What is the value of truth? Of all the stories I have read, nothing matches this old folk tale that I have taken the liberty to retell in my own fashion. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:
In ancient times, a prince announced that he was going to choose a bride and called all interested maidens to present themselves to him at the palace.
Among the many noble ladies and princesses gathered in the hall that day, there stood the old palace gardener’s daughter who had held a secret love for the prince ever since they played together in the garden as children. Her white dress still had some dirt stains that she tried in vain to remove. Her bare feet stood in stark contrast with the glittering shoes of the other ladies. Murmurs, whispers and mocking eyes followed the girl wherever she walked.
But then the prince appeared in the doorway and all eyes turned towards him.
He gave the gathered crowd a brief smile, then said, “I am giving each maiden a single flower seed which you have to plant and nurture until it grows into full bloom. In six months time, I want to see you back here with your plants. The one I will choose for my bride will be the one with the most beautiful flower.”
And with that, he left the servants to give one seed each to the maidens.
The gardener’s daughter quickly went home and planted the seed in one of her father’s old pots. She mustered all she had learned about proper gardening and the bedridden old man even gave her a few tips and reminders on what to do.
She waited a few days for a sign that the plant was growing. How she longed for the first leaf to pop out of the soil prepared with care and love. But the days stretched into weeks and still nothing grew. Unwilling to accept defeat, she asked for other insights from the other palace gardeners. She thought of ways to make the plant grow until she got frequent headaches every day just from thinking.
The weeks stretched into a month, then two, then three, four, five, and six.
Nothing grew from the little pot.
The girl, now desolate and in despair, thought of just staying home, but finally resolved to go to the palace with her flowerless pot, if only to see her heart’s true love one more time.
In the palace, she sat in a corner with her head down. Tears trickled from her eyes as she saw all the other ladies in their fine-woven, colored silk dresses. They held ornate and intricate vases that spouted beautiful flowers. It was an astonishing sight to behold, flowers of all shapes, sizes, colors and scents were packed in that small room, all awaiting the prince’s judgement and decision as to which was the loveliest.
A servant entered the room and began moving among the ladies, who barely noticed him. He briefly took note of what each held in her hand until his eyes rested on the gardener’s daughter sitting in the corner with an empty pot beside her.
He quickly moved to her and tapped her shoulder. “Come with me,” he said.
The girl saw the servant’s serious mien and thought that he was going to throw her out. How dare she come here with her empty pot, dirty clothes and tear-stricken face, without anything to show for her effort. How dare she mar the prince’s big day as she stood out like an ugly blot among all these fine women.
She wiped her tears with the back of her hand as she scrambled to her feet. The servant clutched her arm and led her towards the center of the room. Suddenly, another servant rushed in and announced the arrival of the prince.
The room fell into a hushed silence as he appeared. He glanced briefly around the room and his eyes met those of the servant holding the gardener’s daughter. He gave the prince a slight nod.
The prince smiled, then pointed towards the servant and the gardener’s daughter. “Behold my bride,” he announced to the stunned crowd.
There was a brief moment of silence, but it was quickly broken by the angry voices of the other ladies.
“But she has nothing in her pot,” they exclaimed.
The prince raised his hand to command silence and restore order. Then he explained.
“Six months ago, I gave each of you a seed and told you to come back with the best and most beautiful flower. I see today that you all have such wondrous, wild and exotic flowers perhaps never before seen in the kingdom. But this lady here has shown me a flower that none of you can match — the flower of truth. All the seeds I gave you before had been boiled and rendered sterile. Surely, nothing, not even a weed, could have grown from them.”
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.