Most people don’t realize how wise fairy tales are and how they speak truth to abusive authoritarian rulers. So today and next week, I shall share a bit of wisdom with you that might help the pope and cardinals of the Catholic church. Next week, a bit of truth for tyrants and their followers.
Never lose hope!
The Three Languages
There was once an old count who lived in Switzerland, and he had an only son, who was quite stupid and could not learn anything.
“Listen, my son,” the father said. I can’t get anything to sink into your head, no matter how much I try. So, I’m sending you away from here and placing you under the care of a famous master. Let us see what he can do with you.”
The young man was sent to a strange city and stayed with the master for a whole year. At the end of this time he came home, and his father asked, “Well, my son, what have you learned?”
“Father,” he responded, “I’ve learned to understand the barking of dogs.”
“May God have mercy on us!” the father exclaimed. “Is that all you’ve learned? Well, now I’m going to send you to a master in another city.”
The young man was taken there and stayed one year with the master as well. When he came back home, his father asked again, “My son, what have you learned?”
“Father,” he responded, “I’ve learned to understand the language of birds.”
The father became infuriated and said, “You’re hopeless! Why, you’ve wasted all this valuable time and have learned nothing! Moreover, you’re not even ashamed to appear before my eyes! Well, I’m going to send you to a third master, but if you don’t learn anything this time, I’m no longer going to be your father.”
The son spent a whole year with the third master, too, and when he returned home, the father asked, “My son, what have you learned?”
“Dear Father,” he responded, “I’ve learned to understand the croaking of frogs.”
Now the father was so infuriated that he jumped up, summoned his servants, and said, “This creature is no longer my son, I’m expelling him and want you to take him out into the forest and kill him!”
The count’s men took him into the forest, but they felt so sorry for the son that they could not bring themselves to kill him. Therefore, they let him go. Then they cut out the eyes and tongue of a deer to provide the old man with proof of their deed.
Meanwhile, the young man wandered about, and after some time he came to a castle, where he asked for a night’s lodging.
“All right,” said the lord of the castle, “if you’re prepared to spend the night in the tower, you may go there. But let me warn you that you’ll be risking your life. The tower is full of wild dogs that bark and howl continually, and at certain times they must be given a human being, whom they devour right away.”
The lord told him that the entire region had been enduring great sorrow and suffering because of this, and yet nobody could do anything about it. However, the young man was fearless and said, “I shall go down and face the barking dogs. Just give me something that I can throw to them. They won’t harm me.”
Since he insisted, they gave him some food for the wild beasts and brought him to the tower. When he entered, the dogs did not bark but wagged their tails in a friendly way and gathered around him. They ate what he set before them and did not touch a hair of his head. The next morning, to everyone’s astonishment, he reappeared alive and well and said to the lord of the castle, “The dogs have spoken to me in their language and revealed to me why they’ve been dwelling here and causing terror in your country. They are under a curse and are compelled to protect a great treasure lying beneath the tower. They’ll never find peace until the treasure is dug up, and they’ve told me how this can be done.”
Everyone who heard the young man’s words began to rejoice, and the lord of the castle said he would adopt him as his son if he could accomplish this task successfully. The young count went back down to the tower, and since he knew what was to be done, he completed the task and brought up a chest filled with gold. From then on the wild dogs no longer howled. Nor were they ever seen again, and the land was freed of this plague.
After a while the young man decided to go to Rome, and along the way he passed a swamp where some frogs were sitting and croaking. He stopped and listened, and when he heard what they were saying, he grew very pensive and sad. At last, when he arrived in Rome, he learned that the pope had just died, and the cardinals could not agree on a successor. Eventually, they decided to wait for a divine miracle to reveal the person they should elect as the next pope. At the very moment that they came to this decision, the young count happened to enter the church, and two white doves swooped down to his shoulders and rested on them. The cardinals recognized this as a sign from God and asked him on the spot whether he wanted to be pope. At first, he was undecided and did not know what whether he was worthy enough, but the doves persuaded him to do it, and finally he consented. Soon after, he was anointed and consecrated, and thus the prophecy that he had heard from the frogs along the way was fulfilled. Indeed, it had been this very prophecy that had upset him, for he had not expected to become the holy pope. After that, he had to sing mass and didn’t know a single word of it, but the two doves were still sitting on his shoulders and whispered the words in his ear.