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From Shepherd-boy To King

from Jewish Fairy Tales And Legends





On a desolate plain, a little shepherd-boy stood alone. His day's work
was over and he had wandered through field and forest listening to the
twittering of the birds and the soft sound of the summer breezes as
they gently swayed the branches of the trees. He seemed to understand
what the birds were saying, and the murmuring of the brook that wound
its way through the forest was like a message of Nature to him. Sweet
sounds were always in his ears, his heart was ever singing, for the
shepherd-boy was a poet. At times he would turn around sharply,
thinking he had heard some one calling. One day he was quite startled.

"David, David," he thought he heard a voice calling, "thou shalt be
King of Israel."

But he could see nothing, except the trees and the flowers, and so he
left the forest and stood in the desolate plain. In the distance he
saw a very high hill and as he approached nearer he noticed on the
summit a tall tree, without branches or leaves. With great difficulty
he climbed the hill. It was quite smooth, bare of vegetation and
without rocks, and little David noticed that it gave forth none of
those sweet sounds like music that came from other hills.

The summit gained, he looked at the tree in wonderment. It was not of
wood, but of horn.

"'Tis strange," said the boy. "This must be a magic mountain. No tree,
or flower, or shrub, can grow in this barren earth."

He tried to dig a clod of earth out of the ground, but could not do
so, even with his knife, for the ground was as hard as if covered with
tough hide.

David was greatly puzzled, but, being a boy of courage, he did not
begin to run down the mountain.

"I wonder what will happen if I stay here," he said, and he seated
himself at the foot of the mysterious horn that grew at the summit and
looked about him.

Then he noticed a most peculiar thing. The ground was rising and
falling in places as if moved by some power beneath. Listening
intently, he also heard a curious rumbling noise, and then a
loud-sounding swish. At the same time he saw something rising from
the other end of the mountain and whirl through the air.

"That is just like a tail," exclaimed David in surprise.

The next minute he had to cling with all his might to the horn, for
the whole mountain was moving. It was rising, and soon David was quite
near the clouds. The earth was a great distance away, and, judging by
a tremendous shadow cast by the sun, David could see that he was
clinging to the horn of a gigantic animal.

"I know what it is now," he said. "This is not a mountain, but a
unicorn. The monster must have been lying asleep when I mistook it for
a hill."

David began to puzzle his brain as to a means of getting down from his
perilous perch.

"I must wait," he said, "until the animal feeds. He will surely lower
his head to the ground then and I will slip off."

But a new terror awaited him. The roar of a lion was heard in the
distance, and David found that he could understand it.

"Bow to me, for I am king of the beasts," the lion roared.

The lion, however, was so small compared with the unicorn that David
could scarcely see it. The unicorn, as soon as it heard the command,
began to lower its head, and soon David was enabled to slip to the
ground. To his alarm he found himself just in front of the lion. The
king of the beasts stood before him with blazing eyes, lashing its
sides with his tail. David lost not a moment. Drawing his knife from
his belt, the brave boy advanced boldly toward the lion.

Just then a sound attracted the attention of both the boy and the
beast. It was a deer.

"I will save thee, boy," it cried. "Mount my back and trust to my
speed."

Before the lion could recover from its surprise, David had sprung on
to the back of the deer which started to run at lightning speed. David
clung tightly to its back. Behind him a fierce roar indicated that the
lion was in pursuit. Across the desolate plain and through the forest
the chase continued, and when David came within sight of human
habitations again, the deer stopped.

"Thou art safe now," the deer said to him. "Thou art to become king,
and my command was to save thee. Fear not, I will lead the lion
astray."

David thanked the deer that had so gallantly saved his life, and as
soon as he had slid from its back it dashed off again, faster than
ever with the lion still in pursuit. Soon both were out of sight.

David sang light-heartedly as he returned to his humble home and years
afterward, when he was king of Israel and remembered his escape, he
put the words of his song into one of his Psalms.





Next: The Magic Palace

Previous: The Story Of Bostanai



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