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The Queen of Quok

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"The Queen of Quok" is a short story by L. Frank Baum, one of his American Fairy Tales first published in 1901.

Summary

The kingdom of Quok has long been ruled by a spendthrift king, who bankrupted himself and reduced his subjects to poverty with "riotous living" ("Don't ask me to explain what riotous living is," the narrator writes). When this king dies, "as kings are apt to do," he leaves his ten-year-old son and heir only a barren palace, a moth-eaten ermine robe, and a battered crown stripped of its jewels.

The chief counselor can think of only one way to redeem the land's finances: the young king must marry a wealthy woman. The boy king would like to marry Nyana the armorer's daughter; but the counselor insists that she is far too poor. The counselor goes so far as to hold an auction for the young king's hand: rich women bid enthusiastically with the queendom of Quok. The eventual victor is a tall, thin, sour-looking, heavily wrinkled old woman named Mary Ann Brodjinsky de la Porkus, who offers the winning bid of $3,900,624.16. (She "paid the money in cash and on the spot, which proves this is a fairy story.") The feckless chief counselor, who aided the former king in his spendthrift ways, is quickly robbed of the entire sum.

Naturally, the young king is deeply distressed; unable to sleep that night, he tosses and turns in the royal bed (the bedstead and an old stool being the only furniture left in the palace). On his hundredth turn, his hand accidentally strikes a hidden spring in the old mahogany headboard; a panel opens to reveal a hidden paper. Following its instructions, the boy king calls forth the Slave of the Royal Bedstead. Hearing the king's complaint, the Slave provides him with a magic purse that yields an endless supply of money — a single silver quarter at a time.

So furnished, the king is able to refuse Brodjinsky de la Porkus and refund her money. The chief counselor sits down to count out the full sum, a quarter at a time; the rejected bride receives her money, quarter by quarter. (The king interrupts to borrow the purse whenever he needs funds for other purposes.) Growing to maturity, his highness marries Nyana; they have two children. Occasionally the family pauses to observe the counting between the counselor and the old woman, which is still ongoing.

Background

"The Queen of Quok" is one of the eight stories in the collection illustrated by Ike Morgan.

For the purse that produces coins one by one, compare the pump that does the same in "The Wonderful Pump."

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