

The princesses hung their heads, and exchanged silent glances. He was their father, and before that, he was the king. There wasn’t much they could say.

“Oh of course we love you, father dear,” said the youngest.

“Why wouldn’t we?” chimed another.

“You are a great king and a good father, we just do not like to bother you with our chirping. I’m sure you have more important matters to attend too,” replied the eldest daughter, sensing that a little bit of wisdom was in order, even if it was a lie.

The king still seemed dissatisfied with their answers.

“How much do you love me?” he asked them.

“We love you a lot," the princesses told him.

Still not happy with the vague answers, the king persisted with his questions.

“What is the one thing you love the most? Go on, give me an example. Tell me you love me more than that,” he said.

So one by one, each of his daughters listed the things they hold very dear to their hearts and told their father that they love him more than that.

“I love rubies, I’m always wearing a crown of rubies. I would give up my crown for you, for I love you more than the rubies you see on my head,” said the eldest.

“I shall give up every horse I have trained, raised, ridden and loved, including mine, which has been my loyal companion in many hunts and battles,” said the second-eldest.

The circle continued and stopped at the youngest daughter. She didn't say anything, just quietly stood up from her place.

The king grew impatient and kept asking her how much she loves him, what she would give up for him and what she loves him as.

Finally, she spoke. “Father, I love you more than salt.”

The king’s face turned red and he became outraged.

“Salt?” he exclaimed, livid with anger. “Your sisters have said so much to me and you’re going to tell me you love me more than… salt?!?”

In his rage, he threatened to take everything away from her.

“I shall take away all your dresses, and you will have nothing to wear but rags, and I shall take away all of your shoes, so you shall walk around barefoot like a beggar, and I will take away all your rights to this kingdom from you. I have given you everything, how dare you say that to me?”

“You didn’t give me anything,” she replied, unfazed. “I got what was maktub, what God had written down in my fate. Even if you didn’t exist, or even if you weren’t my father, I would have still had all these things you say you gave me.”

The king became livid. Not only were the young princess’ belongings confiscated, she was also thrown out of the palace, and sent to the forest, all alone.

This girl began to live in a cave until she had chopped herself enough wood to build herself a hut. After she moved into the hut, she got to work on digging a well for herself, to cut down on her trips to the river. Although she spent a few winters on her own in her little shack, as time passed by, she became increasingly familiar with the forest. She became more resourceful on how to use nature and her house became increasingly nicer.

The well she dug became increasingly famous, and many people came to drink from it. The young princess never refused anyone water, as she knew the water from the well was both, closer, and cleaner, to use.

One day, a prince from another kingdom got lost on his travels, and stumbled across her house and the well. She gave him water and treated him well. Captivated by her beauty and her hospitality, he fell in love with her.

He prolonged his stay, for the sake of her company, and eventually, she fell for him too. They got married, and he took her along to his kingdom.

The girl became a princess once again, and in due time, became a queen. Whilst she ruled with utmost grace and justice, her father’s kingdom had begun to disintegrate. Its former glory had begun to diminish. The old King's rule faltered, as did his health sometimes, as he became way too concerned with what people thought of him. His hand was forced to reach out to other kingdoms for help.

The king had heard of a queen in his neighbouring empire known for her generosity and humble beginning, as a girl who handed out water for people to drink. He decided to ask this queen for help. He traveled and traveled, long and far to the capital. He sent a messenger to the queen informing her of his arrival, and of his royal stature, with a plea for help.

The queen immediately knew who the king was, so she called for preparations for a huge, magnificent feast. She knew her father loved to eat roasted birds. She ordered every type of bird in the kingdom, from sparrows to quails to chicken to turkey to peacock, to be cooked and served. However, she ordered all the meals to be prepared without salt. Even a speck of salt was forbidden by her in every recipe.

The king arrived and was escorted to the royal table. The queen sat across from him but behind a veil, so he could not see her yet. The king was as saddened to find nothing tasty, as he was delighted to see so many roasted birds laid out for him. He took a bite and ended up putting the pieces aside.

The queen silently observed till the king was visibly agitated. She played along, before she signaled to her servants to bring up the dish she had asked for.

Remembering how her father hated pulses and peas, she had ordered them to be cooked and mashed together, served in a small bowl. The presentation wasn’t lavish, but it was the only dish which was cooked with salt. With the dish in front of him, the king began to eat. He was mildly surprised at how he seemed to be eating his least favourite food of all, despite one hundred roasted birds lying in dishes, in front of him, sitting there, waiting to be eaten.

When he finished eating, the queen lifted her veil. To his astonishment, the queen was none other than his youngest daughter, his outcast child.

“How important do you think salt is?” she asked her father. “Now you know how much I loved you. I loved you more than salt.”


 

Commentary: This folktale is common between Pashto and Balochi.

There is a mountain in Balochistan, it is called Koh-e-Suleman. If you successfully ascend it, all the way to its peak, and descend it, that alone is proof of your spirituality and your mental peace, enabling you to see the fairies, jinns and monsters who inhabit the peak. It is these supernatural beings, who passed on these stories to the tribesmen who lived in the area. Locals also believe that sharing these stories will give you physical ailments, such as headaches or stomach aches, but it is necessary to pass these stories on anyway.


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