The King’s Soup
It is quite amazing what a difference one person can make.
Once there was a most beautiful land and everything should have been perfect for the people who lived there and it could have been if it were not for its selfish King.
He always wanted the best of everything that was in his kingdom, and if the King wanted something he got it and it didn’t matter who it belonged to. Every room in his palace in Kings Town was filled with the finest jewels, paintings, furniture, clothes, wine and food.
But the King was not happy because, although his palace was full, his heart was empty.
One day the King decided to go out for a ride. Of course this meant he wanted the finest riding clothes, the best whip and the fastest and most magnificent horse in all the land. His servants were sent all around the kingdom to take what he wanted. All the people of his land hated the King.
His servants took the clothes and whip from one of the wealthiest people of the land but the fastest horse was harder to find – until they heard of a magnificent white horse that lived in the land of Seething. The servants rode long and hard until they found the beautiful white horse and snatched it from its poor owner. All the people of his land hated the King.
The King put on his new riding clothes and admired himself in the mirror. “I am the best dressed King in the world,” said the King. His servants loudly agreed although, in fact, he looked rather stupid – but they knew what would happen to them if they did not agree with the King.
“Bring me my horse,” shouted the King and the stable boys brought him the most beautiful white horse you have ever seen or could ever imagine. When the King sat on top of the horse he shouted to his servants, “I am the finest looking horseman in the entire world.” The servants wanted to laugh because he looked like a small ugly frog sitting on top of a beautiful snowy mountain but they were afraid. They all knew what would happen if you laughed at the King.
“Bring me my crown. I am going for a ride,” said the King . As he put the crown on his head he whipped the fine white horse. The horse reared up and set off through the palace gates at a gallop faster than that of any other horse. The servants who were supposed to follow were soon left very far behind.
The horse galloped on and on but the King struggled to keep his balance. As the horse jumped majestically over a hedge the King’s crown fell off his head and into the mud. Moments later the golden whip was snatched from his hand by the branch of a tree.
Because he was no horseman the King could not stop the white horse which ran faster and faster. The horse jumped hedge after hedge until it was back in the land of Seething where it stopped suddenly. The King was so shocked that he shot over the top of the horse’s head and into a prickly blackberry bush.
“AAAAAAAAGH!” screamed the King, his pride as hurt by the fall as his body was by the thorns. As he scrambled out of the bush the prickles tore at his fine clothes until they fell in shreds onto the bush. The King was left standing all alone in his muddy, blackberry-stained underwear. “Where are my servants?” he screamed, but they were nowhere to be seen.
All the King could see was a small old wooden hut. Now, in the small old hut lived a little old lady. She was stirring a small pan of soup with a small wooden spoon on a small fire when she heard the King’s cries.
Stepping outside her small door she saw a terrible sight. The King was unrecognisable, covered from head to toe in mud and with his hair full of brambles.
“My goodness,” said the little old lady, laughing. “It’s a walking bush. You had better come in to get warm”.
The King was too cold to be angry and too tired to speak so he followed the little old lady into her hut. The King had never been anywhere that was so small.
“Sit down,” said the little old lady. “You can use my chair by the fire.” The King sat down and realised that it was the only chair in the room. As he warmed himself by the fire the King began to speak: “Why do you only have one chair in this hut and hardly any belongings?”
“Well,” said the little old lady, “once I lived in a beautiful house with beautiful furniture and a beautiful son but all was taken by the King who wants the best of everything in the land. He even took my white horse but I see that has returned.”
Before the King could speak the little old lady offered him a bowl of the soup that was cooking on the fire. The King was so hungry that he forgot what the little old lady had said and took her only bowl and her only spoon and placed a spoonful of the soup in his mouth.
Except this wasn’t just soup, this was the most beautiful soup the King had ever tasted. It made him feel he was a child again, held in his mother’s loving arms; it made him feel as happy as he had felt when he had played with his childhood friends in the palace gardens; it made the air smell fresher and the sky look bluer and he felt a warmth inside his heart that seemed to make him glow.
“This is wonderful soup, ‘ said the King finishing the last spoonful. “Why does it taste so good?”
“Because,’ said the little old lady, “it is made from the finest ingredients I have and it is made with love and shared with you as Lefi Ganderson, the Goat Boy of Mount Seething taught us.”
“More soup!” he shouted.
“There is no more soup,” said the little old lady. ‘You have eaten all I could make for myself.”
