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Agong's Fairy Tales
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11/6/2014 4:45:42 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Tale 1: The Taming of the Shrew
This looks like a story for children but it is actually a fictitious story for adults, using symbolism to depict an actual political event that is happening in a certain part of the world today.
I am going to post the whole stories in parts. Each part will take several days or even a week to post. Let's listen to "Agong" telling the story but halfway he will disappear into his toilet and come out a few days later.
Please be patient and don't take it as a joke.
Once upon a time there lived a weird old man who liked to spend his time telling fairy tales to the children in his village. He had been living in the village for a long time but nobody knew his real name. The children in the village called him "Agong", a Chinese term of respect for an old man or a grandfather. On this day as usual, he sat on a rock under a tree outside his house with a group of children gathering around him eager to listen to his stories.
"In a distant country lived an emperor with many daughters," began the old man. "On the 17th birthday of his second youngest daughter, the emperor announced that he would select three suitors for the hand of the princess on her 20th birthday. On that day, the three suitors would be waiting to catch a ball made of silk ribbon thrown down at them by the princess from her palace window. The lucky suitor who managed to catch the silk ball was regarded as having obtained the "mandate" or "legitimacy" from the people to be the son-in-law of the emperor.
As the second youngest princess was the most beautiful girl in the kingdom, she attracted a lot of attention and admiration from her humble subjects whenever she rode in her gilded coach through the capital's royal route. Many men had been dreaming all this while to be her future husband one day. Even the street beggars, 13-year-old boys and 70-year-old men dreamed of marrying the princess. They were upset and disappointed at the emperor's announcement. Hence it was not surprising that the streets of the capital were filled with men, young and old, rich and poor, protesting against the emperor's decision. The only people who were caught off guard by the sheer size of the protest were the emperor and his ministers."
"If I was there, I would also take part in the protest because I want to marry a beautiful princess," a 12-year-old boy interrupted Agong. All the other children broke into laughter at the cheeky remark.
Agong glanced at him with a smile, "Small boy, study hard before dreaming of marriage." All the children laughed again.
Agong continued his story: "There is an old African saying, 'When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.' There is an equivalent saying in Chinese, 'When the city gates are on fire, it is the fish in the moat that suffer.' Hence, not everybody supported the protest. There was almost anarchy in the streets. The capital was almost paralyzed by the protest. Business and all other activities in the city almost came to a standstill. Many shops, inns, banks, markets, pawn shops and other places of business were closed during the street protest. Businessmen, especially the small shop owners, were the first to feel the pinch. Most workers could not go to work. Many housewives were swearing and cursing as they could not go to the markets to buy food for their families. Babies were crying because their mothers could not buy milk from the groceries. There were a lot of anger and resentment in the business community against the protesters because many companies could go bankrupt if the protest dragged on for a long time. Sedan chair carriers were angry at the protesters because they could not transport their passengers down the congested, winding passageways to their destinations. Even the beggars were grumbling as all the people were busy protesting without taking a look at their empty bowls.
At night, the crowd grew in number as more people from the surrounding countryside joined in the protest after returning from work. The protest became some sort of street party and celebration at night as the crowd sang and danced with candles in their hands. The sea of people stretched all the way from one end of the city to the other end. As the echoes of 'freedom to choose' reverberated throughout the capital, the emperor and his ministers had to cover their ears with their pillows while sleeping.
There was an incident in which a horse carriage almost ploughed into some protesters who were sleeping in their tents on a street in the wee hours of the morning. Fortunately, nobody was injured. The driver was arrested by the police. He explained to the police that he was furious at the protesters for blocking the roads as he was rushing his wife in labour to the hospital."
At this point, Agong stopped and told the children, "Sorry, I have to rush to the toilet. Wait here for a short while for the rest of the story."
I have forgotten to inform the readers that the weird old man had a very weak stomach. Hence he often stopped halfway in the story to rush to the toilet. To him, "wait here for a short while" meant waiting for a long time, because he usually spent many hours in the toilet!
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11/16/2014 5:23:48 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
After a long while, Agong trudged back to the place where the 12 children were waiting for him to finish the story. Without hiding the surprise on his face, he said: "I thought I have been to the toilet for a long time. I am surprised to find that I have finished my "big business" in record time today. You see, the sun is still staying in the same position after I left for the toilet. It's still sitting on top of the mountain in the distance!" All the children broke into laughter.
"You have been away for one whole day! We went home immediately after you left for your toilet, knowing full well that you would spend a long time there. After having a good night sleep, we have just arrived here this morning, about the same time as yesterday, waiting for you to finish the story," said the cheeky 12-year-old boy.
"I had fallen asleep while doing my "big business" and thinking how to finish my story," said Agong. The children broke into laughter again.
Agong continued, "Can anyone think of how best to end the story?"
One girl shouted: "Finally, the emperor acceded to the popular demand to let the princess freely choose whoever she loved!"
An older girl suggested: "A handsome prince came riding on a white horse from a distant land. He fought all his way into the palace, killed all the wicked people and rode with the beautiful princess to a remote paradise island where they lived happily ever after."
