Agong's Fairy Tales

Jun 2013
thank you this clarifies the story for me. i always try to figure the metaphor on my own but i needed help this time. please keep the stories coming. i like the character's you create: the absent minded old man and precocious children.
Well said. From your posts, I find that you are logical and observant. Thus you make a good critic of stories and other creative writing. Thanks for all your valuable opinions you have contributed to the improvement of my stories.

...and yes i am one of the most talented men in my country....
Sounds like Obama....

...i will be sending you an invite to my secret society shortly.
....but this doesn't sound like him!

Secret society?! Oh! No! I have a phobia of joining secret societies!

Hopefully, not IS or ISIS or ISIL. :)
Last edited:
Jun 2013
(Continuation of Tale 1)

The title of the story should preferably be changed to "The Taming of the Shrew".

As usual in the morning, the children gathered around Agong to listen to his stories. The eyes of some of the children were still red from their crying yesterday after hearing the tragic end of the protesters who stormed the prime minister's residence in the story. Sitting quietly beside them was Uncle or "Philosopher" as he was called by the adult villagers. Uncle was seldom present at the storytelling sessions, but he seemed to get increasingly interested in Agong's stories.

Looking around to ensure all the children were present, Agong began his story: "What I told you yesterday were not the end of the story. Despite the crackdown on the group of radical protesters who stormed the prime minister's residence, the rest of the protesters still refused to disperse. Crowds of defiant demonstrators still controlled a number of major thoroughfares and intersections in the congested city.

In order to know what all the fuss was about, we have to go back 17 years into the past when the kingdom was defeated by an invading army. In addition to large cash payments, the emperor was forced to give his second youngest daughter, who was only a few months old at that time, to the king of the invading army as part of war reparations. The foreign king also demanded the emperor for several ministers to stay with the baby princess in his country. To get rid of his political opponents, the emperor picked several ministers, who were most vocal in opposing his policies, to stay with his daughter in the foreign land. Why the foreign king demanded several ministers from the emperor’s court to stay in his land is anybody’s guess.

When the princess was five years old, the foreign king betrothed her to his youngest son of the same age. The marriage ceremony was supposed to be held at the age of thirteen. The restless prince loved to ‘see the world from above’ by climbing up to high places such as trees and walls. At about the age of ten, he climbed up a ladder and sat on a wall. Unfortunately, he had a great fall like Humpty Dumpty, and all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put him together again.

When the princess was twelve years old, the foreign king suffered a series of military setbacks in his wars with other countries. To seek the economic cooperation of the emperor, he decided to return the princess to the emperor on the condition that she must have more than one suitor to choose for her marriage and a period of fifty years to adjust to the new way of life in her ancestral land. Hitherto, every princess was allowed to throw a silk ball from her window at only one suitor who had been prescreened by the emperor. As the sun dipped steadily toward the horizon, the ministers, who left with the baby princess for the foreign land early in the morning twelve years ago, now embarked on a journey with the child princess in a procession of six horse-drawn carriages eastward back to their ancestral land.

Despite the progress and prosperity in recent years, the kingdom was still bogged down by the historical baggage of the past decade, and the emperor was plagued by the phobia and nightmare of foreign bogeymen creeping out from the historical baggage under his bed at night. After their return, the emperor was more suspicious of the ministers and retired them as commoners to the countryside. The emperor suspected they were behind the massive street protests as they had openly wished their sons could marry the princess. He also wondered why they kept silent when the princess was betrothed to the foreign prince at the age of five.

As the protests dragged on, more people were getting frustrated with the disruption to their lives and incomes. Pawn shops, inns, medical stores, tea houses, restaurants, clothes stores and markets in the city remained closed. Scuffles broke out between demonstrators and anti-protest groups who tried to remove the barricades set up by the former in the streets.

One angry shopkeeper said, 'The majority of the people do prefer more rights, of course. What they are opposed to is the massive protests that are currently taking the city hostage and disrupting their lives.' Another businessman said, 'I used to support the protesters, but they need to do everything legally. I can’t support them anymore. To pursue their dreams, they are robbing people of their livelihoods. You may not like your home, but you can’t destroy it.' An old carriage driver grumbled, 'The whole city is descending into chaos because of these people. What if they kill my horses and break my carriage? What if they drag me off and beat me? I don’t dare to show my anger at these hooligans on the streets.'

When the anti-protest groups demanded the demonstrators to end their protests, the latter responded by shouting 'mind your own business' and singing 'happy birthday', a tactic used to drown out opposition voices. 'It means nothing to us, we don’t care what they yell at us,' said a young protester. 'We can’t deny that we will cause some inconvenience for this period of time, but if we don’t stand up to speak now then we won’t get another chance to speak out again.'

