Kalaki’s Korner: King Paranoia

Kalaki’s Korner: King Paranoia

By Roy Clarke
‘Grandpa,’ said Nawiti, ‘tell me a story, and then I’ll go to bed.’
          ‘Once upon a time,’ I began, ‘a long time ago in the Kingdom of Mfuwe, there ruled a Lion King called Paranoia.’
          ‘Why was he called Paranoia?’ asked Nawiti
          ‘You have to listen to the story, and then you’ll find out,’ I laughed.  ‘But the first thing you need to know about King Paranoia’s is that his biggest problem was that he was very frightened that somebody else was going to steal his throne.’
          ‘Why was he frightened?’
          ‘If a king steals a throne, then he tends to be very nervous that somebody is about to do exactly the same thing to him. Such a king is always afraid of his own shadow. Often he can’t sleep at night. If he does sleep, he often wakes up screaming. Never say ‘boo’ to a king, he might jump straight out through the nearest window.’
          ‘I always thought,’ said Nawiti, ‘that kings were very brave.’
          ‘In public,’ I admitted, ‘they behave very loud and pompous and threatening, trying to strike fear into everybody, but when they get home they are scared and frightened, cling to their wives like little children, and if anybody drops a plate they scream and run to hide under the bed.’
          ‘So what was King Paranoia frightened of?’
          ‘He was frightened of a little rabbit called HaHa!’
          ‘A big lion frightened of a little rabbit?’
          ‘That was one of the problems. You see, Haha had known Paranoia for a long time, and Paranoia was worried that HaHa knew that he was not really a big brave lion.’
          ‘He wasn’t a big brave lion?’
          ‘Not at all. He was just pretending, by puffing out his fur, roaring ferociously, showing his claws and frightening people terribly. Actually he was really quite a nice pussy cat, pretending to be a complete rotter!’
          ‘But why couldn’t Paranoia just behave normally, rather than pretending to be a ferocious lion when he was really just an ordinary pussy cat? Maybe people would have liked a little pussy cat better! Me, I like nice pussy cats, not big horrible lions!’
          ‘No Nawiti, you have to understand how it was in Mfuwe in those days. Previously the large lazy Hippopotamus had been in charge, and Mfuwe had become a complete jungle. The king and his fat friends were eating all the mangoes, Elephant was pushing down all the bamboo and selling it to the Chinese Panda, and Crocodile was eating all the monkeys. It was a particularly vicious sort of jungle called Free Enterprise.’
          ‘So Paranoia saved Mfuwe by killing bad Hippopotomus?’
          ‘Good gracious no,’ I protested. ‘Back in those days, long ago, there was something called democracy. The animals could get together and choose a new king to sort out the mess?’
          ‘But why did they choose Paranoia?’
          ‘Because he claimed to be the Lion King, saying that only the lions could sort out the mess. The lions from the north had always been the kings of the jungle, and they could control all the other animals. He promised to recruit the hyenas to protect the monkeys from the crocodiles, there would be more mangoes for everybody and the Chinese Panda would be chased all the way back to China.’
          ‘And did it work?’
          ‘Of course not. He was only a pussy cat, so he didn’t understand anything about the jungle.’
          ‘So things went from bad to worse?’
          ‘People were very fed up. They had been promised so much, but got nothing.’
          ‘So what did King Paranoia do then?’
          ‘The king explained that the whole problem was caused by HaHa the Rabbit. All the best efforts of the king were being undermined by HaHa, who had revealed to the monkeys that they were still starving and still being eaten by crocodiles. These seditious statements, explained Paranoia, were undermining his authority and the unity of the nation. This was why, explained the king, the hyenas had failed in their job of protecting the monkeys from the crocodiles because they were busy hunting down the enemy, a small dangerous rabbit.’
          ‘And did the king catch the dangerous rabbit?’
          ‘Of course not. Instead all the animals went rushing to hear what the rabbit had to say, thinking he must have some better ideas than a king whose total project was chasing a rabbit.’
          ‘And did the rabbit really have some better ideas?’
          ‘Of course not. The king was only trying to silence HaHa because he thought that he was going to reveal that the king was not really a powerful lion but just a scared little pussy cat.’
          ‘So how did the story end?’
          ‘The king made HaHa so famous that the people decided he would make a better king. He became King HaHa the Rabbit.’
          ‘And did he make a good king?’
          ‘Not at all. He was just as hopeless as King Paranoia.’
          ‘Oh dear,’ said Nawiti sadly. ‘And just one more question: Did HaHa really know that Paranoia was not really a lion but just a pussy cat.’
          ‘No,’ I laughed. ‘He had never even suspected it. A little rabbit can’t even see the difference between a cat and a lion. The problem was all in Paranoia’s mind. He was haunted by irrational fears that people were out to get him, and wasted all his time chasing imaginary enemies instead of getting on with the job of being king. He went down in history by giving his name to this unfortunate condition. To this day, this form of mental derangement is called paranoia.
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