Another great story from Jataka Tales. Once upon a time there lived a king who had three sons. The first one was known as the Prince of Stars, the second was known as the Moon Prince and the third was called the Sun Prince. The king had his first two sons from his first wife, and the third one from his second wife. When the third prince was born, the king had promised the second queen to give her any boon she might ask.
The queen remembered this and waited for an opportune moment, to put forward her demands. When the third son grew up, she asked the king to grant her the promised boon. She wanted the king to give the reins of the kingdom to the youngest prince. The king refused to do so, saying, “Dear, the kingdom must go to the eldest prince, and never to the youngest. Please ask me for something else.” The queen was infuriated and accused the king of not being a man of his word.
The way the second queen was fuming with anger, got the king worried. He thought the queen may try to harm the elder princes, in order to make the youngest prince the king. So, he called his elder sons and told them to go away and live in the forest. He instructed them to come back to the city and start ruling it. With a heavy heart, he bid adieu to his beloved sons and sent them away.
The youngest prince happened to see them walking out of the palace. On hearing where they were going, he also decided to leave the palace and go with them. The three of them thus set out towards the forest. When they reached in the middle of the forest, they sat down to take rest near a pond. The elder princes asked the youngest prince to fetch some water for them from the pond.
That pond belonged to a water sprite, who had the power in him to enslave every human being that came to drink water from the pond and failed to give the correct answers of his questions. When the Sun prince went to take water from the pond, the water sprite appeared before him and said, “O Prince, you can only have water from my pond if you answer my question correctly.”
The Sun Prince said, “Sure, I will try my best to answer your question.”
The water sprite then asked the prince, “What are the good fairies like?”
The Sun Prince replied, “They are like the sun and the moon.”
The water sprite did not quite like his answer and shouted, “No, this is not true! Now, you will have to come with me and be my slave.” Saying so, he took the prince into his cave under the water.”
When the Sun Prince did not come back for a long time, the eldest prince sent the Moon Prince to go and look for him. When he reached near the pond, the water sprite appeared before him and asked him the same question, “What are good fairies like?”
The Moon Prince answered, “Well, they are like the sky above us.”
The water sprite said, “No, that is the wrong answer!” And saying so, he took the Moon Prince also to his cave.
Then at last, the eldest prince decided to go and look for his brothers. When he reached the pond, he saw the water sprite there. He understood that the water sprite must have taken his brothers into his custody.
The prince called out to the water sprite and said, “O Water Sprite, have you taken my brothers with you?”
The water sprite replied, “Oh yes, I had to take them in my custody because they failed to answer my question. I own this pond and allow only those to take water from my pond who answer my question correctly. Those who don’t, have to come with me and become my slaves.”
The Star Prince said, “I will answer your questions. And if my answer is correct, promise me that you will release my brothers.”
The water sprite said, “We shall see! My question to you is that, what are the good fairies like?”
The Star Prince replied, “They are pure in heart, who fear to sin. They are good and kindly in word and deed.”
The water sprite was pleased with the prince’s answer, “You are indeed very wise! But, I will return only one of your brothers. Tell me whom should I bring back?”
The Stare Prince replied, “Give me the youngest brother back. Though, he is my step brother, I love him as dearly as my real brother. If I ask for my own brother back, it would be unjust to the second queen. One of the first queen’s sons, that is me, is alive and so, it should be the second queen’s son whose life should be spared. Apart from that, if I return to the kingdom without the youngest brother, people will think that I have killed my step brother. No one will believe that a water sprite is holding him as a prisoner.”
The water sprite was so pleased with the prince’s answer that he released both the princes from captivity.
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