The king of the Monkeys and the two travellers


Two men were travelling together through a distant land. They made rather odd travelling companions, because one of them was incapable of ever telling the truth and could only tell lies, whereas the other could not tell a lie if his life depended on it, but could only ever say the truth as he saw it. They had been travelling for some time, when they came to the land of the monkeys. The king of the monkeys heard that two strangers had arrived in his realm, and he was very keen to impress them with his magnificence and power, so he ordered to have them brought before him.

He arranged to receive them seated on his throne in his state room, in the middle of his palace, and had a large retinue of courtiers and servants lined up in long rows, both inside the room and along all the passages on the way in. As they made their way towards the state room, the travellers were quite nervous, and they bowed when they came before the king.

The king welcomed them heartily, and then asked them if they’d ever been in the presence of a mightier king. The traveller who always lied spoke first. “Sire, I have travelled all over the world, and never before have I been so impressed by the splendour and might of your court!” The king seemed to be quite pleased to hear this, and he asked, “And what do you think of my subjects?”

“Sire,” replied the lying traveller, “your subjects must be the most fortunate people I have ever come across in all my extensive travels, fortunate to be ruled by such a splendid and mighty monarch as you are!” The monkey king was delighted with this answer, he clapped his hands and called on his servants to prepare a magnificent feast for this guest, and to ensure that his every need was taken care of. Then he turned to the other traveller and asked him the same question.

This was of course the traveller who could only tell the truth as he saw it, and he said; “Sire, I think you are a fine ape, and all the subject you rule over are very fine apes too!” The king of the monkeys was enraged when he heard this, and he jumped from his throne. He ordered his guards to seize the luckless traveller and to beat him to death.

Aesop