It was the third moon of the Prince’s Twenty- seventh year. He was waiting for the arrival of an old sage from overseas. He was informed that the sage wasn’t very far from the city gates and would arrive by the very night of the same day.
The sage had been traveling for nearly half a century now. The journey had contributed a significant amount of understanding and experience of life, making him a very wise man. The prince pondered upon the possible, advises the sage would be giving him. Especially now that various changes had been dawning on him, for he was to inherit the throne, he was desperate to hear the things the sage had to say.
His days of gaiety were ceasing to end. Thus far, he had lived his life enjoying and taking advantage of every privilege and power inherited by his position. He was absolutely aware of the disapproval of the extremely entertained life he led by his brothers. They were also concerned that his sometimes arrogant, boastful and indulgent behaviors were signs of incompetent ruler.
But the people who were really close to him worshipped him for his generosity and kind nature. If he was a callous and ambitious like the way his brothers thought we was, he otherwise wouldn’t be reluctant and terrified to take over the throne.
His older brother was a hopeless drunkard who was unworthy of the throne. For the prince, there was no escaping from the King’s convictions about him being the capable successor. It was an impossible situation. Anxiousness overpowered him as he felt the days of this youth slip away with every passing moment. His responsibilities were growing. Every day there was so much to do, so many decisions to be made, and so many unusual situations to handle.
It was already late in the night and the sage hadn’t arrived yet. He slipped into his bed and immediately drifted into a deep sleep.
That night in his dreams, he saw an owl handling a ribbon in its hands of a human. The ribbon was for his mind. He was refusing to accept it when he was woken up by one of his courts men. The sage had arrived and was waiting for the prince in the courtroom.
“I’m sorry to have awakened you,” the Prince heard the old mystic say to him has he walked into the room. The sage bowed in respect and continued- “It took me longer to explore the city than I had anticipated. There isn’t much I can say or give you. My ship leaves at dawn. Please accept my humble council your highness”
The prince and the traveler sat together for a conversation accompanied by plenty of food and wine. Hours passed, many stories exchanged.
The few hours they had weren’t enough to say everything they had to share. Before departing, the sage assured the Prince that the kingdom would do fine under his rule. “I was unsure as to which gift I should leave you with at first,” the mystic said. “I had it in mind, but my decision was confirmed only after the meeting.” He took out a package from his bag and handed it over to the prince.
The prince accepted the gift with gratitude. After unwrapping, he had a box in his hand. He opened the lid only to see three small dolls inside it. The dolls were seemingly ancient and fit for a toddler. Their faces were cracked and their hair stringy.
“Don’t worry, they are neither for children nor women.” The sage said reading the confusion on the Prince’s face. “Their value goes beyond the aesthetic. They are for you alone. I want you to place them in such a place of your room wherein they will never miss your eyes.”
“If you examine them carefully, you’ll see a hole in the ears of each doll,” the sage said, handing him a piece of string. “Thread the hole.”
The perplexed prince picked up the first doll and did as he was told. The thread entered through the hole of one ear and emerged through the hole of another. “This is the first type of person. Whatever you tell him, it comes out of the other ear. He doesn’t retain anything.” The sage explained. “Now go for the second one.”
Curiously the prince inserted the string through the hole of the second doll. It came out of the mouth. “This is the second type of person,” said the sage. He explained, “whatever you tell him, he tells everybody else.”
The prince then picked up the third doll. The string did emerge out from anywhere. “And this is the third type,” said the sage. “Whatever you tell him is locked up within. It never comes out.”
The prince doubtfully looked at the sage. There weren’t many of this kind. What was all of this for anyway?
“The attributes of the three dolls are in fact not separate but incorporated within a single person itself.” The sage explained-“A man must know when to listen, when to remain silent and when to speak. Develop this skill and you will be a wise ruler. Practice it, and you will be able to read and identify your enemies and your friends. If you master this skill, the ruling of your kingdom will then become a less complicated affair.”