Many years ago, China was in the middle of a great war. The Emperor said that one man from each Chinese family must leave his family to join the army. Mulan, a teenage girl who lived in a faraway village of China, heard the news when she was outside washing clothes.
Mulan ran into the house. Her father was sitting in a chair, carving a piece of wood. “Father!” she said. “Did you hear what the Emperor says each family must do?”
“Yes,” said her old father, “I heard about it in town. Well, I may as well go pack up.” He put down his carving, stood up and walked very slowly to his room.
“Wait!” said Mulan, “Father, you have not been well. If I may say so, why at your age must you keep up with all those young men?”
“What else can be done?” said her father. “Your brother is a child. He cannot go.”
“Of course that’s true,” said Mulan. “He is too little. But I have an idea.” She poured her father a cup of tea and handed it to him. “Father, have some tea. Please sit a minute. I will be right back.”
“Very well, dear,” said the father.
Mulan went into her room. With her sword, she cut off her long, black hair. She put on her father’s robe. Going back to her father, Mulan said, “Look at me. I am your son now. I will go in your place. I will do my part for China.”
“No, my daughter!” said the old man. “You cannot do this!”
“Father, listen please,” said Mulan. “For years, you trained me in Kung Fu. You showed me how to use a sword.” Mulan swung the sword back and forth with might.
“Only so that you could stay safe!” said her father. “I never meant for you to go to war. If they find out you are a woman, you know as well as I do that you will die!”
“No one will find out, Father,” said Mulan. She picked up her sword.
“Mulan!” said the Father. He tried to get up but had to hold on to his chair.
The daughter kissed him goodbye. “I love you, Father,” she said. “Take care of yourself. Tell my brother I said goodbye.” She climbed on a family horse. And off she went to join the Emperor’s army.
In the army, Mulan proved to be a brave soldier. In time, she was put in charge of other soldiers. Her battles went so well that she was put in charge of more soldiers. Her battles kept on going well. After a few years Mulan was given the top job – she would be General of the entire army.
Not long after that, a very bad fever swept through the army. Many soldiers were sick. And Mulan became sick, too, the General of the army.
When the doctor came out of Mulan’s tent, he knew the truth.
“The General is a woman?” yelled the soldiers. “How can this be?” Some called out, “She tricked us!” and “We will not fight for a woman!” They said, “Punish her! Make her pay! The cost is for her to die!”
But others called out, in voices just as loud, “With Mulan, we win every battle!” They said, “Stay away from our General!”
Just then, a soldier ran up. “Everyone!” he called. “A surprise attack is coming!”
Mulan heard this from inside her tent. She got dressed and went outside. She was not yet strong, but stood tall. She told the soldiers where they must go to hide so they could attack when the enemy came. But they must get there fast! The soldiers, even those who did not like that their General was a woman, could tell that Mulan knew what she was talking about.
It worked! The battle was won. It was such a big victory that the enemy gave up, at last. The war was over, and China was saved! You can be sure that after that last battle, no one cared anymore that Mulan was a woman.
The Emperor was so glad that Mulan had ended the long war, he set aside the rule about being a woman. “Mulan, stay with me in the palace,” he said. “Someone as smart as you would be a fine royal adviser.”
Mulan bowed deeply. “You are too kind, Sire,” she said. “But if you please. What I wish most of all is to return home to my family.”
“Then at least take these fine gifts,” said the Emperor. “So everyone at your home village will know how much the Emperor of China thinks of you.”
Mulan returned to her village with six fine horses and six fine swords. Everyone cheered that she was safe. The person who had saved China was their very own Mulan!
ONCE THERE WAS AN EVIL WIZARD who made a mirror with his dark magic. If anything good or beautiful was put in front of the mirror, the reflection that showed back was only rotten and gray.
The wizard laughed. He wanted to show his evil mirror to the whole world! He took it and flew up high into the sky.
He flew so fast that the mirror started to shake. He could no longer hold on to it and the mirror dropped! It smashed into many tiny sharp bits of glass on the ground.
The wind blew the glass all over the place. From then on, if one bit of that evil glass blew into anyone’s eye, that person would see only the bad and dark in people, not the good. And so that’s how it was in that land.
Years later, a boy named Kai and a girl named Gerda were friends. They lived next door to each other. Both of them had their bedrooms in the attic. When they opened their attic windows, they were so close they could reach out and touch fingers.
An old gutter ran between the two roofs. In the gutter where water ran through, the families had planted a garden with vegetables and roses. It was like Kai and Gerda’s very own garden. Kai and Gerda’s families were poor. There were no toys to play with. But they did not mind. They played in their garden on the roof, and were happy.
One day, Gerda and Kai were on the roof weeding the garden. All of a sudden, a gust of wind blew by. It blew a sharp bit of that evil glass right into Kai’s eye. He stood up, stepping on the roses. “I do not want to weed this stupid garden anymore!” he said.
“Okay,” said Gerda. “Do you know you’re stepping on the roses? How about a clapping game?”
But Kai cried out, “I don’t care if I step on all the roses! And I never want to play with you, Gerda. Ever again!”
The Snow Queen
The next day, Kai took his sled into town. Ah, that sled was so slow! A big white sleigh was coming down the road very fast. The sleigh came close to Kai and as it did, it slowed down just a bit. Kai had an idea. He quickly tied the rope of his sled onto the back of the sleigh. Now he could ride behind on his sled! But what Kai did not know is that driving the sleigh was the evil Snow Queen.
The Snow Queen, in her white fur coat, had known very well that Kai was on the road. She had slowed down her sleigh when she got closer, to give him a chance to tie on the rope. She did not turn around to look. She knew that Kai was speeding along behind her. Soon he would be near frozen with cold. Then, she knew, it would be easy to make him hers.
The Snow Queen drove on. When she knew Kai must be bitter cold, she stopped the sleigh. She went up to the boy. “You want to ride behind my big sleigh?” said the Snow Queen. “I can make it so you do not feel the cold.” Kai shivered. “I will give you one kiss on your cheek. Then you will no longer feel cold.”
Kai nodded. She kissed him on the cheek. He no longer felt cold.
“Now, one more kiss,” said the Snow Queen. “With this one, you will forget all about Gerda and your family.” Before Kai could say anything, the Snow Queen had kissed the other cheek. She laughed and said, “If I kissed you a third time on your forehead, you would die. But I have things for you to do for me back at my palace.” Then she got into her sleigh and drove on.
Where was Kai?
Kai did not return home that day. Or the day after that. You can imagine how upset everyone was! They said poor Kai must have drowned in the river. Gerda ran down to the river. She called out to the waters rushing by – Is it true? The river would not say. Gerda took off her red shoes and held them up.
She said she would throw her red shoes into the river, if only the river would give back Kai. But the river would not let her throw in the shoes. And that is how Gerda knew that he must not be under the water.
But where was he?
Gerda went many places looking for Kai. She went to see a witch. The witch tried to trick Gerda into staying with her forever. Gerda ran out very fast, just in time. Then she met a crow. The crow told Gerda that to find Kai, she must go to the palace of a Princess.
So off went Gerda to the palace of the Princess. She did not know anything about Kai. But she gave Gerda warm clothes and a beautiful coach she could ride on her way.
The Robber Girl
Gerda was riding her coach when a band of robbers jumped up from behind. The robbers were led by a Robber Girl. The Robber Girl made Gerda go into the back of the coach. Then she took the reins. And Gerda was her prisoner!
Poor Gerda! She had lost her coach. She was a prisoner. And she had no more clue than ever where to find Kai.
The Robber Girl took Gerda back to the house where she lived. Gerda must sleep in the barn, in a corner next to a reindeer.
When the Robber Girl had left, Gerda cried out, “Oh Kai, where are you?” Two white dove birds up high in the loft of the barn, heard her cry.
Said one dove to her, “We remember seeing that boy Kai you speak of.”
“You do?” said Gerda.
“What a sad day that was!” said the other dove. “That was when the Snow Queen drove by on her sleigh. The boy Kai was riding behind on his sled, very fast.”
“We were sitting in our nest,” said the first dove. “When that evil Snow Queen passed by, she turned and breathed on us.” The dove could not finish, and the other one said, “Only my brother and I lived after that!”
