The Curious Kingdom


Once there was a small kingdom that was known far and wide as the Curious Kingdom. It was curious because all the people who lived there did nothing but call each other silly names.

“Camel’s Cabob!” yelled the baker to the woodcutter.

“Nimble Nit!” returned the woodcutter to the baker.

Because it took all day to think up new names that had never been used before, there was no time for the baker to bake bread or the seamstress to sew clothes or the woodcutter to cut wood. Children had no time to play, mothers didn’t churn butter, and fathers failed to plow the fields.

Instead, everyone sat around with pencil and paper, switching words here and fitting letters there. They could be heard calling names in the stores, in the streets, on the rooftops, and in the meadows. The names became more curious and the shouting more unbearable every day.

King Mossoloss tried to think of some way to stop the name-calling. First he sent out a royal edict forbidding any new names to be called, but the people were too busy yelling “Pickled Prune!” and “Gibbledy Gibber!” and “Purple Periwink!” to hear the edict.

Then the king tried locking people in the dungeon if they dared to call each other names, but it soon became so crowded there that the dungeon walls bulged on every side. After all, there was not enough room for an entire kingdom in one dungeon!

Try as he might, poor King Mossoloss could not stop his people from calling each other names, and before long the shouting became so loud that he was forced to plug his ears with cotton.

“If the baker will not bake bread,” the king said, “we will soon have nothing to eat. If the seamstress will not sew, we will soon have no clothes to wear. If the woodcutter will not cut wood, we will soon have no fires to keep us warm. This is indeed awful!”

One day a weary traveler stopped to get a cool drink of water from the well outside the Curious Kingdom. He was startled to hear all the noise from within.

“Why are the people in such an uproar?” he asked the king, who was pacing back and forth in front of the gate.

The king still had his ears plugged so he asked the stranger to speak louder.

“Why are the people in such an uproar?” the traveler asked again.

“They have been calling each other names for so long that they can’t even remember why they started. They are so busy thinking up new names that the baker does not bake bread, the seamstress does not sew clothes, and the woodcutter does not cut wood. If they do not stop, we shall all perish!”

“Even though I am just a poor weaver and a stranger, I think I know a way to make your people stop calling each other names,” the traveler said.

“If you can help me,” said the king, “I will give you all the silk thread and gold yarn in the Curious Kingdom and the finest loom on which to weave.”

“I need only a small wooden loom,” replied the weaver. “With that I can weave you the most beautiful robes your eyes have ever beheld!”

The weaver then pulled from his satchel a bottle of fine white powder. “This powder was given to me by an old woman with whom I shared my last meal,” he said. “Whoever smells the powder will sneeze and sneeze until someone says, ‘Illy, quilly, lampampilly.’ Now fetch me a sheep and we shall see what we shall see.”

A sheep was brought immediately, and the weaver sprinkled the strange powder onto its wool. Then the king and the weaver pinched their noses shut, and off they went through the streets leading the sheep behind them.

At once the people began to sneeze.

“Achoo!” said the baker, who was right in the middle of calling, “Lumpy Loon!”

“Achoo!” said the seamstress, who really meant to say “Globber Gob!”

“Achoo!” said the woodcutter, who was about to say, “Growling Grunch!”

Soon the only sound to be heard in the Curious Kingdom was “Achoo!” King Mossoloss thought it was such a pleasant change from the terrible name-calling that he sat down on the steps of his castle and smiled as he listened.

The people of the Curious Kingdom had a difficult time catching their breath between sneezes. At last they could stand it no longer, and all of them gathered together before the king.

“Good King Moss—Achoo!—oloss—Achoo!—you must know the way—Achoo!—to stop—Achoo!—this horrible curse—Achoo!”

King Mossoloss answered, “If you will all promise that there will be no more name-calling and that you will return to your work, I will help you.”

“We prom—Achoo!—ise! We give—Achoo!—our word!” they sneezed.

All eyes were on the king as he rose slowly from his royal throne. He looked at the anxious faces of his people and then said nobly in a deep voice, “Illy, quilly, lampampilly!”

Suddenly it was so quiet that everyone could hear the patter of mice feet on the court floor.

The people of the Curious Kingdom were so happy that they began to dance and sing, “Three cheers for King Mossoloss! Three cheers for our king!”

Soon the baker began to bake bread again, the seamstress commenced to sew clothes, and the woodcutter’s ax could be heard chopping away in the forest. Children played together once more, mothers churned butter, and fathers plowed the fields. It was a peaceful kingdom at last!

King Mossoloss gave the weaver the largest room in the palace and stacked it to the ceiling with silk thread and gold yarn. And the weaver happily wove for the king the most beautiful royal robes that anyone had ever beheld.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Len Epstein