The Unhappy Prince


Many years ago, in Northern Italy, lived a king. He lived in a palace with his son, the Prince. Every week the king and his son would walk out of the castle, down the hill, through the trees to a lake. They would swim for hours and then, when they had swum enough; they would walk back to the castle with water dripping off the end of their noses.

One weekend the king and his son, the Prince, were walking back with water dripping of their noses but the King noticed that his son was not walking as he normally did. His shoulders were hunch and his face was downturned.

"What on earth has upset you? Asked the King, 
“why are you so sad?”

“I don’t know. I’m just sad and I don’t know why.” The Prince replied

“What has made you so miserable?”, continue the King.
The young prince only shrugged. 
"Are you hungry? Do you want some food? I will bring you all your favourite foods!”

“No father, I’m not hungry. I’m just sad. I don’t know why”, said the young prince.

“Are you bored then? Do you want some friends to play with? I will bring you all the other children from the town and you can all play together in the gardens!”

“No father, I’m not bored. I’m just sad. I don’t know why”, said the young prince. The king nodded and walked off wondering what he could do to help his unhappy son.


Teaching point – story-telling

If you want to get your children engaged in the story let them suggest reasons why the prince maybe unhappy and then weave them in to the story in place of the ones written above. Ask them: ‘Why is the King’s son unhappy?’ Gather some ideas very quickly and mentally note some of the suggestions and then continue the story using them e.g. If one of the children said “A football will make him happy”, you can continue the narrative as follows:

 “A football then!” The King blurted. “I shall send to the palace and they shall bring the finest stitched-leather-bladderless footballs money can buy!”

“No, Dad”, responded the prince,  “I don’t need a football. I’m not bored. I’m just sad. I don’t know why”, he finished with a nonchalant shrug.

This should hopefully make the children feel that the story is also theirs too as they have added to the prose. Also they tend to think that one of them had the right answer as to why the king’s son was happy, so they listen more attentively.


Story continued

Then, then King had an idea! He needed some help so he invited all the best doctors teachers and philosophers to his castle and said to them “My son is unhappy. Sad. Miserable! What can I do?” Even these wise men needed some time to formulate a plan to save the king’s son from his misery. So they took their leave went away for a week and a day.

The Doctors looked at all their medicines and wondered what can we do to make the King’s son happy?

The teachers read all their books and wondered what can we do to cheer up the King’s son?

The philosophers discussed ideas with each other, wondering what can we do to stop the king’s son from being so unhappy?

On the eighth day they gathered again to attend the King in his castle. So the king asked once again.

Task question: 

  • What will make his son happy?

Teaching point – what’s needed and what’s enough

Initially pupils will offer lots of ways to make the prince happy: chocolate, friends, jokes, tv etc. Begin by just collating these ideas on the board. One you have built up a few ask them to be more critical of their ideas by assessing the necessity of certain things.


  • Is there anything on here you don’t need to be happy?


  • Can you be happy without chocolate (for example)?

Nested questions

  • What is happiness?
  • Is there anything you need for happiness?
  • Is sadness like sickness?
  • Is it better to always be happy?
  • Is happiness important?
  • Is sadness important?

Download The Unhappy Prince