A fairy tale

By Paulo Coelho

In ancient China, around the year 250 B.C., a certain prince of the region of Thing-Zda was about to be crowned emperor; however, according to the law, he first had to get married.

Since this meant choosing the future empress, the prince needed to find a young woman whom he could trust absolutely. On the advice of a wise man, he decided to summon all the young women of the region in order to find the most worthy candidate.

An old lady, who had served in the palace for many years, heard about the preparations for this gathering and felt very sad, for her daughter nurtured a secret love for the prince.

When the old lady got home, she told her daughter and was horrified to learn that her daughter intended going to the palace.

The old lady was desperate.

‘But, daughter, what on earth will you do there? All the richest and most beautiful girls from the court will be present. It’s a ridiculous idea! I know you must be suffering, but don’t turn that suffering into madness.’

And the daughter replied:

‘My dear mother, I am not suffering and I certainly haven’t gone mad. I know that I won’t be chosen, but it’s my one chance to spend at least a few moments close to the prince, and that makes me happy, even though I know that a quite different fate awaits me.’

That night, when the young woman reached the palace, all the most beautiful girls were indeed there, wearing the most beautiful clothes and the most beautiful jewellery, and prepared to do anything to seize the opportunity on offer.

Surrounded by the members of his court, the prince announced a challenge.

‘I will give each of you a seed. In six months’ time, the young woman who brings me the loveliest flower will be the future empress of China.’

The girl took her seed and planted it in a pot, and since she was not very skilled in the art of gardening, she prepared the soil with great patience and tenderness, for she believed that if the flowers grew as large as her love, then she need not worry about the results.

Three months passed and no shoots had appeared. The young woman tried everything; she consulted farmers and peasants, who showed her the most varied methods of cultivation, but all to no avail. Each day she felt that her dream had moved farther off, although her love was as alive as ever.

At last, the six months were up, and still nothing had grown in her pot. Even though she had nothing to show, she knew how much effort and dedication she had put in during that time, and so she told her mother that she would go back to the palace on the agreed date and at the agreed hour. Inside she knew that this would be her last meeting with her true love and she would not have missed it for the world.

The day of the audience arrived. The girl appeared with her plantless pot, and saw that all the other candidates had achieved wonderful results: each girl bore a flower lovelier than the last, in the most varied forms and colours.

Finally, the longed-for moment came. The prince entered and he studied each of the candidates with great care and attention. Having inspected them all, he announced the result and chose the servant’s daughter as his new wife.

All the other girls present began to protest, saying that he had chosen the only one of them who had not managed to grow anything at all.

Then the prince calmly explained the reasoning behind the challenge:

‘This young woman was the only one who cultivated the flower that made her worthy of becoming the empress: the flower of honesty. All the seeds I handed out were sterile, and nothing could ever have grown from them.’

(Adapted from a story sent in by Maria Emilia Voss)

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  1. eleonora says:

    evviva l’onesta’,paga con ritardo ma forse ne è valsa la pena.felice di continuare a sognare.Lo sperare in qualcosa di buono,non fa parte del non essere cresciuti,quanto il non rinunciare a credere quando tutto punta a scoraggiarti.

  2. nice says:

    wonderful story…it was really a pleasure to read this story…like it very much!



  3. Metin2 says:

    wonderfull! :-)

  4. dhanya says:

    Hey Paulo,

    I love reading your books.. I have bght most of them.

    This story is so beautiful. Just makes me feel that it’s hard to find a soulmate, someone who you can trust and live your life with. And if you find your soulmate, dont let go… :)

  5. seo says:

    güzel paylasım

  6. Carolena says:

    Wow… what a Lovely story!! Thing-Zda was a smart Prince!
    Thank you Mr. Coelho for sharing this lovely story!

  7. Violeta says:

    I heard this story when I was a child. Thank you!

  8. nho(spain) says:

    Siempre tener que eludir las mentiras, …
    Me encanta la historia, me parece triste que todas aquellas mujeres no fueran sinceras, menos mal que el amor fue quien gano.

  9. soha says:

    The easygoing style that looks apparently straightforward,hide between the lines,
    the allegories that penetrate the readers’ hearts…
    too pensive thoughts that appeal to thousands of readers

  10. jihene says:

    Simply wonderful!!
    I grow fonder of you with every line I read.
    You are phenomenal Mr. Coelho, no kidding.

  11. Moumita says:

    But while this story is about honesty, I feel it is also about loving and expecting nothing in return.

