THE PRINCE'S SERVANTS

By Master Storyteller Joe Hayes

From his book "The Day It Snowed Tortillas"

There is an old story about a young man whose father was a king and whose mother was a queen. Of course, that would make him a prince.

In time his father and his mother died-so he should have become king. But in his land they had a law that said you had to me married to be the king. And he didn't have a wife.

But the Prince heard about a king in a faraway country who had a beautiful daughter, so he thought he would go there and see if she would marry him. He loaded four mules with gold, and started on his long journey.

When he had been traveling three days he came to a clearing in the forest. There he saw a big man with an ax, cutting firewood. The man had made 30 big stacks of firewood. But the Prince looked all around, and he didn't see any animals-no oxen or mules or burros-to take the firewood home.

The Prince went up to the man and said, "How are you going to get this firewood home?"

The man looked puzzled. "Get it home?" he asked. "I'll carry it home."

The Prince was amazed. "You can carry 30 stacks of firewood?'

"Of course I can. My name is Cargin-Cargon. I can carry anything." Then the man picked up the 30 stacks of firewood and settled them comfortably on his shoulders.

When the Prince saw how strong the man was, he asked him to work as a servant and offered to pay him with gold. So Cargin-Cargon became a servant of the Prince, and they traveled along together.

Three days later they came to a mountain. Sitting at its foot was a young man. But as they watched, the young man jumped up and ran away behind a mountain in one direction. Then before they had hardly blinked their eyes, he came back from the other direction!

The Prince went up to him and said, "Did you really do what it looked like you did? Did you run clear around that mountain in the blink of an eye?
The man shrugged. "Of course I did. My name is Corrin-Corron. I can run faster than that when I want to." So the Prince hired him to be his servant also. And they traveled along together-the Prince, Cargin-Cargon and Corrin-Corron.

Three days later they saw a man with a rifle, taking careful aim. But when they looked about, they couldn't see the animal he was going to shoot. The Prince walked up to him and asked, "What are going to shoot?"

He replied, "There's a fly sitting on a tree about two miles away. I'm going to shoot his left eye out."

"You can shoot that well?"

"Of course I can. My name is Tirin-Tiron. I never miss anything I shoot at." And then he plunked the eye out of that far-distant fly. On the spot, the Prince hired him to be his servant. They all traveled together-the Prince, Cargin-Cargon, Corrin-Corron and Tirin-Toron.

Three days later they saw a man lying with his ear against the ground, listening. The Prince stepped up quietly and whispered, "What are you listening for?"

"Shhh," the man said. "Over in China a woman dropped a needle on the ground/ I'm listening to it bounce."

"You can hear a needle drop on the other side of the world?" the Prince asked.

"Of course. My name is Escuchin-Escuchon. I hear everything in the world, and the other world, too."

The Prince hired him to be his servant, and they all traveled along together-the Prince, Cargin-Cargon, Corrin-Corron, Tiron-Tiron and Escuchin-Escuchon.

Three days later they came to the faraway kingdom. But they found out that the King was very jealous and didn't want any man to marry his daughter. If a man came there wanting to marry her, he would have to pass some very difficult tests.

First, he would have to run a race with the Princess. She was a fast runner. And if the suitor lost the race, the King would cut off his feet. Already 200 young men had lost their feet! But the prince went to the King and said, "I'm not worried at all about the race. It will be so easy. I'll just let my servant run in my place."

The King said, "Are you sure? My daughter is a very swift runner."

The Prince waved his arm. "I'm not the least bit worried. My servant can just run in my place."

The next morning, you can guess who stood at the starting line-The runner, Corrin-Corron. The Princess came to the starting line, the gun sounded, and off they dashed!

The Princess was a fast runner-but nowhere near as fast as Corrin-Corron. He soon arrived at the distant mountain that was the halfway point of the race, and started back. But when he saw how far ahead he was, the thought he would sit down and rest. Then he noticed a shady bush nearby, so he stretched out in the shade. And he fell asleep!

While he was sleeping, the Princess came running along. She saw him, so she crept over and took off his shoes. She picked some sharp thorns from the bush and put them on his bare feet. And then she ran on.

