Queen Sanobia’s Successor
The words “Close the gates” sounded too late to isolate the inhabitants of Labasite from the plague. By the time the words were uttered, it was already within their walls. Within 24 hours, red Xs appeared on doors of the town, indicating that an afflicted victim lay inside. Within 48 hours, the dead began piling up in the streets.
No family was spared. Farmers, tradesmen, and the nobility were stricken. The slow grind of death paralyzed the land and carried off the king, queen, and three of the royal children.
Four months after the first victim fell, Princess Sanobia, the fourth and youngest child of the ruling family, was unexpectedly crowned the ruler of Labasite.
Sanobia didn’t anticipate becoming queen. Nobody would have said she was the right person for the job. Up until the plague arrived, Sanobia’s days were spent giggling with her friends or riding her horse around the countryside. Although she was very unprepared to be a monarch, her advisors guided her well. In time, she became a just and beloved queen.
A few years into her reign, Queen Sanobia married a kind and capable man whom she adored, and they had three beautiful children.
Fearful that history would repeat itself and leave the kingdom with an unsuitable ruler, Queen Sanobia devised a challenge to assess her children. She wanted to be sure that she was choosing the best successor for her people and one who was equal to the task of ruling.
The Royal Competitors
Imagine a family with three wonderful siblings. The oldest brother, Ensio, was like a mighty oak tree, strong and determined. He had a twinkle in his eye and carried himself with great confidence. Ensio dreamt of becoming the successor, believing it was his destiny as the firstborn.
Now, picture the middle child, Casper, a thoughtful and caring soul. Casper had a practical, but restless mind. Unlike Ensio, Casper didn’t seek the spotlight, but felt a sense of duty to participate. Casper wasn’t sure what a kingdom under his rule would look like, but felt that if he had strong advisors like his mother before him, he could figure it out.
And lastly, there was the youngest sibling, Habiba, a beacon of kindness and protection. Habiba’s heart overflowed with love for the people, and it was reciprocated by the adoration they received. Habiba believed that inheriting the role of successor would ensure the continuation of peace and harmony throughout the entire land.
Together, these three siblings, with their unique qualities and aspirations, embarked on a journey that would shape their family’s legacy and the fate of the kingdom.
The challenge was simple. The siblings would start with three helpers and as many supplies that they could carry in a single boat. Each team would row to the other side of the river, where they’d establish a settlement.
Prior to the challenge, news spread of the competition. Anyone wishing to support their favorite candidate could don the colors of their preferred candidate and wait in the river to be chosen. Each team captain could pick up as many volunteers as they wished to support their efforts. Ensio’s supporters were in red. Casper’s in green. Habiba’s wore blue.
In a year, each child would return. The king and queen would judge who had created the most prosperous, happy, stable “kingdom.” The child with the most successful settlement would win the role of successor.
For Ensio’s helpers, he chose the best carpenter, the best hunter, and the best trader in the land. He offered them a handsome share of any profit that the settlement produced.
Ensio felt speed was of the essence, so he and his team rowed as fast as they could, picking up no one. He didn’t want anyone or anything slowing them down.
When they go to the other side of the river, they had first choice of the land. They found the best ground for their settlement for safety, food, and trade, and got started right away. As each man personally benefitted from his labor, they all worked with a single-minded purpose.
The carpenter cleared the land and built a shelter, a stable, storage buildings, and fences.
The hunter supplied them with food, cooked the meals, kept the predators away, and provided the settlement with meat, fish, and pelts for trade.
The trader journeyed to nearby settlements to establish trade relationships for the things that they didn’t bring with them or could not supply themselves. Once that was done, people began to come to see them.
No one worked harder than Ensio, who not only delegated, but worked alongside his men. Everyone knew what was at stake and did his best to contribute to the team.
The men worked well together. Within a short time, they built a trading post and hired three more men to work the settlement. By the time the year ended, Ensio was proud of his very respectable and prosperous settlement. It was a busy place where many people came to trade.
Casper’s team consisted of a hunter, his best friend, and a wise, old woman who had served as governor for his mother. He gathered all the skilled workers and their families that he could. They established camp on a decent place near water and began the work of creating a settlement.
While there were challenges meeting the needs of the people at first, everyone pitched in because they weren’t just working for their future king, they were working for their families. It wasn’t just about winning or making money, it was about creating a life.
The children did tasks like foraging for food, medicines, and firewood. The women cooked, made baskets, blankets, and crafts. The men did the hunting, fishing, farming, building, and trading. Everyone worked together.
