A prosperous, easy-going miller was brought into trouble with his king when the miller’s cook brazenly painted, “I have no cares in all the world,” across the side of the miller’s house,
when any fool ought to know this is simply an invitation to trouble.
The king himself saw the declaration and sent a message to the unsuspecting miller, demanding he present himself in the throne room in one week’s time with the answers to three impossible questions:
- How many stars are in the heavens?
- What is the king worth?
- What is the king thinking?
The miller’s life would be forfeit if he didn’t answer to the king’s satisfaction.
Understandably peeved at his cook, the miller went to his kitchen with much hand-wringing and agonizing over the unfairness of his own lot.
The cook, feeling just a little bit responsible, offered to go in the miller’s place to answer the king, being ready (he assured his master) also to take the ax if his answers were unsatisfactory.
This solution seemed most appropriate to the miller (the king knew neither of them, making the switch possible) and he agreed. After a few sleepless nights the cook felt prepared.
Appearing before the king in the miller’s clothes, the cook entered the throne room pushing a wheelbarrow filled with sacks of flour.
“It is the answer to your first riddle, O Majesty,” the false miller replied. “I have collected a grain of flour for every heavenly star– though the exercise quite addled my wits and my memory.
“If you want the exact number and have the grains re-counted, please remind me of the total.”
The king smiled and let the matter of the first question pass by.
In answer to the second question, the false miller offered a sum of 29 pieces of silver. The king was about to be offended by this when the cook reminded him that Jesus himself was sold for 30 pieces of silver.
“Finally,” said the false-miller, pulling off his hat, “I will read your thoughts: You are thinking that I am the miller, when, in truth, I am his cook.”
The king was pleased with the cook’s clever answers and ordered that both he and the miller should be richly rewarded.
The cook returned to his position in the miller’s household, and together they changed the writing on the house to read, “We have no cares in all the world!”
(Most recently read variant was in Clever Cooks.)