But Escuchin-Escuchon was listening. He heard Corrin-Corron snoring. So he went and told the shooter, Tirin-Tiron. Tirin-Tiron climbed a tree and looked out across the valley. He saw Corrin-Corron asleep, and he aimed his rifle carefully. Pow! He shot the very tip of the runner's ear and woke him up.

Corrin-Corron jumped up-and stepped right on the thorns. He danced around howling and holding his foot. But Tirin-Tiron just shot some more-Pow! Pow! Pow! And he shot the thorns right out of the runner's foot! Barefooted, Corrin-Corron raced on, crossed the finish line just ahead of the Princess.

The King said, "Well, that was the first test, and you passed it. But here is the second: You will have to guess the one very strange thing my daughter has about her person. You may have three guesses. If you get it right, you may marry her. But if you fail-it will cost you your life!"

The Prince walked off muttering to himself, "Oh, what can it be? Maybe she has six toes on her feet. Maybe she has a birthmark on her shoulder. What can it be?"

And the Princess was also unhappy, because she had taken a liking to the Prince. She was beginning to wish that she might marry him. That evening she spoke to her servant. "I'm so sad," she said. "My father says the Prince has to guess the strange thing I have about me. No one could ever guess that!"

"Oh, no!" the servant replied. You mean he has to guess that you have …" And she said what it was. And who should be listening but Escuchin-Escuchon!

The next morning the Prince appeared before the King. First he tried all the other things that someone might guess. "I think the Princess has six toes on her left foot."

"Ha-ha-ha!" the King laughed. "Six toes? No, that's not it! Guess again."

"Does she have a red birthmark on her back?"

"A birthmark? Ho-ho-ho! And no-no-no! What is your last guess before you die?"
Then the Prince said what Escuchin-Escuchon had heard. "The Princess has a small tattoo of a rose on her left ankle!"

The King gasped, "How did you know that?" And the Princess also gasped. But there was a smile in her eye, because that's exactly what she wanted to hear. Still the King didn't want to lose his daughter. "Please don't take her," he begged. "I'll give you anything if you don't. I'll give you all the gold you can carry!"

The Prince smiled, "Will you give me all the gold my servant can carry?"

"I'll give you all the gold anyone can carry!"

So the Prince went and talked to the strong man, Cargin-Cargon. He told him to make a big sack out of tough leather. When the sack was finished, the King's servants started carrying gold from his treasury and dumping it into the sack. A hundred servants brought all the gold they could carry, but Cargin-Cargon picked up the sack and spun it around his head. "I think it's still empty," he laughed. "I don't feel anything in there!"

So a hundred more servants brought all the gold they could carry and placed it in the sack. But Cargin-Cargon picked it up with one hand and smiled. "It's still so light," he said. "Don't you have any more?"

All the gold in the kingdom went into the sack. The only gold left was the King's own crown. He lifted it from his head and looked sadly at it. Then he turned to the Prince. "Please let me keep my crown," he begged. "If you do, you may marry the Princess."

So the Prince and the Princess were married, and returned to his land, where he now was King. And the Princess became the Queen. They lived happily all the rest of their lives.

And even though the story doesn't say for sure, I imagine the four servants were happy too. Wouldn't you be if you could do what they could do?

To order "The Day It Snowed Tortillas" or other books by Joe Hayes, visit Cinco Puntos Press.

Copyright © Joe Hayes
Order Joe Hayes Books at Cinco Puntos Press

Joe Hayes, Storyteller

Joe Hayes, professional storyteller and SFAOL contributor, has performed in hundreds of schools, libraries, museums and parks. He tells folktales from many cultures, and among his favorites are the local cuentos, the Hispanic tales of New Mexico. A highlight of every summer in Santa Fe, for children and adults alike, are his storytelling sessions outside the tepee at the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe.

In 1982, Mariposa Printing and Publishing company in Santa Fe presented 10 of these stories in "The Day It Snowed Tortillas." Now in its ninth printing, the book has become a regional favorite and has brought delight to readers throughout the country.

From the melodic song of "La Hormiguita"to the classic lament of "La Llorana," "The Day It Snowed Tortillas" is a collection that will captivate hearts for years to come. If you enjoy the stories of Joe Hayes on SFAOL, you can order this book or others he has written by visiting Cinco Puntos Press.

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