“But I must have more of this soup,” said the King. “It is the best soup in the world.”
“It certainly is,” said the little old lady. “It is soup fit for a King.”
“Well I am the King,” said the King, “and I want more of this soup.”
The little old lady looked at the strange muddy person sitting on her chair and laughed and laughed.
“You – the King!” she said and that started her laughing all over again, so much laughter that her face turned bright red.
The King was so angry at being laughed at that he jumped and smashed her one bowl on the floor, then he broke her one chair and her one table.
“I am the King,’ he shouted, “and I will not stay in this hovel and be laughed at by an old hag,” and with that he stormed out through the little door.
Outside the hut were his servants on their horses carrying his crown and the tattered ribbons of his clothes. They stared at the little muddy man and slowly realized who it was. “Sire?” they said.
“Give me one of your horses!” yelled the King, and with that he pushed one of the servants off his horse and scrambled on to its back. “Burn down this hovel!” he shouted as he rode away. The King really was very angry.
Over the next few weeks the King got grumpier and grumpier. He had the best and finest of everything but he was not happy. He began to think of when he had last felt truly happy and that gave him an idea.
“Bring me the finest chefs in the kingdom!” he bellowed and sat on his throne until they had all arrived.
One hundred and one chefs stood in the Great Hall, frightened and silent, waiting for the King to speak. Finally he stood and spoke.
“You are the finest chefs in the world and I have one simple task for you. You can ask for any ingredient that you want, any cooking utensil you need and any oven or fire you require. All you have to do is make the best soup in the world, a soup fit for a King.”
“It needs to taste so good that, when you drink it, you feel as if you were a child held in your mother’s arms. It needs to make you feel as happy as when you played with your childhood friends. It must make the air smell fresher and the sky look bluer and you must feel a warmth in your heart that seems to make you glow,” said the King. The chefs were very nervous because they had never heard of such a soup.
Soon servants were running around the whole kingdom finding the finest ingredients for the chefs. They wanted caviar and oysters and venison and swans eggs. They wanted truffles and royal jelly and larks’ tongues and artichokes. In fact they wanted every fine ingredient in the whole kingdom.
Finally the time came for the King to try the soups. On the longest table you can ever imagine were one hundred and one golden bowls of soup, each with a silver spoon and a chef standing by. The King went to the first bowl and took a sip. He let out a mighty growl and threw the rest of the dish over the poor chef. After fifty bowls his anger had got much worse, After seventy-five he was as angry as anyone had ever seen him, and by the time he had tasted the one hundredth bowl his face was so red he could hardly speak for the rage inside him.
The King stared at the one hundred and first bowl and picked up the silver spoon. Every servant, chef and courtier held their breath as the King put the spoon in his mouth.
“Noooooooooo,” he screamed, “these are terrible. Where is my soup? Where is the soup fit for a King?”
The King sat back on his throne. No-one dared to speak so they just looked at the floor. The King thought of the soup the old little lady had given him. Just remembering it made him feel better. Then he thought of what he had done to the little old lady. He had eaten all her soup, broken her one chair, her one table and her one bowl, and then he had made his servants burn down her home.
The King did not know what to do. He could send his servants to capture her and drag her to the palace. But he remembered what she had said about making the soup with love and sharing it. Even the King knew that someone who was dragged to the palace would not be able to cook with love and probably wouldn’t feel much like sharing.
Finally the King spoke: “Servants, go to Seething and ask the little old lady from whom you took the great white horse if she would come to the palace and cook for me.”
“Ask?” said one of the servants, not sure if he had heard correctly because the King had never asked for anything.”
“Ask,” said the King and everyone in the Great Hall gasped in amazement.
The next day the little old lady stood in front of the King
The King spoke: “ I want another bowl of the soup that is fit for a King.”
“Well,” said the old lady, “if I am to make it I need some very special ingredients.”
“I have brought you the finest ingredients from throughout my Kingdom,” said the King, pointing to a table piled high with food.
The little old lady walked up and down the table and tutted.
“They are not here, Sire, but don’t worry – I have brought my own. They were planted by me with love, watered with love and tended with love.” With that, she reached into her bag and produced a muddy potato and a small leek.
The King looked at her in horror. “Those are the ingredients that make a soup fit for a King?” he snorted.
“They are,” said the little old lady and then paused “Oh no,” she gasped, “there is one more thing I need to make the soup.”
