There was once a king who was very clever. In fact, he was so clever, it was said he could always tell whether someone was lying or telling the truth. The king himself was proud of his cleverness, and offered a reward for any man who could come and deceive him. The king promised a bag of gold to anyone who could tell him a truth that the king would take for a lie, or tell him a lie that the king would take for truth.
Many long years passed, and though the king heard outlandish truths of all kinds, brought to him from many lands, and also the most fiendishly cunning lies, he was never wrong in discerning what was true and what was false.
One day a young peddler who was passing through the kingdom heard of the king’s offer, and decided to try his wit against the king’s cleverness. There was a set day each month when the king would hear those who wished to win the bag of gold, and when that day arrived the peddler stood in line with the rest of the hopefuls. The morning wore on, one person after another tried to fool the clever king, but to no avail. The king could see through their lies or spot the truth every time.
At last it was the peddler’s turn.
“First, let me thank you, your highness,” the peddler man said, “For permitting my presence in this great and marvelous audience chamber. In all my travels I have never seen one so magnificent, truly befitting a king as clever as yourself.”
The king smiled and nodded, waiting for the peddler to go on.
“And these lovely young ladies, your daughters I presume? Why they are fairer than a May morning.”
The three princesses giggled to each other, then waited eagerly to hear the peddler utter his truth or his lie.
“And you, yourself, your majesty, what an honor it is to be in the presence of the cleverest man on the earth.”
“Yes, yes, enough with all of this. What story do you have to tell us? Get on with it now.”
The peddler bowed again and said, “But your majesty, I have already told you three stories, all of them lies, which you most willingly believed. I am sorry to report but this is not the most magnificent hall I have ever set eyes on, and your daughters, while fair, can’t really compare to Lady Springtime, and as for you, sire…”
“Enough!” the king rose, furious, from his throne.
He would have ordered the peddler executed at once for his insolence, but his three daughters fell at his knees, begging him to have mercy. Their pleas calmed the king, who sank back into his throne wearily.
“It seems you have won the bag of gold,” the king said, and ordered it to be brought from his treasury. It was given to the peddler from the hand of the eldest princess, and the king promptly sent him on his way. He left as quick as he could, lest the king change his mind about that execution!
So the peddler man got his gold, and the king got a bit of wisdom to go with his cleverness. The tale ends well, that’s all there is to tell.