The Crimson Fairy Book
The Story of the Seven Simons
Far, far away, beyond all sorts of countries, seas and rivers, there stood a splendid city
where lived King Archidej, who was as good as he was rich and handsome. His great
army was made up of men ready to obey his slightest wish; he owned forty times forty
cities, and in each city he had ten palaces with silver doors, golden roofs, and crystal
windows. His council consisted of the twelve wisest men in the country, whose long
beards flowed down over their breasts, each of whom was as learned as a whole college.
This council always told the king the exact truth.
Now the king had everything to make him happy, but he did not enjoy anything because
he could not find a bride to his mind.
One day, as he sat in his palace looking out to sea, a great ship sailed into the harbour and
several merchants came on shore. Said the king to himself: 'These people have travelled
far and beheld many lands. I will ask them if they have seen any princess who is as clever
and as handsome as I am.'
So he ordered the merchants to be brought before him, and when they came he said: 'You
have travelled much and visited many wonders. I wish to ask you a question, and I beg
you to answer truthfully.
'Have you anywhere seen or heard of the daughter of an emperor, king, or a prince, who
is as clever and as handsome as I am, and who would be worthy to be my wife and the
queen of my country?'
The merchants considered for some time. At last the eldest of them said: 'I have heard
that across many seas, in the Island of Busan, there is a mighty king, whose daughter, the
Princess Helena, is so lovely that she can certainly not be plainer than your Majesty, and
so clever that the wisest greybeard cannot guess her riddles.'
'Is the island far off, and which is the way to it?'
'It is not near,' was the answer. 'The journey would take ten years, and we do not know
the way. And even if we did, what use would that be? The princess is no bride for you.'
'How dare you say so?' cried the king angrily.
'Your Majesty must pardon us; but just think for a moment. Should you send an envoy to
the island he will take ten years to get there and ten more to return--twenty years in all.
Will not the princess have grown old in that time and have lost all her beauty?'
The king reflected gravely. Then he thanked the merchants, gave them leave to trade in
his country without paying any duties, and dismissed them.