“How terrible! I am so sorry for you,” said Gerda. “But you saw my dear Kai? Where was the sleigh headed?”
“Most likely the Snow Queen was going to her palace in Lapland,” said the first dove. “That’s where there is snow and ice all year long.”
“How will I ever find this place, Lapland?” said Gerda.
Then the reindeer, who was roped to a post, spoke up. “I know all about Lapland,” said the reindeer. “It is where I was born.”
“Please, could you take me there?” said Gerda.
“Yes I could, if only you and I were free of this place. But who knows how long we must stay here?”
The Robber Girl was just outside the barn door all this time. She was not really so mean after all. She went into the barn and cut the ropes that bound the reindeer. She helped Gerda mount the reindeer and gave her a cushion to sit on. She even gave Gerda a pair of fur boots, two loaves of bread and a piece of bacon, too. “Be off now,” said the Robber Girl. “Find your friend.”
Off like the wind flew Gerda and the reindeer. They rode and rode until it got dark. Then they needed to find a place to stay for the night.
They knocked on the door of a hut. An old woman opened the door and welcomed them in. Gerda and the reindeer told her about their search to find Kai. The old woman said, “You still have a long way to go to get to Lapland. The Snow Queen’s palace is 100 miles away.”
“How will we find it?” said Gerda.
“The windows of her palace burn with a blue light that can be seen for miles around,” said she. “You can’t miss it.
But when you get there, do not go right up to the palace. First, look for a cabin nearby with a red door. Inside that cabin lives a Lapland woman I know.” The old woman picked up a piece of dried fish and wrote some words on it. “Give her this fish,” said the old woman,”and she will help you.”
The next day, the reindeer and Gerda rode as fast as they could. They flew like the wind for three days. On the third day, they saw blue lights from afar. When they got closer, they saw it was a large, dark palace, Nearby, just as the old woman had said, was a cabin with a red door. Very cold they were by then, and hungry too. And glad when a Lapland woman opened the door and let them warm themselves by her fire.
Gerda told her that they had coming looking her dear friend Kai. And that Kai was last seen with the Snow Queen. She handed the fish to the Lapland woman.
She read the words on the fish three times. Then she put it in the pot on the fire for soup, as she never wanted to waste anything.
“Did it tell you anything at all?” cried out Gerda.
The reindeer said, “Something to give Gerda the power of ten men?”
“The power of ten men!” said the Lapland woman, in a huff. “That would be of very little use. There is nothing anyone can do for this girl that she can not do for herself!” She turned to Gerda. “Your friend Kai got some bad glass in his eye. That is why the Snow Queen took him. By now, she has probably kissed him twice. That gives her full power over him.”
“Surely something can be done!” cried Gerda.
“Maybe,” said the Lapland woman. She turned to the reindeer. “Take Gerda to the Snow Queen’s palace. You will see a bush with red berries half covered in snow. Put her down at the bush and wait for her there while she goes to find Kai. And Gerda,” said she, turning to the girl, “there is something you must know. When you find Kai, he will not want to leave. He is in her power. He thinks that her palace is the very best place in the world. He has forgotten all about you.”
“What will I do?” Gerda cried out.
“Look at what you have already done!” said the Lapland woman. “Look at how far you have already come.”
And so Gerda mounted the reindeer, and off they went.
The Palace of the Snow Queen
“Oh, no!” said Gerda after the cabin was no longer in sight. “I left my fur boots behind!” But there was no time to go back. So on they went.
At the bush with red berries, Gerda climbed off the reindeer.
There she was, with no boots and her feet bare in the cold snow. But the Snow Queen’s palace was right ahead of her, its blue lights burning in the windows. So Gerda walked on.
As she went, she called and called for Kai. At last, there he was! He was sitting on top of a frozen lake, down on his knees. A throne sat on the lake, and it was empty. The Snow Queen had given Kai a job of setting pieces of ice into words. Other pieces of ice he must make into numbers. For this frozen lake was the Lake of Reason. And the throne was the very throne of the Snow Queen.
“Kai!” called Gerda. But he did not look up.
Kai’s skin was dark blue, as if he was frozen. He had so little feeling left he did not even notice the cold anymore. The Snow Queen was away and Kai was busy with his task, working on the frozen lake. He moved one piece of ice here and another there, making the words and numbers.
Thanks to Artist, robmmad16
“Kai!” called Gerda again. Still, Kai did not look up. Gerda ran right up to his face. “Kai! Kai!”
At last, Kai looked up. But he looked right past her with his deep dark eyes, and did not see her at all. Gerda burst into tears. Cold and cutting was the wind on that lake. As Gerda cried “Kai, where are you?” one of her tears blew right onto Kai’s face.
The tear burned his face until his whole face felt hot. Then Kai, too, was crying.
“Gerda!” said Kai, “is that you?” Kai shivered. He cried with joy, for the evil bit of glass was washed from his eye. Kai took Gerda’s hands. Though they were both frozen cold, each of them felt warm inside.
Trip Back Home
Gerda and Kai walked hand in hand back to the bush with the red berries, where the reindeer waited. As they walked, the sun came out and warmed and dried them. The wind stopped and birds started to chirp. Before they knew it, there was the reindeer, in front of them.
The reindeer took them back the the first old woman, who gave Gerda a new pair of fur boots. Each of them got a fur hat, too. As the reindeer carried them on the long road back home, who came along the road but the Robber Girl! She was riding the coach she had taken from Gerda, but Gerda was glad to see her, just the same.
The Robber Girl said to Gerda, “So this is the friend you traveled all the way across the world to save. I hope he was worth it!” They all smiled.
The Robber Girl said they should hop on her sleigh and she would give them a lift home. By the time they finally got home, it was summertime. Much to their surprise, they were all grown up.
In the years that came to be, Gerda and Kai stayed the best of friends. There were no more adventures with the Snow Queen or the cold frozen north, and each lived a quiet life. But they knew deep down that no matter what, they would always look out for each other.
WE CELEBRATE NEW YEAR’S at the beginning of January but in many lands this event happened at the beginning of Spring. That’s a time of new life after all, when plants grow and flowers bloom. In ancient Persia, there was a traditional New Year’s feast at the beginning of spring. At the royal palace, artists, craftsmen and strangers would present their finest skills or treasures to the king. If the king was pleased, he would grant them a fine gift.
Near the end of one of these New Year’s Day celebrations in Persia, a traveler came before the king. He presented an artificial horse that was richly decorated.
“I flatter myself, sir,” said the stranger, addressing himself to the king, “that Your Majesty has never seen anything as wonderful as this.”
“Any capable artist can create a horse such as this one,” frowned the king.
“Sir,” replied the traveler, “it is not its decoration, but its use that makes this horse so exceptional. On his back I can ride through the air to the most distant part of the earth in a very short time. I can even teach anyone else how to ride the magic horse.”
This interested the king. “Well, then, on that mountaintop over there,” and the king pointed to a mountain over ten miles away, “there is a palm-tree. The branches have a particular quality I happen to like. Go, if your horse is as fast as you claim, and fetch me a branch of it.”
The stranger mounted his horse. Turning a peg in the neck, away he and the horse flew. In 15 minutes he returned with a palm branch in his hand, and laid it at the king’s feet.
The king was impressed. At once, he asked to purchase the horse. “Your Majesty,” said the traveler, “the artist who sold me this horse made me swear that I would never part with it for money.”
“What would it take then?” demanded the king. The stranger replied that he would gladly give the horse away if His Majesty would only bestow on him the hand of the princess, his daughter, in marriage.
When the royal courtiers heard this extravagant request, they burst out laughing. The King’s son, Prince Darius, was astonished, even more so when he saw his father, the king, looking thoughtful, as if he were seriously considering the offer.
Stepping up to the king, Prince Darius said, “Forgive me, father. But is it possible you would consider for a moment marrying off your daughter, my sister, to gain little more than a toy horse?”
In truth, the king was worried that if he refused the marriage request, then another king might get the magic horse. He asked his son to examine the horse carefully, and report his opinion of it. At least this would give him more time to consider the matter.
Prince Darius approached the horse. The traveler came forward to show the prince how to manage it. But the young prince was in no mood to take instructions from a stranger who had the nerve to try to trick his royal family. In too great a fury to listen, he leapt upon the saddle and turned the peg. In an instant the horse rose into the air, and with the Prince on it.
