Optim, Pessim, and Real

Kevin Langdon


Note: "Real" is pronounced "ray-AHL."


Once upon a time, there was a king who had three sons. Their names were Optim, Pessim, and Real.

They were triplets and, because they had gotten mixed up in the nursery, no one knew which was the eldest son.

In the kingdom, at that time, there was a terrible, fierce, fire-breathing dragon. It stepped on houses, crushing them and their inhabitants, breathed fire on the fields and burned up the crops, devoured maidens, and devastated the kingdom.

One day the king thought of a plan to determine once and for all which of his sons should be his heir and to rid himself of the dragon.

He called his sons to him and said, "My sons, whichever one of you can slay the dragon will inherit my kingdom!"

Optim, Pessim, and Real went off to make preparations to confront the dragon.

The first to go was Optim. He didn't bother with a shield or armor, but armed himself only with a light ceremonial sword.

He rode off and soon encountered the dragon. The dragon roared. Optim charged at him and hacked at him with his ceremonial sword, which broke with the first blow. The dragon knocked him off his horse, jumped on him, and ate him all up.

Pessim was next to try his luck. He donned the heaviest, thickest armor he could find, though he could hardly move in it, carried a huge shield that he could barely see over, and armed himself with pikes and axes, lances and spears, bows and arrows, long and short swords, and a huge mace that was so heavy he couldn't quite heft it, but just strapped it to his saddle.

He rode toward the place where the dragon had last been seen. Before he got within sight of the dragon, he heard a tremendous roar--and that was enough for Pessim. He turned his horse around and rode away as fast as he could, considering the weight he was carrying.

The third son to challenge the dragon was Real. He wore light but strong armor, carried a stout but maneuverable shield, a lance, and a well-balanced sword.

Real rode to where the dragon was terrorizing the countryside. The dragon roared. Real charged at him and struck him with his lance. The dragon breathed fire on him and Real hacked at him with his sword. They fought back and forth for about an hour until the dragon gave a great lash with his tail and knocked Real off his horse, jumped on him, and ate him all up.

The dragon had been wounded in his battle with Real and had lost a lot of blood. He was not feeling well and dragged himself off toward his lair.

As he was returning to his lair, the dragon had to pass under a bridge.

Just as he was passing under the bridge, who should come along but Pessim, crossing over the bridge, hot and tired from his massive armor and his heavy load, looking neither to the right nor to the left.

Pessim was so tired he felt that he couldn't manage his bulky load one moment longer, so he unstrapped the huge mace from his saddle and let it fall over the side of the bridge, at precisely the moment when the dragon was directly below.

The mace came down squarely on the head of the dragon, killing him instantly.

So Pessim inherited the kingdom and lived happily ever after.

Moral: What we think of as realism is really a foolish overoptimism.

Second moral: Pure, dumb luck can't be ruled out.

Third moral: Pick on someone your own size.



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