In the Kingdom of Fools is a famous Kannada folktale adapted from A.K. Ramanujan’s ‘Folk Tales from India’. This interesting story is about a kingdom of fools that was ruled by a silly king and his foolish ministers. He along with his ministers ordered the people of the kingdom to consider night as day and day as night. They would sleep all day long and perform their daily tasks during the night.
One fine day, a guru and his disciple visited the kingdom and were surprised about the reverse rules set by the king and his ministers. They were more astonished to find out that everything in the kingdom cost a single rupee only. The guru and his disciple were happy initially as they could buy anything by just spending a rupee. However, the guru understood that it was not a wise decision to stay in a kingdom of fools, so he left. His disciple was unwilling to leave the kingdom because of the ready availability of good food at a reasonable rate. He was a big foodie and ate plenty of food and grew fat in a matter of a few days.
One day, a thief broke into the house of a rich merchant by making a huge hole in the wall and sneaked in. While he was returning with the stolen items, the wall of the house collapsed on his head, killing him instantly. However, the thief’s brother approached the king and complained to him that the house owner (merchant) should be punished for not building a strong wall. The king immediately summoned the merchant to his court.
When the merchant arrived, he blamed the bricklayer for building a weak wall. The bricklayer, an old man, was called to the king’s court and pleaded with the king to punish the dancing girl for distracting his attention from work as she went to and fro that street all day wearing jingling anklets. The dancing girl who had become old now blamed the goldsmith as he had delayed his work and made her walk up and down that street several times. Soon, the goldsmith was brought into the king’s court, who said that he was busy attending a rich merchant’s orders that time due to some wedding rituals in his family.
It was, therefore, ruled out that this merchant was the same house owner whose wall had collapsed on the burglar. The merchant pleaded that his father was the one who ordered the jewellery and he was dead already. But, the king decided to punish the merchant for his father’s deeds. A new stake was ordered to proceed with the execution. However, the merchant was extremely thin to fit the execution stake. So, the king ordered to search for a fat man to fit the stake. The king’s men searched the entire kingdom and found the disciple as an ideal fit for the stake. But as he was innocent, he pleaded with the king not to punish him for others’ deeds. Since, it was a kingdom of fools, no one listened to him.
Waiting for his execution, the disciple then remembered his guru’s words and requested him to help him. His guru who was blessed with magical powers could see his disciple’s condition in his vision. At once, he arrived to save his disciple. He quietly whispered some words in his disciple’s ears. Then, he requested the king to punish him instead of his disciple. However, when the disciple heard this, he requested the king to put the stake on him as he was brought there for execution first.
Puzzled about who should die first; the king asked to resolve the conflict, the guru dubiously told him that whoever would die on the stake first would be reborn as the future king of that kingdom. The one who died next would become the key minister of the kingdom. The king was baffled and did not want to lose his kingdom to someone else in the subsequent life. So, he had a discussion with his minister and finally concluded that they should go on the stake to continue being the king and minister in the next life. That night, they secretly went to the prison and set free the guru along with his disciple.
The next morning, the king and his minister who disguised themselves as the guru and his disciple were executed on the stake. When the people of the kingdom saw that the king along with his minister were executed, they made the guru and his disciple as their king and minister, respectively. Although the guru was hesitant initially, he finally gave in and reversed the rules of the kingdom and the people began leading a normal life like other kingdoms.