The stranger was most alarmed when he saw the prince fly away on the magic horse before he had learned how to manage it. He threw himself at the king’s feet, and begged the king not to blame him for any accident which might happen to befall the prince, since it was the prince’s own carelessness that had exposed him to the danger. At once, the king realized the danger of his son’s situation. He cursed the stranger and his fatal horse, and ordered his officers to seize the traveler and carry him to prison.
“If my son does not return safely in a very short time,” he thundered,”at least I’ll have the satisfaction of taking your paltry life!”
In the meantime, Prince Darius was carried through the air with breathtaking speed. Soon he could scarcely even see the earth anymore. He tried turning the peg this way and that, but it seemed to have no effect. If anything, the horse only rose further into the air. He was greatly alarmed and began to regret his pride and hasty action. He turned the peg every which he could think of, but nothing worked. On examining the horse closely, he at last discovered another peg, one behind the ear. On turning that peg he soon found the horse started to descend.
By the time the prince drew near to the ground, it had become dark. Spotting a rooftop higher than all the others, he landed the horse upon it and dismounted. Hungry and tired, he searched about and found that he was on the roof of some large building. At last he came to some steps. Climbing down the steps, he found a door and through the door he saw a light. A number of guards were asleep on pallets with their swords lying beside them. This, along with the fact that this was the highest rooftop in the land, convinced the Prince that he must be in the palace of the land. He knew that if any of the guards awakened he would be in great danger. So he quietly climbed the steps back to the roof, and decided to sleep for the night in a dark corner. Before dawn, he would leave on his magic horse before anyone awoke.
But a princess had already been awakened by the sounds she heard on the roof. She instructed her guards to find out what had alighted and to bring the trespasser to her at once. The guards roughly brought the prince before her, and he fell on his knees.
“Forgive me, princess, for awakening you,” he said. “I am the son of a king, and one who has taken an entirely unexpected adventure, the particulars of which I would be happy to relate to you, if you would allow me.”
The lady was none other than Princess Nadia, the daughter of the King of Bengal, a region in northern India of today. Many of her attendants by this time were also awakened. The princess told Darius she would be glad to hear all about his adventure in the morning, but for the present asked him to withdraw. She ordered her attendants to conduct him to a bedchamber, and to supply him with food and refreshments.
The next day, Prince Darius remained a guest of Princess Nadia. Over the next few days the two of them got to know each other, and before long before they fell in love.
One afternoon the prince said to her, “Ah, my princess, everything seems different now. I was thinking about that scoundrel who tried to trick his way into my royal family. He was a no-good louse to be sure, but he may be in prison or even executed on my account, when I know that I was the one who jumped on that horse before he had a chance to show me how it works.”
The princess said, “Are you thinking of going back now?”
“Will you come?” he asked. She was glad to agree.
The next morning, the princess left a note so none would worry. And at daybreak they went to the roof where the horse still remained. Prince Darius helped Princess Nadia to alight. Turning the peg, they were out of sight before any attendants in the palace were stirring. In thirty minutes the prince had arrived at the capital of Persia.
He steered the magic horse to land at the prison. As the prince had thought, the stranger was imprisoned there. And he was nearly beside himself since his execution was scheduled to take place the very next morning. Determined to see his father at once about the matter, the prince first took the princess on his magic horse to a cottage in the woods not far from the palace.
“Stay here while I go to see my father,” he said to her. “I’ll show him that I’m well, and urge him to hold the execution of the fellow who brought the magic horse. Most of all, I want to tell my father about you. I’m sure he’ll prepare a suitable reception at the palace to welcome a princess.”
He explained to her how to operate the magic horse, in case she might need to flee for safety while he was away.
Indeed, danger was lurking even as they spoke. A thief behind the bushes had overheard their conversation, all of it. “What luck!” he thought with glee, “a princess alone ANDa magic horse! I’ll take her to the Sultan of Cashmere. He’s made it known far and wide he is seeking a bride. What a fine reward I’ll get for her!”
The thief waited for the Prince to disappear into the woods. Then he sprang on the princess, mounted the magic horse, and held her securely in front of him. Overjoyed at how easy it all was, he turned the peg exactly how he had seen the prince show the princess to do it, and the horse immediately rose into the air. Astonished was the prince on the ground to hear the alarmed cries of his lady love, circling overhead, as the magic horse dipped and dove from inexperienced hands, and he could do nothing about it. He cursed the kidnapper with a thousand curses.
While the king was overjoyed to see his son, and at his request ordered a stay of execution for the seller of the horse, he understood why his son must leave again so quickly. The prince put on the clothing of a beggar and determined never to return till he had found his princess again.
The Sultan of Cashmere, in the meantime, was very impressed with the Princess of Bengal. Her distress at her kidnapping only added to her natural beauty, or so his evil mind thought. The Sultan delivered the promised reward and then escorted the princess to his palace. He directed his attendants to bring the magic horse on which they had arrived to the royal treasure for safe-keeping.
The princess hoped the Sultan of Cashmere would prove honorable and reasonable, and would return her to her beloved prince of Persia, but she was much disappointed. In fact, the next morning she was awakened early by the sound of trumpets and the beating of drums, which echoed through the palace and city. When she asked the cause of this rejoicing, she was told it was to celebrate her marriage with their Sultan, which was to take place later that day.
Desperate, there was only one thing she felt she could do. She rose and dressed herself carelessly, and in her whole behavior appeared to be disordered and wild. The Sultan was soon told of this strange development. When he came to visit her, she put on the appearance of frenzy, flew at him in a rage, and this she did every time he came into the room. The Sultan was much disturbed, and offered large rewards to any doctor who could cure her. But whenever any doctors approached, the princess would fly at them too and beat her fists, so that all began to lose hope for her recovery.
During this time, Prince Darius, disguised as a wandering beggar, had been traveling through many provinces, full of grief, and uncertain which way to go to find his beloved princess. With nearly all hope gone, he rested on a rock. Then who should happen to pass before him but the very stranger who had brought the magical horse to the New Year’s feast, more tattered looking than ever, yet glad indeed to have been released from prison.
“And where, may I ask, is the magic horse?” he said to the prince. “Has it proved as unpredictable an item for you as it did to me?”
The two sat and shared their troubles. In the way of telling tales, the scruffy man related a story of a princess from Bengal who had become mad on the day of her wedding to the Sultan of Cashmere. As he described the circumstances, a flicker of hope lit the prince’s heart. Could this princess of Bengal be the same lost love he sought? He was determined to find out.
Arriving at the capital city of Cashmere, he put on the clothes of a doctor. Presenting himself before the Sultan, he claimed that he could cure the princess.
“First,” said the pretend doctor, “I must see her where she cannot see me.” So he was led into a closet, where he could watch her through a hole in the door. She was carelessly singing a song, in which she wailed of her unhappy fate.
“Yes!” he thought, trying to contain his excitement. “It is my bride!”
Prince Darius as the doctor told the Sultan that indeed the princess could be cured, but he would need to speak with her alone.
The Sultan agreed. As soon as the prince entered her room, she began to rave at him in her usual furious manner, at which point he held her wrists and whispered urgently, “I am Darius, your beloved.”
The princess stopped raving at once. The attendants withdrew, delighted at this proof of the doctor’s abilities. In more whispers, the prince shared a plan with her. Then he returned to the Sultan. The pretend doctor shook his head and said, “All depends upon a mere chance. You see, the princess, a few hours before she was taken ill, must have touched something enchanted. Unless I can obtain that something, whatever it was, I cannot cure her.”
The Sultan of Cashmere remembered the magic horse, which was still kept in his treasury. He called for it to be brought to him and showed it to the imaginary doctor. On seeing the horse, the young man said, very gravely, “I congratulate Your Majesty. This indeed is the very magic object that enchanted the princess. Let this horse be brought out into the great square before the palace, and let the princess be there. I promise that in a few minutes she will be perfectly cured.”
Accordingly, the following morning the magic horse was placed in the middle of the square. The supposed doctor drew a large circle around it. He placed around the circle chafing dishes, with a little fire in each. The sultan, with all his nobles and ministers of state, watched with great interest.
