The Harpist and the Princess
Once upon a time in the beautiful city of Mandalay lived a young orphan boy. His name was Thi Hah. He was very poor and often had to go without food. He had one passion in life, and that was playing the harp. The Burmese harp resembles a long tailed boat with a thick bottom and its end tapersto a fine delicate end very like the sails of a boat.
Thi Hah loved to play, for when he played, he would forget he was hungry or that there was nobody in the world to love him. But unknown to the orphan boy, the birds and anmals would listen with rapt attention.
His music was carried by the wind and people would stop what they were doing to listen to his music. Everyone in Mandalay said there was no one who could play the harp as well as Thi Hah..
Jealous ofThi Hah's growing fame, a magician The Shwe, who wanted his son to become a famous harpist, cast an evil spell on Thi Hah. His skin became grey and full of sores. The magician made only one concession, Thi Hah he said, would be miraculously cured if a princess called him her Maestro.
As the disease spread to his fingers Thi Hah left the village in shame and started living in a forest. There he would play his harp and console himself. And whenhe played, he would forget all his worries and feel at peace.
One day, a beautiful princess named Yi Yi and her friends came out for a hunt and camped in the forest. That night as they sat around their fire they heard the beautiful sounds of the harp.
Everyone was mesmerised by the melodious sound but they could not see the harpist.Mystified, the princess ordered her soldiers to find the person who played such soul stirring music. The soldiers set off on horseback and combed the forest thoroughly.
Finally, they came across Thi Hah sitting on a sandy mound, playing in utter abandonment. When he stopped playing, the guard approached him.
Thi Hah tried to pull on his robes to hide his ugliness. In the bright moonlight, the guard captain saw the sores on Thi Hah's body and stepped back to put some distance between them.
"The princess calls for you, " he told Thi Hah.
"I can't go before her like this." The captain nodded.
"We can help you cover yourself completely with a robe, but the princess must be obeyed."
The Harpist and the Princess [Folktales for kids]
Retold by Madhu Gurung; Illustrations by Anup Singh
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