The Turkey Prince

The Turkey Prince

…from the tales of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.


The¬†Turkey Prince.¬†This is perhaps the most well known of all of Reb Nachman’s stories, having been translated numerous times. In some ways, it is the story of every one of us.

A royal prince once became insane and believed he was a turkey. He felt compelled to sit naked under a table, pecking at bones and pieces of bread just like a turkey. The royal doctors all gave up hope of ever curing him, and the king suffered tremendous grief.

A sage then came and spoke; “I will undertake to cure him.”

The sage undressed and sat naked alongside the prince under the table, picking on crumbs and bones as well. “Who are you?” asked the prince, “and what are you doing here?”

“And you?” inquired the sage. “What are you doing here?”

“I am a turkey”, replied the prince. “I’m also a turkey,” empathized the sage.

They sat together for some time and became good friends. One day, the sage signaled the king’s servants to throw him shirts. He said to the prince, “What makes you think that a turkey can’t wear a shirt? You can wear a shirt and still be a turkey.” With that, the two of them put on shirts.

After a while, he signaled them again, and they threw them some pants. Just as before, he said, commenting to the prince; “What makes you think you can’t be a turkey if you wear pants?”

The sage continued in this manner until they were both completely dressed. Then he signaled again for food, and they were given regular food from the table. Again the sage said, “What makes you think that you’ll stop being a turkey if you eat good food? You can eat whatever you want and still be a turkey!” So they both ate the food.

Finally, the sage said, “What makes you think a turkey has to sit under a table? Turkeys can sit at a table like people too.”

He continued in this manner until the prince was completely healed.