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The Laziest King

A Bedtime Story
Set in Medieval Japan

Dedicated to:
Megan Baum and Nicholas Baum
With Special Thanks to:
W. Mike Parker (aka: Fuyuzuru Tadashi) and ?

Once upon a time there lived a king named Fuyuzuru Tadashi, who was known far and wide as the world's laziest king. He would go to sleep immediately after dinner every night and wake up no earlier than lunch.

Tadashi had the most comfortable bed in the world. It had warm, hand-sewn quilts and crisp, clean silk sheets, and no less than six pillows -- all filled with the softest down from specially bred ducks. Some people thought he loved sleeping so much because his bed was so warm and comfortable. But others thought that since he loved sleeping so much, he made sure his bed was as warm and as comfortable as possible. Either way, Tadashi hurried through dinner every night because he could not wait to get into those crisp, clean silk sheets and under those hand-sewn quilts and plop his head, gently, onto those down pillows. It made him sleepy just to think about it.

Tadashi was king of very rich lands in Japan. These lands were so rich that if you accidentally dropped an apple seed, a whole orchard would grow and the apples of that orchard would be the sweetest in the world. Since his subjects preferred rice and cherries, they were very careful not to drop any apple seeds. Or if they did, they would pick them up very quickly.

His subjects loved him very much. He never yelled at them. He never took their things without asking. And since he was awake only for a few hours a day, his subjects were free to do  exactly as they pleased for most of the time.

King Tadashi had a beautiful castle; built in the finest Japanese tradition. It was a twelve story Pagoda with thick outer walls, many sentry posts and straw roofs. There were fresh flowers in every single room every single day. These flowers were cut from the world's most  beautiful garden, which was located in the center of Tadashi's castle.

When someone has lands as rich as King Tadashi's or a castle as fine, some evil people get jealous. They think to themselves, "Why is it that King Tadashi has such rich lands and such a wonderful castle with such a beautiful garden, when I do not?" And, instead of trying to make their lands as rich or their castle as fine, they decide to take what is not theirs. One of these people was Count Dag Hammersfield.

Count Dag was very jealous of King Tadashi. And he was very evil. Some say it was because he never got a good night's sleep. But whatever the reason, he swore that he would take everything that King Tadashi owned.

Count Dag woke up very early in the morning (He believed that a moment spent in bed was a moment wasted. ) and he called to his people, waking many of them up from very pleasant dreams. He commanded, "Tomorrow morning we shall attack King Tadashi! Make yourselves ready!"

All through that day, Count Dag's men were painting their armor black and sharpening their swords. Count Dag, himself, checked to make sure that every warrior's armor was as black as it could be and that every single sword was as sharp as it could be. If the armor was not black enough or the sword was not sharp enough, he made them do it all over again.

Count Dag wanted to his army to smell as fierce as it looked. So, he coated all the warriors and all their horses with skunk cabbage.

By early the next morning, they were ready. Two thousand men in pitch black armor, with large shields and long, sharp swords -- all riding powerful, angry horses. (They were angry because it was early in the morning and they had to carry heavy men in armor. And they smelled very bad, indeed.) Count Dag, himself, was riding the largest, angriest horse and wielding the longest, sharpest sword. "To Tadashi's!," he cried and the army began its day-long journey.

Late that night, well after Tadashi had gone to bed and fallen fast asleep, his outermost sentry looked off into the distance and saw nothing, because it had gotten dark again and Count Dag's men were dressed entirely in black. But the sentry smelled something. "This terrible smell!" he exclaimed, "it must be no other than Count Dag's army!"

So he looked more closely and, soon, he saw the approaching army. He saw that they were in fierce, black armor and carrying long, sharp swords -- and he knew that they were up to no good. So he ran back to the castle, yelling, "We are under attack! We are under attack! Count Dag has a thousand men and they have come to kill us all and take all our beautiful things! And they smell terrible!"

The sentry cried so loud and so long that everyone in the castle awoke. Everyone, that is, except Tadashi. The laziest king was sleeping so soundly, that he didn't even turn over.

Tadashi's right hand man was called James John. He was nearly six feet tall (Very tall for those days.) and a very good warrior. He went into Tadashi's bedroom and gently shook the King. "Wake up," he whispered. "Wake up. For we are under attack." But Tadashi did not wake. So James John put his hands on Tadashi's shoulders and shook him firmly. "Awake, awake!" he said a little louder, "Count Dag has come to kill us all." But Tadashi slept on. And Count Dag was getting closer.

