The King and the Shirt

Once a king fell gravely ill and gave an order that half his realm would go to whomever could cure him.

At that, all the wise men gathered to decide how to cure the king. Nobody knew. In the end, a wise man arrived to declare that the king could be cured on one condition.

“If a happy man can be found, the shirt taken from his back and put upon the king, the king will recover.” So the king sent messengers all over his Kingdom to find a happy man, yet none could be found. There was not one man who was content with everything. Whomever was rich was ill; whomever was healthy was poor; whomever was healthy and rich had a mean wife or wicked children. Everyone complained about something.

Late one night the King’s son was riding past a poor cottage when he heard someone say:

“Right, thank the Lord, I’ve done my stint, eating my fill, and can rest in peace. What else do I need?”

The Prince was delighted to have found a happy minute last, and gave orders for the man’s shirt to be taken to the king. He would, of course, pay the man as much money as he wished. But when the envoys entered the cottage to take the man shirt, they found he was so poor he had no shirt upon his back at all.

Source unknown, found this among papers from classes I took in the 1980s.