The queen was gloomy. The king was worried.
The palace jester was immediately summoned. He was ordered to cheer up the queen. That was his duty – to keep everybody in the royal family always in good spirits.
He tried his usual tricks such as imitating actions of the monkey, the donkey, and then the sounds of animals and birds. He tried several mimics to cheer up the queen or at least to make her smile. But nothing worked. The queen did not even look at him. When the jester felt he was at his wits’ end, the king ordered him to crack jokes. The jester had a large stock of jokes for all occasions.
One by one he started telling the jokes. He started with one-liners, slightly longer ones, and then even stories. The queen seemed to listen to him, but the gloomy attitude didn’t vanish. In normal situations, the queen would have burst out laughing hearing the jokes. But nothing worked this time. The jester then started telling some funny definitions. The first one was of a speech.
The jester said, ‘This is the definition of a speech. An effective speech should be like a mini skirt – long enough to cover the topic, but short enough to keep the interest.’
As soon as he finished, the queen, who till now was completely silent, flared up.
She thundered, ‘What do you mean? You are insulting me. You are insulting the whole womanhood by such sexist remarks. And you call it a joke? If you do such things again, you will not live to regret it.’
Though the jester was slightly relieved that the queen talked, he shuddered at her sudden outburst. He prostrated before her and apologised. He pleaded for his life. The queen slowly cooled down. Hesitantly he started telling more jokes, but very carefully this time. The queen had, however, gone back to her original state of mind and reaction. After each joke she looked at him, but not even smiled.
The jester then began to create new jokes. He told the story of an official in the kingdom who used to be very corrupt. He told the story in such a way that the official justified each of his corrupt action. The sarcastic way in which he told the story would have made the queen laugh in normal times. But not this time.
After hearing about half the story she said, ‘Stop.’
He stopped immediately.
The queen said, ‘This is like an academic speech. I don’t want to hear a speech. Let the bureaucrats listen to this, not me. Do you have more jokes, man, jokes?’
The jester was at a loss to understand how the satirical story he told can be called an academic speech. Maybe his understanding of ‘academic’ differs from the queen’s. But he didn’t want to counter the queen, lest his head rolls on the floor.
The jester was completely lost. He has tried everything under his power and knowledge to change the mood of the queen, but had not succeeded. He could see the end of his career. If the queen’s mood didn’t change, he would lose his job as the palace jester. He might even lose his life for this failure of his.
He remembered his wife and children. He prayed to God to save him from the king’s wrath. He then decided to take the biggest risk of his life.
As a last resort, he thought he would tell something serious, so that he would either succeed or see the end of his career and life. He had no alternative, having come to the end of all his tricks and jokes.
He said, ‘Your Royal Highness, you are the best listener of jokes I have ever seen since I started telling jokes several years ago. You understand and enjoy my jokes better than anybody else in the whole world.’
The queen suddenly turned and looked at him and ordered him to repeat what he just said.
He repeated slowly and clearly convinced that these would probably be his last words, ‘Your Royal Highness, you are the best listener of jokes I have ever seen since I started telling jokes several years ago. You understand and enjoy my jokes better than anybody else in the whole world.’
The queen burst out laughing, ‘Ha, Ha, Ha, … He, He, He, … Ho, Ho, Ho’.
She could not stop her laugh or control herself. She went on laughing for several minutes, repeating a few times amidst her laughter, ‘I am the ... best listener … I enjoy ... jokes best … What a joke! Ha, Ha, ... He, He, ... Ho, Ho ....’
The jester did not know what to do. He did not understand why the queen suddenly burst out laughing. He did not tell a joke. He still feared the worst. He thought that once her laugh was over, she would immediately shout,
‘Who goes there?’
The question did not reverberate in his mind, but came from the queen.
Immediately a solder with a sword hanging from his hip and a spear in his hand appeared and bowed before the queen.
The jester knelt in front of the queen and closed his eyes. Here comes the last moment of his life. He could see and hear in his mind the queen ordering the soldier to behead him. He thought he could see the glittering sword and hear the sharp sweesh sound as it approached his neck with lightening speed to cut off his head.
He offered his last prayers, ‘O, God! Please take care of my wife and children!’
Then he heard the queen’s voice, ‘Ask the treasurer to give thousand gold coins to the jester.’
Confused and bewildered, the jester slowly raised his head and looked up. The queen still had a smile on her lips. Her gloomy attitude had given way to a pleasant expression.
‘Is it true?’ he wondered.
The queen asked him to go with the soldier. He slowly stood up and left along with the soldier, after taking respectful leave of the queen.
Once outside the room, the soldier asked the jester, ‘Thousand gold coins is a big amount. What did you tell the queen to make her so happy?’
The jester said, ‘I am asking the question myself. I shall tell you if and when I find out the answer.’