The start was slow, but Casper’s best friend kept his spirits high during hard times. His advisor guided him well in spiritual and practical matters, as well as handling squabbles. Casper also had competent workers beside him. By the end of the year, Casper and his tribe built a stable, modest, self-sustaining settlement that they all felt proud to be a part of.
Not only that, but there were five children born along the way and a handful of people who weren’t among the original volunteers joined them. Win, lose, or draw, Casper felt the experience was worthwhile. He felt fulfilled.
For Habiba’s helpers, she chose a hunter, spiritual advisor/healer, and farmer.
Many people loved Habiba for her sweetness and wanted her to win, so the river was full of blue flags, shirts, and vessels painted in blue. Habiba wanted to honor their sacrifice by choosing all the volunteers. However, this noble gesture came at a cost.
First, it slowed them way down. This meant that she didn’t have a lot of choices for placing her settlement. To find flat ground suitable for farming, they ended up far away from the water, which added time to their daily chores.
Accepting all the volunteers also meant that she had children, people without skills, and elderly people who needed more resources than they had or could produce. The farmer and his helpers cleared land and planted seeds. But crops took time to grow. Although the hunter did a good job finding game, he couldn’t produce enough to feed everyone. The food they brought with them just wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t long before they were rationing food. Hunger shattered Habiba’s hope for a peaceful and loving community. It started when a boy grabbed a toddler’s bread from him and ran away. Then, someone broke into the food stores. After that, a few of the workers deserted the camp during the night.
Driven by concern for her people, Princess Habiba made the brave decision to call it quits before the first moon had passed. Although it was a disappointment, Habiba returned home feeling she had learned a lot about hardship, life, and ruling and was grateful that ruling was not to be her responsibility.
During the year, the brothers sent back progress reports to the king and queen. The queen didn’t just want dispatches that selectively shared what life in the settlements was like. She wanted to see it with her own eyes. So, the week before the year was over, she disguised herself as a traveler and went to each settlement.
She approached Ensio’s settlement and was ignored by passersby. The queen was impressed with how much business came through the gates! It was a bustling, wealthy trading post that attracted many merchants with high-quality goods from all over.
Ensio looked commanding, like he was enjoying his role. Warm pride spread through Queen Sanobia’s heart as she left the settlement.
Still incognito, Queen Sanobia arrived at Casper’s settlement at dusk. It was much bigger. Although not impressive, it was clean and had a peaceful atmosphere. The settlers were gathered around the fire telling stories, and they welcomed the queen to share their meal. Just before going to sleep, someone sang a song that lingered in Queen Sanobia’s heart.
When she returned, Queen Sanobia talked with the king about who should succeed, but they were of the same mind.
A year and a day from the time that the brothers set out on their journey, the princes returned to the starting place to await Queen Sanobia’s judgment.
Queen Sanobia turned to Ensio and said, “Ensio, your work is amazing. You created a lucrative trading post from nothing in a year’s time. In doing so, you established your reputation, made seven people wealthy, and served the surrounding countryside. You were determined, tenacious, and successful. I am very proud of you and all that you have accomplished. Bravo.”
Casper had never been confident about winning, but now he felt absolutely deflated. He had none of those achievements.
Queen Sanobia turned to Casper and said, “Casper, your settlement shows that you have a grasp of what it means to rule. The challenge was to create the most successful settlement. Your settlement may not be as beautiful or rich as Ensio’s, but you are self-supporting. Equally important, your people are happy, connected, and well cared for. They belong to each other. Without that bond, that happiness, the rest of it doesn’t matter.”
“You leaned on your advisor. You maintained your connection to your friend and your roots. Starting a new settlement is hard, and yet your settlement grew both from within and without. And perhaps more important than all of that, your people are a community. That is the definition of success.”
“For your wisdom, courage, and big heart, your father and I are proud to name you as our successor.”
Both Ensio and Casper’s settlements continued to prosper. And many years later, when it became Casper’s time to rule, he was a kind and fair king, just as his parents were before him.
This is an original tale written by Laura Giles. Teaching stories that teach us how to solve problems. They are useful teaching tools because they use metaphors and symbols, which are the language of the unconscious. So, they help us to see what we are missing.
To use this story for growth, open your mind. Ponder how you are like each of the characters. What lessons here apply to your life? How does the story apply to society? How do you make your mark on society?
Teaching tales often have more than one meaning. Share what you see in the comments.