Once upon a time, there was a foolish King who believed that he was the cleverest of all the people in his kingdom. He was convinced that nobody could trick him. Every day he displayed his wisdom in his palace, and predictably, his minsters applauded every word he spoke.
Not satisfied, the King decided to find out if there was anybody in the world who was smarter than he was.
He ordered his ministers, “Find a person smarter than me. A person who is clever and can outsmart me. Search the world and bring a person before me. I will test him and if I beat him he has to be my slave.”
The King’s ministers set out to find such a person who can take on the King. They met several wise men, but they were smart enough to know that if you compete with the King, you may end up being the slave. Therefore, nobody was ready to take up the challenge.
Worried over the prospect of returning to the King without any challenger, the ministers reached the very border of the kingdom. They decided to spend the night in the nearby village. The villagers here were poor because the farmlands belonged to the king. Besides, he charged the villagers a hefty tax for using it. Therefore, the villagers were left with nothing, even if they toiled throughout the year.
Despite their hardship, they treated the king’s men well. They gave them a hearty meal, and entertained them around a campfire lit in the village center with stories, poems, and riddles. During the course of the evening, one fellow caught the attention of the ministers. He was very quick with his answers and clever in his ways. His name was Vonik. They approached him and suggested that he travel with them to the King’s palace, and compete with him.
Although reluctant at first, Vonik agreed to go with them. He said, “I won’t take my coat or my hat. I will come with you if you agree to take me to King just like this”. The King’s men agreed and they took him to the king.
“So you think that you are very clever”, the King asked Vonik, when he was presented before the King. He then commanded, “I challenge you to trick me”. “But I am warning you, I am a very tricky customer, and you will not be able to beat me” the King added.
Vonik replied, “I am afraid of just that, your majesty. I would not have come if I had time to think. I left in such a hurry that I forgot to take my coat and hat, and even my tools to trick people”.
“You use tools for tricking people?” the King was intrigued.
“Yes, your majesty”, Vonik replied.
"I would like to see the tools that you use. Why don’t you go home and return with them", the King ordered.
“But I need 100 horse pulled carts to bring them all. And it will take at least six months to load them”, Vonik replied.
“Take whatever you need from my stables, but come back as soon as you can”, the King was becoming impatient.
So Vonik took the 100 finest horses from the Kings stables, 100 carts and set out towards his village, Just before leaving he asked the King again, “If I lose to you, I will become your slave, but what if I win?”
“That won’t happen. However, for the sake of the contest, I can make a promise. What do you want?”, asked the King.
“I want something that you never use”, Vonik was quick in his reply.
“Okay”, the King said, and Vonik left for his village.
Once in the village, Vonik split the 100 horses between the villagers and with their help completed one season of cultivation. All the grain was cut and filled into the granaries within the stipulated six months.
At the end of six months, Vonik filled his carts with empty wine containers, and left for the palace.
The King welcomed him and demanded to see the tools that he brought. Vonik started unpacking them, and the King’s dog came into the room. Seeing a stranger, the dog went up to Vonik and sniffed him.
“There is another problem, your majesty”, Vonik told the King. “This dog just told me that my wife is seriously ill, your majesty. I have to go. Please lend me your best horse, so I can reach their fast”, requested Vonik.
The King relented on the condition that he will return as early as possible. Vonik reached his village and sold the black horse given to him and bought a black donkey instead. He came back sitting on the black donkey.
“What is this? What took you so long and where is my horse?” the King exclaimed.
“The horse turned into a donkey on the way and that’s why it took me so long to reach home and return. Why did you give me such a horse?” he asked the King.
“Sorry, I didn’t know that. He was fine all the years I rode him”, the King sounded almost apologetic.
“Now forget all that, have a seat. And when are you going to try and trick me? “, the King queried.
“Sit down your majesty. Let me ask some questions. Did you ever use any tools for outsmarting people? asked Vonik.
“No”, said the King.
“Then how did you believe that I use some tools to do that. If you focus, you will realize that I already tricked you once,” said Vonik.
The King had no alternative, but to accept.
“Now did your dog ever talk to you? How did you ever believe that it I talked to me?“, asked Vonik.
The King was beginning to see the light.
“Now did the black horse ever turn into a donkey all these years? You believed that as well. If you notice, I tricked you three times already”, Vonik said triumphantly.
The King realised he had lost the duel. As per the agreement, he asked, “Now I have to give you something I don’t use. What do you want?”
“Your head” pat came Vonik’s reply.
The foolish King got scared and began trembling. Vonik took pity on him and said, “But you can give me something else instead. That farmlands and forests should be returned to the villagers to earn their livelihood”.
The King readily agreed and gave back the villagers rights. Vonik returned to his village and lived a long and happy life.
The foolish King never tried to ascertain his smartness again.
Moral: Those who think they are the smartest, are usually the biggest fools. People who think they are wise, when they are not are worse than fools. (English proverb)