The Three Princes of Serendip
“In ancient times there existed in the country of Serendippo, in the Far East, a great and powerful king by the name of Giaffer. He had three sons who were very dear to him. And being a good father and very concerned about their education, he decided that he had to leave them endowed not only with great power, but also with all kinds of virtues of which princes are particularly in need.”
And so the king set off in search of the best tutors throughout the whole island to teach his sons. He finds a number of tutors each a specialist in different fields, and entrusts them to the training of his sons. The three princes, all endowed with great intelligence, soon become well trained in the arts and sciences. The tutors go to the king and tell him of their achievements. However the king is sceptical, and so devises a plan to test his sons. He summons his eldest son to him and announces that he plans to retire to the country, and so his son should succeed him as ruler. To the king’s great surprise, his eldest son politely refuses, insisting that his father is wiser and should reign until his death. The king summons his other sons in turn who both refuse in a similar manner to their older brother.
The king is greatly astonished by the wisdom his sons have displayed, but decides to test them further and send them out into the world to gain empirical experience. He summons the three of them and, pretending to be angry and disappointed banishes them from Serendip.
The sons set off on their journey. They leave Serendip and soon come to the kingdom of the emperor Beramo, which was very rich and powerful. Here they meet a camel driver, who stops and asks them if they have seen one of his camels. Although the brothers have not seen the camel, they had noticed signs of one having passed along the roadside. Eager to show off their brilliant wit and intellect, they ask the camel driver if his lost camel happened to be blind in one eye, missing a tooth and lame. The camel driver, hugely impressed by their accurate description hurries off down the road in pursuit of his wayward camel.
However despite searching the camel driver has no luck finding his camel, and feeling deceived returns to the three princes, who eagerly supply him with more information. They tell him that his camel carries a load of butter on one side and honey on the other, and that the rider was a pregnant woman. The camel driver concludes that the princes themselves must have stolen the camel, and has them imprisoned.
However shortly after a neighbour finds the camel and the princes are released and brought before the emperor Beramo. The emperor asks them how they could have known such details about a camel they had never seen.
The eldest prince replied;
“As the grass was eaten on the side of the road where it was less verdant, I deduced that the camel must be blind to the other side. Also, there were lumps of chewed grass the size of a camels tooth on the roadside, suggesting that the grass had fallen through the gap left by a missing tooth. The tracks left by the camel showed only three foot prints, the fourth being dragged, indicating that the camel was lame. As for the butter and honey, this is clear and ants have been attracted to melted butter on one side of the road and flies to the honey on the other.”
The second brother then explained the more obscure deduction of the pregnant rider;
“I guessed the camel must have carried a woman because I had noticed that near the tracks where the animal had knelt down the imprint of a foot was visible. Because some urine was near by, I wet my fingers and as a reaction to its odour I felt a sort of carnal lust, which convinced me that the imprint was of a woman’s foot.”
“I guessed that the same woman must have been pregnant,” said the third, “because I had noticed nearby handprints which were indicative that the woman, being pregnant, had helped herself up with her hands while urinating.”
The emperor was astounded by the princes’ brilliance and invites them to be his guests. He soon sends them on a mission to another land ruled by a Virgin Queen to retrieve the Mirror of Justice once stolen from him. On their successful return to Beramo the princes discover that the emperor had fallen in love with a beautiful slave girl, Diliramma, who one day questioned his honour in public. In a fit of fury the emperor had had her abandoned in a forest. However the following day Beramo greatly regretted his rash anger, and ordered a search for her. No trace of her was found however, and Beramo was left sick with sorrow.
The three princes of Serendip advised the emperor to build seven beautiful palaces and to stay in each for a week. In addition, the best story tellers from the seven most important cities were to be brought to him to recount a marvellous story.
The weeks pass, and the emperors health steadily recovers. On the seventh week, Beramo is astonished to hear a story about Diliramma and himself! The storyteller soon reveals that he knows Diliramma and that she still loves the emperor in spite of his bad behaviour. Overjoyed, the lovers are reunited.
Beramo asks the three princes how they devised such an effective remedy. The Princes replied that they thought the variation of palaces might help his insomnia, and that as no trace of the girl had been found in the forest, she could not have been eaten by wild animals, and so storytellers from afar should be summoned in case of news of her might be received. As Diliramma had been rescued by a travelling merchant, who took her far away, their theory was precisely correct!
The story ends with the return of the three princes to Serendip, where the three wise sons become three wise rulers. The eldest son succeeds his father as king of Serendip on his death. The second son returns to the land of the Virgin Queen, marries her and become ruler. The youngest son returns to the empire of Beramo and marries his daughter. Shortly after the wedding Beramo dies and the third prince becomes lord of the empire.