The Unworthy King. Children's audio story narrated in British English.

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Story narrated by Sharon Brogden. You can read the complete story text below

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Text of this story

Once upon a time there was a rich, powerful, and intelligent King. But what was most noticeable about him was his arrogance. Such was his pride that he felt no one was a worthy rival with whom to share his favourite pastime, chess. So the King sent a message across the land, stating that he would give a tenth of his fortune to whoever could prove to be worthy of playing against him. In return, if the King considered that person to be unworthy, he would have their head chopped off.

Many risked their lives to challenge the proud King. Rich or poor, stupid or intelligent, the King always found them to be unworthy; they weren't good players, they couldn't match his command of the game. As time passed, one reckless challenger after another was done away with. The King felt satisfied that there was no one in the whole land capable of taking him on.

Years later, a poor beggar came to the palace, intending to play against the King. People had tried to dissuade the beggar, trying to save him from a certain death. But it was no good, and he came before the King, who, seeing the beggar's ragged appearance, couldn't believe that it had even crossed the man's mind that he could be a worthy rival.

-"What makes you think you deserve to play against someone like myself, slave?"

said the King, irritated, and calling for the executioner.

-"That I forgive you for what you're about to do. Would you be capable of that?"

the beggar calmly answered.

The King was stunned. He would never have expected anything like that. But the more he thought about it, the more the man's words made sense. If he were condemned to death the beggar would be right, and would have shown himself to be the better man due to his capacity to forgive. And if the beggar was not executed, he would come away with both his life and a reputation for being a worthy adversary...

Without having yet moved a piece, the King knew he had already lost the match.

-"How did you manage to beat me without even playing? Whether I play with you or not, everyone will have seen my lack of dignity,"

said the King, beaten.

"You are mistaken, your Majesty. Everyone is already aware of your infamy; it is not people who are unworthy, it is their deeds. For years your actions have shown how disgraceful and unjust you have become, judging the worth of others at a whim."

The King understood how dishonourable he had become, and he became remorseful for his crimes and his arrogance. He looked into the beggar's eyes. The King saw such wisdom and dignity in those eyes that, without saying a word, he handed the beggar his crown, swapped clothes with him, and made him the new King. Dressed in the beggar's rags, and with eyes full of tears, his last command as King was to be imprisoned forever in the deepest dungeon, as a penance for all his crimes.

However, the new King was so just and so wise that only a few years later he set the old King free. His sincere repentance had become the best accompaniment to his great intelligence, and from his hands came the best ever laws for that long-suffering Kingdom.

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