Once there was a king. His best friend was a commoner, a man who was the son of one of the royal housekeepers. They were of an age, and had grown up playing together in the palace gardens.
As they grew older, the king found himself more and more impressed with his friend’s ability to always see the good in any bad situation. No matter what terrible thing happened to his friend, the first words out of his mouth were always, “This is good,” followed by an explanation of his positive outlook.
For instance, when his friend’s childhood sweetheart spurned him for another chap, he insisted, “This is good! Better she leave me now than after we’ve married and had children!” And when his horse came to a sudden halt in the middle of the road and threw him, rather than whipping his horse as the king would have done, he said, “This is good! Look at that hole in the road before us! If he had stepped in that he would have surely broken his leg. I’d rather be a bit bruised up than have to put down my only steed!”
One day the king and his friend were out hunting. As usual, his friend was carrying both of their rifles. (After all, they were friends, but the king was still the king.) When the king spotted some game he motioned for his gun. His friend fumbled while handing it to him and somehow managed to discharge the weapon, accidentally shooting off the king’s right thumb.
“Aaaaah!!! The king yelled. “You’ve shot off my thumb!!”
“This is good!” his friend began, but before he could continue, the incensed king struck him with his non-mangled hand and shouted for him to be silent. That he didn’t want to hear another word about how him losing his thumb could possibly be a positive thing. His anger at his friend was so great, in fact, that he had him thrown in the castle dungeon.
Many years passed, and the king’s heart remained hard against his friend. Every time he fumbled his fork or his pen, he seethed at his friend’s impertinence and he refused to even consider letting him go free.
He did not lose his love of hunting, however, and he was excited to hear of a group of hunters that were planning an expedition to faraway lands to find exotic game to bring home as trophies. He requested to join their party, and seeing as he was their king, they couldn’t exactly say no, although privately they were concerned. You see, the king had grown rather indolent and fat over the years, as he was used to being waited on hand and foot, and they weren’t sure that he would be able to keep up over the rough terrain.
Once they arrived in the faraway jungles, they were pleasantly surprised by the king’s stamina. He couldn’t move as quickly as the rest of them, but his enthusiasm never flagged and they matched their pace to his.
They had been there for several days, and had managed to bag several large and wondrous creatures that none of them had ever heard of before when they were ambushed by a tribe of cannibals. Most of the team were able to quickly escape, but the fat, slow king was captured.
The cannibals had never seen a man so fat, and were gleeful in anticipation of their feast. They built up a huge fire and began to heat water in an enormous cauldron in order to boil the king alive. The chieftain heard the celebrations and came out to size up their prize. Desperate, the terrified king clasped his hands together and pleaded for his life.
The chieftain noticed something odd. He grabbed the king’s right hand and held it this way and that, examining the scarred stump where his thumb once was. He then frowned and made motions for the king to be released, for their tribe had longstanding traditions against eating anything or anyone who wasn’t whole.
The king stumbled back to the expedition campsite and everyone rejoiced to see him miraculously alive. They packed up quickly and returned home. On the long journey, the king did a lot of thinking about what had happened.
When he arrived back at the castle, the very first thing the king did was to go down to the dungeon to see his old friend. He threw open the cell door and threw himself at his friend’s feet, weeping. He recounted the whole tale, ending with, “You were right all along! It was good that you shot off my thumb! Oh my friend, how can you forgive me?”
And his friend replied, “There’s nothing to forgive! This is good!”
The king was astonished and asked, “How could this be good? I’ve kept you unjustly imprisoned for all these years!”
“Because if I hadn’t been in prison, I would have been with you, my king. And when the rest of the hunting party fled, I would have stayed with you, my friend. And I have both my thumbs!”