A member of the public pointed out that the main problem was that everybody suddenly discovered their right to break the law. According to him, everybody would ask, 'When all other people can break the law, why can't I?' Another anxious parent expressed her worry that naive youngsters would be brainwashed by political opportunists and acted without thinking in the future.

After one year, the emperor told his eldest son, 'My patience is waning thin. Before reaching the breaking point, I want you to go on my behalf tomorrow to seek the advice of a hermit monk who lives in a cave on a nearby mountain.' The prince set off on a three-day journey with two bodyguards to the mountain next day, but when he reached the mountain cave, he found that the cave entrance was blocked a huge slab of stone inscribed with the words meaning 'not in' in Chinese. The prince and his bodyguards took another three days to return to the palace, but the emperor ordered him to make a second trip next day. The following day, the prince and his two bodyguards went to the mountain again but could not find the monk. The emperor again ordered him to make a third trip to the mountain. On hearing this, the prince said with evident reluctance in his voice, 'It looks like I have to travel at least 18 days up and down the mountain.' The emperor said angrily, 'What is a short journey of 18 days to a young man like you compared to your great grandfather's long march to power from the south to the west and north of the country when he was in his forties?'

The prince, accompanied by the two bodyguards, set off on his third trip to the mountain next day, and this time they found that the cave entrance was no longer blocked by the stone slab. The prince called loudly outside the cave, 'We are seeking an audience with Your Holiness on behalf of His Majesty, the Emperor!' Out came a thunderous voice, 'Come in, Your Royal Highness!'

Inside the cave, they saw an elderly monk sitting in lotus position on a straw mat. After the initial greetings and introduction, they were invited to take their seats opposite the monk. When he learned of the purpose of the prince's visit, the monk said, 'First, I must point out that His Majesty has missed the wood for the trees. The focus on prescreening the princess' suitors makes His Majesty lose sight of the overall picture. There are more pressing issues waiting to be addressed such as the widening wealth gap, social inequality, rising living costs, stagnant wages, acute housing problems, immigration issues, youth problems and so on. Failure to address the pressing issues will have an adverse impact on the country in the long run. To the majority of the population, their greatest dream is to pass the day happily and wake up next day without worry.

Secondly, the problems should have been nipped in the bud by negotiation long ago when they were still manageable. It seems that His Majesty has underestimated the resolution of his opponents. In their final life and death struggle, they have let the genie out of the bottle in the form of students. The protests could not simply be wished away now, especially when the students have taken over the protest movement. As the protests drag on, more factions join in and the situation becomes more complex. There are now more differences in opinions and less opportunity for resolution and compromise. There will be anarchy and disaster if every protester considers himself as the leader of the civil disobedience movement.

Thirdly, prolonged unrest will weaken the country, particularly in the face of external aggression by the marauding dwarf pirates and other invaders. The country has made tremendous economic progress in the last decade. Other countries are playing catch-up in the economic race, and we can't let any unrest impede the country's progress. Since the last decade, the country has taken great pains to build up a good image and reputation domestically and internationally, so it would be a great pity if it were to be tarnished by any reckless action overnight. In addition, the country is planning to send its first man to the moon by flying him there with a giant kite. We can't let the social disturbance distract the country from its higher goals. His Majesty should seek a peaceful settlement as soon as possible so that the country could be propelled to greater heights.
Jun 2013
Fourthly, Your Royal Highness has another sister who was abducted by the dwarf pirates and taken to a pirate island where she lived for a number of years. She was rescued after the dwarf abductors were defeated in a sea battle. However, she refused to recognise His Majesty as her father and chose to live independently on a remote island. She may decide to return home one day if the second youngest princess could have a happy marriage by choosing her husband from an unrestricted number of suitors without prescreening by His Majesty. Any more reckless actions may frighten the unfilial daughter further away from His Majesty. I visit the capital every week and find the situation getting increasingly complex day after day. I am afraid it is heading for disaster if both sides continue to stick to their positions.'

The prince asked, 'Is there any hope of breaking the impasse between both sides?'

The monk replied, 'There may be a way out of the deadlock. Have Your Royal Highness read a 16th century Chinese novel, 'Journey to the West', the authorship of which was attributed to Wu Cheng'en?'

The prince replied, 'I have heard of the novel, but I don’t have the time read it. Unlike my youngest brother, I am no bookworm. All the while, I had been busy defending the long coastlines against the marauding dwarf pirates. I wish to learn more about it.'

