Once upon a time there was a powerful and good King.
He lived together with his Son in the most beautiful palace you can imagine. It was made of marble and shone as white as snow in the sun and its gold and blue towers sparkled and glistened so that you could see it for miles. Around the palace were lovely gardens full of all types of trees, bushes and flowers. They seemed to be blossoming and flowering all the year round.
I don’t think you’ve ever seen so many wonderful shapes and colours! Through the garden flowed a little brook with clear, ice cold water. If you stood on the old wooden bridge you could look down and see the gold-fish swimming around the stones. Hundreds of birds chirped and sang, butterflies danced in the sun-rays and the bees hummed busily among the roses.
There were animals as well – big and small, living peacefully together: puppies and kittens, cows and camels and lions …. And – there were hundreds of ants! Busy ants! They’d been appointed by the King to look after his garden, to keep it tidy and clean and beautiful. Far away in the distance was the thick, high wall surrounding the garden and the palace. It was so wide and strong one could walk on it, or even ride a horse on it!
It so happened that many years ago, there had been an awful day, so sad and awful, that it makes me unhappy just to think about it.
This is what happened.
The ants decided, that they did not want to work for the King any longer; they wanted to decide for themselves the work they wanted to do – and that was certainly not to keep the garden clean and tidy!
And so, they had to leave the garden! They had to leave the Kingdom of that good King. With a heavy heart he sent them into the world outside the palace gardens – and the great golden gates crashed shut behind them.
Now, the country outside the Kingdom was quite different from the lovely home they had known. There were bare low hills and deep dark valleys, high snow-covered mountains and forbidding forests. But the most shocking thing was that everything was brown. There were no reds and yellows and pinks, no violets and greens. Everything was brown and dusty and empty. The trees and bushes had only a few dried up leaves, and there were rocks and stones everywhere. It was a desert.
Far away in the distance the ants could see a little green, but as they drew nearer they saw that it was only a dried out riverbed with a few muddy puddles and here and there a little wilting grass. And they soon realized that this was the only place where they could find some food. Everything was very still for there were hardly any insects or birds, no animals at all. And it was hot …. It really was a very sad and lonely country.
But the ants were proud and silly and would not go back to the King and tell him, that they’d been wrong. Angrily they stayed and began to build their homes. They would manage alone!
Many, many years after that sad day, thousands of ants still lived there, working so hard!! They now had to walk for miles to find puddles with muddy water! And even more miles to find something to eat – and then even more miles to carry it back home again … They were always so tired and weary, which made them unhappy and cross and short-tempered and nasty. They also became selfish and greedy, never sharing or telling others if they found a better water-hole or greener grass.
And so, day by day, month by month, year by year, they worked and walked and carried and fell asleep exhausted after yet another dusty and hot and horrid day. But, what they did not know, was that they were being watched. Someone’s heart was aching for them and wanted to help them. That someone was the King and his Son.
Now, the ants had quite forgotten all about the good King. Yes, of course some old ants would sometimes begin to talk about an ancient legend, but nobody really listened or had time for such nonsense!
In the very far distance the golden gates glistened and the beautiful palace shone as white as snow. But somehow, perhaps because the ants had become so greedy and selfish and proud, they just could not see it! In the dark, still nights there would be a slight fragrance in the air …. and some would stop and wonder and feel something like homesickness tugging at their heartstrings. What was it?
Strangely and wonderfully the King loved these ants and felt so sorry for them. They were so lost, so alone! He wanted to invite them back into his Kingdom. But how?
Now, just imagine for a moment that you are an ant. Imagine you are standing beside a table. What would you see? Just a huge pole reaching up into the sky! And at a big distance another pole and another … You wouldn’t know that it was a table.
What if you – you’re still an ant! -were standing beside a person? You would see a part of something terribly big and dangerous if it moved! But you wouldn’t know it was a shoe nor would you see the leg and understand that it belonged to a person. You see what I mean? You would not know what a person was because you would not be able to see him or her! And to make matters worse for the ants, because they were so proud and selfish something had happened to their eyes … they were nearly blind! So really they couldn’t see much anyway – except the things they wanted to see.
So, the King had a problem. How was he going to help these miserable ants know about himself, his love for them and his beautiful Kingdom? When he walked through their land they did not realise he was there – and he took great care not to tread on them! Even when he sent some rain and gently poured some fresh water into the riverbed and planted some fresh grass and herbs and bushes for them, they did not see him. They were too blind and he was just too big. He tried kneeling down to whisper, but all that made them do was to dash down underground to get away from the storm! He hoped they would come and ask for his help in their need … He called them in the beauty of the sunsets and rainbows he made for them … but all in vain.