  12. mike says:

    ha ha ha i remember this story when i was a child. my mother told it to me but i loved how it ended up. that was smart of the prince.

  13. Duvar Kagidi says:

    est il availible en Francais, my English not good

  14. Josephine in Brussels says:

    wonderfull! :-)

  15. raj says:

    Patience and honesty always bring good luck..

  16. chieko says:

    True love enables you to find the best thing on this world.

    Thank you for sharing the story.


  17. tom says:

    I had heard this story from an old teacher of mine, she used to tell the most wonderful stories, I thank you for reminding me of my wonderful mentor and friend.

  18. Wendy Espinoza says:

    love is all about honesty and trust, without this two elements love would never fully develope it will die in an early stage

  19. Yajna says:

    Honesty is the best policy.
    If you don’t want to tell the truth, you rather refrain from saying anything. I find if we start to lie, we ourselves become that lie. From the smallest of things to the biggest of things, dishonesty ruins relationships and breaks trust simply because we start to doubt that person. And really, can you really call someone a friend or a lover or even family if you can’t trust them? i know i can’t. The least that anyone can give is honesty, and from it blooms many other emotions, especially love. After all, if there is no truth, how can their possibly be love?

    Thank you for being

  20. Monika says:

    I can’t help, but I think the prince is a little bit nasty.

  21. JX says:

    Indeed a very true and wonderful story, I had hear it before but in a more modern setting with different characters, but I think I prefer this one.

    Thanks for sharing.

  22. Karen says:

    I AGREE once again with Agnieszka!:)

  23. Karen says:

    Honesty doesn’t win you too many friends… but it will win you a few GOOD people. I would rather have a hand full of GOOD people than an army full of fakes:) I’ve been freely living on my own since I graduated college. When you experience the real world, that’s when you discover what lifes all about. Before that you simply only think you do. Recalling a meeting at my last job…I was 25, the youngest in the company. My boss was discussing something or other at the time… then he states, “I was only 25, I didn’t know anything.” I thought to myself,”How rude, I know a lot.” A year later I read an article explaining how a person experiences the most growth between ages 26-28. Still I pondered. How could that be, I have my job, home, friends, … What could change? How much more growing could I possibly do? THEN at 27 I discovered (EVEN more “life experience”)during times of struggle, divorce, death, illness, job loss, (those make the list of the top stressors/greatest life changes) that’s when you really find out what life is all about. Before that, “I didn’t know anything.”
    NOW, at 28 I have an entirely different outlook on life. Honesty, I’ve found to be few and far between the people I once knew. It took me 28 years in life to realise not everyone has your best intentions in mind & most people ONLY care about themselves. Honesty likes honesty. Fake likes fake. Good with good. Bad with bad. “You get what you deserve.” No more or no less.
    Ok, so maybe I’ve known this all along it’s just taken me 28 years accept it:)
    The friends I have are HONEST, good, respectful, sincere, caring, & reliable. And that has made all the difference :) Your life is your tale, yourfriends your characters. Choose them wisely.
    As far as the prince goes… It takes a “GOOD Guy” to appreciate, respect, and love an honest girl. REAL princes are GOOD GUYS, the others fakes for show ;) Believe me after 28 years, “YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.”:D
    Here to the story of the REAL prince:)

  24. Fabio says:

    Not to get the results we except doesn’t mean failure. And honesty can do us so much good. There are times in life we get ashamed or even insecure and tell a lie instead of telling the truth. Doing that is to fail. I think honesty is the key for a good life, for good results, no matter what.

  25. agnieszka says:

    Dear Paulo,

    I know this story from one of Your books and… I love it.
    It’s about honesty, about the truth, quality that is so rare in life.
    It is so hard to live when you don’t know who to trust.
    Many people just love to lie, they’re so attached to it.
    I always wander why?
    It is so easy to tell the truth, you don’t have to think of complicated answers, alternatives, you don’t have to prepare yourself for anything, it is that simple.
    I know there are lies and lies, some of them are little, not important, they maybe don’t count, but other…
    For me, someone who lies, it’s not worth to be a friend, or more.
    You cannot trust him/her, ever.
    How can you?
    The relationship based on lie?
    It won’t last long.
    It cannot be beautiful, pure.
    Love is pure, love doesn’t lie.
    Brave, good people don’t lie, I believe.
    They are not afraid, and even if they are, they face it.
    Life would be much simpler, nicer if everybody would at least try.
    Do we have courage?
    Are we weak?
    Where is the end of lies?