The monk said, 'Your Royal Highness would have to stay here from several months to a year to listen to the whole story of the great Chinese classical novel. I liken the current havoc in the country to the Monkey King's havoc in Heaven. I am going to relate the part of the story that has some bearing on the issue we are discussing:

After failing to stop Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, from wreaking more havoc in Heaven, the Jade Emperor appealed to the Buddha for help to subdue the trouble maker. The Buddha made a wager with the Monkey King, betting that he could not escape from his hand. Knowing that he could travel 108,000 li (54,000 kilometres) in one somersault, the Monkey King agreed to the bet. He took a big leap forward and in a few seconds he saw five giant pillars of different heights jutting out from the clouds. He took them as boundary markers for the edge of the universe. As a proof of his venture to the end of the universe, he wrote a phrase in Chinese on one of the pillars declaring himself to be the Great Sage on a par with Heaven. As an additional proof of his feat, he urinated at the base of the same pillar. Then he leaped back and boasted to the Buddha about his feat.

The Buddha showed the Monkey King the phrase he had boastfully written on his middle finger. Then he asked the Monkey King to smell the urine on the finger. The Monkey King was shocked to discover that the five giant pillars that jutted out from the clouds were actually the five digits of the Buddha’s hand. Before the Monkey King could escape, the Buddha transformed his hand into a five-peaked mountain, trapping the Monkey King under it, with only his head and hands exposed. The Monkey King had to wait five centuries for the monk Tang Sanzang to rescue him for the pilgrimage to bring back Buddhist scriptures from India to China.'

The prince asked, 'What’s that got to do with the street protests?'

The monk replied, 'First, I would like to quote the following Chinese saying: To be a man, you must be able to bend and stretch (meaning flexible enough to respond to altered circumstances, with no other special meaning implied). I would also like to quote two sayings by Lao Zi:

A tree that is unbending is easily broken.

Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.

In the Chinese novel, the Buddha had unshakeable faith in his power but he was flexible enough to negotiate and even bet with the Monkey King. It is not a sign of weakness to negotiate with your opponents but a display of might and self-confidence to reach a compromise or resolve a problem through dialogues.

In the story, the Monkey King's urination on the Buddha's finger is a symbolic challenge to the powerful religious authority. With a flip of the wrist, the Buddha could have cast the Monkey King down to the earth at once, yet he waited patiently for him to finish his monkey business and to wake up to the truth that he, the monkey, was not on a par with Heaven. The Buddha’s display of great patience and high tolerance for the monkey business was not a sign of weakness but a show of might and self-confidence. By letting the Monkey King accomplish the astounding feat of travelling vast distances in a single leap on his palm, the Buddha had convinced the Monkey King that no matter how powerful his monkey magic, he could escape neither 'through the gaps between his fingers' nor 'from his five-peaked mountain', so to speak.*

Secondly, for a shrewd politician, there is no line drawn in the sand between him and his opponents. If he finds that his opponent is able to help him govern the country better, he could try to win him over to his side. After all, the goal of a wise ruler is not to hold onto power but to govern the country better, and this could be done by recruiting the best talent into his administration, even from the opposition. The secret for a lasting hold onto power is to better govern the country, and this could be done by winning over the hearts and minds of the people, even the opposition.

The Buddha could have killed the Monkey King in their initial confrontation, but he was wise enough to keep him alive to be converted to Buddhism by the monk Tang Sanzang five centuries later. Please bear in mind that the Monkey King was initially a rebel who raised havoc in Heaven with no respect for any divine authority, yet the Buddha was wise and flexible to pardon him for his sins and win him over to his side. The Monkey King defeated many gods during his havoc in Heaven, but he became a faithful disciple of Tang Sanzang, the powerless monk who was as gentle as a lamb, and guarded him all the way to India like a livestock guardian dog protecting a sheep from predators.

This story has a parallel case in the West. In my younger days, I had worked on a ship and travelled to many foreign lands. I came across a religion called Christianity and had some knowledge of its history. I was particularly interested in one religious figure called Paul the Apostle. His original name was Saul of Tarsus.

According to the Christian holy book called Bible, while travelling on the road to Damascus one day, Saul experienced a vision of the resurrected Jesus. He fell down and heard a voice saying unto him, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?’ Saul replied, ‘Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.’ According to this account, Saul was blinded for three days and had to be led into Damascus by the hand, where his sight was restored by Ananias of Damascus.

The dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus convinced him that God indeed had chosen Jesus to be the promised Messiah. It was a life-altering event for him, changing him from being one of the early movement's most ardent persecutors to being one of its most fervent supporters. Although in the early days of Christianity, Saul zealously persecuted the Christians and made violent attempts to destroy the movement, Jesus displayed wisdom and flexibility in pardoning Saul for his sins and winning him over to the Christian movement.

I have heard that since her return to the palace, the princess always throws tantrums by banging her head against His Majesty's chest every day. I would like to quote from the grandfather of Your Royal Highness:

It doesn't matter whether the dog is black or white, as long as it catches thieves. **

If His Majesty could not prevent his own daughter from banging her head against his chest every day, it would be in his best interest to widen the pool of suitors to increase the chance of getting the best man to be her husband and tame her temper regardless of whether he comes from a rich or a poor family, or whether he must seek His Majesty's advice all the time on how to be a good husband.

From the standpoint of the protesters, it is preferable and desirable to choose a husband for the princess according to his merit. Such a man would know his own mind on how to become a good husband, and would not be beholden to anybody but has an open mind to listen to all other people, particularly if he were to hold an important post one day.

From the standpoint of the princess, it would be the dream of every girl to be able to choose her life partner freely and get a happy marriage that may eventually tame her temper.

On the other hand, a shrewd politician could try to bring a die-hard opponent into his own circle to keep him under control. For example, the Buddha succeeded to keep the Monkey King out of mischief by giving him the task of escorting the monk Tang Sanzang on the pilgrimage to India. The Monkey King had no time for mischief in Heaven as he was busy fighting off countless monsters and devils who were hungrily eyeing his master's flesh which, according to legend, one bite of it would make any monster immortal.

The Buddha had never lost his control over the Monkey King who had to seek help on several occasions either from him or Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy (Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit), to rescue Tang Sanzang during the pilgrimage to India. It did not matter to the Buddha whether the Monkey King would eventually convert to Buddhism as long as he had no time for mischief in Heaven.'"
Jun 2013
At this point, the normally silent listener, Uncle, jokingly interrupted Agong's story: "If his daughter could never be tamed, it would be a good idea for the emperor to teach his political opponents a lesson by marrying her to one of their sons. At least the emperor would not die of heart attack from his daughter's nasty bumps on his chest." The 12-year-old boy and other older children laughed.

"Yes Philosopher!" Agong smiled and continued with his story. "After the monk revealed the hidden symbolism in the Chinese classical novel, the prince said, 'Thanks for the enlightenment. I shall convey it to His Majesty.'

To emphasize his points, the monk brought the prince and his men to the ruins of an old Buddhist temple some distance away from the cave. Pointing to a 5-metre-high statue of the Buddha sitting in lotus position, he said, 'The temple was destroyed by an earthquake some years ago. Although the Buddha statue had fortunately escaped damage from the earthquake, it has unfortunately become a playground for a little monkey that climbs up and urinates on its head every day. Now the little rascal is doing its monkey business again after seeing us here, as though trying to show us it can outdo the Monkey King's feat of urinating on the Buddha's finger. In spite of its sacrilegious acts, I still come here to pray to the Buddha regularly.’

The prince asked, 'Can't Your Holiness do something to end the sacrilege?' The monk replied, 'I can't stand here guarding the statue day and night. Furthermore, I am forbidden by my religion from hurting any living creature. Even if I could kill the monkey, there will be no lack of monkeys repeating the sacrilege. Worst of all, the whole monkey clan would come after me and chase me away from the mountain.'

Pointing to the bamboo flutes that were lying on the ground, the monk said, 'Three years ago, I made a bamboo flute and found that all the monkeys would stop their antics and gather around me whenever I played on the flute. Even the little monkey would stop its monkey business on the Buddha statue's head to listen to my tunes. One monkey even tried to snatch my flute away to play on it. Hence, besides meditation, I spend most of my time cutting bamboos to make them into flutes for the monkeys to play.'

On hearing this, the prince and his men laughed. Picking up a bamboo flute, the monk said, 'Bamboo has a higher compressive strength than wood, brick or concrete and a tensile strength that rivals steel. Throughout the centuries, bamboo has inspired the imagination of Chinese artists and poets, with the latter expressing admiration in their poems for its uprightness, tenacity, purity, integrity, elegance and plainness, though it is not physically strong. Bai Juyi (772 AD–846 AD), a Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty, opined that a real gentleman needs not to be physically strong, but he must be mentally strong, upright, and perseverant. Just as a hollow-hearted bamboo, he should open his heart to accept anything of benefit and never have arrogance or prejudice.'

