This is a story I just wrote for Little Guy, who is having a very hard time right now.
The King, the Prince, and the Lion
Once upon a time, in a castle far away, there lived a prince with his father the king. The prince was a happy prince. He played all day in the forest around the castle; and in the evenings, he walked with the king to the edge of the ocean. The prince loved the feel of the wind in his ears, and the warm water lapping around his feet. He loved to play in the sand; when he let it run through his fingers, he felt calm and peaceful. Sometimes, the prince and the king made sand castles together. Sometimes they drew pictures in the sand with sticks. And sometimes, they just walked into the waves and listened to the roar of the ocean. The prince never felt afraid, no matter how loud the waves, because his father was right there beside him holding his hand.
One day as the prince was eating his breakfast, the king sat down beside him. “Prince,” said the king, “I need to tell you something important. Far, far away, in the land of Antagon, there live two dragons who are fighting each other. I need to go and help them settle their differences, so they can live in peace. But this means I will have to take a long journey; I will be gone many, many days, and many, many nights. ”
The little prince looked at his father in surprise. “But why can’t I go with you?” he asked. “I could go with you and help with the dragons!”
The king looked a little sad, and reached for the prince’s hand. “I wish you could go with me, son,” he said. “But the angry dragons are too dangerous right now. And I wish I could stay home with you; but I need to go and help. It is the right thing to do.”
And then the king looked deep into the prince’s eyes. “But I promise you, Prince…I promise you I will come back to you. I have always come back before, and I will come back this time too. I love you and will keep loving you the whole time I am gone. And by the time I get back, you may even be a little taller!”
The next morning, the king rode away on his white horse. The prince walked with him to the edge of the forest, then waved goodbye. As the king disappeared into the trees, he turned and waved one last time at the prince, calling, “Don’t forget, little Prince….I love you and I will come back to you!”
The prince turned and walked back to the castle. He sat down to eat his breakfast, but he wasn’t hungry. He went for a walk in the forest, but he didn’t feel like playing. He tried walking down to the shore, but it wasn’t any fun building a sand castle all alone. Then he tried running sand through his fingers, but even that didn’t make him feel better.
He walked back up to the castle and curled up on his bed. He felt sad. His missed his father the King. He missed the sound of his voice. He missed playing with him. He missed reading books with him and laughing at his jokes.
Several days went by, and the Prince was still sad. He ate his food, slept at night, and helped take care of the castle horses, but nothing helped him feel better. He felt lonely, and disappointed…why couldn’t he have gone with his father? He could have helped with the dragons, and kept his father company. He would have liked to see the land of Antagon too. He would have liked to ride his little brown pony beside his father’s big white horse.
The Prince decided to go for another walk in the woods. As he walked into the trees, dragging his feet in the leaves, he heard a strange sound. It sounded a little like a groan, and a little like a roar…what could it be? As he listened, he heard it again, nearer this time, and louder. The Prince followed the sound through the trees until he came to a little clearing. And there in the middle of the clearing, was a young lion. The lion was roaring angrily.
At first the Prince was afraid, but as he came closer, he saw that one of the lion’s paws was dragging on the ground. The lion looked at the Prince and roared again, holding up his paw. And there in the paw was a long, sharp thorn.
“Oh,” said the Prince to himself. ”The lion is only angry because he is hurting so badly.”
The lion let out another loud, terrible roar, and bared its teeth furiously.
“The poor lion,” said the Prince. “His paw must hurt terribly to make him roar so loudly.”
And then the Prince had a wonderful thought. He could be just like the King! The King had gone to help the angry dragons, and now the Prince could help the angry lion. The Prince began walking toward the lion. The lion roared again; the roar was loud and frightening, but the Prince was not afraid. He kept on walking. The lion growled and bared his teeth; but still the Prince was not afraid. He walked right up to the lion and put his hand on the lion’s head.
“Don’t worry, lion,” he said. “I am the Prince of the castle. I will help you.”
The prince leaned down carefully and touched the lion’s paw. The lion growled a little, but did not bite. The prince took hold of the thorn and pulled gently, then harder, and harder, until the thorn came out. The lion let out one final roar, and was quiet.
The prince held the thorn up for the lion to see. “Look, lion. Here is the thorn that was in your paw. I pulled it out so it won’t hurt you anymore.”
The lion looked at the prince. He was not growling. He was not showing his teeth. He was not angry at all. “Thank you, Prince,” said the lion, in a deep voice. “Thank you for helping me. You are a brave and kind Prince.”
The prince smiled at the lion. He was pleased he had been able to help; he was happy the lion was no longer angry. The air was still and calm.
The prince felt peaceful.
As he turned to go home to the castle, the prince heard a soft sound behind him. He looked back, and there was the lion, following him. “I am coming with you, Prince,” said the lion, in his deep, calm voice. “You helped me, and now I will help you. I will keep you company until your father the King comes home.”
The prince and the lion walked together back to the castle. And from then on, everywhere the prince went, the lion went too. They went for walks together in the woods; they ran through the waves on the shore; and, sometimes, they just lay together in the sand, staring out at the water. And the Prince ran his fingers through the sand, and felt very happy.
Many days went by, and the prince grew taller and stronger. The young lion grew bigger too, and when he roared, he roar was so loud that it shook the earth and echoed off the castle walls. But the prince was never afraid of him, because he knew the lion was his friend.
One morning at the beginning of spring, the lion was running down the shore with the prince riding on his back. In the distance, at the edge of the forest, the prince saw a small shape appear. The shape grew bigger and bigger, until he could see what it was: it was his father, the King, on his beautiful white horse! The King was riding as fast as he could toward the shore.
The prince shouted with happiness. “It’s my father the kng! It’s my father the king! Faster, lion, faster!! I want to see the King!”
The lion ran faster and faster until he was almost flying through the air. Finally, they reached the King and his horse. The prince jumped down from the lion’s back and ran to hug his father. The king held the prince in his arms, then stood back to look at him.
“Why, Prince!” he said. “You are much taller than when I left!”
The Prince smiled at his father. “Yes, I am,” he said.
“And who is this?” asked the King, pointing to the lion.
The prince put his hand on the lion’s mane. “This is my friend, the lion. I found him in the forest and pulled a thorn out of his paw. And we have been taking care of each ever since.”
The King bowed to the lion. “Thank you for taking care of my son,” he said. Then he climbed back onto his horse, pulling the Prince up with him. And the King, the Prince, the horse, and the lion walked joyfully back to the castle, where they celebrated with much feasting and many songs.
And they all lived happily ever after.