A Gift for the King

In this folktale from Puerto Rico, two brothers give gifts to the king, but with very different results. A Gift for the King 1 Long ago, on the sunny island of Puerto Rico, lived two brothers. Together, Miguel and Rafael tended a small orchard in the mountains where figs grew. When the figs were ripe and juicy, the brothers would sell them in the local market. Although they had grown up together, the brothers were quite different. Miguel was gentle and cheerful, delighting in his daily tasks. Rafael, on the other hand, was impatient and grumpy, taking no pleasure in his work. 2 One day, Miguel called excitedly to his wife. “Come see what I have found!” 3 His wife gazed in wonder at the three ripe figs clustered on the same twig. She told Miguel that the figs were fit for a king. And right away, Miguel knew just what he would do. 4 That very day, his wife made up a little basket for the figs, advising Miguel to carry them carefully. Miguel took the straw basket with the figs and set off for the king’s palace. 5 You will remember that the brothers lived in the mountains. To reach the palace, Miguel had to descend by a steep path. It was a hot, dusty journey, and he soon became weary. Imagine his horror when he tripped over a jagged stone and upset the basket containing the precious fruit! Fortunately, only one fig tumbled out, but it rolled and rolled down the hill, becoming squashed and misshapen. ™ © Advanced Assessment Systems/LinkIt! Duplication is restricted to licensees only. 6 “Ay, me!” cried Miguel. “This fruit is now too battered to present to the king. I will eat it and give the other figs to His Majesty.” As Miguel tasted the fruit, his eyes widened—it was the most delectable fig imaginable. 7 Miguel walked more slowly, careful of the stones on the path, but darkness was falling. All at once, Miguel tripped and stumbled over the roots of a tree that snaked across the path. “Ay, ay!” he cried. “Another fig is lost!” The second fig slid between the roots, and Miguel had a terrible time trying to find it in the darkness. When he did, he exclaimed, “Worse and worse! This fig is mashed—it is nothing I would dare present to the king.” 8 And once again, Miguel ate the fig, reassuring himself that the king would certainly enjoy the last and plumpest fig of all. Because it was now pitch-dark, the exhausted man made his bed under a tree and promptly fell asleep. 9 The next morning, Miguel arrived at the palace. He hurried up to the guard and informed him that he had a gift for the king. When the guard warned him that he might have a long wait, Miguel quietly sat down, his basket on his lap, and waited. Hours passed and still the gentle man waited patiently. Finally, the guard announced that the king was ready to receive him. The peasant thanked the guard and entered the king’s chamber. 10 Miguel bowed to the ruler, then rose and held out the little straw basket. “This is the last of three figs that grew together upon a single twig in my orchard,” he explained. “They are a gift from my wife and me. But, Majesty, I must admit, as I came down the mountain I stumbled twice, ruining two figs. They were unfit for a king, so I ate them myself.” 11 The king sat high on his throne and listened to all that Miguel had to say. Astonished at the size and rich color of the fruit, the ruler held up the twig so that the members of his court could see it, too. He was touched by this peasant, who had come so far to give him a fig. He thought, “He is an honest and decent man. I will reward him for his efforts.” So, Miguel was given a wonderful meal and as much gold as his basket could contain. ™ © Advanced Assessment Systems/LinkIt! Duplication is restricted to licensees only. 12 When Miguel returned home and told his neighbors about his remarkable fortune, he was warmly congratulated. The only person who made a sour face was Rafael. He decided to outdo his brother by packing up a whole cartful of fruit to take to the king. Although none of the figs were as fine as Miguel’s fig, Rafael was sure that his own reward would be even greater than that of his brother. 13 The next day, Rafael arrived at the palace and encountered the guard. “Take me to the king immediately,” he demanded. “He will be eager to see my gift.” 14 The guard told Rafael that he would have to wait until the king could receive him. This enraged Rafael, who started to yell at the guard, until at last the king himself came to his balcony, alarmed by the commotion. 15 When Rafael spotted the king, he boldly called up to him, “Your Majesty, I’ve brought you a cartful of the most luscious figs in the world! Order this foolish man to let me enter the palace so I may give you my gift.” 16 Suddenly, the king thought of the humble Miguel and his single, perfect fig. In contrast, this man bellowing below was arrogant and boorish. Not even his cartful of figs could make up for such rudeness. By this time, the king was seething with anger. He told the palace guard, “Send this ill-mannered fellow away. I will not accept his figs.” 17 Stricken with fear at the rage in the king’s voice, Rafael began to run, forgetting all about his cartful of fruit. When he finally arrived home, he had nothing to show for his journey, not even one gold coin—not even a single fig. ™ © Advanced Assessment Systems/LinkIt! Duplication is restricted to licensees only.

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