Storytellers in the Middle East will (for a fee) tell you the sad lessons behind the uxorious life of King Solomon. What profound lessons there are in these tales! "Listen!" the storyteller will say....
When he was still young, Solomon bragged that he would marry a thousand wives so that they would bear him a thousand strong sons who would fight his wars for him. However, sons are born when God wishes, not when man wishes. God punished Solomon by giving him only one son, who was half a boy: one eye, one ear, one arm, one leg, and a body as lean as half a body. When he saw this, Solomon threw himself down on the ground before the Lord. So, God forgave him and made the young prince perfect of limb and leg. Nevertheless, Solomon had only that one son to succeed him as king.
Some of Solomon's thousand wives were difficult to deal with. One of his favorites persuaded him to give her a mattress filled with the feathers of all the birds, so Solomon, who was also ruler of all animals and birds, invited the birds to come and donate their feathers to his youngest queen. All the birds came obediently except the owl. Solomon found the owl dozing in his own palace tower. "Why did you not come?" asked the king. The owl replied that he takes orders from the king but not from a young girl.
Ignoring the sting in this reply, the king said: "I will forgive you if you can answer three questions. First, are there more nights or more days?" The owl answered: "There are more days since the nights of the full moon are like days." "Are there more living or more dead?" "There are more dead since the poor are like dead." "Are there more women or more men?" "There are more women, since the men who are ruled by their wives are like women."
Why the Hoopoes Have Crowns
One day when Solomon was traveling on horseback in the desert, the sum was so hot that he felt faint. It so happened that the King of the Hoopoes came flying past. He saw the king fainting on his horse and in danger of falling off. He at once called all the hoopoes together and ordered them to fly over the king's head in close formation so that His Majesty would be in the shade. They did so, and the king soon recovered from his sunstroke. Grateful, Solomon offered the hoopoes the fulfilment of a wish, any wish.
The hoopoes conferred and after long deliberation returned with the following wish: "Sire, we should like to have real golden crowns on our heads, every one of us." King Solomon foresaw in his wisdom that so much gold would bring great trouble and suffering upon the hoopoes' heads, but he could not go back on his word. So he gave every single one of the hoopoes a golden crown on its little head.
Away they flew, proud of their royal appearance. They looked at themselves in every looking glass they could find and were often seen near the water's edge, admiring themselves in the still reflection of lakes and ponds. A bird catcher, perceiving this, constructed a bird trap with a complete mirror inside it. No sooner had he set up his trap, than a hoopoe entered it to have a good look at its golden crown. From his hiding place, the bird catcher quickly pulled the string and caught the hoopoe.
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