So the King and his Son came up with a plan. If the ants were too small and blind – and he and his Son too big, well, then somebody would have to change his size! And that’s precisely what they did!
Remember, the King and his Son were very powerful and so they decided, that the Son would become an ant and then he would be able to tell the wonderful news of his Father’s Kingdom in their own ant-language. He would tell them how not to be so cross and nasty and unhappy anymore. He would tell them that the King would forgive them for being so proud and for having left his Kingdom.
He would tell them of his Father’s love and they would understand him and trust him. What a wonderful plan! But – how does a Prince become an ant? Well, to be an ant you have to be born an ant, of course!
So they chose a good little ant lady to be his mother and a kind ant for a father. They weren’t that good or that kind, but at least they had heard the legend and believed that there was a good King – somewhere.
And then, one cold winter’s night he left his Father and all those things which make you a Prince. He left them behind and was born an ant. For many years he lived in that ant country with his ant family and friends and learned to work with his ant father. He was waiting patiently for the right time to to come to tell them all about the good King.
At last the day came.
He left his ant parents and began to go everywhere telling the ants about the King and his Kingdom, and how much the King loved them and wanted to forgive them and invite them back into his garden. All they had to do was to say they were sorry that they were so proud and then to trust him to take them to his Father, the King. Some ants, the ones who were tired of always being tired, and unhappy and cross with themselves for always feeling cross and nasty, believed the Prince and gladly let him help them.
How wonderful to know that someone cared!
They joined him and went from home to home telling the other ants the wonderful news. But many ants didn’t believe the Prince-ant and laughed – they couldn’t see a palace, golden gates or gardens! What a load of rubbish! A king indeed! And anyway, who did he think he was offering them forgiveness. Forgiveness for what? They didn’t need anyone’s forgiveness. He should mind his own business!
Others nodded politely and said: “That’s all very well, but soon the snow will come and we have to collect seeds and and firewood. We’ve really got no time for fairy-tales about kings and kingdoms! Come back in the spring and then we’ll talk about it!“ And off they dashed.
The Prince-ant felt very sad, but he knew that he had a job to do and there were still many, many ants he had to talk to. There wasn’t much time left before he would leave the ant country and there was still so much to do. So many ants to talk to, so many things he had to teach his friends before going back home again. And they were so slow in understanding!
When the day of his departure arrived, he gathered all his friends around him and ate with them for the last time.
“I’ve got to go now and be punished for your sins so that you can be forgiven and be free to enter my Father’s Kingdom. I am going, but you have a job to do! Go and tell every ant about me and write it all down, so that it will never be forgotten. But all the time, walk along the narrow pathway I have shown you. It will lead you to the golden gate. I will be there to meet you.”
His friends looked at him in horrified silence…. but they had no time to ask him what he meant.
For now we come to the saddest part of the story. I don’t think anyone could have imagined anything so sad would ever happen. But it did.
A crowd of angry ants armed with all sorts of cruel weapons rushed up at them, yelling and shouting: “Kill him! Stone him! Who does he think he is! A prince! A king’s son! Telling us lies and stories! Stopping ants work and promising happiness. Forgiving sins indeed!! Kill him!!”
The first sticks and stones began to be thrown at the Prince and all his friends ran away, terrified that they would be killed as well. Soon the little Prince-ant fell and bled and died. There he lay in the dust, alone.
And so, nobody saw the King who had been watching and suffering with his Son. He came slowly along the road, tears running down his face. When he reached the little dead ant, he bent down and very, very carefully picked up the tiny hurt body. Gently he held it in the palm of his hand. Then, carefully, tenderly he breathed onto the ant – and then the miracle happened! Somehow, wonderfully, in one split second the small dead ant body was transformed into the living Prince!
Father and Son hugged – they were together again.
Now, what about those ants who had believed in him?
Well, the Prince sent them a special gift to help them have courage and strength to believe and talk about him. This gift would also help them stay on the pathway which would take them to the golden gate.
One morning as they met to talk and remember, just to be together in their sadness, it happened. Suddenly they looked up in surprise. It seemed to them that it had began to snow …
They became very quiet, holding their breath in wonder. For as they stood there waiting, those little white snowflakes landed very softly in their hearts and there they burst open!
They were suddenly filled with so much joy, fun and laughter, that it made them shout and sing with delight! Their sorrow and pain melted away, they had never felt so happy, so alive. And they could see!
For there in the distance was the Kingdom!
The thick walls, the green of the trees, the scent of hundreds of flowers, the song of the birds. They could see things they had never even dared to imagine – the beauty of the palace glowing in the early morning sunlight.
Then, speechless with happiness, they saw the most wonderful thing of all: the golden gates were wide open and there stood the Prince and his Father, waving to them.
Welcoming them home.
copyright@Jonie S.John 1990