The princess was brought out with her head covered in veils, and led to the middle of the circle. The pretend doctor placed her upon the enchanted horse. He then went round to each chafing dish and threw in a certain powder, which soon raised such a cloud of smoke that neither the physician, the princess, nor the magic horse could be seen through it. At that instant the prince of Persia mounted the horse himself. Turning the peg, the magic horse rose into the air.
The princess called down, “Sultan of Cashmere, you cannot lose what you never owned!”
And the prince called down: “A bride’s heart must be earned, it cannot be purchased!”
That same day the Prince of Persia and his beloved Princess arrived safely at the Persian court. The father rejoiced at the son’s return, and immediately ordered a wedding celebration with the greatest splendor that had ever been seen in that land. And so the Prince and Princess lived together, happily ever after.
IT WAS PROCLAIMED throughout the kingdom of Granada that the king had decided to marry. First, the news was first told to the court barber, then to the night watchmen, and then to the oldest women in the city.
The barber told all his customers, who again told all their friends. The night watchmen, in crying the hour, proclaimed the news in a loud voice, so that all the maidens were kept awake by thinking of the news.
By day, the old women constantly reminded the young that the king had decided to marry.
The question was posed, “How will the king choose a wife?” To which the royal barber replied: “To find a worthy woman, I am afraid I shall have great trouble.”
“What, you?” exclaimed all of them. “What have you got to do with providing the king with a wife?”
“I am the only man permitted to rub the royal features,” said he. “And what’s more, I have a magic mirror. If any woman who is not thoroughly good should look into the mirror, the blemishes on her character will appear as so many spots on its glossy surface.”
“Is this one of the conditions?” asked all.
“That is the only condition,” replied the royal barber, placing his thumbs in the armholds of his waistcoat and looking very wise.
“Is there no limit as to age?” they again inquired.
“Any woman from eighteen years upwards is eligible,” said the possessor of the magic mirror.
“Then you will have every woman in Granada claiming the right to be queen!” all exclaimed.
“But they will have to justify their claim,” said he. “Each woman will have to gaze into the mirror, with me by her side.”
The one condition imposed on those who wanted to become queen of Granada was made known. Many laughed, as may naturally be supposed, but strange to say, no woman came forward to the barber to have a look into the mirror.
Days and weeks went by, and the king was no closer to getting a wife. Some ladies would try to convince their lady friends to go before the mirror, but none seemed willing to take the step.
The king, you should know, was a very handsome man, and was beloved by all his subjects for his many virtues. Therefore it was surprising that none of the lovely ladies who attended court should try to become his wife.
Many excuses and explanations were given. Some were already engaged to be married. Others claimed to be too proud to enter the barber’s shop. Still others assured their friends that they had decided it would be better to stay single.
It was soon noticed that no man in Granada would marry, since until the king was married, it would not be at all appropriate for them think of marrying, though the real problem was that no ladies were coming forward to look into the mirror.
The fathers of families were much annoyed at the apparent lack of ambition in their daughters, while the mothers were strangely silent on the matter.
Every morning the king would ask the barber if any young lady had come forward to look into the mirror, but the answer was always the same – that many watched his shop to see if others went inside, but none had ventured in herself.
“Ah, Granada, Granada!” exclaimed the king. “Is there no maiden in this land willing to offer herself to be the bride of the king? Kings I know in other lands have no trouble getting married. Why is this happening to me?
“Barber!” shouted the king, “you shall get me a wife as bright as the day, as pure as dew, and as good as gold – one who shall not be afraid to look into your magic mirror!”
“Your Majesty,” replied the barber, “There is one possibility. The shepherdess on the mountainside may brave the magic power of the mirror, but would you marry such a lowly one?”
“Bid her to come,” answered the king. “In the presence of my assembled court, let the shepherdess look into the mirror, after you have told her of the risk of doing so.”
Soon the barber had brought the shepherdess to court. It was proclaimed throughout the city that a trial was going to be made, and so the royal hall was soon filled with all the grand ladies and knights of the king’s household.
When the shepherdess entered the royal presence, she felt very shy at being surrounded by so much grandeur. The king was very pleased with her appearance, and received her kindly, telling her that if she desired to be his wife she would have to gaze into the magic mirror. If she had done anything which was not consistent with a good and virtuous character, the mirror would show as many stains on its surface as there might be blemishes in her past.
“Sir,” replied the maiden, “everyone makes mistakes and I am no different. I’ve made mistakes with my flock but I think they must forgive me because every day they let me take care of them and if they sense danger, they come to me for protection. I love my sheep and do my best for them. Truly I have no ambition to become queen, and I dare say I cannot say if you and I are a match for a lifetime. Still, I am not afraid to look into that magic mirror.”
Saying this, she walked up to the mirror and gazed into it, blushing slightly, perhaps at the sight of her own reflection.
The court ladies surrounded her. When they saw that the magic mirror showed no stains on its surface, they snatched it from her, passing the mirror from one to another. Why, the mirror simply showed the reflection, as any mirror would do. They exclaimed, “Look! There is no magic in this mirror – a trick has been put on us!”
But the king said, “No ladies, you have only yourselves to thank. For had you been as confident as this shepherdess, who was not afraid to see her own reflection whatever that may show, and who will be my queen if she so desires it, then you, too, would not have dreaded to look into the mirror.”
ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a girl so poor that she had to wander about the world looking for work. One day a farmer hired her to watch his cows. So each day she would take his cows to the meadow and bring them back at the end of the day.
One morning in the meadow, the girl heard a loud groan that sounded almost human. She rushed to the spot. There, to her surprise, was a lion crying out in pain.
Though she was scared the girl drew nearer, and saw that he had a large thorn in one foot. She carefully pulled out the thorn, bound up the wound with her handkerchief, and the lion licked her hand with his big rough tongue. Suddenly remembering her cows, the girl rushed back to the meadow. But alas! She hunted everywhere but could not find even one cow. What could she do but to return home and confess to her master? He scolded her bitterly and afterwards beat her. Then he said, “Tomorrow you will have to look after the pigs. Be sure you do not lose any of them!”
Exactly one year after she had found the lion, the girl was tending the pigs one morning when she again heard a groan which sounded quite human. And there was the same lion on the ground, this time with a deep wound across his face.
No longer afraid of the creature, she washed the wound, lay healing herbs upon it, and bound it up. The lion thanked her as he had done before.
Worried, she rushed back. But again, the pigs in her flock were gone! She searched everywhere, but it was no use.
She sank to the ground and wept bitterly, not daring to return again to her master empty-handed. At last she thought that if she climbed a tree she might get a wider view of the land and find her lost pigs. But no sooner was she seated on the highest branch than something happened which put the pigs quite out of her mind. Out of the woods walked a handsome young man who came to her tree. He moved aside a large rock by the tree trunk, stepped down into what looked like a deep black hole, and disappeared.
Now the maiden was so curious that she decided to stay in the tree all night long until the young man came out again. The next morning, the rock was moved aside, but out came not the young man, but a lion instead. The lion looked around, then very slowly padded into the forest and disappeared from view.
Now the maiden was so curious that she climbed down the tree to see the rock for herself. It seemed like an ordinary enough rock. Yet she easily pushed it aside and discovered a deep opening underneath. She gingerly stepped down, found a toehold, and following a path was led to a beautiful house. In the house she discovered a library, and there she passed hours reading very good books, and left a favorite of hers out on the table. Then she prepared a good dinner (eating a bit of it herself, as she was very hungry!), and clambered back up to the top of her tree. She looked again for her lost pigs, but not a trace of one could she see.
As the sun set, the same lion, walking much better this time, came out of the woods and back to the rock under the tree. Down he went and a while later, out came the same young man. Again he looked about him left and right, saw no one, and softly stepped into the forest.
The maiden came down from the tree and did what she had done the day before, each time leaving a different book on the table and preparing a meal before she left. Thus three days went by. The next time the young man emerged, she called out, “Stop! Please, won’t you tell me your name?”
The young man, surprised, said, “Why, you must be the one who’s been setting out the books and preparing my dinner!” He explained that he was a prince. Years ago, he had been captured by a giant who cast a spell on him. All day long he must be a lion. Only at night could he return to his human shape. As a lion, he had been the very one whom she had helped twice before. What’s more, he whispered, the giant who had enchanted him was the very same one who had stolen her cows and her pigs, out of spite for the kindnesses she had shown to him, when he had been wounded as a lion.
