What is the true worth of the unknown soldier? How many can relive their encounters with them with fondness? How many can identify the cream of the pack, those who did not become notorious but who accepted the embrace of honour and refused the common tag of notorious, worn by many of their kind? I know of such a soldier but his story is some kind of epitaph, a footnote, in the chronicles of one of the most talked about leaders in history. By the way, isn’t that the destiny of the unknown soldier? They do what they have to do so that that others may remain in their spaces, taking their defence and security for granted. Here is the story.
Some renegade had planned a mutiny against the crown. But this was not just any renegade. He was the son of the king, who pleaded that his soldiers be ‘soft’ on his son, despite the gravity of his action. He called his chief of army staff and gave him his marching orders but other soldiers heard the king as he charged his chief soldier to be gentle with the lad. Of the soldiers went on their mission, to rout the rebels. Fortune smiled on one of the soldiers when he happened on the leader of the rebellion who had accidentally been caught by his flowing hair in a large tree, suspended some say, between heaven and earth. He knew what he must do, the words of the king still ringing in his ears. He ran to his chief to break the news. What happened afterwards elevated him to the pantheon of the MVUS, the most valuable unknown soldier. “Sir, I saw the Prince hanging in an oak tree,” he began. “If you saw him, why did you not kill him on the spot? I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a belt,” his chief barked out angrily. “Even if you gave me a thousand pieces of silver, I wouldn’t lift a finger against the king’s son. We all heard the king command you and the other leaders not to harm his son. If I had disobeyed the king and killed his son, the king would still have heard about it – he hears everything – and you would not have defended me,” he pressed further. Short of blurting out an expletive, “I’m not going to waste any more time with you,” he stated as he got up, took some spears and went to where the prince was hanging. He despatched the spears into the chest of the young man and asked some of his guards to finish the job and cut down the dead prince. They took his body to a deep pit in the forest and covered it with a huge pile of stones. The mutiny was thus quashed. Of course the chief went to the king with a different narrative. We never heard about the unknown soldier again. But was that truly the end of the unknown soldier?