The Prince And The Rhinoceros
Read or tell the story.
Once upon a time in India , a rare rhinoceros was born, with skin so beautiful it almost glowed. The rhinoceros was given to a noble prince who was very lonely and whose kingdom was poor. The prince was so delighted with the unusual gift that he laughed joyfully. So he named the little calf Great Joy.
The prince treated the rhino with great kindness. He fed her rice, fruit and choice tender plants, and he always spoke in a kind and gentle voice. Great Joy grew and was happy. The prince thought Great Joy was quite beautiful.
At sunrise she would be golden. At sunset, she would be a canvas of pink and red and orange, and later the dark blue of evening. Sometimes after a rain, she would reflect everything around her. She seemed almost enchanted.
"You are wonderful and special to me," the prince whispered softly.
In time, Great Joy grew into an enormous rhino. She was very strong. One day she thought about her good life with the prince and what she could give him in return. "I am only a rhino, but I can use my strength to help him earn gold for his kingdom." She suggested to the prince that she compete in a contest of strength against the town's strongest bulls.
A rich merchant with many fine oxen agreed to the wager: Great Joy would pull a hundred loaded wagons usually towed by his team of eight oxen. The bet was one thousand gold pieces.
The next day, the prince inspected the wagons and harnessed Great Joy to the front. Then he climbed onto the driver's seat. Great Joy waited for a few kind words of encouragement before starting. Instead, the prince, thinking only of the gold, waved a whip in the air and shouted, "Pull, you big wretch. Move, you worthless rhino."
Great Joy was shocked at her beloved prince's words. Wretch? Worthless? "I'm no wretch," she thought. "I'm not worthless, either." She stiffened her huge legs and refused to move an inch.
Humiliated, the prince ran home and hid in his royal bed. "I'm ruined," he cried.
Great Joy was filled with pain and sorrow. She needed to understand what she had done to deserve such cruel insults. After many days and nights without food or sleep, she went to the prince's palace, which had grown shabby due to his impoverished state. "Oh, Prince, in all our years together, have I ever done anything to hurt you?"
"Then why did you say those terrible things to me? Was the thought of gold worth more than what I can offer?"
The prince hung his head. Tears ran down his face. "The gold distracted me. I forgot the importance of our friendship. I am so ashamed."
"Then we will try again," Great Joy said. "Go back to the merchant and double your bet."
Again the carts were loaded, and Great Joy was harnessed to the front. The prince climbed up and sang out, "All right, you marvelous marvel, you splendid rhino, my Great Joy. It's up to you!"
The powerful rhino snorted, pawed the ground and charged forward. Her sides heaved as she pulled, until the last cart crossed the finish line. The townspeople cheered wildly as they covered her with garlands of flowers and strands of tinkling bells.
The prince collected his two thousand pieces of gold, then humbly thanked Great Joy for a job well done. That very evening, the prince and the rhino walked along the river in the red glow of sunset.
"I didn't mean to say such hurtful words to you," the prince whispered. "Please forgive me."
"I already have," said Great Joy.
And that's how they lived forever after — in friendship and great joy. Never again did an unkind word pass between them.