Hovhannes Tumanian: The Liar

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Translation of story by Hovhannes Tumanian

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.”