The Rooster Prince
Retold by Avishai Edenburg
Many years ago, in a kingdom whose name has since faded from memory, a prince went mad. The young heir to the throne took all of his clothes off, forsook speech for clucking, and spent all of his time under the dining room table, pecking at whatever crumb fell to the floor.
The king, terribly ashamed and afraid for his son’s sanity, offered all manner of honours and rewards for whoever would be able to cure his son, and while many physicians and miracle-workers heeded the summons, none were able to restore the prince.
The king had nearly resigned to sending the crazed princeling to a faraway island when a wise man came and promised the king he would solve the matter of the rooster prince. While skeptic, the king nevertheless thought there is no harm in one more effort.
He was then shocked and enraged when the wise man began undressing. “Are you mocking me?” the king screamed. “I will have you put to death!”
“My liege,” answered the wise man. “Lend me your trust, and you shall have your son back.”
Naked, the wise man crawled under the table and joined the mad prince, pecking at crumbs that fell to the floor. The king and queen stared in disbelief at the couple of madmen under their table, but the wise man had a plan.
When the prince grew accustomed to his fellow rooster, the wise man asked that the royal seamstress bring him clothes for two people. As the wise man was putting on trousers, the prince clucked in objection and said the first words since losing his sanity: “What are you doing? Roosters do not wear clothes!”
“Why not?” asked the wise man. “Why should I freeze, just because I am a rooster?” And for the first time since he became a rooster, the prince felt the chill of the floor, and he reached for the clothes.
The next day, the wise man asked that the servants bring them apples. When the apples arrived, the wise man grasped one and bit into it. The prince looked at him incredulously: “Roosters do not eat with their hands!”
“Why not?" Asked the wise man. “I shouldn’t deny myself the taste of this delicious apple, simply because I am a rooster.” The prince pondered the apple and looked at its glistening red skin, and took an apple in his hand and took a bite.
The day after, the wise man asked that the servants set two additional seats next to the table and call for the roosters to be fed as they serve the food. When the servants called for dinnertime, the wise man crawled out from under the table and took a seat. Glancing up at him, the prince said: “Roosters do not sit in chairs and eat with the humans!”
“Why not?” said the wise man. “Why should I endure the cramped space under the table, when I can eat in comfort like humans?” And the prince, after some deliberation, joined them at the table.
And so, every day, the wise man taught the rooster prince to act as humans do until he was completely functionally human, even as he never stopped believing for a moment that he was, in fact, a rooster.