Who is she?
A dying king makes his son his heiron one condition. Vain Prince Raphael must marry a woman who is his equal in beauty, intelligence, and wealth...
Where is this woman?
A search throughout the kingdom proves fruitless. Then the lovely Rosamund appears at the palace, as if by magic, and Raphael is certain he has found his wife. She is intelligent and wealthy, as well as beautifulcertainly his equal, he thinks.
But what does the mysterious Rosamund think?"Finding a princess who is the 'king's equal' in comeliness, intelligence, and wealth is an order that confounds the wisest, most loyal councilors in this distant realm. Finding a book equal in quality to this one is an even more formidable task. [Newbery medalist] Paterson weaves her story within the structure of familiar fairy tales. . . . Vagin's illustrations are exquisite." SLJ.
1993 Teachers' Choices (IRA)
1992 Irma Simonton Black Award (Bank Street College of Education)
1993 Children's Booksellers' Choices (Association of Booksellers for Children)
Katherine Paterson is one of the world's most renowned children's book authors. Ms. Paterson has received the National Book Award twice and has won the Newbery Medal for both Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved. She is also the author of two other I Can Read Books featuring Marvin, The Smallest Cow in the World and Marvin's Best Christmas Present Ever. Ms. Paterson lives in Barre, Vermont.
About the Author
Katherine Paterson is one of the world’s most celebrated and beloved authors. Among her many awards are two Newberys and two National Book Awards, and she was recently named a "Living Legend” by the Library of Congress. She has been published in more than 22 languages in a variety of formats, from picture books to historical novels.
Read an Excerpt
Many years ago in a country far away, an old king lay dying. Now the king was very wise and very good, and all the people loved him, so they were sad to know that he would soon leave them. But what made them even sadder was the knowledge that the king's son, Prince Raphael, would become their next ruler.
Prince Raphael was as rich and handsome as a prince should be. His father had assembled scholars from all over the world to teach him, so he was highly educated. The people should have been proud to have Raphael as their next king, but instead they were afraid.
"Look at his eyes," they said, "and see the arrogance of a man who admires only himself."
"Look at his mouth," they said, "and see the sneer of a man who thinks everyone else is stupid."
"Look at his hands," they said, "and see the grasp of a man who thinks everyone else's goods are his for the taking."
The old king, even while he was dying, understood the fears of his people. Just before the end, he called his son and all the councilors of the realm to come to his chamber.
"My son," he said, "with my last words, I want to give you my blessing."
"Well, of course," said Raphael, although he was far more interested in his father's lands and gold than he was in the good king's last words.
"You will become ruler when I die," the old king said, "for that is the ancient law that cannot be changed. But you will not wear my crown until the day you marry a woman who is your equal in beauty and intelligence and wealth."
The prince was angry at his father's words. "That is not a blessing!" he exclaimed. "That is a curse! Where shall I find aprincess who is equal to me in every way?" Raphael demanded that the king take back this strange blessing. But the king shook his head, and that very night he breathed his last breath and died.
Prince Raphael was so angry that he refused to mourn his father's death. When the councilors suggested that the flags be lowered and that the people be given time off from their work for the funeral, he was angrier still. "There will be plenty of time for holiday when I am crowned king," he said. "Tell the people to get back to work."
With heavy hearts the councilors announced there would be no period of mourning for the beloved old king. The only comfort they had was that Raphael might never be crowned. For where would such an arrogant man find a woman he would admit was his equal in every way?
Reading Group Guide
The King's Equal is two-time Newbery medalist Katherine Paterson's critically acclaimed fairy tale about an arrogant young prince who must find a woman who is his equal in beauty, intelligence, and wealth. The discussion topics, suggested reading list, and author biography in this reading group guide are intended to spark discussion about the interesting characters and adventures in this enchanting original fairy tale. Once upon a time, a dying king names his son, selfish Prince Raphael, ruler of the kingdomon one condition: Raphael cannot wear the crown until he marries a woman who equals him in beauty, intelligence, and wealth. Raphael is so arrogant he believes that he never will be able to find a woman who is as smart or good-looking as himself, so he focuses on expanding his wealth and soon his greed makes him the richest person in the whole kingdom. But one thing he wants most is the thing he hasn't earnedthe crown to the kingdom.
