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Chapter 1 – The Prince of Pingaree

L. Frank BaumOct 04, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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If you have a map of the Land of Oz handy, you will
find that the great Nonestic Ocean washes the shores of
the Kingdom of Rinkitink, between which and the Land of
Oz lies a strip of the country of the Nome King and a
Sandy Desert. The Kingdom of Rinkitink isn’t very big
and lies close to the ocean, all the houses and the
King’s palace being built near the shore. The people
live much upon the water, boating and fishing, and the
wealth of Rinkitink is gained from trading along the
coast and with the islands nearest it.

Four days’ journey by boat to the north of Rinkitink
is the Island of Pingaree, and as our story begins here
I must tell you something about this island. At the
north end of Pingaree, where it is widest, the land is
a mile from shore to shore, but at the south end it is
scarcely half a mile broad; thus, although Pingaree is
four miles long, from north to south, it cannot be
called a very big island. It is exceedingly pretty,
however, and to the gulls who approach it from the sea
it must resemble a huge green wedge lying upon the
waters, for its grass and trees give it the color of
an emerald.

The grass came to the edge of the sloping shores; the
beautiful trees occupied all the central portion of
Pingaree, forming a continuous grove where the branches
met high overhead and there was just space beneath
them for the cosy houses of the inhabitants. These
houses were scattered everywhere throughout the
island, so that there was no town or city, unless the
whole island might be called a city. The canopy of
leaves, high overhead, formed a shelter from sun and
rain, and the dwellers in the grove could all look past
the straight tree-trunks and across the grassy slopes
to the purple waters of the Nonestic Ocean.

At the big end of the island, at the north, stood the
royal palace of King Kitticut, the lord and ruler of
Pingaree. It was a beautiful palace, built entirely of
snow-white marble and capped by domes of burnished
gold, for the King was exceedingly wealthy. All along
the coast of Pingaree were found the largest and finest
pearls in the whole world.

These pearls grew within the shells of big oysters,
and the people raked the oysters from their watery
beds, sought out the milky pearls and carried them
dutifully to their King. Therefore, once every year His
Majesty was able to send six of his boats, with sixty
rowers and many sacks of the valuable pearls, to the
Kingdom of Rinkitink, where there was a city called
Gilgad, in which King Rinkitink’s palace stood on a
rocky headland and served, with its high towers, as a
lighthouse to guide sailors to the harbor. In Gilgad
the pearls from Pingaree were purchased by the King’s
treasurer, and the boats went back to the island laden
with stores of rich merchandise and such supplies of
food as the people and the royal family of Pingaree
needed.

The Pingaree people never visited any other land but
that of Rinkitink, and so there were few other lands
that knew there was such an island. To the southwest
was an island called the Isle of Phreex, where the
inhabitants had no use for pearls. And far north of
Pingaree — six days’ journey by boat, it was said —
were twin islands named Regos and Coregos, inhabited by
a fierce and warlike people.

Many years before this story really begins, ten big
boatloads of those fierce warriors of Regos and Coregos
visited Pingaree, landing suddenly upon the north end
of the island. There they began to plunder and conquer,
as was their custom, but the people of Pingaree,
although neither so big nor so strong as their foes,
were able to defeat them and drive them all back to the
sea, where a great storm overtook the raiders from
Regos and Coregos and destroyed them and their boats,
not a single warrior returning to his own country.

This defeat of the enemy seemed the more wonderful
because the pearl-fishers of Pingaree were mild and
peaceful in disposition and seldom quarreled even among
themselves. Their only weapons were their oyster rakes;
yet the fact remains that they drove their fierce
enemies from Regos and Coregos from their shores.

King Kitticut was only a boy when this remarkable
battle was fought, and now his hair was gray; but he
remembered the day well and, during the years that
followed, his one constant fear was of another invasion
of his enemies. He feared they might send a more
numerous army to his island, both for conquest and
revenge, in which case there could be little hope of
successfully opposing them.

This anxiety on the part of King Kitticut led him to
keep a sharp lookout for strange boats, one of his men
patrolling the beach constantly, but he was too wise to
allow any fear to make him or his subjects unhappy. He
was a good King and lived very contentedly in his fine
palace, with his fair Queen Garee and their one child,
Prince Inga.

The wealth of Pingaree increased year by year; and
the happiness of the people increased, too. Perhaps
there was no place, outside the Land of Oz, where
contentment and peace were more manifest than on this
pretty island, hidden in the besom of the Nonestic
Ocean. Had these conditions remained undisturbed, there
would have been no need to speak of Pingaree in this
story.

Prince Inga, the heir to all the riches and the
kingship of Pingaree, grew up surrounded by every
luxury; but he was a manly little fellow, although
somewhat too grave and thoughtful, and he could never
bear to be idle a single minute. He knew where the
finest oysters lay hidden along the coast and was as
successful in finding pearls as any of the men of the
island, although he was so slight and small. He had a
little boat of his own and a rake for dragging up the
oysters and he was very proud indeed when he could
carry a big white pearl to his father.

