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Anecdotes that resonate - 1: The Woodcutter and the King

The cabinet ministers and others realized that the woodcutter had become a power unto himself and his misdeeds would cause serious problems but none had the courage to bring this to the King’s notice.

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Once upon a time there lived a powerful king who was fond of hunting in the dense forests in his kingdom.

During one hunting trip the king got separated from the rest of the group and for many days he wandered alone through the forest trying to find his way out. During this period his horse had died, his hair and beard had grown, his clothes were tattered and he had lost a lot of weight subsisting on berries and fruits. 

As the King pushed his way through the heavy under growth he failed to notice a leopard that was stalking him from atop a tree. And the leopard, so focused on its prey, failed to see the passing woodcutter looking at what was unfolding. Just as the leopard made his leap, the woodcutter threw his axe and killed the animal. 

A grateful king thanked the woodcutter and informed him that he was really the ‘King’ and promised him a large reward once he was back in his palace. The woodcutter was certain that this was a poor mentally deranged person, and taking pity on him, he fed him and showed him the way out of the forest.

A few days later as the king’s entourage passed by the forest, the woodcutter was shocked to see that the man he had saved was really the king. He ran towards the king’s horse, when the guards caught him and rudely thrust him on the ground. The king saw this, strongly admonished his guards and asked for the woodcutter to be brought forth.

“Thank God I finally found you,” said the King.

“ I too am so glad I found you your highness,” said the woodcutter.

“ Ask what you want and you shall have it,” said the King.

“ Please allow me to whisper in your ears about that,” said the woodcutter.

The King bent his head down, while continuing to sit on his horse, and the woodcutter stood on his toes trying to speak into the king’s ear. The Commander of the guards and his men stood at a distance and looked at the unfolding scene with amusement.

“ I really do not need anything, but sometimes I feel very bored and have the need to talk with someone,” whispered the woodcutter.

“ Then come and talk with me whenever you want,” replied the King, keeping his voice low. 

“ That’s so wonderful, Sir. Please inform your guards that when ever I come to the palace I must be allowed to meet you,” said the woodcutter.

The King immediately issued appropriate orders to his commander and the woodcutter waved at the king and returned back into the forest.

A month later the woodcutter appeared at the gates of the palace asking to meet the King. The guards recognized him and informed their commander at once.  The King, who was in an important meeting with his cabinet members, was informed and the woodcutter was immediately called in. 

The cabinet members were taken aback to see the poor woodcutter being accompanied into the chamber and really confused seeing the king receive him right away.

The woodcutter went right up to the kings throne and started whispering in his ear.

“ Thank you for seeing me Sir. I just wanted to let you know that eggs of many pigeons and other birds have hatched well. The figs are ripening and the trees are full of chirping birds. I feel so happy,” said the woodcutter.

“ I am so happy for you,” said the King.

“ I will come back soon and inform you about the progress,” said the woodcutter and bid farewell. 

The cabinet members looked at each other convinced that the woodcutter enjoyed a privileged relationship with the King.

Over the next six months the woodcutter visited the palace a number of times and the same scene was repeated on each occasion.

Soon the woodcutter’s influence grew and he wielded lots of power and grew very wealthy. 

The cabinet ministers and others realized that the woodcutter had become a power unto himself and his misdeeds would cause serious problems but none had the courage to bring this to the King’s notice.

Moral of the story: Many corporations have their share of woodcutters who draw their power and influence from their (perceived) proximity to the top management. 

The sooner they are identified and marginalized, the better for the company and its future.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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cabinet ministers anecdotes magazine 19 Feb 2021

Jayaram Easwaran

Author, Consultant, and Independent Board Director at Jindal Stainless

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