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The Wicked King

There was once a king who was so wicked that he would not allow any widows to live in his kingdom, because he was certain that they had caused the death of their husbands; nor would he admit of any fat man or woman, as he was afraid that they would eat up everything in the kingdom.

He was also very proud and arrogant, and if any man happened to be taller than himself, he would give him the choice of being lowered to a proper height by either having his head or his legs cut off.

His subjects were so afraid of him and of his laws, that the married women would not let their husbands go out of their sight, lest any harm should happen to them, and if they turned at all pale, or had broken sleep, or had lost their appetites, they would nurse them night and day. So afraid were they of becoming widows that they always agreed with their husbands on all points, lest by disagreeing they should bring about an attack of indigestion, or something worse that might produce death.

And when their children commenced to grow rapidly, their fears were doubled lest they should become taller than the king; for if they fed them on pudding, which does not promote growth, they incurred the danger of their becoming fat; and if they fed them on meat, so as to make them lean, they would probably grow tall.

It very soon became evident that there were more hunchbacks in that country than in any other; for as soon as the children were approaching the forbidden height, their parents would suspend heavy weights from their shoulders, so that their backs became rounded and eventually humped.

The young men, when they were at an age to marry, found it very difficult to get any woman to have them, because they were afraid of becoming widows, and also because so many of the men were humpbacked.

But, notwithstanding the king’s wickedness, it was admitted by the married men that their condition had considerably improved.

There was a wide road made round the cities and towns, on which all who were inclined to be stout, both men and women, would run until they were out of breath, and jump over hurdles; and there were so many of these people that the revenues of the Church commenced to suffer, owing to the decreased demand for “bulls,” as they willingly imposed long fasts on themselves.

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Category: Japanese folktales
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