The King is dying. The royal family gathers around to decide matters of succession and inheritance. The oldest son is weak and confused, having been corrupted by vested interests among the nobles. The daughter, brilliant and capable, is not a male and her husband is a musician, not a knight.
The kingdom has been at war intermittently for years and the burden of it has exhausted the aging king, his financial resources, and his army of loyal knights and foot soldiers. There are rumours of a military coup, a peasants’ revolt, and mutiny on board the royal ships whose pirates haven’t been given their proper share of the loot.
The youngest son, however, is certain he knows what will cure the king. He found out from the old woman who lives on the hill, and he has already set out in search of it, although none of the others knows this. Furthermore, she assured him that upon successful completion of his quest, he would be chosen as the king’s successor and thereby able to marry the princess intended for his brother, she whom he loves and who loves him.
In the course of his quest, he encounters trials and obstacles, all of which he overcomes by following the counterintuitive directions of helpful human and animal guides that he meets along the way. Anxious as he is to fulfill his mission, he takes time to help a family rebuild their simple dwelling after a storm. He exchanges his horse with a farmer who is desperate to ride for a doctor for his sick
child because the prince’s horse is faster and his goal will be reached as much by compassion as by speed.
In the end, he returns a hero to his family and the kingdom. The king is saved, and with his daughter’s help averts the coup by reorganizing the power structures. He follows her advice to stave off the revolt by setting up peasant cooperatives and to allign himself with the pirates by offering them a stake in the future empire. All’s well that ends well…at least for the present.
Such is the stuff that folk tales...