One day, a young Indian prince was riding his horse across his vast domains, when he fell in love with a peasant girl. Struck as he was by the deepest passion, he went to her father to ask for the girl's hand.
“Please forgive me, my prince,” the old peasant said, “but I cannot give you my daughter’s hand because you do not know Truth. Go, find it if your love is true, then come back and you can have my daughter.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, the prince went to find Truth. He searched everywhere. He searched the fields, he searched the forests, he searched the mountains and the deserts, he searched the villages and the great cities. He kept asking, “Have you seen Truth? Have you met her? Do you know where I can find her?”
And everywhere the answer was the same. Truth wasn’t there. Of course, they have seen her, she had passed by, just past that house over there, by the shadow of those willow trees. But she didn’t stay long. Where did she go? Nobody knew. One thing everybody was certain was that with each passing day, Truth was getting father away.
“We don't know, we've forgotten her,” they told him in one place.
After years of searching, the prince was exhausted and disheartened. He was high on a mountain, among the cold winds, next to a cave. He felt he couldn’t go on any longer, so he went into the cave to get some rest.
He heard a sound in the darkness, the grunting of a beast. The prince got up and, sword in hand, went towards it. At last he was able to distinguish a deformed silhouette, neither human, nor beast. It was a woman, an ugly, old hag lying listlessly in a putrid mist of her own making. Her face was scarred with wrinkles as old as the rock she was laying on.
She raised her cold eyes to the young prince and growled at him.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m searching for Truth,” the prince answered sternly.
“Lucky you, then. You have just found her.”
The prince took a long look at the decayed phantasm in front of him.
“Are you really Truth?”
“Yes I am.”
“How can I know that?”
The old woman then told him things only he could know, painful, unpleasant things, until he told her to stop.
“Am I the first to find you?”
“I can’t even remember. It’s been a while since anyone looked at me.”
“Well then I’m happy to have found you. I can marry the woman of my dreams now. I can bring you with me to my palace, if you wish.”
“I’m not sure they will be too happy at my sight,” the old woman replied.
“Then I will tell them I’ve met you. Everybody is curious about you. What should I tell them?”
After a long, rasping cough that seemed to almost burst her chest, she replied, “Tell them that I am young and beautiful.”
after Jean-Claude Carrière