The Tale of Melon City Summary by Vikram Seth 

The poem is a ridiculous take on how stupidity can result in some of the strangest conclusions. The setting is of a kingdom with an irrational king who is too dependent on the advice of others that rely on his sound judgment. 

Story of a King

The poem begins with lauding this great and honorable king who is determined to leave a lasting legacy on any person who crosses his lands. Therefore, he orders the construction of the most impressive arch spanning the width of his kingdom. The workers find the plan ridiculous but get along with it.

On its completion, the king attempts to cross it and declare it open publicly. However, to his dismay, his crown gets knocked off while going through the magnificent structure. The kingdom is shocked and embarrassed and demands the man responsible to be punished.


The king puts the blame on the builder and decides to put him to death. When summoned, the builder puts the blame to the workers who somehow managed to build it lower than originally planned.

The workers were quick to absolve themselves as they blamed the supplier who delivered wrong sized bricks. The supplier points the finger at the architect and his design.

When it comes to the architect, he is clever enough to revert the final finger to the king himself as he was the one who finalized the plan. The king is confused and organized a counsel with the wisest men across the lands.

In a way, the king finally relents some of his power to one or a few of his subjects. But the wise men could only muster an absurd solution which is to blame the inert structure itself.

King is Hanged

Growing restless at the ineptness of their king and his council, the crowd starts demanding swift justice. In haste, the king declares to hang whoever fits the size of the gallows. Unfortunately, for the monarch, he is the one who finally fits in the noose and is consequently hanged.

Now the problem shifts to crowning the next monarch. The only solution people agree with is to ask the next stranger to enter the kingdom for a nomination. Unfortunately, the next man to enter the kingdom happens to be a fool. He always answers any question with the word ‘melon’.

Melon City

Thus, the ‘melon’ is declared the monarch for the kingless kingdom. The people seem to be happy with a king that has no interest or intrusion into their private lives. This leads to the naming of the city as the Melon City.

Further Reading

  1. Line by Line Summary of The Tale of Melon City
  2. Play Quiz on the poem The Tale of Melon City
  3. Questions-Answers of The Tale of Melon City