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The Emperor’s Bush

Category: Gaggle of Groaners listserv, Rated G

This is from the groaners listserv. The author is unknown.

The Emperor of all China had three possessions that he prized above all others: A herd of specially bred pigs, with meat more tender and delicious than any other; a court poet whose exquisite love songs would make hardened warlords break down and weep; and a fabulous magical glass bush that played the most beautiful music when the wind blew through its branches. The Emperor guarded these treasures most carefully. The meat of his pigs could only be served at his table; the poet could only perform for his personal guests, and the magical bush, which he prized most of all, was kept in a secluded garden, deep within his castle, and none but the Emperor could enter and listen to the wondrous songs.

One day, the youngest daughter of the Emperor was wandering through the castle, and came to the gate of the garden of the magic bush. Being an enterprising and curious child, she climbed over the gate to investigate. But, being a clumsy child, she fell off the gate, and smashed the bush into a thousand pieces!

The Emperor was highly distraught, and, after having his young daughter drawn, quartered, sautŽed with ginger and black mushrooms, and served as an afternoon snack to the serfs that worked his fields, he took to his bed and mourned for seven days and nights over the loss of his beloved bush. Finally, he arose and called all the finest craftsmen and artisans in the land together. “Fix my bush, and I shall let you live,” explained the Emperor.

And the men set to work with alacrity, carefully finding each small piece of the bush, and attaching them all together with great care. After several months of intense labor, the bush was back together, good as new! The Emperor was greatly pleased, and rewarded the craftsmen with the most wonderful treasures: their lives and the freedom to return home.

But that night, horror of horrors! The evening breeze sprang up, and there came from the bush not a soothing lullaby, but the most hideous clanking noises the Emperor had ever heard! After sending his soldiers to burn the houses and slaughter the families of the craftsmen and artisans, the Emperor again took to his bed and mourned for fourteen days and nights.

Finally, the Emperor called his Vizier, and asked what to do. The Vizier, thinking uncomfortably about his wives and children at home, explained that only the greatest craftsman in the world, the noble Sum Di Yung from Japan, could fix the bush now.

So the Emperor sent his emissaries off to the land of the rising sun to hire the brilliant Sum Di Yung. Yung sent back word that he would fix the bush, but only if the Emperor paid him with a bushel of pork from the fabulous pigs, and a book of love poems by the court poet. This made the Emperor gnash his teeth, but finally, his love for his magical bush won out, and he agreed to Yung’s terms.

So Yung sailed to China, and set to work on the bush. He broke off small branches here, reattached them there, and every so often, he stopped to tap the bush with a small golden hammer. Finally, he said he was done, but the Emperor made him wait till evening. And when the evening breezes began to blow, the bush indeed played beautiful music. The Emperor was overjoyed, and quickly paid Yung all he had asked.

But as Yung was leaving, the Vizier took him aside and asked him, “Why did you settle for a small bit of meat and a book of poems? Surely you know the Emperor would have paid you in gold, jewels, and perhaps even the hand of his beautiful second youngest daughter!”

“Ah-so,” replied Sum Di Yung, “but you see, a bard and a ham is worth tuning a bush.”

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