There was no school upon the island, as the people of
Pingaree were far removed from the state of
civilization that gives our modern children such
advantages as schools and learned professors, but the
King owned several manuscript books, the pages being
made of sheepskin. Being a man of intelligence, he was
able to teach his son something of reading, writing and
arithmetic.

When studying his lessons Prince Inga used to go into
the grove near his father’s palace and climb into the
branches of a tall tree, where he had built a platform
with a comfortable seat to rest upon, all hidden by the
canopy of leaves. There, with no one to disturb him, he
would pore over the sheepskin on which were written the
queer characters of the Pingarese language.

King Kitticut was very proud of his little son, as
well he might be, and he soon felt a high respect for
Inga’s judgment and thought that he was worthy to be
taken into the confidence of his father in many matters
of state. He taught the boy the needs of the people and
how to rule them justly, for some day he knew that Inga
would be King in his place. One day he called his son
to his side and said to him:

“Our island now seems peaceful enough, Inga, and we
are happy and prosperous, but I cannot forget those
terrible people of Regos and Coregos. My constant fear
is that they will send a fleet of boats to search for
those of their race whom we defeated many years ago,
and whom the sea afterwards destroyed. If the warriors
come in great numbers we may be unable to oppose them,
for my people are little trained to fighting at best;
they surely would cause us much injury and suffering.”

“Are we, then, less powerful than in my grandfather’s
day?” asked Prince Inga.

The King shook his head thoughtfully.

“It is not that,” said he. “That you may fully
understand that marvelous battle, I must confide to,
you a great secret. I have in my possession three Magic
Talismans, which I have ever guarded with utmost care,
keeping the knowledge of their existence from anyone
else. But, lest I should die, and the secret be lost, I
have decided to tell you what these talismans are and
where they are hidden. Come with me, my son.

He led the way through the rooms of the palace until
they came to the great banquet hall. There, stopping in
the center of the room, he stooped down and touched a
hidden spring in the tiled floor. At once one of the
tiles sank downward and the King reached within the
cavity and drew out a silken bag.

This bag he proceeded to open, showing Inga that it
contained three great pearls, each one as big around as
a marble. One had a blue tint and one was of a delicate
rose color, but the third was pure white.

“These three pearls,” said the King, speaking in a
solemn, impressive voice, “are the most wonderful the
world has ever known. They were gifts to one of my
ancestors from the Mermaid Queen, a powerful fairy whom
he once had the good fortune to rescue from her
enemies. In gratitude for this favor she presented him
with these pearls. Each of the three possesses an
astonishing power, and whoever is their owner may count
himself a fortunate man. This one having the blue tint
will give to the person who carries it a strength so
great that no power can resist him. The one with the
pink glow will protect its owner from all dangers that
may threaten him, no matter from what source they may
come. The third pearl — this one of pure white — can
speak, and its words are always wise and helpful.”

“What is this, my father!” exclaimed the Prince,
amazed; “do you tell me that a pearl can speak? It
sounds impossible.”

“Your doubt is due to your ignorance of fairy
powers,” returned the King, gravely. “Listen, my son,
and you will know that I speak the truth.”

He held the white pearl to Inga’s ear and the Prince
heard a small voice say distinctly: “Your father is
right. Never question the truth of what you fail to
understand, for the world is filled with wonders.”

“I crave your pardon, dear father,” said the Prince,
“for clearly I heard the pearl speak, and its words
were full of wisdom.”

“The powers of the other pearls are even greater,”
resumed the King. “Were I poor in all else, these gems
would make me richer than any other monarch the world
holds.”

“I believe that,” replied Inga, looking at the
beautiful pearls with much awe. “But tell me, my
father, why do you fear the warriors of Regos and
Coregos when these marvelous powers are yours?”

“The powers are mine only while I have the pearls
upon my person,” answered King Kitticut, “and I dare
not carry them constantly for fear they might be lost.
Therefore, I keep them safely hidden in this recess. My
only danger lies in the chance that my watchmen might
fail to discover the approach of our enemies and allow
the warrior invaders to seize me before I could secure
the pearls. I should, in that case, be quite powerless
to resist. My father owned the magic pearls at the time
of the Great Fight, of which you have so often heard,
and the pink pearl protected him from harm, while the
blue pearl enabled him and his people to drive away the
enemy. Often have I suspected that the destroying storm
was caused by the fairy mermaids, but that is a matter
of which I have no proof.”

“I have often wondered how we managed to win that
battle,” remarked Inga thoughtfully. “But the pearls
will assist us in case the warriors come again, will
they not?”

“They are as powerful as ever,” declared the King.
“Really, my son, I have little to fear from any foe.
But lest I die and the secret be lost to the next King,
I have now given it into your keeping. Remember that
these pearls are the rightful heritage of all Kings of
Pingaree. If at any time I should be taken from you,
Inga, guard this treasure well and do not forget where
it is hidden.”

“I shall not forget,” said Inga.

Then the King returned the pearls to their hiding
place and the boy went to his own room to ponder upon
the wonderful secret his father had that day confided
to his care.

 

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