"My version is the best," said the cheeky 12-year-old boy. "The handsome prince on the white horse rode all the way into the palace. At a wave of a magic wand that was given to him by a powerful magician, all the soldiers and other people in the palace fell into a deep slumber. The prince found the princess sleeping on her bed. He bent over to give her a kiss, and she woke up. When the emperor and all the other people in the palace finally woke up, the prince had ridden with the princess to his castle in a distant land where they lived happily ever after."
Agong laughed loudly, "Small boy, you have nothing in your mind except kissing and marrying a beautiful princess. You should spend your precious time studying your school work!" All the children laughed loudly.
At this point, they saw a lean figure approaching them slowly in the distance. It was Agong's friend. He was younger than Agong. The children used to call him "Uncle" but the adults in the village called him "Philosopher" because he was a learned scholar. Like Hong Xiuquan of the Taiping Rebellion, he had failed the imperial examinations five times. Again, like Hong Xiuquan, he became a tutor to the children in his village and continued to study privately. Fortunately, unlike Hong Xiuquan, he was sane enough not to claim that he had received visions in which he learned that he was the younger brother of Jesus.
With regard to Agong, nobody in the village knew his background, but he was definitely a learned scholar like Uncle. It is not surprising to find that the tiny remote village was a place of "Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon". The phrase "Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon" derives from a Chinese idiom that describes an unlikely location where talented people could be found. Throughout the history of Chinese dynasties, frustrated scholars used to live a quiet, simple life in the remote countryside or mountainous regions.
On arrival, Uncle said, "The children had told me your fairy tale yesterday. I am eager to know its ending."
"I am glad to learn that my best friend is eager to hear the story," said Agong. "Here is the rest of the story. At first, the protesters declared that they would never resort to force to achieve their goals. They only demanded the princess to be given the freedom to choose anyone she loved as her husband. Later, however, they upped the ante by demanding the prime minister to resign for not persuading the emperor to heed their righteous demand.
All this while, the emperor seemed quite happy to prolong his standoff with the protesters. However, like all protests in all countries, the longer the protest drags on, the more likely for it to be hijacked by some radical elements with ulterior motives. As the protest dragged on to the 6th day, the impatient protesters upped the ante by giving the prime minister the ultimatum to resign within 24 hours; otherwise they would escalate the protest by occupying his residence.
Taking an analogy, a rope will definitely break at some point when it is pulled in opposite directions by two horses. With both sides refusing to give way and talk to each other, it was just a matter of time for the unrest to spiral out of control. After the deadline set by the protesters had passed, the prime minister still refused to step down. As the standoff continued, the protesters became more impatient. Led by a group of radical elements, they began storming the prime minister's residence. This act was regarded by the emperor as a rebellion and was the last straw that broke the camel's back. Troops were sent out to crush the protest, resulting in heavy casualties on the protesters."
On hearing the tragic ending of the fairy tale, all the children, especially the girls, began weeping loudly: "Agong, you are very naughty. You are as nasty as the emperor. Why don't you end the story in the usual way of 'living happily ever after'?" All of them ran home, crying loudly.
All this while, Uncle listened quietly without showing any expression on his face. After all the children had left, he laughed loudly.
Agong asked: "Why are you laughing while the children are crying all the way home?"
Uncle replied, "When two stubborn bulls charge at each other in a china shop, what else can I do but to step aside and laugh at their folly? By the way, why not simply humour the children by giving your fairy tale a happy ending?"
Agong replied, "The ending of this story is the most difficult I have ever encountered in my storytelling. I was struggling so hard in my mind how to end the fairy tale that I fell asleep halfway during my 'big business' in the toilet.
Both of us are old enough to have experienced the realities and vicissitudes of life. At first I thought of giving my fairy tale a happy ending, but I changed my mind on second thought because I realized that such a prolonged standoff often results in tragedy. My friend, both of us had been to the big cities in our youth. There we came across foreigners and their literature. In the process of struggling to decide the ending for my fairy tale, I suddenly remembered two memorable lines in Shakespeare's King Lear, likening the gods to immature, uncaring, unjust children, and man to insignificant flies, creatures subject to sportful cruelty:
"As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,
They kill us for their sport."
As often in real life, we find no fairies but the Unseen Hand of Destiny that manipulates us to become victims of folly, greed, selfishness, obstinacy and naivety. We always forget the lessons of history and pay staggering cost in repeating mistakes after mistakes.
Neither side can be a winner in a political unrest. The real losers will be the people and the country. A prolonged political unrest could set the country back a few decades.
Similarly, staging a revolution is not as simple as changing one's clothes or mowing the weeds in one's garden and wait for a better tomorrow. A revolution, together with prolonged civil wars, could cost millions of lives, split the country and set it back a few centuries with possible loss of territories.
Like the gods killing man for their sport, a writer or a storyteller can also do likewise with the characters in his story. However, I give my fairy tale a tragic ending not for the fun of it but for the reality of life. When both conflicting parties refuse to give way to each other, speeding towards each other on a collision course. In such circumstances, tragedy is unavoidable."