STOR14S: David Oyelowo reads 'The Emperor's Daughter' for new podcast

Your children can read along as they listen to short story writing contest winner The Emperor's Daughter.

This STOR14S episode, written by Michael Jituboh and read by the star of Selma, David Oyelowo, will be released on Spotify and Apple Podcasts on June 22, or you can listen here:

And if you enjoy this story, learn more at GEANCO, who are helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and improving lives in Nigeria.

Click here to learn more about the STOR14S podcast series.

The Emperor's Daughter

by Michael Jituboh

<em>The Emperor's Daughter</em>
The Emperor's Daughter

Once upon a very long time ago, there lived a mighty emperor who ruled a great kingdom, Tohulu, that stretched from one end of the African continent to the other. 

The emperor’s name was Hulu, which means the most powerful. He had only one daughter called Kevi, which means “the most beautiful” in the Tohulu language. The capital of the kingdom he ruled over was called Pulu. 

Emperor Hulu was exactly 6 feet 5 inches tall and very muscular. He was so powerful and fearsome that even the strongest animals in the forest steered clear of him; birds even stopped in flight to admire his impressive physique.

Hulu had lost his wife when Kevi was only 5 years old but he refused to remarry and raised his daughter with only the help of the palace staff. He loved his daughter and decreed that she would take over from him as empress when he died.

When Kevi was 21, Hulu decided to select a husband for her. Suitors had to meet three conditions. First, a suitor had to be a powerful prince from the Tohulu kingdom. Secondly, he had to be exactly 6 feet tall and thirdl, he had to be very handsome.

The selection process began with Emperor Hulu sending men to every part of his kingdom to invite interested princes. Suitors were warned that they would be severely flogged if they did not meet any of the three conditions and still presented themselves.

On the fateful day, the first 25 of the 100 men that applied presented themselves before the emperor and his daughter in a massive stadium that had almost all the residents of Pulu noisily waiting to see who would be the lucky suitor. 

Emperor Hulu and Kevi sat on a high throne overlooking everyone in the stadium. The ceremony began with the measurement of each contestant. All the men except one were exactly 6 feet tall. 

The man who failed the height test was called Adamantus. He was only 5 feet tall, not only short but the least handsome of all the men. He was also not a prince. The crowd roared with laughter as he was carried away to be flogged.   

All the remaining men were presented one at a time to the emperor and his daughter, but none of them got selected. They were considered either not princely or handsome enough. 

The next day 25 other contestants arrived at the stadium. The crowd was shocked to find Adamantus amongst them. While the crowd hooted with delight, the emperor was furious. He ordered that Adamantus be flogged twice as much as he was the day before. 

As he was dragged away, Adamantus kept shouting that he loved the princess but that did not save him from being flogged mercilessly. Alas, for the remaining 24 men, they faced the same fate as the first set of men and were rejected.

To the shock of the emperor, his daughter and the entire crowd that returned to the stadium the next day, Adamantus was once again among the third set of 25 men. 

This time the emperor was beside himself with rage.

The emperor decreed that not only should Adamantus be severely punished, he should be executed if he ever showed up again. The crowd prayed that he would not, for they had come to admire his courage. 

To the relief of the crowd, Adamantus was not seen among the last 25 men that showed up on the fourth and final day. 

The crowd cheered as one of the 25 was selected as the winner. He met the height requirement, and was princely in dressing and carriage, as well as being very handsome.

The selected prince called himself Potil. His long robe was encrusted with gold nuggets and his walk to salute the emperor and his future bride was measured and majestic. 

Potil bowed slowly upon getting to the emperor and stayed that way until the blessing rites were over. He then turned and saluted the cheering crowd.

The marriage ceremony was held the next day in very sunny and extremely hot weather. By tradition, Kevi was required to stand beside Potil for hours on end as various medicine men cast away evil spells and the emperor showered blessings on them. 

They looked the ideal couple; Potil was tall and handsome with a broad smile on his face. Kevi was stunningly beautiful … but with a surprisingly sad expression on her pretty face. 

The emperor beamed with joy as he looked admiringly at his soon-to-be son-in-law.

And then … 

Just as the Chief Priest was about to pronounce Potil and Kevi husband and wife, something strange happened — a phenomenon so strange that the crowd gasped with shock. 

The emperor rose from his seat in astonishment as Kevi turned to stare open-mouthed at her soon-to-be husband.

Potil, the tall handsome prince, was getting shorter and shorter by the minute under the blistering sun. 

The wax Potil had used to build the stilts on which he stood had started to melt. So also was the portion he had used to transform his face into a beautiful work of art.

Within minutes the man beside Kevi was much shorter than her and nowhere close to being handsome. He had turned out to be none other than Adamantus. 

As may be expected, Emperor Hulu was livid with rage. As the crowd roared with laughter Hulu gave a sign and the palace guards picked up Adamantus.

The guards forced Adamantus to his knees before the emperor, who looked down on him with hate-filled eyes. The crowd rightly guessed what was in store for Adamantus as with a raging voice the emperor decreed that Adamantus should not only be hanged, but be severely punished before being killed along with all his relatives. 

To the surprise of everyone Adamantus stared back defiantly at the emperor and spoke fearlessly in a very loud and clear voice. 

“Great Emperor of the Tohulus, I await my fate not with tears but with joy for I have done everything I can to marry the woman that I’ve loved with all my heart and soul from the first day I saw her.” 

The anger of the emperor was frightful to see, but Adamantus fearlessly continued his speech. 

“You my great emperor must not decree who your daughter must marry because it is her and not you who will live with the decision for life.”

“Let your daughter pick who she likes and if it’s anyone else I would still rejoice for her.”

Livid with rage and unable to stand the effrontery of Adamantus anymore, the emperor drew his sword and rushed to kill Adamantus himself.

But just as the emperor’s sword was on its way down to strike Adamantus dead, the emperor’s hand stopped in midair with a stunned expression on his face, for his beloved daughter had rushed down and jumped in front of Adamantus.

The crowd gasped in shock as the emperor stared open-mouthed at his daughter who looked back calmly at him. She then began to speak in a loud and very clear voice. 

“My dear father and great emperor of the Tohulu kingdom, I salute you as our father and fearless leader. I love you, Father, just as much as you love me and I know that you want me to live the rest of my life in happiness.”

Kevi paused and then continued steadily. “Happiness cannot be guaranteed by a tall, handsome prince. 

“Only love can. 

“The proof of a man’s love for a woman is the extent to which he is prepared to go to declare and abide by that love.”

Emperor Hulu slowly lowered his sword as the words poured out of his daughter’s mouth. “A man who is prepared, because of the love he has for me, to be severely flogged thrice and sacrifice his life is the type of man I want.”

Emperor Hulu continued to stare with shock. “Are you saying that you would like to marry this short, ugly commoner?” he finally asked in disbelief.

 “No, Father,” Kevi replied. “What I am saying is that height, looks and wealth should not be the criteria for determining who should be my husband.”

 “The most important criterion, Father, should be love. Does he really love me? Do I love him? Please do not kill him but rather give a chance for both of us to make up our minds.”

And so it was that Emperor Hulu appointed Adamantus as one of his ministers and gave Kevi a year to decide whether she wanted him as a husband or not.

According to legend and the history books, Kevi fell in love with Adamantus within a short time and he loved her more ardently in return. They got married within six months. They had five children and lived happily ever after.

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