Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Story of Benito


Benito was an only son who lived with his father and mother in a
little village. They were very poor, and as the boy grew older and
saw how hard his parents struggled for their scanty living he often
dreamed of a time when he might be a help to them.

One evening when they sat eating their frugal meal of rice the father
told about a young king who lived in a beautiful palace some distance
from their village, and the boy became very much interested. That
night when the house was dark and quiet and Benito lay on his mat
trying to sleep, thoughts of the young king repeatedly came to his
mind, and he wished he were a king that he and his parents might
spend the rest of their lives in a beautiful palace.

The next morning he awoke with a new idea. He would go to the king and
ask for work, that he might in that way be able to help his father
and mother. He was a long time in persuading his parents to allow
him to go, however, for it was a long journey, and they feared that
the king might not be gracious. But at last they gave their consent,
and the boy started out The journey proved tiresome. After he reached
the palace, he was not at first permitted to see the king. But the
boy being very earnest at last secured a place as a servant.

It was a new and strange world to Benito who had known only the life
of a little village. The work was hard, but he was happy in thinking
that now he could help his father and mother. One day the king sent
for him and said:

"I want you to bring to me a beautiful princess who lives in a land
across the sea. Go at once, and if you fail you shall be punished

The boy's heart sank within him, for he did not know what to do. But
he answered as bravely as possible, "I will, my lord," and left the
king's chamber. He at once set about preparing things for a long
journey, for he was determined to try at least to fulfil the command.

When all was ready Benito started. He had not gone far before he
came to a thick forest, where he saw a large bird bound tightly
with strings.

"Oh, my friend," pleaded the bird, "please free me from these bonds,
and I will help you whenever you call on me."

Benito quickly released the bird, and it flew away calling back to
him that its name was Sparrow-hawk.

Benito continued his journey till he came to the sea. Unable to find
a way of crossing, he stopped and gazed sadly out over the waters,
thinking of the king's threat if he failed. Suddenly he saw swimming
toward him the King of the Fishes who asked:

"Why are you so sad?"

"I wish to cross the sea to find the beautiful Princess," answered
the boy.

"Well, get on my back," said the Fish, "and I will carry you across."

So Benito stepped on his back and was carried to the other shore.

Soon he met a strange woman who inquired what it was he sought,
and when he had told her she said:

"The Princess is kept in a castle guarded by giants. Take this magic
sword, for it will kill instantly whatever it touches." And she handed
him the weapon.

Benito was more than grateful for her kindness and went on full of
hope. As he approached the castle he could see that it was surrounded
by many giants, and as soon as they saw him they ran out to seize him,
but they went unarmed for they saw that he was a mere boy. As they
approached he touched those in front with his sword, and one by one
they fell dead. Then the others ran away in a panic, and left the
castle unguarded. Benito entered, and when he had told the Princess
of his errand, she was only too glad to escape from her captivity
and she set out at once with him for the palace of the king.

At the seashore the King of the Fishes was waiting for them, and they
had no difficulty in crossing the sea and then in journeying through
the thick forest to the palace, where they were received with great
rejoicing. After a time the King asked the Princess to become his wife,
and she replied:

"I will, O King, if you will get the ring I lost in the sea as I was
crossing it"

The King immediately thought of Benito, and sending for him he
commanded him to find the ring which had been lost on the journey
from the land of the giants.

It seemed a hopeless task to the boy, but, anxious to obey his master,
he started out. At the seaside he stopped and gazed over the waters
until, to his great delight, he saw his friend, the King of the Fishes,
swimming toward him. When he had been told of the boy's troubles,
the great fish said: "I will see if I can help you," and he summoned
all his subjects to him. When they came he found that one was missing,
and he sent the others in search of it. They found it under a stone
so full that it could not swim, and the larger ones took it by the
tail and dragged it to the King.

"Why did you not come when you were called?" inquired the King Fish.

"I have eaten so much that I cannot swim," replied the poor fish.

Then the King Fish, suspecting the truth, ordered it cut open,
and inside they found the lost ring. Benito was overjoyed at this,
and expressing his great thanks, hastened with the precious ring to
his master.

The King, greatly pleased, carried the ring to the Princess and said:

"Now that I have your ring will you become my wife?"

"I will be your wife," replied the Princess, "if you will find my
earring that I lost in the forest as I was journeying with Benito."

Again the King sent for Benito, and this time he commanded him to
find the earring. The boy was very weary from his long journeys, but
with no complaint he started out once more. Along the road through
the thick forest he searched carefully, but with no reward. At last,
tired and discouraged, he sat down under a tree to rest.

Suddenly there appeared before him a mouse of great size, and he was
surprised to find that it was the King of Mice.

"Why are you so sad?" asked the King Mouse.

"Because," answered the boy, "I cannot find an earring which the
Princess lost as we were going through the forest together."

"I will help you," said the Mouse, and he summoned all his subjects.

When they assembled it was found that one little mouse was missing,
and the King sent the others to look for him. In a small hole among
the bamboo trees they found him, and he begged to be left alone,
for, he said, he was so full that he could not walk. Nevertheless
they pulled him along to their master, who, upon finding that there
was something hard inside the mouse, ordered him cut open; and inside
they found the missing earring.

Benito at once forgot his weariness, and after expressing his great
thanks to the King Mouse he hastened to the palace with the prize. The
King eagerly seized the earring and presented it to the Princess,
again asking her to be his wife.

"Oh, my King," replied the Princess, "I have one more request to
make. Only grant it and I will be your wife forever."

The King, believing that now with the aid of Benito he could grant
anything, inquired what it was she wished, and she replied:

"Get me some water from heaven and some from the lower world, and I
shall ask nothing more."

Once more the King called Benito and sent him on the hardest errand
of all.

The boy went out not knowing which way to turn, and while he was
in a deep study his weary feet led him to the forest. Suddenly he
thought of the bird who had promised to help him, and he called,
"Sparrowhawk!" There was a rustle of wings, and the bird swooped
down. He told it of his troubles and it said:

"I will get the water for you."

Then Benito made two light cups of bamboo which he fastened to the
bird's legs, and it flew away. All day the boy waited in the forest,
and just as night was coming on the bird returned with both cups
full. The one on his right foot, he told Benito, was from heaven,
and that on his left was from the lower world. The boy unfastened
the cups, and then, as he was thanking the bird, he noticed that the
journey had been too much for it and that it was dying. Filled with
sorrow for his winged friend, he waited and carefully buried it,
and then he hastened to the palace with the precious water.

When the Princess saw that her wish had been fulfilled she asked the
King to cut her in two and pour over her the water from heaven. The
King was not able to do this, so she cut herself, and then as he
poured the water over her he beheld her grow into the most beautiful
woman he had ever seen.

Eager to become handsome himself, the King then begged her to pour
over him the water from the other cup. He cut himself, and she did
as he requested, but immediately there arose a creature most ugly
and horrible to look upon, which soon vanished out of sight. Then
the Princess called Benito and told him that because he had been
so faithful to his master and so kind to her, she chose him for
her husband.

They were married amid great festivities and became king and queen of
that broad and fertile land. During all the great rejoicing, however,
Benito never forgot his parents. One of the finest portions of his
kingdom he gave to them, and from that time they all lived in great

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