Week 3 ‘The king has donkeys ears’ sang the willow tree – an Irish Story

week 3 Willows on Xiaojie qiao , oil on canvas 120 x 100cm 倪芙瑞莲Niamh Cunningham 2012


Week 3 – The king has donkey’s ears

One day , the kings messenger called at the home of a widow.

“ The King has a special job for your son ,  he must come to see the king tomorrow” she was told.

The woman was very worried. Once a year the king summoned a
barber to cut his hair. But no barber ever returned after his visit to the king.
The widow’s son was a barber.

No one knew that the king had a terrible secret. He had very strange ears which actually  looked like ears of a donkey.  To hide them he needed to have a special haircut . Every barber who cut the king’s hair had been put to death immediately so that he could never reveal the kings terrible secret.

The woman went to plead with the king “My son is all I have in the world , please do not kill my son.” The king was very sorry for the woman . “ I will spare his life once he promises never to tell any living person about anything he sees inside my castle . Next day the son arrived to cut the kings hair. He knew his life depended on keeping the secret and he said nothing.

But the boy could not sleep or eat and the mother was concerned for her son. She went to the local druid to seek advice. “ He has promised not to tell any living person his secret but unless he tells it he will not get better. If he goes to the river and finds the tall willow tree . He can whisper his secret to the leaves, the promise will not be broken because he will not have told any living person. “

The boy did what he was told, went to the tree and told his
secret, immediately the burden was lifted from his shoulders.

A week later the kings harpist went to cut some wood for a new harp.  A few days later at a banquet for the King and other chieftains a strange music came from the harp. “The King the King , has donkey’s ears, has donkey’s ears.” it sang.

The secret was revealed. The king looked about him terrified, but when saw that no one was afraid of him or laughed at him he knew he would never have to hide his donkey’s ears ever again.

Story retold by Boiler  from Brisbane. He claims that this story originated from my home town of Carlow,  Ireland. A  river runs through it  called the Barrow.

photo courtesy of Wan Liu Property Showrooms and Peking Art Associates

Memory Palace of Trees is an ecological art practice which invites your participating to tell a story (or give some kind of information) about Trees. It is a social enquiry of how to live better with the planet and with people. You are cordially invited to tell me your story of a tree or trees. (email : niamh@niamhcunningham.com) I would love to hear from you . Each week throughout 2020 a story will be posted with either an artwork already made or perhaps your story will inspire me to make a new work!