The King's Birthmark

A Wolayita Story

Before you read the story

  • What makes a good king or leader?
  • Must a good king or leader be good-looking, like a film star?
  • Can people respect a king or a leader who is not good-looking?

Tej is an alcoholic drink made from honey

Now read the story

Part One

In the old days a king ruled Wolayita. He was wise, and kind to his people, and they loved him.

The king always wore a turban on his head. He never took it off. The turban covered the king's secret. This secret was a birthmark, an ugly mark on his head.

Nobody knew about the birthmark, and the king was ashamed of it.

"Why does our king always wear a turban?" people asked each other, but nobody knew the answer.

One day, the king went to take a bath. He took off his clothes, and took the turban off his head. But he forgot to cover the window of his bathroom.

A man was walking along the road outside. He looked in through the bathroom window and saw the king. And he saw the birthmark on his head.

The man was very surprised.

"I know the king's secret!" he thought. "He has a birthmark on his head!"

He hurried on into the town.

"Listen," he said to his brother. "I know something."

"What do you know?" asked his brother.

"The king has a secret," said the man. "He has a ..."

"Stop! Don't tell me!" cried his brother. "The king's secrets are dangerous. If you tell the king's secrets, his soldiers will take you to the edge of the gorge. They will cut off your head and throw your body down into the gorge."

"Really?" said the man. He looked worried. "But I must tell someone the secret!"

"Yes, but don't tell me," said his brother.

The man tried to tell other people the king's secret, but no one listened. They were all afraid.

The secret grew and grew inside the man.

"I must tell someone," he thought, "or I will go mad!"

At last he had an idea. He ran to the river and dug a hole in the bank. 

Then he put his head down into the hole, and said, very quietly, "The king has a birthmark on his head. The king has a birthmark on his head!"

After that, he filled the hole again, and went home. He felt better. The secret was not inside him now.