Hovhannes Tumanian: The Liar

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ONCE UPON A TIME there lived a king. This king announced throughout the land: “I shall give half my kingdom to the man who can tell a lie that I admit to be a lie.” A shepherd came and said, “Long May Your Majesty Reign! My father had a cudgel which he used to reach out from here and stir the stars in the sky. “That’s possible,” answered the King. “My grandfather had a pipe. He used to put one end of it in his mouth and stretch the other up to the sun to light it.” The man went out scratching his head. A tailor came and said, “I am sorry, O King, to have come so late. I had intended to come earlier. But there was a heavy storm yesterday, and lightning rent the sky. I’ve been patching it up.” “Oh, very commendable,” said the King, “but you haven’t patched it very well, for it rained a little again this morning. This man also went away empty-handed. A peasant came in with a bag on his shoulder. “What do you want, my good man?” asked the King. “You owe me a bag of gold. I have come for it.” “A bag of gold!” exclaimed the King astonished. “That s a lie. I do not owe you anything.” “All right. It is a lie. Then give me half your kingdom.” “No, no. You’re quite right. It’s not a lie,” the king tried to correct himself. “So I am telling the truth. Then give me the bag of gold.”