The girl asked, “How can you be freed from the spell?”
“There is only one way,” he said with a sigh, “and that is if someone can get a lock of hair from the head of a king’s daughter, spin it, and from its cloth weave a cloak for the giant.”
“Then I will go at once to the king’s palace,” said the girl.
So they parted. When the girl arrived at the king’s palace she was careful to wash herself and neatly arrange her hair. Quickly she was hired as a kitchen maid. Soon everyone at the palace talked about her neat and clean appearance.
By and by the princess heard of her and sent for the girl. When she saw her, and how beautifully she had arranged her hair, the princess told her she was to come and comb out hers.
Now the hair of the princess was very thick and shone like gold. The girl combed it and combed till it was brighter than the sun. The princess was pleased and invited her to come every day and comb her hair. At last the girl took courage and asked permission to cut off one of the long, thick locks.
The princess, who was very proud of her hair, did not like the idea of parting with any of it, so she said no. But each day the girl begged to be allowed to cut off just one lock of her thick hair. At last the princess gave in. “Very well then!” she finally exclaimed, “you may have it, on one condition — that you find for me the finest prince in all the land to be my bridegroom!”
The girl answered that she would do so, and she cut off the lock. When she was alone, she wove it into a cloak that glittered like silk. When she brought it to the young man, he told her to carry it straight to the giant, who lived on top of a high mountain. But he warned her that she must announce loudly that she was bringing the cloak, or the giant would surely attack her.
Before the maiden reached the top of the mountain, out rushed the giant, waving in one hand a sword and a club in the other. Quickly she called out that she had brought him a cloak. At that, the giant stopped and invited her into his house.
He tried on the cloak but it was too short. Angry, he threw it onto the floor. The girl picked up the cloak and quickly left. She returned quite in despair to the king’s palace.
The next morning, when she was combing the princess’ hair, she begged and begged for permission to cut off just one more lock. At last the princess gave in, on one condition – that the prince whom the girl should find for her to marry would also be the handsomest prince in the entire world.
The maiden said softly that she had already found such a prince for her. Later, the girl spun more thread from the second lock. Now she could lengthen the giant’s cloak and sleeves. When it was finished, she carried it again to the giant.
This time the cloak fit perfectly! The giant was quite pleased, and he asked her what he could do for her in return. She said that the only reward he could give her was to take the spell off the prince so he could stay human, night and day.
For a long time the giant would not hear of reversing his spell, but he liked the cloak so well that at last he said yes. He even told her the cows and pigs would be returned to her master by the end of the day. And this was the secret to freeing the prince of the enchantment – she must cast the lion into the pond near the mountain until he was entirely underwater. Then, when the prince finally emerged he would be free from the enchantment forever.
The maiden went away in despair, for fear that the giant was trying to trick her, and that after she had cast the lion into the water she would find that she had only drowned the prince.
At the bottom of the mountain, she joined the prince, who was waiting for her. When he heard her story he comforted her, and bade her to be of good courage, and to do as the giant had said. And so in the morning when he emerged in his lion’s form, the maiden cast him into the pond near the mountain until he was entirely underwater. Soon after, out of the water came the prince, beautiful as the day, and as glad to look upon as the sun himself.
The young man thanked the maiden for all she had done for him, and declared that he would like her to be his wife and none other. But the maiden cried out that it could never be, for she had already given her promise to the princess when she had cut off her hair that the prince would wed her and her alone.
The prince sighed and said, “Then that is what must be.”
They went together to the king’s palace, where the princess with the golden hair lived. When the king and queen saw the young man approach, a great joy filled their hearts.
It was their eldest son! He had long ago been enchanted by a giant and had disappeared from the castle. Their daughter, the princess with the golden hair, was delighted to see her long-lost brother.
The prince asked his parents’ permission to marry the girl who had saved him. His sister happily released the maiden from her promise, as she surely would not marry her own brother! Before long she married another prince from a neighboring kingdom. And so the maiden and the prince were married, later became the rulers of the land, and over time they richly deserved all the honors showered upon them.
ONCE LONG AGO IN CHINA there lived a girl named Chen Lien who was very self-conscious about a large scar, caused by a childhood accident, that crossed one of her eyebrows. If by mistake she happened to catch her reflection in a mirror, she quickly turned away; the scar seemed three times larger than it really was to her. And so she avoided mirrors and reflections at all costs, and as she grew to become a young woman, she preferred to spend more and more time alone in the garden. Yet she remained helpful and pleasant to all.
One day a rich young man named Wu Tang was visiting Chen Lien’s neighbors in the house next door. As Wu Tang was climbing in the trees searching for bird’s nests, he happened to notice Chen Lien in the garden below, over the wall, stitching embroidery and humming to herself. He was so entranced by the young woman, who moved as gracefully as a willow branch and whose sweet voice hypnotized him, that he nearly fell from the branches. It so happened that the maiden sat with her good side facing toward him, and Wu Tang thought her the perfect vision of a soul mate.
He scurried down the tree. “I have found my bride!” Wu Tang declared to his parents. “Call the matchmaker at once.”
And so the matchmaker was summoned. After the usual discussion of gifts and negotiations, the matchmaker asked all others to leave the room. “I must have a moment alone with the young man,” said she.
“Wu Tang,” said the matchmaker. “As you know, the young woman is from a good family and carries herself with the grace of a princess. But there is something you may not know about her. You should know about a flaw to her beauty.”
“I have seen her with my own eyes!” exclaimed Wu Tang. “I will not hear you speak of any flaw!”
And so the wedding arrangements proceeded on schedule. Soon the day of the ceremony was at hand. Never was the garden of Chen Lien’s home more lovely, decorated with fresh flowers from stonewall to treetop. Yet while Chen Lien was standing in her bridal fineries, she felt uneasy. In the last moments before the ceremony began, she anxiously turned to her mother.
“Are you sure the matchmaker told him?”
“Yes, my child, I told you a hundred times,” said her mother. “She absolutely told him about your eyebrow and it does not matter to him in the least.” And the mother adjusted her daughter’s veil.
Yet as Chen Lien watched her husband-to-be laughing and talking with guests, she worried, “If he had been told, why wouldn’t he try to glance at me to try to see the scar through my veil? Why does he seem so unaware of it?”
After the wedding ceremony, the two of them were alone. The new husband lifted his bride’s veil, and who can blame him if he was startled when he first saw the eyebrow?
Poor Chen Lien saw the surprise on her husband’s face. She said, “Good husband, did not the matchmaker tell you of my bad eyebrow?” The young man was silent, so she went on.
“When I was a little girl,” she said, “my family was traveling far away to visit friends. I was playing in their garden when a little boy threw a heavy stone. I’m sure that he did not wish to hurt me, but it hit me on the forehead, and cut this gash where you now see a scar. I am sorry that I cannot come to you, my husband, perfect in every way.”
“O my bride,” said Wu Tang at last, “what was the name of that little boy who threw the stone?”
“Alas, I do not know; he was a visitor there like myself.”
“Was the garden in which you were playing that of the Li family in the city of Peking?” whispered Wu.
“O excellent husband, how could you know that?”
“Because that boy was myself,” said Wu. “My parents have often told me how I once threw a stone and cut the forehead of a little girl in the gardens of the Li family. It must be destiny itself that our ankles are now tied with the silken cord of marriage, so that I might finally make amends to you for the injury I caused. And now I know exactly what I must do.”
He called for the finest black ink and his thinnest writing brush, and with the brush and ink he drew a new eyebrow right through the scar. It was thin and curved, like a willow leaf, and it was so much like Chen Lien’s other perfect eyebrow that no one could tell them apart.
For all the many happy years that the two lovers lived together, every morning the husband Wu Tang painted a new willow-leaf eyebrow over the scar that he had made. And so the two of them lived their lives in perfect contentment.
Once upon a time there was a very rich man who lived with his three daughters. The two older daughters laughed at anyone who did not dress as well as they did. If they were not going to a ball, they were shopping for as many fine dresses and hats as they could carry home.
The youngest daughter, Beauty, liked to read most of all. “No one will want you!” her two older sisters said, and they laughed. “Look at your hair – you look like a servant girl!” Beauty did not know why they talked to her in a mean way. But she said nothing.
