Once there was a chief who ruled an island tribe. He lived a happy life until one day his daughter became very ill. The chief called for the tribe’s healers. The healers did everything they could for the princess; they gave her herbs, bathed her in oils, and burned spices to soothe her.
But the princess continued to grow weaker. Soon she could barely lift her head from her pillow. The chief was deeply concerned, and he sent for the tribal wise man.
“Find three golden orchids,” the wise man said upon examining the princess. “Their scent will cure her.””Where are these golden flowers?” asked the chief.
“They grow only where the sun shines through the water,” said the wise man.
The chief proclaimed that any man who could bring him the three golden orchids could marry the princess.
The great warriors of the tribe, eager to earn the princess’s hand in marriage, explored every inch of the island. But they could not find any golden orchids.On a nearby island, a poor man lived with his wife and three sons. The sons were not great warriors; they were modest farmers, like their father.
When the family heard the chief’s proclamation, they were excited. They knew exactly where to find the flowers that would cure the princess. Each year, nine perfect orchids — delicate and golden — grew behind a waterfall in a hidden valley.
The oldest of the brothers went to the valley and picked the three largest orchids. He placed them carefully in a basket and set off in his canoe across the sea.
When the eldest brother reached the chief’s island, he met an old fisherman on the beach.
“What have you there?” asked the fisherman.
The young man knew that everyone was searching for the orchids. He was afraid the old man would steal the basket if he knew what treasure lay inside.
“Fishing worms,” the young man said.
The fisherman smiled and allowed him to continue.
The young man reached the village, and soon he stood before the chief. When he opened his basket, he was surprised to find worms, just as he had told the fisherman.
When the eldest brother returned home, the middle brother decided to try his luck. He, too, met the fisherman on the beach. Like his older brother, he was suspicious and lied to the fisherman. Later, when he met the chief, he also found his basket filled with worms.
Now only three golden orchids remained. The youngest brother picked them and set off to see the chief. He, too, met the fisherman. Again, the fisherman asked what was in the basket. But this boy was honest with him. “I carry flowers that will cure the princess,” he said.
“Indeed you do,” said the fisherman. Then he gave the boy a bamboo flute. “It will bring you luck,” he said.
The boy thanked the fisherman and ran to the village. At first, the wary chief refused to see him. But the boy opened his basket to reveal the golden orchids. They were as perfect as when he had first picked them.
As soon as the princess smelled the orchids, her eyes opened. She looked up and smiled. She thanked the boy, and soon the two were laughing and talking together.
The chief was pleased that his daughter was cured, but he did not want the princess to marry the son of a farmer.”You have cured my daughter,” he told the boy, “but now you must prove that you are worthy to marry her. Tomorrow, you must take a hundred parrots into the forest. In the evening, you must bring them all back safely. If any are missing, you cannot marry my daughter.”
The boy spent the next day chasing the parrots, but by nightfall, he could not find a single one. Suddenly, he remembered the lucky bamboo flute. He trilled a few notes, and all of the parrots flew to him. When the young man returned with all one hundred parrots, the chief could not believe his eyes. “If my daughter will have you,” said the chief humbly, “then I will welcome you into our family.”
When they were older, the princess did indeed marry this boy. They lived happily ever after on the island.