Finally, James John shook his King as hard as he could, so hard that the bed itself threatened to break. And he hollered, right in the King's ear, "You must arise! Or we are doomed!" But Tadashi's bed was so comfortable and so warm, that even this did not cause him to stir.

Count Dag and his band of evil men were only moments away.

James John gave up. "I cannot wake him," he said aloud. "But I must do something, or we shall all surely die. And this land, this beautiful land, and all of its friendly people, will be ruled by evil Count Dag."

James John did not know what to do. If he told the people that Tadashi would not awake, the people would be distraught and give up to Count Dag. They would lose everything they owned. But Tadashi would not wake up and James John did not have time to keep trying.

So he thought of a plan.

He opened Tadashi's closet and took out Tadashi's shining red armor, Tadashi's large, sturdy shield and Tadashi's long, beautiful sword and carried them all to the very top of the castle. He stuffed the armor with pillows, so it looked as if someone were inside. He raised the armor's arm and in it he placed the long, shining sword. Then he pushed the armor to a place where everyone below could see it.

James John then ran down all twelve flights of stairs to the castle floor and yelled to all the people. "You see our King?" He pointed to the top of the castle, where Tadashi's armor was. But the people did not know that it was stuffed with pillows. They thought that Tadashi, himself, was inside the armor and ready to command his people. The people were much cheered when they saw their king, so finely armored, atop of the castle -- especially so late at night when he was usually fast asleep. This gave them courage.

James John then said, "People! King Tadashi has commanded, very nicely, that we should prepare for battle. That we should prepare to defeat Count Dag and his evil men. Get your armor! Get your weapons! And protect this beautiful land of ours!"

The people grabbed their weapons and their armor, ran into the castle and locked up all the castle doors, very tightly. And they made ready for the coming attack.

It was a terrible battle. So terrible that it cannot be described. It lasted all through the night and well into the morning, almost to noon. For most of the time, it seemed as though Dag's evil men would win. They broke down the castle door and stormed in, breaking everything in front of them -- and filling the entire castle with their foul smell. But every time Tadashi's people felt like giving up and surrendering to evil Count Dag, they looked to the very top of the castle and saw their king, so finely armored, standing so proudly, so strongly, that it gave them courage to fight on.

And slowly the tide of the battle turned. Count Dag's men were getting tired. And no matter how loudly Count Dag yelled, how foully he cursed, his men could fight no more. Finally, they retreated. They dropped their swords and ran away from Tadashi's castle as fast as they could. They ran all the way back to their evil land.

And all of Tadashi's brave people chased them the entire way.

All of them, except, James John. Who quickly ran to the top of the castle, removed the pillows from Tadashi's armor and put it back exactly where he had found it.

When Tadashi's people returned to the castle, they sent up a great cheer. "Hurrah! Hurrah!" they shouted. "We have defeated the evil Count Dag! We get to keep our land and all of our things! Hurrah! Hurrah!" They shouted. And remembering their brave king, who stood unwaveringly on top of the castle throughout the fierce battle, they cheered for him. "Three cheers for Tadashi! Hip, hip hooray! Hip, hip hooray! Hip, hip hooray!" they cheered so loud that they woke him up.

Tadashi went to the window and saw that it was another beautiful day. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and his lands were as lovely as ever. He stretched. "James John, are you there?" Tadashi asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

"Yes, my king, I am here." said James John, who had just finished putting away Tadashi's armor.

I had the most unusual dream," Tadashi said. "I dreamt that Count Dag had attacked our castle while I slept. That he and his men looked very fierce, and smelled even worse. That you tried to wake me, but could not. So you took my armor all the way to the top of the castle and stuffed it with pillows so it looked as though I were inside it. And that, because of this, the people drove away Count Dag and his evil men. What do you think of my dream?" he asked James John.

James John did not know what to say. Should he tell him the truth, that Count Dag had, in fact, attacked? Or should he pretend that it was all a dream?

But he didn't have to say anything.

Tadashi stretched again, rubbed his eyes some more, and said, "Dreams like that always make me so sleepy. I think I shall sleep until dinner today." And King Tadashi went back to bed, slipped between the clean, silk sheets, leaned back onto the six soft pillows, pulled the covers up to his nose and fell fast, fast asleep.

The End


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