Fiction

The Happy Cobbler

By: Ken Kapp

Image Credit: Hannah Pauc

            A long time ago in a small Carpathian village there lived two cobblers, Davut and Radut. They were cousins and had been taught their trade by an uncle who had no sons of his own. Both made wonderful leather boots and shoes, and, since people never seem to run out of feet, they were never without work. And while they were not rich, they never lacked for their needs.

            Davut would say to Radut, “You know, we have everything a man needs except a wife.” And Radut, whose name means joyful, would reply, “Yes, but do you make two left shoes?” To which Davut would answer, “I could, but then you’d have to make two right shoes so if one of us finds a wife, then perhaps we should share. And that way she will not weary of either of us nor us of her.” They liked thinking about the jumble of their shoes being found under the same bed and since their shops were right across from each other on the town square, one hung two right shoes above his door and the other two left shoes. When people asked, they explained their joke and recited together, “The best thing would be for us to find twins.”

            Wealthy people would come from far away to be fitted by the two cobblers. Word got back to a Duke who had terrible bunions. He sent a messenger with a challenge. “I hate being fitted for boots and while I’m sure either of you can make a more than satisfactory pair, I propose giving a purse of gold ducats and my daughter’s hand in marriage to the cobbler who makes the pair of boots that will show the least signs of wear. You’ll have two weeks to make the boots and then walk to me in them. The boots and your feet will be inspected when you arrive at my palace.”

            Two weeks later the boots were finished and the cobblers set off for the palace with all the appropriate fanfare. Over hill and dale they went, fording streams and climbing mountains, until they arrived ten days later at the Duke’s palace. They were brought directly into the reception hall and seated before of a large audience of notables. A trumpet fanfare was played and their boots were removed.

            Davut’s boots were held up for all to see. Alas, they were well worn as was to be expected since the terrain they had trod was rough. Indeed, the right sole was almost translucent.

            Next Radut’s boots were examined. And while the sides showed scrapes and scratches similar to those found on Davut’s, the soles appeared surprisingly new.

            The duke and his advisors were amazed. They asked how it was possible, was this done by magic?

            Radut smiled and explained, “Oh, I’m really a happy-go-lucky man, and as I walked along, I told myself funny stories that lifted up not only my spirits but my body as well. I’m sure there was hardly any weight left in my boots, just enough to keep me from being blown away by the wind. And so, the boots suffered little wear.”

            The grand vizier was called because it was clear that while the boots won the contest, they were going to help the Duke and his bunions since the burden of office was too heavy to permit of lightheartedness.

            But the princess had seen the two cobblers and had fallen in love with Davut, whose name means beloved. She whispered first in one ear of the Duke and then in the other.

            Thus, it was decided that she would marry Davut and the Duke would make Radut his new Jester/Cobbler. The purse of gold ducats was given to Radut.

            Radut was happy for his cousin; he didn’t think the princess was all that pretty and, besides, he had always wanted to be a comedian. When he was given the jester’s staff with its bells and clappers, he rushed around the hall proclaiming,

“He whose lasts last, laughs last,” which can be found in the Carpathian Book of Proverbs.

Categories: Fiction

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