The Quiet Queen


Once there was a Quiet Queen. She was so quiet that people could not hear what she said. Everyone loved her, but because they did not know what she said, they just went their own way, doing as they pleased.

The Quiet Queen said in her tiny voice:

“Someone should plant gardens and raise chickens.”

But no one heard her except the mouse that sat on her shoulder.

The older people went right on rocking in their chairs.

The Quiet Queen said in her tiny voice:

“Someone should go to the mountains and open the water gates and let water flow down to us.”

But no one heard her except the mouse that sat on her shoulder.

The men just sat and looked at their fingernails.

The Quiet Queen said in her tiny voice:

“Someone should build a school for the children.”

But no one heard her except the mouse that sat on her shoulder.

The boys and girls just played games or sat and yawned.

The Quiet Queen said in her tiny voice:

“Someone should sew clothes for all the people to wear.”

But no one heard her except the mouse that sat on her shoulder.

All the women just sat and ate and grew fat.

The Quiet Queen said in her tiny voice:

“Someone should clean the streets of the kingdom.”

But no one heard her except the mouse that sat on her shoulder.

The street cleaners just sat around and stared.

And so the wells dried up.

And the food bins were empty.

And the children didn’t learn anything.

And the people’s clothes turned to rags.

And the streets were full of trash.

And it was very quiet in the land of the Quiet Queen.

One day the king of another kingdom rode through the land of the Quiet Queen.

The king was very disgusted. He rode straight up to the queen and told her so.

“I’ve never seen such a mess,” he said. “What is the matter with your kingdom anyway?”

And the Quiet Queen said in her tiny voice:

“I tell my people what to do, but they don’t do it.”

The king whispered,

“What?”

And the Quiet Queen said in her same tiny voice:

“I tell my people what to do, but they don’t do it.”

The king asked louder,

“What?”

And the Quiet Queen said the same thing again in the same tiny voice.

The king asked still louder, “What did you say? I can’t hear you. Speak up!”

So the queen took a big deep breath until her face
turned pink—
and then red—
and then purple—
and she opened her mouth as wide as it would go and shouted:

“I TELL MY PEOPLE WHAT TO DO, BUT THEY DON’T DO IT!”

The mouse was so surprised that he fell off the Quiet Queen’s shoulder.

The people were so surprised that they stopped what they were doing (and what they were not doing) and looked at the Quiet Queen.

The king smiled. “Now, my dear,” he said, “tell us what it is you want to have done. We shall all get together and do it.”

The Quiet Queen stepped forward, and with a loud voice she said:

“SOMEONE SHOULD PLANT GARDENS AND RAISE CHICKENS!”

The older people laid out rows of corn and wheat. They picked pears and peaches. They raised chickens and gathered eggs.

The Quiet Queen stepped forward, and with a loud voice she said:

“SOMEONE SHOULD GO TO THE MOUNTAINS AND OPEN THE WATER GATES AND LET WATER FLOW DOWN TO US!”

The men climbed the mountains. They opened the water gates, and the water flowed down into the valley.

The Quiet Queen stepped forward, and with a loud voice she said:

“SOMEONE SHOULD BUILD A SCHOOL FOR THE CHILDREN!”

The boys and girls started to work on the school. And the king helped.

The Quiet Queen stepped forward, and with a loud voice she said:

“SOMEONE SHOULD SEW CLOTHES FOR ALL THE PEOPLE TO WEAR!”

The women picked up needles and thread and pieces of cloth. They started to sew.

The Quiet Queen stepped forward, and with a loud voice she said:

“SOMEONE SHOULD CLEAN THE STREETS OF THE KINGDOM!”

The street cleaners went to work. They picked up trash. They swept away the dust and cobwebs. It was not quiet in the kingdom anymore.

And while all the old people
and the children
and the men and women
and the street cleaners
worked—they sang!

When they took time out for meals, they played games and danced and laughed.

When they finished their work each day, they sang around the fires in their neat warm little houses.

The Quiet Queen very quietly said to the king:

“Thank you.”

And she sang a song in her tiny voice that only the mouse on her shoulder could hear.

And the king smiled.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch