Once upon a time, there lived a king who would go around the city in disguise at night looking for adventures. One evening, while on his usual stroll, he came across four young girls. The girls were involved in a deep conversation in a garden. Curious to know what the discussion was about, the king decided to listen in.

During this discussion, one of the girls remarked that telling lies had the most pleasant taste in the world. The next day, the king summoned the girl to his palace and ordered her to tell what they were discussing the previous night. The girl replied that she hadn’t said anything about the king.

Once again, the king insisted on knowing what she had discussed with her friends. She replied that people tell lies because they find it agreeable and that there was nothing wrong with it. Dissatisfied with her answer, the king asked what it was that she found so pleasurable about fibbing. In response, the girl said that the king himself would lie someday. At this, the king frowned and asked for an explanation.

The girl requested the king to give her two hundred thousand rupees and six months’ time to prove her claim. The king agreed and gave her the money and time she sought. During this time, the girl built a magnificent palace, adorned with beautiful paintings and carvings, far away from the city. With satin and silk, she furnished the palace as elegantly as she could.

Six months later, the king summoned her to the palace. In response to his invitation, the girl invited the king to her palace instead. The king obliged, visiting the newly built palace with his two ministers.

The girl presented her palace as God’s abode. She added that once inside the palace, God would reveal Himself only to a person born in a lawful wedlock.

The king asked one of his ministers to go in first. The minister entered a lavishly furnished room and wondered if he would see God in there. After all, the room looked like the perfect abode of God. However, despite looking around the room cautiously, he couldn’t find God anywhere. He was hesitant to go out and tell the king that he hadn’t seen God, for this would cause people to question his birth and bloodline. So, he went out and told the king that he had seen God indeed.

Curious, the king asked what God told him. The minister cleverly replied that God had ordered him to not reveal anything he was told. It was now the second minister’s turn to enter the palace. Awestruck by its luxurious interior, he went around looking for God. However, the minister couldn’t find Him. Just like the first minister, he too didn’t want any doubts to be cast upon his bloodline. He went out and told the king that not only had he seen God, but even spoken to Him.

Finally, the king went inside the palace and looked around the magnificently decorated room. The king couldn’t perceive a single sign that pointed to the presence of God. However, since both his ministers had attested to seeing God, the king wasn’t sure if he should say otherwise. So, when he came out of the palace, he told everyone that he had seen God indeed.

Aware of what the king was up to, the girl asked again if he had seen God. The king didn’t hesitate for a second and said he had. The girl now questioned the king, asking him if he had the conscience to see God and be so sure about it.

At this point, the king remembered what the girl had said to him six months ago. Chuckling, the king admitted to having lied. The king’s ministers also confessed the truth.

The girl said that if such a powerful king as him had to resort to fibbing, could the commoners be blamed for doing the same?

Instead of getting mad at the girl, the king appreciated her presence of mind and the ease with which she had pulled off such an intricate prank. The king married the girl, who would also go on to be his advisor in all his personal and public undertakings.

…now that you’re here

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Kalai Selvi, Folk Tale writer at Ameya

Kalai is passionate about reading and reinterpreting folk tales from all over the country. Write to her at kalai.muse@gmail.com to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and abridged from D. L. Ashliman.