Because Raphael is unhappy without the crown, he demands that his councilors search the world over for the princess who is his equal. Eventually, through the shrewd powers of a magical wolf, a poor but clever young maiden named Rosamund is chosen. But the story does not end there. Rosamund is a strong woman who wants her husband to be her equal as much as she is his. So she presents Raphael with a proposition that he cannot refuse if he wishes to win Rosamund as his wife. Consequently, Raphael retreats to the woods and learns about the kind of wealth that will make him truly happy and equal to fair Rosamund.
Questions For Discussion:
- Describe the way Raphaelleads his subjects. Does he have his kingdom's best interests at heart? How does Rosamund rule differently than Raphael? Which method is more effective?
- Why does the king demand that the prince marry a woman who is equal to the prince in "beauty, intelligence, and wealth" (page 4)? What is the king trying to accomplish with this request?
- Consider the importance of the wolf in the story. Why does he appear at first as if he is trying to steal Rosamund's goat, and then turn around and perform great favors for Rosamund? How is this wolf different from wolves in traditional fairy tales?
- How is The King's Equal like and unlike fairy tales you have read before? Consider the similarities and differences between The King's Equal and fairy tales such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
- Why does Rosamund request that Raphael enter the woods for a year and bring back her goats? What is she trying to teach Raphael with this command?
- What does Raphael learn while he is forced to live in the woods and care for the goats? How does the wolf help him learn what he needs to know in order to survive? How are Raphael's former attitudes humbled by living in the wilderness?
- Discuss the moral of The King's Equal. In your discussion, consider Rosamund's statement to the prince: "Perhaps you are poorer than I, for there is nothing I desire that I do not already possess" (page 38). What does it mean to be truly wealthy?
- As you read, how did you think the story would end? How are your predictions similar or different from the author's ending?
- In her National Book Award acceptance speech for The Great Gilly Hopkins, Katherine Paterson said, "The wonderful thing about being a writer is that it gives you readers, readers who bring their own stories to the story you have written, people who have the power to take your mythic, unbelievable, ten-foot-high characters and fit them to the shape of their own lives." Even though The King's Equal is a fairy tale, can you find similarities between characters in The King's Equal and people in your own life? In your own words, explain what Katherine Paterson meant by this quote.
- Pick volunteers from the group to "act" like Rosamund and put themselves in her shoes. What would Rosamund say about Raphael? What kind of complaints would she have about him? How would she feel about him when he returned from the mountains?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A short story that feels like an extended folk tale. A king is dying, and knowing the arrogance of his only son, his final wish is that his son must find a queen that is equal to him in wealth, intelligence and beauty. Prince Raphael is denied the crown until such a bride is found. Raphael is furious, and yet far too proud to accept any of the princesses brought before him as his equal. One night, the mysterious Rosamund appears. Raphael is smitten and asks for her hand, implying that she is his equal. Before she accepts, Rosamund has her own requirement: Raphael must spend a year on the mountain raising goats. She believes that if he follows this wish he might just return a grown man at last. As in folk tales and fairy tales, the people here are built upon strong character types that are one dimensional. In this case, their clearly defined natures are used to teach us the moral of the story and evoke our emotions. I was truly angry at Raphael's arrogant stupidity, moved by Rosamund's goodness, and eager to see all set right. Rosamund teaches us what true beauty, intelligence, and wealth really are, a lesson we already know but frequently forget, and Paterson reminds us in a modern day fairy tale that transcends time and place in its message.
The King's Equal is one of my favorite picture books, more for Katherine Paterson's text than Vladimir Vagin's illustrations, though those are lovely in their own right. I have read it several times to my five-year old sister over the course of the last two or three years, and each time I am surprised by how well it holds her attention, especially given the length of the story. It's just that magical, I suppose. Ms. Paterson (who I am a great fan of, but perhaps more here than in her usual novel-length stories for young people) uses fairytale conventions such as the number three and turns them to her own use; the end result is not unlike a George MacDonald allegory. A friend, to whom I recommended this book, commented that a few of the plot threads were not tied off and a few phenomena went unexplained. I did not notice them during my reread, and thought any unanswered questions only added to the mystery of this beautiful story.
An excellent book for early readers. Children can learn about equality and what it means to be a decent member of a functioning society. Other lessons in the story include kindness to animals, friendship, sharing, and love.
A fairy tale with a prince in need of help, a bright and kind young girl and a bit of magic -- excellent combination.
Cute story for smaller children. Nice plot and character.