The fisherman and the emperor

- through Henry Oudin

Published on

Or how to persevere to fill your net.

Li Luang was born into a fishing family by the big water. As far as those of his family could remember, the men of his blood had always cast the nets and soaked the traps from the frail boats in the morning. They were fishermen from father to son as surely as apricot trees make apricots, or wild cats hissing kittens. But there you are, the man was quite hideous, very small in stature, with grim and muggy eyes, his mouth often split with a toothless and nauseous laugh, his unsightly body bent like a young pine tree in the wind and his fingers twisted like branches of bad vines. He was not known to have a wife or friend, but very often he was seen sitting calmly by the side of the road or facing the waves of the ocean, his long, greasy, undone hair falling freely, his unkempt beard and his eyes and face strangely calm. We knew a friend of his, an old Taoist hermit lurking in a cave in the mountains, but for the rest, the man seemed quite alone and be content with it. Of a solitary nature, he nevertheless liked to mix his laughter and his singular silhouette with evenings, celebrations and parties.

Li Luang told anyone who would listen that he would end up hooking a large fish with his magic needle.

For years, the fisherman entertained the evenings of the surrounding villages with tales, prodigious tales of incredible catches, rides of white dolphins and giant turtles, crazy equipped on flying fish. An inspired storyteller, he rolled his enormous eyes and had a knack for making inner images more vivid than real things, when he opened his mouth and animated his calloused and misshapen arms and hands, even the wind, even the birds, everything seemed shut up and listen to him. He willingly recounted impossible journeys to distant lands under the vault of waters in the deepest depths of the sea: according to him, for those who took the trouble to descend there, unheard-of kingdoms stretched out in black secret and thick deep beds. Treasures galore were strewn across the sands and corals.

The boastful fisherman and his magic needle

Everyone was willingly won over by these stories, but once the enchantment was dissipated and their eyes were removed from the dream, no one believed them. How can you trust a man who brags and brags that he's been fishing happily with a long hook needle? How could this storyteller claim to hook beautiful silverfish, flounder and sole? His tales certainly amused, but the ears of some and the eyes of others turned away from him when he began to praise his art and his talent as a needle fisherman. Intrigued by this story, some ventured to question him and he used to give them this answer: with a curved and well forked hook, one can certainly catch beautiful fish, but this is only very ordinary, bland fish. and smelly. The real, the big fish, the exceptional prey with the exquisite, pearly and delicious flesh, can only be caught thanks to this needle and it would bring them the proof. At these words, passers-by put their patience away and packed up, the fisherman certainly boasted and spoke well, but his hands and his bag were empty. Promises, that was the only miracle of which this ugly, talkative dwarf was capable. Li Luang told his tales for forty years, told his story and promised anyone who would listen that he would end up hooking a large fish with his magic needle.

The Emperor was then living in the Crimson City, not far from the Temple of the Morning Calm, and the story of this boastful fisherman came to his ears. He ordered the poor madman to be summoned to the palace to hear him and distract himself from his tales. Such is the life of the powerful: idleness and laziness, arrogance and power intoxicate and bore them, surrounded only by interested and servile affection, stuffed with sweets by rancid courtiers, caressed by expert courtesans and lascivious ephebes, they grow weary , lose the measure of all amazement and set themselves on the lookout for what can bring them out of their satisfied torpor. Seeing the twisted old fisherman, clad in roughly sewn rags and covered in filth appear before him, the Emperor was already quite distracted. While two soldiers forced the poor wretch to prostrate himself face against marble in front of the Son of Heaven, the latter mockingly launched: "I have been told a very surprising prodigy: you seem to be telling and shouting on all the rooftops that you hope to fish , some day, a marvelous fish thanks to a needle, but what exactly are you going to catch with such a hook, poor fool? ". Li Luang raised his head and defying the prohibition to contemplate the face of the monarch with his eyes of flesh, he replied: "Yourself, Your Majesty".

photo of author

Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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