One day, the father got some very bad news. He had spent all of his money on a ship that he sent out to sea for trade. Now he learned that the ship was gone. Everything on it was lost! All at once, the rich father became as poor as poor could be.
The family could no longer stay in their big house. The house, its fine tables and chairs, and all of their fine things, had to be sold.
All the father had left was a little hut deep in the woods. So that is where he and his three daughters had to move. Living in the hut in the woods was hard work. Each day a fire had to be started, meals cooked, the place cleaned up, the garden tended, and things fixed when they broke. Now that the family was poor, you might think the two older sisters would help out with the chores. Think again.
“She looks like such a mess,” they said, turning up their noses at Beauty. “She might as well serve us.” And so Beauty did all the hard work.
And then – good news! – the father’s ship came to shore!
“Daughters,” said the happy father, “I am going to town. Tell me what fine gift I can bring back for you.”
“Bring me the finest dress from the finest shop,” said the eldest sister.
“I want one just like it,” said the middle sister.
“And you, Beauty?” said he.
“All I want, Father,” said she, “is a single rose.”
“Can you believe her?” said the eldest sister.
“What a fool!” said the middle sister. They both laughed.
“Girls!” said the father. “If that is what Beauty wants, that’s what I will bring back for her.”
The father was on his way home when he thought, “I forgot all about the rose for Beauty!” All at once, the sky turned black. “Oh, dear!” he said. “A storm is coming!”
A moment later, heavy dark rains fell from the sky. Soaking wet and tired, the father saw a blink of light from far away. He went closer to the light, hoping it meant there was some place he could ask to stay the night. When he got up close, he saw a large palace with candles in all its windows. It was very odd, but the garden gate was open. And so with care, the father stepped in.
“Hello?” he said. No answer.
There, before him, was a great feast over a long table.
“Hello?” he said again. Still, no answer. The father sat down in front of the fire to warm himself, and he waited. But still, no one came.
“I suppose it would be all right if I stay the night,” said the father. He took a quick bite from the feast, found a bedroom, and fell fast asleep.
The next morning the table was laid again, but this time with breakfast. Again – most odd! – no one was around. “I suppose I should leave,” said the father after a while.
On the way out he passed a rose garden. “I will take just one,” said he. And he picked a rose for Beauty.
Just then, a loud stomp came up from behind him.
Roared a voice – “You took my rose!”
The father spun around. There before him was an awful, huge monster. “I… I’m sorry!” he said. “I didn’t know.”
“You will pay for this!” the Beast yelled. “You will die!”
The father fell on his knees. “Please!” he begged. “Do not kill me! I only picked the rose for one of my daughters.”
Oh, so you have daughters?” said the Beast. “Hmm.. Well, if one of them will come and stay here in this palace, you will be free. If not, you must return yourself in three months, and take your punishment.”
When the father got home, Beauty could tell something was wrong. “What is it, Father?” she said. “Oh, nothing,” said he. But she knew that was not true.
At last, the father told his girls what the Beast had said. “This has all happened because I asked you to bring home a rose!” said Beauty. “I will go there in your place. Or else, you will die.”
“No, I cannot allow that!” said the father. “I am old and don’t have much longer to live. You are young – you must not do this for me!”
But Beauty would not change her mind. And two days later, the father took Beauty to the palace where the Beast lived.
“So this is your daughter?” said the Beast, looking at Beauty.
“Yes,” said she. “I will stay here. And that means my father is free to go. That is what you said.”
“Yes,” said the Beast.
The days were long and there was no one for Beauty to talk to at the palace. Every night at nine, the Beast would come for dinner. At first he would only grunt and she said nothing. After all it was not easy to be a prisoner, even if it is at a palace. Then one time at dinner, he made a little joke and she smiled. Another time, he made a comment, and she looked him in the eye. After that, he would ask her about her day, and she would tell him.
Not long after that, Beauty came to a part of the palace she had not seen before. Over a door was a sign, “Beauty’s Room.” The door was open. Inside the room were shelves of books to the ceiling, a piano, and a cabinet of fine dresses, just her size.
Now there was much to talk about at dinner! One night, at the end of dinner, Beast said, “Beauty, I love you. Will you marry me?”
Beauty was shocked. “Beast, you are my best friend,” she said. “But please understand, I do not want you to marry you.”
Still, the Beast asked her the same question after dinner, time after time. And each time Beauty said the same thing. One night, the Beast said, “Beauty, if you will not marry me, what can I do to make you happy?”
“If you must know,” she said, “it would be to see my father. I miss him so much.”
The next night, the Beast gave Beauty two magical items – a magic mirror and a magic ring. “If you want to see your father,” said he, “just ask the magic mirror to show him to you. If you are ready to go back home, turn the magic ring on your finger three times and ask the mirror to take you there. When it’s time to come back here to the palace, turn the ring three more times and ask the mirror to come back. But do not be gone for more than one week. Or I will die of grief!”
Beauty agreed. When she got back to her room, she looked in the magic mirror and asked to see her father. And there he was, in bed and looking so sick he could die!
In fear, Beauty turned the ring on her finger three times. “Please, Magic Mirror,” she said. “Take me home right now!”
And she was back! Ah, such joy when her father looked up and saw Beauty! For much of why he was ill was in knowing that Beauty was stuck in the palace, all because of him. Beauty stayed by her father’s bed for hours. She told him that she had all the books she could read, music to play, and fine dresses to wear. “The Beast is not so bad,” she said, “once you get to know him. He’s good to talk to. He’s my friend.”
Beauty looked around. “Where are my sisters?”
“They are both married,” said the father.
“Did they marry good men?” said she.
“They had a lot of money,” said the father. “But I do not know if your sisters are happy.” For the eldest sister had married a handsome man so vain that he gave no thought to anything else, including his wife. And the middle sister had married a man with a sharp wit but who used it to hurt everyone around him, and most of all his wife.
When the sisters came to the house and saw Beauty, dressed so well and talking about how kind and good the Beast was to her, they burned with rage. Beauty told them she must stay no more than one week. And the sisters came up with a plan.
They petted Beauty and said such nice things they had never said before. When she told them she must go soon, they wept. They said she must not leave. There was still so much left they wanted to do with her! And why does just a few days matter, after all? So Beauty stayed.
One night she had a dream about the Beast. In her dream, the Beast lay sick and dying. When Beauty woke up, she asked the magic mirror to show her the Beast. There he was in the mirror, lying in the rose garden, looking so sick he would die. At once, she turned the magic ring three times. “Take me back to the Beast!” she said. In a moment she was sitting next to the poor, sick Beast, who could only gasp for air.
Thanks to Artist, Abbadon82
“You have come back!” said the Beast in a thick voice.
“I’m so sorry that I am late!” said Beauty.
“I could not bear the idea that you may not come back to me. I am afraid it is too late for me now.” His eyes closed.
“No!” cried Beauty. “Do not leave me!” Just then, she knew in her heart what was true. “I love you!” she cried out. “Please come back! If you only come back, I will be your wife.” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Just then, the Beast opened his eyes. “Beauty!” he said. “You did it!”
In a flash, the Beast was changed to a handsome prince! Beauty did not know what to think of this change.
“Ah, Beauty!” said the Beast, and he told her his story. Years ago when he was a prince, an evil fairy had put a spell on him. He must stay a beast forever, until a maiden loved him for who he really was. Now she had broken the spell!
And so Beauty and the Beast were married. They lived happily ever after.
ONCE UPON A TIME a girl named Cinderella lived with her stepmother and two stepsisters. Poor Cinderella had to work hard all day long so the others could rest. It was she who had to wake up each morning when it was still dark and cold to start the fire. It was she who cooked the meals. It was she who kept the fire going. The poor girl could not stay clean, from all the ashes and cinders by the fire.
Thank you, Artist Carla Oly
“What a mess!” her two stepsisters laughed. And that is why they called her “Cinderella.”
One day, big news came to town. The King and Queen were going to have a ball! It was time for the Prince to find a bride. All of the young ladies in the land were invited to come. They were wild with joy! They would wear their most beautiful gown and fix their hair extra nice. Maybe the prince would like them!
At Cinderella’s house, she now had extra work to do. She had to make two brand-new gowns for her step-sisters.
“Faster!” shouted one step-sister.
