With the year-long deadline fast approaching, the once-confident knight was now on his way back to the kingdom—empty-handed and unsure of what he would tell the king.
He had never disappointed his leader before, and the thought of doing so now made him sick to his stomach.
“Will I be demoted?” he wondered. “Will he put another knight in my place in his court? Will he ever trust me again?”
Little did he know, it was a hopeless quest from the start. The wise, wealthy, and powerful king knew no such ring existed, yet he sent his knight on a year-long wild goose chase anyway.
You can hardly blame the king, though. The kingdom had enjoyed peace and prosperity for years, and there was nothing more anyone could ask for. But those peaceful times did make life around the castle rather quiet. Perhaps a little too quiet. And that’s just how the king came up with the whole cockamamie idea in the first place.
With the year-long deadline fast approaching, the king sat high on his thrown beside himself with amusement—wondering what the empty-handed knight would tell him.
On the last day of his journey, the knight returned to the kingdom, but still unsure of what he would tell his king, he took the long way back to the castle, passing through one of the poorest quarters of the city.
“Greetings, Sir! Can I interest you in my wares?”
The knight was startled. He was so lost in rumination that he hadn’t noticed the merchant who he had nearly trampled. Looking down, he found a carpet filled with an assortment of trinkets. He was about to look away when suddenly his eyes fell upon an object that had been his year-long obsession: a ring!
“Yes, actually. I’m looking for a special sort of ring,” he said, without taking his eyes of the ring.
“What kind of ring are you looking for, sir?” asked the merchant.
“At this point, I’m not even sure if such a ring actually exists,” he replied, “but I’m told it has magic powers.”
“Magic powers?” the merchant’s eyes lit up with fascination.
“Yes, it’s a magic ring. I’m told that if a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad; and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy. Do you have such a ring?”
The merchant thought for a moment, then looked down at the lone ring among his wares.
“I don’t know if such a ring exists,” he replied, “but I can make you one.”
Without another word, the merchant picked up the ring and engraved something around the band. When finished, he presented the ring to the knight.
“I believe this is what you are looking for.”
Upon seeing the ring, the knight’s face broke out in a smile and his sadness immediately turned into happiness. After a year of searching, he had finally found The Magic Ring!
The knight quickly made his way back to the castle to see the king.
“Have you found what I sent for?” The king sat high on his thrown, barely able to hold back his joyful laughter, wondering what his empty-handed knight would tell him.
But when the knight triumphantly held up The Magic Ring, the king became confused. “Here it is, your majesty!” the knight declared, bending down on one knee and carefully placing it on the king’s finger.
Upon seeing the engraved ring, the smile vanished from the king’s face and his happiness immediately turned into sadness.
What did the merchant engrave to turn an ordinary ring into a Magic Ring? It took but four simple words: “This too shall pass.” Seeing those words, the king realized all of his wealth, wisdom, and power were but temporary and removable things—for one day he would be nothing but dust.
This story is an adaption of a fable I came across a number of years ago. According to The Quote Verifier by Ralph Keyes, its origin can be traced to the works of Persian Sufi poets—such as Rumi, Sanai, and Attar of Nishapur.
Attar records the fable of a powerful king who asks assembled wise men to create a ring that will make him happy when he is sad. After deliberation, the sages hand him a simple ring with the Persian words "This too shall pass" etched on it, which has the desired effect to make him happy when he is sad—however, this same ring can also be a curse, for whenever he is happy, it can make him sad.
I'm a mirror (and so are you).