The monk handed the bamboo flute to the prince, saying: 'Let this be food for thought for His Majesty. Due to Its flexible properties, bamboo can survive in a hurricane or typhoon. It's not too late to win back the hearts and minds of the people. The battle for the hearts and minds has just begun.'

After thanking and bidding farewell to the monk, the prince and his bodyguards began their journey down the mountain but returned after walking a few steps. He asked the monk. 'It's amazing that Your Holiness seems to know not only the happenings in the country but also much about the world while living as a hermit in a remote mountain cave. How does Your Holiness do it?'

The monk replied, 'My feet are planted in my country, but my eyes are surveying the world.' ***

The prince said, 'I am sure His Majesty will listen to Your Holiness.'

The monk replied, 'Listen not to me but the people.'

The prince smiled, and left with his men for the palace."

At this point, Agong surveyed his audience and asked: "After listening to my story, let's have a little mental exercise. What do you think would be the emperor's next course of action?"

A teenage boy said, "The emperor finally lost his patience, cracking down on all the protesters with full force."

The 12-year-old boy shouted, "The emperor reached a compromise with the protesters to end the massive street protests."

A teenage girl replied, "The emperor acceded to the demand of the protesters, allowing the princess to throw her silk ball at more than three suitors without prescreening."

A younger girl said, "The emperor remained adamant but the protesters got tired of the massive drawn out protests and backed down finally."

Agong said, "Well said. All of us are praying that the emperor could choose the best course of action for the benefit of his country and his people."

After all the children had left for home, Uncle asked, "In your opinion, why did the author of such a great literary work as 'Journey to the West' choose to remain anonymous?"

Agong replied, "In my opinion, 'Journey to the West' is not just an extended account of the legendary pilgrimage of the Tang dynasty Buddhist monk Xuanzang who travelled to India to obtain Buddhist scriptures and returned after many trials and much suffering. Neither is it a book of fairy tales for entertaining children or passing idle time. It contains some hidden symbolic meanings which were quite controversial and far ahead of its time, even to many politicians today.

For instance, the Mandate of Heaven is an ancient Chinese belief and philosophical idea that Heaven or the Jade Emperor granted the earthly emperors the right to rule based on their ability to govern well and fairly. Hence the havoc raised by the Monkey King in Heaven is a symbolic challenge to the country’s highest governing body. The author could be aware of the risks of having his head and the heads of his family members and relatives chopped off by the authorities at that time. That was why, in my opinion, he chose not to claim any credit to his great literary work but published it anonymously instead."

Uncle asked, "What do you think would be the outcome of the street protests in the story?"

Agong replied, "Both sides seem to be playing a high-stakes waiting game with the wishful thinking that the other side would be the first to blink. Hopefully, the monk's advice to the emperor would not fall on deaf ears, and common sense would prevail for the good of the country and the people. I don’t hold out much optimism for any positive outcome of the street protests. As pointed out by George Santayana, a US (Spanish-born) philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’"


* "You can't escape through the gaps between my fingers."

"You can't escape from my 'five-fingered' (meaning five-peaked) mountain."

Both the above are Chinese idioms meaning "You can't break free from my control", probably originated from the episode of the Buddha's taming of the Monkey King in the Chinese novel 'Journey to the West'.

** Adapted from Deng Xiaoping's quote: "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice."

*** Adapted from George Santayana's quote: "A man's feet should be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world."

******************* The End *********************
Jun 2013
If people would just simply say what they mean, instead of beating around the bush, you wouldn't have to!!! :rolleyes:
Tell this to all other writers and artists, perhaps even to Aesop, Shakespeare, Hans Christian Andersen and Picasso when you meet them one fine day.

It seems there is neither literature nor art in your mind.

Perhaps your teachers have never told you any story during your primary school days.

Actually for you, there is no need to beat around the bush too. Just one word will do for you:

Last edited:
Oct 2012
is the story a metaphor for anything or is it just a story?

I was thinking the monkey pissing on the Buddha was maybe an isis/America metaphor?
Jun 2013
is the story a metaphor for anything or is it just a story?

I was thinking the monkey pissing on the Buddha was maybe an isis/America metaphor?
It can be a metaphor or a story. It can be an sis/America metaphor or anyone in power facing a challenge or rebellion. For instance, in the following news:

Teenage Singaporean blogger Amos Yee detained in US while seeking asylum | This Week In Asia | South China Morning Post

Amos Yee detained in the US, 'seeking political asylum', his mother says - Channel NewsAsia