Since a young age, before he knew what it meant to be a future king, King Turtle knew exactly when summer began. He knew this because just after the rains the cicadas would start seeing their song loud and unmistakable, and that sound meant summer had finally come. But since a young age, one thing had always bothered the price: he knew their song, the tenor and the melody, but he had never actually seen a cicada.
One day, the prince asked his father, who was a good king and a better father. The prince thought his father would tell him what a cicada looked like, or at least where he could see one. Instead, the king told him to go to the deepest part of the pond, where shadow and crevice meet, to find the hermit.
“The hermit?” the prince asked. “How can I learn what a cicada looks like from him?”
“Sometimes learning and knowing are not the same thing,” the august regent replied.
So, that very day the prince set off to find the hermit. Now, the prince considered himself fearless, but like all young men who think themselves fearless, here at the crevice where the shadows began, the prince realized he was not so fearless after all. At that moment, he decided he should be cautious instead, which meant a little fear was acceptable.
“Ex-, excuse me,” he stammered into the darkness. “I’m here to see the hermit. Is he here?”
He was greeted with silence. A long, stay stretch of silence. Then, very slowly, a haggard old turtle head began to grow from a rock just inside the shadows.
“I am the one they call hermit,” an old gray voice said. “What do you want, young one?”
“My father said you could tell me what a cicada looks like,” said the prince, and then added, “my father, the king?”
“Yes, yes, I know who you are,” replied the hermit. “And who your father is makes no difference to me, king our not.”
“Can you tell me?” asked the prince impatiently.
“Oh, yes,” whispered the hermit. “I could tell you. Your father could tell you. Even your mother could tell you. But that’s not why you’re here.”
At this the prince was confused. Want that why his father had sent him here? And if his father and mother both knew what a cicada looked like, why did the king tell him to come here? And how many others could have told him what he needed to know?
“Any old turtle could tell you what a cicada looks like,” said the hermit, as if reading the prince’s mind. “But that’s not why you’re here,” he repeated. “You’re here to learn what a cicada looks like. Which means you and I are going on a little trip across the shadows.”