“You call that a dress?” screamed the other.
“Oh, dear!” said Cinderella. “When can I–“
The stepmother marched into the room. “When can you WHAT?”
“Well,” said the girl, “when will I have time to make my own dress for the ball?”
“You?” yelled the stepmother. “Who said YOU were going to the ball?”
“What a laugh!” said one step-sister.
“Such a mess!” They pointed at Cinderella. All of them laughed.
Cinderella said to herself, “When they look at me, maybe they see a mess. But I am not that way. And if I could, I WOULD go to the ball.”
Soon the time came for the stepmother and step-sisters to leave for the big party.
Thank you, Artist Carla Oly
Their fine carriage came to the door. The stepmother and step-sisters hopped inside. And they were off.
“Good-bye!” called Cinderella. “Have a good time!” But her stepmother and step-sisters did not turn around to see her.
“Ah, me!” said Cinderella sadly. The carriage rode down the street. She said aloud, “I wish I could go to the ball, too!”
Then – Poof!
All of a sudden, in front of her was a fairy.
“You called?” said the fairy.
“Did I?” said Cinderella. “Who are you?”
“Why, your Fairy Godmother, of course! I know your wish. And I have come to grant it.”
“But…” said Cinderella, “my wish is impossible.”
“Excuse me!” said the Fairy Godmother in a huff. “Did I not just show up out of thin air?”
“Yes, you did,” said Cinderella.
“Then let me be the one to say what is possible or not!”
“Well, I think you know I want to go to the ball, too.” She looked down at her dirty clothes.
“But look at me.”
“You do look a bit of a mess, child,” said the Fairy Godmother.
“Even if I had something nice to wear,” said the girl, “I would have no way to get there.”
“Dear me, all of that is possible,” said the Fairy. With that, she tapped her wand on Cinderella’s head.
Thank you, Artist Carla Oly
At once, Cinderella was all clean. She was dressed in a beautiful blue gown. Her hair was set up high on her head inside a golden band.
“This is wonderful!” said Cinderella.
“Who said I was done?” said the Fairy Godmother. She tapped her wand again. At once, a beautiful carriage came to be, with a driver and four white horses.
Thank you, Artist Carla Oly
“Am I dreaming?” said Cinderella, looking around her.
“It is as real, as real can be,” said the Fairy Godmother. “But there is one thing you must know.”
“What is that?”
“All of this lasts only to midnight. Tonight, at the stroke of midnight, it will all be over. Everything will go back to how it was before.”
“Then I must be sure to leave the ball before midnight!” said Cinderella.
“Good idea,” said the Fairy Godmother. She stepped back. “My work is done.” And with that, the Fairy Godmother was gone.
Cinderella looked around her. “Did that even happen?” But there she stood in a fine gown, and with a golden band in her hair. And there were her driver and four horses before her, waiting.
“Coming?” called the driver.
She stepped into the carriage. And they were off.
Thank you, Artist Carla Oly
Over at the ball, the Prince did not know what to think. “Why do you have that sad look on your face?” the Queen said to her son. “Look around you! You could not ask for finer maidens than these.”
“I know, Mother,” said the Prince. Yet he knew something was wrong. He had met many of the young women. Yet after he said “hello,” one by one, he could find nothing more to say.
“Look!” Someone pointed to the front door. “Who is that?”
All heads turned. Who was that lovely maiden stepping down the stairs? She held her head tall and looked as if she belonged. But no one knew her.
“There is something about her,” said the Prince to himself. “I will ask her to dance.” And he walked over to Cinderella.
“Have we met?” said the Prince.
“I am pleased to meet you now,” said Cinderella with a bow.
“I feel as if I know you,” said the Prince. “But of course, that is impossible.”
“Many things are possible,” said Cinderella, “if you wish them to be true.”
The Prince felt a leap in his heart. He and Cinderella danced. When the song was over, they danced again. And then they danced again, and yet again. Soon the other maidens at the ball grew jealous. “Why is he dancing all the time with her?” they said. “How rude!”
But all the Prince could see was Cinderella. They laughed and talked, and they danced some more. In fact, they danced for so long that Cinderella did not see the clock.
“Dong!” said the clock.
Cinderella looked up.
Thank you, Artist Carla Oly
“Dong!” went the clock again.
She looked up again. “Oh, my!” she cried out. “It is almost midnight!”
“Dong!” rung the clock.
“Why does that matter?” said the Prince.
“Dong!” called the clock.
“I must go!” said Cinderella.
“Dong!” went the clock.
“But we just met!” said the Prince. “Why leave now?”
“Dong!” rung the clock.
“I must GO!” said Cinderella. She ran to the steps.
Thank you, Artist Carla Oly
“Dong!” said the clock.
“I cannot hear you,” said the Prince. “The clock is too loud!”
“Dong!” rung the clock.
“Goodbye!” said Cinderella. Up, up the stairs she ran.
“Dong!” went the clock.
“Please, stop for a moment!” said the Prince.
“Oh, dear!” she said as one glass slipper fell off her foot on the stair. But Cinderella kept running up.
Thank you, Artist Carla Oly
“Dong!” said the clock.
“Please wait a moment!” said the Prince.
“Dong!” rung the clock.
“Goodbye!” Cinderella turned one last time. Then she rushed out the door.
“Dong!” The clock was quiet. It was midnight.
“Wait!” called the Prince. He picked up her glass slipper and rushed out the door. He looked around but could not see her blue dress anywhere. “This is all I have left from her,” he said, looking down at the glass slipper. He saw that it was made in a special way, to fit a foot like none other. “Somewhere there is the other glass slipper,” he said. “And when I find it, I will find her, too. Then I will ask her to be my bride!”
From hut to hut, from house to house, went the Prince. One young woman after another tried to fit her foot inside the glass slipper. But none could fit. And so the Prince moved on.
At last the Prince came to Cinderella’s house.
“He is coming!” called one step-sister as she looked out the window.
“At the door!” screamed the other step-sister.
“Quick!” yelled the stepmother. “Get ready! One of you must be the one to fit your foot in that slipper. No matter what!”
The Prince knocked. The stepmother flew open the door. “Come in!” she said. “I have two lovely daughters for you to see.”
The first step-sister tried to place her foot in the glass slipper. She tried hard, but it just would not fit. Then the second step-sister tried to fit her foot inside. She tried and tried with all her might, too. But no dice.
“Are there no other young women in the house?” said the Prince.
“None,” said the stepmother.
“Then I must go,” said the Prince.
“Maybe there is one more,” said Cinderella, stepping into the room.
“I thought you said there were no other young women here,” said the Prince.
“None who matter!” said the stepmother in a hiss.
“Come here,” said the Prince.
Thank you, Artist Carla Oly
Cinderella stepped up to him. The Prince got down on one knee and tried the glass slipper on her foot. It fit perfectly! Then, from her pocket Cinderella took out something. It was the other glass slipper!
“I knew it!” he cried. “You are the one!”
“WHAT?” shouted a step-sister.
“Not HER!” screamed the other step-sister.
“This cannot BE!” yelled the stepmother.
But it was too late. The prince knew that Cinderella was the one. He looked into her eyes. He did not see the cinders in her hair or the ashes on her face.
“I have found you!” he said.
“And I have found you,” said Cinderella.
And so Cinderella and the Prince were married, and they lived happily ever after.
Many years ago in Fairyland, it became time to elect a new Head of Fairyland. After much discussion, it appeared that the choice lay between two fairies. Their claims to the throne were so equal that it was impossible to prefer one to the other. One of these fairies was Fairy Flight and the other, Fairy Constance.
Under the circumstances it was unanimously decided that whichever of the two fairies could show to the world the greatest wonder, that fairy should become Head of Fairyland. But it was to be a special kind of wonder – no moving of mountains or any other common fairy trick would do.
Fairy Flight decided that she would bring up a Prince who would charm one woman after another but would stay true to no woman. Fairy Constance decided to bring up a princess who was so enchanting that no man could meet her without falling in love. If Fairy Flight’s changeable prince could withstand the charms of Fairy Constance’s princess, then Fairy Flight would win and become Head of Fairyland. Yet if Fairy Constance’s princess could win the heart of the prince and so gain his proposal of marriage, then Fairy Constance would become Head of Fairyland.
