Once upon a time, there lived a king named Loknath in Nye-mae-el. Although very wise, his only shortcoming was his inability to tolerate criticism. Anyone who criticized him had to face dire consequences. As a result, all the courtiers said only what the king wished to hear. Nobody dared to air their actual opinions.

However, his queen, Mohi, knew that this was both morally and ethically wrong. Fed up with the sycophancy prevalent in the court, she warned Loknath that his courtiers were exalting him out of fear. Irked by Mohi’s words, Loknath retorted that no one feared him nor did he fear anyone.

That evening, while taking a stroll in the royal garden, Mohi heard the king’s screams from the barracks. When she got there, she saw that the king was telling off the Army General. It did not take her long to realize that the king’s anger stemmed from his loss in the archery match between the two. Mohi figured out that the king’s short temper and intolerance were getting out of hand. She rushed to the king, trying to calm him down by saying that she had a surprise for him. When the seemingly placated king inquired as to what it was, she said that she would present it in the court the following day. Excited about the present, Loknath regained his composure rather quickly.

The next day, Loknath walked into the court with great enthusiasm. He sat on his throne with a big smile across his face, eager to see the queen’s surprise. The queen arrived shortly thereafter, followed by her attendants, who were carrying a canvas. She then addressed Loknath and told him that the surprise was actually a painting of him. Loknath’s joy knew no bounds when he heard this.

However, just when he was about to unveil the painting, Mohi stopped him. She suggested that the other courtiers should first have a look at and express their opinions on the king’s portrait. Thinking of all the praises that would be heaped upon him, Loknath readily agreed to his wife’s proposal.

The courtiers looked at the painting one by one. However, not a single one of them spoke up. When the queen spurred them on, the courtiers started with their usual attempts at outdoing each other in eulogizing the king.

‘Oh! How handsome!’

‘You look so magnificent, Your Majesty!’

The palace chamber seemed to resonate with such servile compliments. The king was visibly overjoyed.

Once everyone was done with their flattery, the queen went ahead and unveiled the canvas. The king was shocked out of his wits.

The canvas was completely blank. Not a speck of paint was to be seen. Furious by the turn of events, Loknath screamed at the top of his lungs. He questioned the queen’s intentions. Mohi calmly replied that she wanted to show how none of the king’s courtiers conveyed their true opinions and chose to praise a blank canvas instead. She even added that the blank canvas was symbolic of the fear that Loknath had instilled in the hearts of his courtiers. It was this very fear that prevented them from telling the truth.

Loknath realized his folly. He mended his ways and, over time, he became receptive to criticism. No more did he require yes-men as his courtiers.

Hence, one must not be afraid of constructive criticism. In fact, one may even use it as an opportunity to improve upon themselves.

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Ananya Susarla, Folk Tale writer at Ameya

Ananya loves to both read and reinterpret folk tales from different parts of the country. Shoot her an email at ananyasusarla2915@gmail.com if you would like to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and abridged from TheStoryCircus.