“Anything,” said the King, “everything in my Kingdom is yours to use.”
“Good,” said the little old lady,” because I need you.”
The courtiers and servants gasped as she took the King’s hand and led him to a table.
“Now,” she said, “ I need you to peel this potato.”
The King stared at her in horror. He could not remember the last time he had done anything like work. The little old lady gave him her little old knife and stared at him. The King realised that if he did not do it she would not make the soup he so wanted to taste again.
The King rolled up his fine silk shirt sleeves and began to peel the potato.
“That’s right dear,” said the little old lady, “and now you can wash and slice up the leek.”
When the King had prepared the vegetables the little old lady helped him place them in a pan with butter and season them with salt and pepper. Then they added water and finally a little cream into the pan.
The King stirred the soup and began to realise that he felt very different inside. Working together with someone to make something special had somehow changed him. After a short while the little old lady mashed the soup, poured it into a beautiful little clay bowl and gave a small carved wooden spoon to the King.
The courtiers and the servants looked on in amazement as the King sat back on his throne, put the wooden spoonful of soup to his lips and closed his eyes. It was the most beautiful soup the King had ever tasted. It made him feel like a child again, it made him feel as happy again and he felt a warmth inside his heart that seemed to make him glow.
“Yes,’” he said, “this is the soup that is fit for a King,”
“Yes,” said the little old lady mimicking the Kings’ voice, “and all made with the very finest leek in the Kingdom and the very best potato in the land,” and she began to laugh.
All the people stared at the King and waited for him to shout.
The King stared at the little old lady and then something strange and wonderful happened. The King began to laugh, but not a laugh like you and I laugh; the sort of laugh you can only have when you haven’t laughed for thirty-one years.
It started low in his body, went up through his legs, through his stomach and through his chest so that by the time it came out of his mouth it was such a loud and happy laugh that no-one could resist laughing as well. As he laughed tears fell from the King’s eyes as he thought of how stupid he had been. You didn’t need the best, the finest and the most beautiful things to make you happy. You just needed things done with love.
From that day forward the King loved his Kingdom and his people. His greatest joy was seeing them happy and he did all he could to make sure they were. And the people did not hate the King anymore; they loved him because he was kind and shared his riches, his land and his heart.
To mark the spot where the miracle had happened at the little old lady’s hut, the King had a giant white horse carved into the hill that could be seen for miles and miles and would make people smile and wonder.
Once a year on a very special day everyone in their own village would celebrate the King’s change of heart. Together they would build a massive table in the village square and then they would prepare and cook leek and potato soup. This would be served from an enormous pan and everyone in the village would share the ‘King’s Soup’, reminding themselves that the best things in life are made with love and shared.
It really is quite amazing what a difference one person can make.
Now, if you want to make soup that is fit for a King here is the ‘little old lady of Seething’s’ recipe.
You will need
1 knob of butter
3 large potatoes which you peel and cut into little cubes
2 medium leeks which you clean and slice
1 small onion which you peel and cut into little cubes
1 litre of water
Salt and pepper
A small cup of double cream
How to make it
Melt the butter in a pan
Add the onions, potatoes and leeks and stir with a wooden spoon for 3 to 4 minutes until they are beginning to soften
Add the water and bring to the boil
Simmer for twenty-two minutes
Season with the salt and pepper
Take off the cooker and mash the soup with a potato masher until is almost smooth
Add the cream and put back onto the cooker until it is hot again
Serve in your favourite bowl and close your eyes and enjoy
But if you really want to have the best taste then why not grow your own potatoes and leeks.
About Lefi Ganderson, the Goat Boy of Mount Seething
When the little old lady says ‘and shared with you as Lefi Ganderson taught us” she is referring to the Goat Boy of Mount Seething who scared away the giant Thamas Deeton and gave the land back to the villagers of Seething. Lefi’s love taught them how to share and be kind to others. You can buy a copy of the Legend of Mount Seething by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
A beautiful little clay bowl and a small carved wooden spoon
When the people of the kingdom saw the beautiful little clay bowl and carved wooden spoon from which the King ate his soup, they all wanted to have them as they were so simple and elegant. From that day some of the villagers of Seething made the bowls and spoons for people to buy and even to this day many, many people go to the area to get their main kitchen supplies.
To buy a copy of The King’s Soup email email@example.com