There is a class of stories featuring jesters requesting favours or gifts from the ruler. Many jesters were dwarfs, and here we have a god disguised as a dwarf couching a request to a king in humble terms.

It costs Bali his throne and sees him kicked all the way to hell where, arguably, as a demon king, he belongs.

‘There is the story of Vishnu incarnated as Vamana the dwarf.  He asks of demon king Bali only as much land as he can cover in three strides.  Bali laughs at this runt of a suitor and his puny request. He consents. Immediately Vishnu takes on his full cosmic size. With one stride he covers the earth, with the second the heavens, and with the third he boots Bali into the netherworld.’

There may be a warning here for earthly kings to be careful when acceding to apparently innocent requests.  See a variant of this story, along with a similar example of the boss agreeing to an apparently modest request, without thinking through the possible consequences.

 

Source: Yann Martel, Life of Pi (Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2003), p. 55

Photo credit: Christopher Sardegna at unsplash

 

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