This folktale is found in multiple collections all over the world. It has a Somalian version, a popular Greek version (King Midas), a Korean one and several others. Within India, it is found in almost every language. This author heard it from her father who located it in Tamil Nadu and the story has been accordingly adapted to suit local tastes and conditions.
Once upon a time, there lived a king. He was a fine king who ruled well and made his subjects happy. Yet, he was unhappy because he had a curious problem… he had the ears of an ass! He was very ashamed of his secret and kept the ears hidden inside his turban.
The only one who knew about it was his barber and he had been sworn into secrecy. The barber knew better than to disobey the king’s orders and so he never spoke about this to anyone but as the years went by, the secret ate away at him. It grew inside his tummy and soon, the barber’s stomach grew so big that it threatened to burst under the weight of the secret.