Emperor Pingu, the King of the Ice Floes is, to most people, little more than a legend. It is said that he sits upon a throne and looks out over the frozen lands of the far south, or the far north depending on the story, rarely moving from his seat. The legends say that he sits quietly guarding his egg, waiting for his queen to return, and that he won’t leave the throne or speak to anyone until then. Other tales say that he does communicate, but only to fly into a rage at anyone who dares to disturb his silent vigil.
People in the cold parts of the world have enjoyed many a hearty laugh sending fools off to find Emperor Pingu, with the promise that his egg is made of gemstones, or that the person who eats it will have eternal youth.
None of this is, strictly speaking, true. The King of Ice Floes does exist, and he does protect and egg and sit upon a throne, but the egg is simply a penguin egg and he rarely if ever flies into a rage. Instead, Emperor Pingu rules over the penguins, who bring him fish as he sits and watches over his subjects. Emperor Pingu was once a normal penguin, who was granted magical powers by the gods in order to protect the swimming birds. He only leaves his throne when it is time to die, for the King of Ice Floes only has the normal lifespan of a penguin, and when it is his time to die he relinquishes the throne, placing one of his children upon it so that they might rule instead.
Emperor Pingu is a title passed from one generation to another.
The other reason he so rarely leaves the throne is because it is the throne which grants his power. From there he can cast spells to protect his subjects, ensuring that there are enough fish to eat, or that predators do not claim to many penguin lives in a season.
From time to time he will speak with visitors who succeed in finding him, and will even ask favors of them, though he has little to offer in the way of treasure. The eggs he guards aren’t made of gems, and his scepter is actually a wand that he can little afford to give up.
When the King of Ice Floes rewards those who help him, he does so through magic. His touch is said to cure any disease, and he can cast enchantments which protect from the cold, or let one understand the languages of birds. Knowledge is perhaps his greatest reward, for despite living only a normal penguin’s lifespan, upon attaining the throne, each Emperor Pingu knows everything that every previous one has known or learned. While the knowledge of generations of arcane penguins may not sound impressive, a surprising amount of information is borne to the King of the Ice Floes on the frigid waters of the far south.
Artwork: “King of the Penguins” by J.J. Grandville, from Vie privée et publique des animaux by various authors, 1867.