The Endless Tale by James Baldwin
In the Far East there was a great king who had no work to do. Every
day, and all day long, he sat on soft cush-ions and lis-tened to
stories. And no matter what the story was about, he never grew tired
of hearing it, even though it was very long.
"There is only one fault that I find with your story," he often said:
"it is too short."
All the story-tellers in the world were in-vit-ed to his palace; and
some of them told tales that were very long indeed. But the king was
always sad when a story was ended.
At last he sent word into every city and town and country place,
offering a prize to any one who should tell him an endless tale. He
"To the man that will tell me a story which shall last forever, I will
give my fairest daugh-ter for his wife; and I will make him my heir,
and he shall be king after me."
But this was not all. He added a very hard con-di-tion. "If any man
shall try to tell such a story and then fail, he shall have his head
The king's daughter was very pretty, and there were many young men in
that country who were willing to do anything to win her. But none of
them wanted to lose their heads, and so only a few tried for the
One young man invented a story that lasted three months; but at the
end of that time, he could think of nothing more. His fate was a
warning to others, and it was a long time before another story-teller
was so rash as to try the king's patience.
But one day a stran-ger from the South came into the palace.
"Great king," he said, "is it true that you offer a prize to the man
who can tell a story that has no end?"
"It is true," said the king.
"And shall this man have your fairest daughter for his wife, and shall
he be your heir?"
"Yes, if he suc-ceeds," said the king. "But if he fails, he shall lose
"Very well, then," said the stran-ger. "I have a pleasant story about
locusts which I would like to relate."
"Tell it," said the king. "I will listen to you."
The story-teller began his tale.
"Once upon a time a certain king seized upon all the corn in his
country, and stored it away in a strong gran-a-ry. But a swarm of
locusts came over the land and saw where the grain had been put. After
search-ing for many days they found on the east side of the gran-a-ry
a crev-ice that was just large enough for one locust to pass through
at a time. So one locust went in and carried away a grain of corn;
then another locust went in and carried away a grain of corn; then
another locust went in and carried away a grain of corn."
Day after day, week after week, the man kept on saying, "Then another
locust went in and carried away a grain of corn."
A month passed; a year passed. At the end of two years, the king
"How much longer will the locusts be going in and carrying away corn?"
"O king!" said the story-teller, "they have as yet cleared only one
cubit; and there are many thousand cubits in the granary."
"Man, man!" cried the king, "you will drive me mad. I can listen to it
no longer. Take my daughter; be my heir; rule my kingdom. But do not
let me hear another word about those horrible locusts!"
And so the strange story-teller married the king's daughter. And he
lived happily in the land for many years. But his father-in-law, the
king, did not care to listen to any more stories.