StoryRhyme After Dark: The Man Who Would Be King

What do you see? Or, perhaps, what don’t you see...

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The Man Who Would Be King
By Harry Buschman

There was a one-eyed man who lived long ago in an isolated country called Tartaros. He considered himself to be the wisest man in the land, and the man most worthy to rule because all the other inhabitants of Tartaros were blind.

He traveled around the countryside telling crowds of blind people how much they were missing by not being able to see the sunrise, the flowers of the field and the rainbow. He reasoned that having seen all these wonders, he, and he alone deserved to be the ruler of Tartaros.

But the citizens of Tartaros disagreed. Instead, they argued, “What is it to see? To us there is no such thing as the sun, or a flower in the field. There is a time of warmth when vegetables can be grown for food. A time when water falls from above to help them grow. That is all we need to know.”

The one eyed man tried desperately to describe the colors of the rainbow and the placid beauty of the grazing herd. “There must be words,” he said to himself, “that I can use... Words are all I have in common with these unfortunate people of Tantaros.”

“Let me see,” he said to an old man feeding his chickens. “Suppose there was a precipice in front of you, and your next step would be your last... Who would warn you in time?”

“A precipice?”

“Yes. A precipice... A cliff... Beyond which was a bottomless pit... A life-threatening danger you could not see. Who would warn you?”

“There is no precipice in Tartaros. If there were, none of us would be here.”

“But if there were, you would need someone to guide you, would you not?” The old man shrugged his thin shoulders and continued feeding his chickens... “Here chick. Here chick chick chick.

“Maybe that’s a bad example. Let me try again...” The one-eyed man (who would be ruler) thought a bit, then continued his argument. “Suppose you were lost at sea and needed the North Star to guide you... Err, perhaps that doesn’t apply either.”

The blind man smiled. “You seem to be at a loss for questions, my boy. In spite of your ability to see, you know very little of our world.”

“I want you to understand that the good people of Tartaros are at the mercy of nature, yes and of envious neighbors at your gates who would enslave you. You need a man who can see the dangers ahead.”

Other blind people, hearing the voices of the two men, gathered around and wanted to be heard. “Nature is not our enemy,” a farmer’s wife said, “and of what use are we to an envious neighbor.”

“You are blind are you not? He would want to make slaves of you. A man who can see would have control of you.”

“In short,” said the chicken farmer, “without eyes there would be little difference between you and the enemy, would there.”

(c) 2010 Harry Buschman


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