Excerpt of The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness by Joel ben Izzy
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Prologue: The Beggar King
Ch.1: The Lost Horse
Ch 2: The Cricket Who Jumped to the Moon
Ch 3: Optimism and Pessimism
Ch 4: The Vow of Silence
Ch 5: The Search for Truth
Ch 6: The Border Guard
Ch 7: The Appointment
Ch 8 The Wisdom of Chelm
Ch 9: Buried Treasures
Ch 10: The Strawberry
Ch 11: Hersel's Last Laugh
Ch 12: The Happy Man's Shirt
Ch 13: The Fox in the Garden
Ch 14: The Secret of Happiness
Epilogue: The Beggar King
About The Stories
Let me tell you a tale of long ago, from the old city of Jerusalem, back in the days when Solomon was king. He had reached the height of his power and was known throughout the world for his wisdom. With it, he had brought Jerusalem to a golden age. He was the happiest of men and might well have remained so, had it not been for a strange dream.
It came to him, one sweltering night. In it he saw the door to his chamber open and felt a cool breeze. A moment later, in came his long-dead father, King David. The elder king spoke to his son from the world beyond, telling him of the celestial Jerusalem, identical in every regard to the earthly city, but for a single difference -- in the center of the city stood a magnificent temple.
"And you, my son, must build such a temple." He described the building in great detail, even as to the size and shape of its stones, as Solomon listened in awe. "One last thing, which is most important," added King David. "You must build it using no metal, for metal is used in forging weapons of war, and this is to be a temple of peace."
"But father," asked Solomon, "how am I to cut the stones without using metal?"
His father did not answer, but suddenly vanished, and the dream ended.
The next morning Solomon called his advisers together, recounting the strange dream and announcing his plans to build the temple, just as his father had described. When he told them he wished to cut the stones without metal, they were as mystified as he.
Only one -- Beniah, his most trusted adviser -- offered a suggestion. "Your father once spoke of a tiny worm called the Shamir. Though no larger than a grain of barley, it was said that this worm could split through stone. In fact, this was the worm that had been handed by God to Moses, to carve the Ten Commandments."
"Where would I find this worm?" asked Solomon.
"It has not bee seen for many years, your highness," Beniah paused. "Not since it came to be in the possession of Ashmodai, the King of the Demons."
A hush fell over Solomon's court, for all knew of the power of the demon king. Only Solomon was not afraid. "Very well, then," he said. "I shall summon Ashmodai!"
Solomon looked from their frightened faces to the ring he wore on his right hand. A simple gold band, it had been given to him by his father, and had great powers, for it was inscribed with the secret name of God. Solomon had used this ring to summon demons before, lesser demons. But never had anyone summoned the great King of the Demons, who lived at the far end of the world, where the mountains were made of copper and the sky was made of lead.
Those in the court drew back, as Solomon twisted his ring. Suddenly, a huge ball of fire appeared before him, and when the flames died down, there stood Ashmodai. All were amazed at what they saw, for the demon king stood fully eight feet tall, with glistening blue skin. He had the feet of a chicken, the wings of an eagle, the head of a lizard, and the personality of a jackass.
"Well, well! If it isn't King Solomon!" he said, his voice as slippery as his skin. "The great, the wise, and the powerful! Even so, he is not content with the size of his kingdom, but must intrude upon the realm of darkness as well. Tell me, your highness, why have you summoned me?"
Excerpted from The Beggar King and The Secret of Happiness. Copyright © 2003 by Joel Ben Izzy. Reprinted with the permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.