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The King of Maragor

The King of Maragor

Based on a Jataka Tale

By Christina G. Waldman, New York

The Lord of Jataka strode pensively up and down his marble-floored chamber, stroking his short, stubby beard. Any minute now Sahbasad, his most trusted advisor, would come through the curtained doorway. Perhaps then his troubled mind would find relief.

He had not been Lord of Jataka long. Indeed, it had only been six months since his father had sent him to this far-away city to try to restore it to its former prosperity. True, six months was not long, but there was much reason for despair.

He had wanted to make Jataka the shining star of all his father’s cities. Yet, he feared, it was nothing more than a laughingstock.

“My Lord.” Sahbasad peered through the velvet curtain.

“Sahbasad.” The king’s face brightened at the sight of his friend. “Come, sit here beside me and dispel the gloom from this room. Tell me, have you made your way among the common folk as I asked you to do these past weeks?”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“Good. And what have you learned?”

Sahbasad took a deep breath. “Your Highness, I fear you will not like what I have to say.”

“Out with it, Sahbasad. I must know.”

“Very well, then. None of your plans for improvement are being carried out. The libraries and museums you have commissioned to be built exist only on paper. The lovely gardens you and I designed have no gardeners to tend them. The statues of great men and women you ordered to be carved sit unformed in blocks of marble. Oh, my Lord, it is indeed pitiful!”

“And what do the people do, then?” cried the Lord. “The farmers—surely they must be harvesting their crops so there will be food for the winter?”

“My Lord, I’m afraid no crops were planted,” said Sahbasad.

The Lord grew alarmed. “This is worse than I thought. What is this evil that has paralyzed my people?”

“No one will speak of it.”

The king’s sharp glance pierced Sahbasad. “But you must speak of it. We grew up together, before fate called us to different roles. I trust no one as much as I trust you. Now tell me, what is it the people fear so?”

Sahbasad began boldly but ended in a whisper: “Though none dare say his name, it is the—the—King of Maragor.”

“The King of Maragor!” exclaimed the Lord. “What do you know of him?”

“It is said he is very evil, a king of darkness, who will bring to naught any good the people try to accomplish. Instead of venturing out to work for their bread, they cling to the little they have, scraping their grain barrels for one last measure of porridge. They fear that Maragor will send his villainous horsemen to trample any field they plant.”

The Lord fumed. “Sahbasad, I want you to take whatever men, horses, and provisions you need, and travel to the Kingdom of Maragor. Find out all you can about him: how he lives, what he eats, what music he likes, whom he trusts—everything! Take one hundred witnesses with you. When you find him, tell him that I, the Lord of Jataka, am not afraid to say his name.”

Sahbasad trembled. “Must I, Lord?” Knowing the answer, he rose and was gone.

Ten years passed. The Lord of Jataka’s people had not prospered. More and more, the Lord shut himself up in his palace, for it hurt him to see how they suffered. Though children were hungry, most farmers still refused to till the soil, for why plant what Maragor’s horsemen would only destroy?

Finally, one day, as the Lord strode up and down with worry, a visitor was announced.

“Sahbasad! At last you have returned, my friend. We are both grizzled and gray. Come, sit here beside me. Tell me about Maragor.”

“My Lord,” Sahbasad began reluctantly. “What I have to say will surprise you. I hope it will not anger you.”

“What is it, Sahbasad?”

Sahbasad bowed his head. “I have not found him.”

“What!” cried the Lord.

“It is true. My men and I have searched for ten long years, but we never found him. In fact, I am certain he does not even exist.”

“Oh! Perhaps you found his villainous horsemen?”

“Not a trace.”

“Then, my people have been deceived.”

“It appears so, my Lord,” said Sahbasad.

The Lord’s brow furrowed in thought. Then he slowly smiled. “Sahbasad, were you afraid to undertake this mission?”

“Oh, yes.” Sahbasad shuddered.

“But, now you have learned that what you feared was not real.”

“It appears so, my Lord,” said Sahbasad, with a slight smile.

The Lord jumped to his feet excitedly. “Sahbasad, would you swear to what you’ve just told me?”

Sahbasad handed the king a parchment scroll. “I, and a thousand witnesses have done so.”

“A thousand!”

“Yes, they are all standing in your courtyard,” said Sahbasad.

The Lord hastened to his window. Sure enough, his courtyard was filled with people.

“Sahbasad,” said the Lord, “take up pen and parchment. Write these words to my people:

“My Beloved People:
It has been sworn to me by a thousand witnesses that
For many years, we have let fear of this imaginary king paralyze us.
Our enemy was not Maragor, but our fear.
The Lord of Jataka.”

“Make copies of this proclamation and post them on every pillar in the land. But first, my faithful friend, kneel before me.”

Sahbasad knelt, amazed. The Lord touched his shoulder and knighted him, saying, “No, Sahbasad, you have not failed. By your valor and devotion, you have succeeded. You have proven this fearsome phantom-king to be made of thin air. You have thrown back the veil of darkness and opened the door to a sunlit garden of possibility. From now on we are truly brothers. Go.”

With tears in his eyes, Sahbasad rose, embraced his king, and set out to proclaim his message of hope.

—Christie Waldman grew up in a small town in Illinois. She first wanted to be a published writer when she was seven years old. Her short story for children, “Something to Look Forward To,” can be read online at Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things (Oct. 2021). 


Author’s Note:

The source for this story was Josephine Saint-Hilaire,  “Parable of the King of Maragor,” first published in English in her book, On Eastern Crossroads: Legends and Prophecies of Asia (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1930). © The Agni Yoga Society, New York.