Missing a Few Jewels

A Tale from Brazil rewritten by Phillip Martin

“Your Majesty, I’m really not sure how to put this,” hesitated the wise man. “Your son seems to be missing a few jewels from his royal crown.”

“I know what you’re trying so carefully to say,” snapped the king.  “But, what am I to do with this son of mine?  Every teacher he’s ever had has given up on him. Every one of them, every single one of them, says that it just isn’t any use trying to teach him from books.”

“There are other ways to learn, my king,” suggested the wise man.

“Now you’re just wasting my time,” snapped the king.  “Tell me what really is on your mind.”

“Experience is a very good teacher,” said the wise man.  “I think, perhaps, your son may learn more from traveling the world than from anything a book may be able to teach him.”

“That’s the best plan that I’ve heard for my son in a very long time,” smiled the king.  “Make it happen.”

And so, he did.

Of course, when you are a royal prince, it’s easy to set out on a journey.  You get a grand horse, the finest clothing, and a really big bag full of money.  No real plans were made for the trip.  Everyone, including the king, knew the prince would never be able to follow them.  But, the prince happily set off one day with his father’s blessing to explore the world and hopefully learn a thing or two along the way.

As it turned out, the king’s wise man was right.  The prince might not have learned much from books, but he thrived at meeting new people, exploring other cultures, and seeing all that new countries, cities, and citizens had to offer.  No country was too big, no home too small, for the prince to see its value.  And like all people should, he traveled with an open mind.

Throughout his travels, the prince discovered that a marketplace was an interesting location for discovery.  He tried never to miss one.  And it was in the marketplace of one very great city that a merchant caught his attention.  “I can see you are a wise young man,” whispered the merchant. Now, nobody had ever called the prince “wise” before.  So, the guy had his attention.

“I have a special bird just for you.  She’ll put anyone to sleep who listens to her song,” assured the merchant.

“I may not be the wisest person in this marketplace, but even I have heard about magic beans and beanstalks,” answered the prince.  But, the bird fluttered from her master’s arm and landed on the prince’s shoulder.

There was no way to resist.

So, the prince became the proud owner of a very lovely bird, that hopefully sang a beautiful song.

In a distant marketplace in a tiny kingdom, another merchant caught the eye of the prince.  

“You’ve never seen a beetle like this one,” he assured the prince.

“I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen a beetle,” admitted the prince.  “My father ran a very tidy castle.”

“But, this is no ordinary beetle,” promised the merchant.  “It can gnaw its way through any wall, anywhere in the world.”

“That certainly is an impressive skill,” admitted the prince, “but I already have a very special singing bird.”

“Any bird can sing,” countered the merchant, “but this beetle is a miracle!”

“We all need miracles in our lives,” agreed the prince, reaching for his very big bag of money.  So, the prince left the market with three mouths to feed.  The bird liked seeds, but he had no idea what to feed a beetle.  Who does?

The final unusual purchase for the prince came as he left the marketplace.  A little girl offered the prince her butterfly.  It didn’t matter to the prince if the insect had any special powers.  He could see that the child was trying to help feed her family.  However, the little girl promised that the butterfly could carry anything on her wings.  “I guess if a bird can magically sing, and a beetle can dig through a wall, then anything is possible for a butterfly,” smiled the prince.

Eventually, the prince’s travels brought him deep into the jungle.  And, like most people, no matter how smart or how many jewels missing, the prince became completely lost.

Fortunately, even the young prince knew enough to climb the tallest tree he could find to figure out exactly where he was.  And, from the tree top, he spied a mountain surrounded by a really tall wall.  Even without a few jewels, he knew it was a land of giants.

Now even giants knew that a great wall was not protection enough.  They placed a giant guard at the gate.  He was so big that his head reached to the clouds.  But, he wasn’t too big to hear the sweet song of the prince’s little bird. And, the bigger they are, the harder they fall asleep. With that hurdle accomplished, the prince let the little beetle out of his pocket.  That little critter quickly chewed his way through the entrance to the land of the giants.  And, for the first time in his life, the young prince felt like he made a wise investment when he purchased the bird and beetle.

It should come as no surprise that there was a captive princess held in the land of the giants.

And, of course, she was extremely lovely.

All of his travels had taught the prince many things.  He knew the first rule in being a good prince.  “If a fair maiden is in distress, she needs to be rescued.” Even someone missing a few jewels knew a maiden in distress when he saw one.

The princess was one bright damsel in distress.  “You’ll never be able to rescue me,” she surmised.  “The palace is guarded by giants and the gate is impossible to climb.”

“I’m no ordinary prince charming,” our hero explained.  “I come with a few tricks up my sleeve.”

Suddenly the floor trembled beneath them.  It was no earthquake.  A giant strode into the dungeon to see what had caused all the commotion.  But, the prince was prepared.  He whispered to his little bird, “Fly, my little friend, and sing in that giant’s ear.”

That’s just what the little songbird did.  All the king’s horses and all the king’s men were not around to help that giant after his great fall.  He was down and out for the count, with more than a giant snore shaking the prison.  And, a puzzled smile crossed the face of the princess.  “I didn’t see that coming,” she declared.

“Okay, little beetle, you know what to do now,” whispered the prince.  And, immediately, the beetle hopped from the prince’s pocket.  He burrowed an escape tunnel from the dungeon directly to the entrance gate.

“But what about the guard there?” asked the princess.

“He also suddenly felt like taking a nap,” replied the prince.  “I have a feeling that he’s going to be asleep for a long while.”

“Okay, we’re out of the dungeon and the gate is open, but there is still one problem,” observed the princess.  “I hate to tell you this, but I just don’t think I can walk very far.  I’ve been a captive so long.  So, unless you have a miracle up your sleeve, I better just stay here.”

“Well, it isn’t exactly up my sleeve,” replied the prince as he pulled the most remarkable butterfly from his pocket.

“A butterfly?  Seriously?” she protested.

“You’re honestly going to question me after my little songbird and beetle?”

It was the wisest thing he could have said.  The smile broadened on the face of the princess.  As the butterfly unfolded her wings, the prince helped the princess on to his ride.  Together they escaped the land of the giants.  The land shook as the giant at the gateway snored, but the two young people swiftly escaped through the gate, beyond the land of the giants and across the great jungle.

The prince knew it was time to return to his father’s kingdom.  Now, seriously, if he only returned with a songbird, beetle, and butterfly, his welcome might not have been so great.  But, the young man also returned with a lovely princess, in love with him, and a terrific rescue story.  It was clear to everyone that his journey had changed the course of his life.  Nobody doubted that he would someday very wisely rule the kingdom when his time came.