The King's Three Daughters
TOLD BY SIMA GOLDENBERG TO ZALMAN BAHARAV
A certain king ruled his kingdom with a heavy hand. His subjects suffered under the yoke of the many taxes he levied on them. But the king didn't care, because he wasn't interested in how they made a living. Only a few people—the excise men, tax collectors, and clerks—knew how to get by. The rich lived in palaces; the poor in tents and miserable shacks.
Three daughters were born to the king and queen, but they had no sons who could inherit the throne when the time came. The daughters grew into beautiful and shapely young ladies and were educated as befits the daughters of a royal house. The king and queen were sad because they did not know what would happen to their precious daughters when they received marriage proposals.
One day, the king had an idea. "I want my daughters to find themselves suitable husbands who can rule the kingdom after my death—each according to his ability. One can be the commander of the army, one can hold the reins of the economy, and the best will be king after me when I am old and frail."
The king summoned his three daughters, the oldest, the middle, and the youngest. "My dear daughters, you have grown up and matured," he told them. "The time has come to think about the important matter of what your futures hold in store for you. I have decided to test you. To each of you I will give a precious gem, a pearl worth a fabulous sum. Each of you may do as you wish with the pearl you receive from me. From this I will learn how well you can prepare for what may happen to you soon."
"My lord father," said the oldest daughter, "I will go to the goldsmith and ask him to take the pearl you have given me as a present and set it in a locket attached to a gold chain. I will hang the chain around my neck and keep the pearl safe."
"And I," said the second daughter, "I will command that a high tower be built. At its summit I will place a golden spire, and at the tip of the spire I will mount the lovely pearl, so that it will dispel the darkness of night