The Prince and the Octopus
© Copyright 2022
Once upon a time there was a lovely kingdom ruled by a benevolent king and queen.
One day they called their only son before them in the royal meeting chamber and said: "We're getting ready to retire, and we want to turn the crown over to you. But before we do, we'd like you to have a princess by your side. Not only will she become queen, but that'll improve our chances of having grandchildren."
The prince replied: "That's great, mom and dad. I understand where you're coming from, and I'm on board with it. I'll start looking around for a suitable princess who can become queen when I become king."
With that, the prince embarked on a journey throughout the kingdom to find a suitable princess. He looked high. He looked low. He looked to the north. He looked to the south. He looked all around. But nowhere did he find a suitable princess.
However, he did come upon an octopus who took his fancy. She was smart and capable, wise and fair, knowledgeable and experienced. He began hanging out with the octopus and took her everywhere. After completing his journey and coming up empty as far as a princess was concerned, he returned home to the castle. He brought the octopus with him.
His parents were appalled at their son's relationship with the octopus. Once again they called the prince before them in the royal meeting chamber, and spoke honestly of their concerns:
"She can't come to the royal balls," they told him. "She doesn't look like anyone else we know. We can't hold a conversation with her. Most important, with her the outlook for grandchildren is very small."
The prince thought about all that for a very long time. Then he replied.
"Too bad," he told them. "I searched the whole kingdom and she's the best companion for me that I found. Would you rather I be with someone less smart and capable, less wise and fair, less knowledgeable and experienced?"
"Well," said the king and queen, "someone like that might be able to give us grandchildren."
Without a word, the prince turned on his heel and left the royal meeting chamber. He took the octopus and left the castle. He set up housekeeping in one of his royal residences on the other side of the kingdom. With the advice and guidance of the octopus, the prince became a better person: wiser, more empathic, and a lot more benevolent. The prince and the octopus were very happy together, on the surface. But there were problems.
The king and queen, distraught at the apparent loss of their son, postponed their retirement. The prince missed his family, and he missed the companionship of a real woman. But he couldn't give up the pleasures of his octopus: her jokes, her perceptions, her understanding of the world and how to behave in it. The octopus saw this, understood the prince's complex feelings, and grieved.
One day, the octopus decided to address his underlying sadness.
"What's the problem, honey?" she asked him.
He told her, frankly.
"I love you very much," he assured her, "but I'm a human, and I would be more comfortable with a human companion. I want to marry you and make you queen. My parents would like to retire and have grandchildren. None of that is possible because you are an octopus."
The octopus laughed happily.
“Why are you laughing at our problem?” asked the prince, sadder than ever. “We cannot be truly happy together. I am a human, and you are an octopus.”
"But I'm not an octopus," she told him. "I'm a creature of the universe, and I can change my appearance. How would you like me to look?"
The prince took her out for a walk and talked about each of the people they met.
"I don't want you to change at all on the inside," he told her. "But on the outside, I like the eyes of this one, the hair of that one. There's an infectious laugh I like. Look at the love and inner peacefulness in that smile."
They went through the whole kingdom and the prince spoke honestly about his preferences, likes, and dislikes. The octopus took it all in. Eventually they returned home and resumed their normal life.
A week later, the prince woke up and instead of the octopus he saw the woman of his dreams. He laughed and cried. So did this new woman. Within a week, they were married. Within a month, they moved back into the palace. Within a year, the king and queen had a happy, healthy grandchild.
The king and queen quickly retired and began spending most of their time playing with their new grandchild. The octopus, now a wonderful woman and newly crowned queen, spent a lot of time teaching her husband, now the king, how to be in the world. She taught him that he, too, was a creature of the universe, and that he could change just as she had.
On the morning of their first anniversary, the new queen woke up and saw the new king had changed into the man of her dreams. He was looking at her with admiration and love. They immediately embraced, and promised each other to work at being the best they could be for the rest of their lives.
Together, they ruled the lovely kingdom better than anyone ever had before. They took care of the land and every living thing on it. They also took care of the rivers, lakes, and the ocean, as well as every living thing in the waters.
To no one’s surprise, they all lived happily ever after.