Each contender was allowed to take as much time as she wished. Contests like these could take a very long time! Meanwhile the four oldest fairies were to attend to the affairs of Fairyland.
Now Fairy Constance, who was the one who had decided to raise the princess, had for a long time been very friendly with a certain King and Queen, whose royal court was a model of what a court ought to be. They had one little daughter, whom they had named “Rosanella” because she had a little pink rose printed upon her white throat. From earliest infancy she had shown the most astonishing intelligence, and the courtiers knew her smart sayings by heart, and repeated them on all occasions.
One dark night, soon after the assembly of the fairies, the Queen woke up with a shriek. Her maids of honor ran to see what was the matter, and found the Queen had had a frightful dream.
“I dreamt,” said she, “that my little daughter had changed into a bouquet of roses, and that as I held the bouquet in my hand a bird swooped down suddenly and snatched it from me and carried it away.”
“Oh, my!” cried a nurse. “Let someone run at once and see that all is well with the Princess.”
So they ran. But what was their dismay when they found the cradle empty! They sought high and low throughout the kingdom for the princess Ronsanella, but not a trace of the baby could be found. The Queen nor the King could be comforted, and who could blame them?
One summer evening, as the Queen sat in sorrow in her palace garden, she noticed a number of peasant girls approaching, each one of which followed the twelve tree-lined paths that led to the center of the garden. As each peasant girl drew near, she laid a basket at the Queen’s feet, saying, “Charming Queen, may this be some slight comfort to you in your unhappiness.”
The Queen hastily opened the baskets, and found inside each one a lovely baby girl, about the same age as the little Princess whom she missed so deeply. At first the sight of the babies only reminded her of her grief, but soon their charms so gained on her that, though she could never forget her own dear Rosanella, her attentions became quite occupied with providing the babies with nursery-maids, cradle-rockers, and ladies-in-waiting, and in sending hither and thither for swings and dolls and tops, and bushels of the finest sweetmeats.
Oddly enough, every baby had upon its throat a tiny pink rose also. The Queen found it difficult to decide on names for all twelve of them, so until she could settle the matter she chose a special color for each one, and dressed them accordingly, so that when they were all together they looked like a bouquet of bright flowers. As they grew older it became evident that though they were all remarkably intelligent, and learned a great deal from the education they received, yet they differed one from another in personality. So much so that gradually they were no longer known as “Pearl,” or “Primrose,” or “Jade” or whatever might have been their color-name. Instead the Queen would say, “Where is my Sweet?” or “my Dancer,” or “my Wise.”
Of course, with all these charms, by the time the girls grew to young maidenhood they attracted admirers by the dozen. Not only in their own court, but princes from miles away were constantly arriving, attracted by the reports of their beauty and charms which were spread abroad. But the lovely girls were as careful as they were beautiful, and favored no one.
Let us return for a moment to Fairy Flight. She, you may recall, was the fairy who had determined to bring up the faithless prince. She had her sights fixed on a certain Prince Miliflor. As it turns out, Prince Miliflor’s father was a friend of the king whose wife had discovered the twelve baby princesses. When Prince Miliflor was born, Fairy Flight had bestowed on him all the graces of mind and body that a prince could possibly wish. But now she doubled her efforts and spared no pains in adding every imaginable charm and fascination. So that whether he happened to be cross or cheerful, dressed in the most luxurious royal fineries or simplest robes, whether he was serious or light-hearted, he was always perfectly irresistible! In truth, he was an utterly charming young fellow, since Fairy Flight had given him the best heart in the world as well as the best head, and had left nothing to be desired except the ability to stay faithful to one love. For it cannot be denied that Prince Miliflor was a desperate flirt, and as fickle as the wind. So much so, that by the time he arrived at his eighteenth birthday he had conquered and left behind every heart in the kingdom. Things were in this state when he was invited to visit the court of his father’s friend, the king and queen who had raised the twelve baby princesses.
Imagine the surprise of Prince Miliflor when he arrived and was presented to twelve of the most charming creatures he had ever seen. It soon became clear that they all liked him as much as he liked each one of them, and before long he was never happy a single instant without all twelve of them. For could he not whisper soft speeches to Sweet, while laughing with Joy, and at the same time admiring the rhymes of Poet? And in his more serious moments what could be more pleasant than to talk to Wise upon some shady lawn, while he held the hand of Loving in his own, with all the others lingering nearby? For the first time in his life he really loved, though the object of his devotion was not one person, but twelve, to whom he was equally attached. Fairy Flight could not be more pleased. Imagine, rather than breaking the heart of just one girl at a time, he was going to break the hearts of twelve princesses at once!
Prince Miliflor’s father wrote to him again and again, commanding him to return home, and proposing for him one better match than the next, yet all in vain. Nothing in the world could tear the prince from the twelve objects of his affections.
One day the court of the twelve princesses gave a large royal garden-party. Just as the guests were all assembled, and Prince Miliflor, as usual, was dividing his attentions between the twelve beauties, a distant humming of bees was heard. As the humming became louder, the ladies of the court, fearing their stings, uttered little shrieks and fled. Immediately, to the horror of all who were looking on, the bees suddenly grew to enormous size, then each one chased a princess, finally pounding on her and carrying her off into the air! In an instant all twelve princesses had disappeared into the sky.
This amazing occurrence plunged the whole court into the most terrible grief. It was bad enough that the baby Rosenella had vanished so mysteriously years before from her royal cradle, but now this! That all twelve princess would be carried off by giant bees! Prince Miliflor cast about in a violent rage, then gradually fell into such a deep state of depression it was feared that if nothing could rouse him that he would surely die. His protector, Fairy Flight, rushed to his side, but he rejected with scorn all the portraits of lovely princesses which she offered him to replace his lost beauties. In short, it was evident that he was in a bad way, and Fairy Flight was at her wits’ end.
One day, as the prince wandered about absorbed in his sorrow, he heard sudden shouts. Through the air a chariot of crystal, glittering in the sunshine, was slowly approaching. Six lovely maidens with shining wings drew it by rose-colored ribbons, while a whole flight of others, equally beautiful, were holding long garlands of roses crossed above it, so as to form a complete canopy. Inside the chariot sat the Fairy Constance, and by her side a Princess whose radiance positively dazzled all who saw her. As the chariot landed, they proceeded to the Queen’s apartments. Exclamations of wonder rose on all sides at the loveliness of the strange Princess and the marvel of its arrival, and the crowd so thickened that it was quite difficult to make a way through.
“Great Queen,” said Fairy Constance, “permit me to restore to you your daughter Rosanella, whom I stole years ago from her cradle.
Words cannot express how surprised and delighted the Queen was to be reunited with her long lost baby. But after a while the Queen said to Fairy Constance, “But my twelve lovely ones, do you know if they are lost to me forever? Shall I never see them again?”
Fairy Constance only said, “Very soon you will no longer miss them!” in a tone that evidently meant, “Don’t ask me any more questions.” Mounting again into her chariot she swiftly disappeared into the sky.
The news of the return of the long-lost Princess Rosanella was soon carried to the Prince, but he had hardly the heart to go and see her, he so missed his twelve lost loves. However, it became absolutely necessary that he should at least pay his respects. He had scarcely been five minutes in the presence of Rosanella before it seemed to the prince that she combined in her own charming person all the gifts and graces which had so attracted him in the twelve Rose-Maidens whose loss he had so truly mourned. And after all, it is really easier to be with one person at a time. Almost before he knew it himself, he was begging the lovely Rosanella to marry him.
The moment the words left his lips, Fairy Constance re-appeared, this time smiling and triumphant, in the chariot of the Head of Fairyland. The heart of the faithless Prince Miliflor had been conquered, and he wanted nothing less than to stay by Rosanella’s side for the rest of his life. So fairy Constance had earned the title of Head of Fairyland.
Now Fairy Constance gave a full account of how she had stolen Rosanella from her cradle, and had divided her character into twelve equal parts, that each part of her might charm Prince Milifor, and when once united, she might cure him of his faithlessness once and for ever.
Even the defeated Fairy Flight sent the enchanting Rosanella a wedding gift, and was present at the ceremony. Prince Miliflor stayed true to his wife for the rest of his life. And indeed, who would not have done so in his place? As for Rosanella, she loved him as much as all the twelve beauties put together. And so the two of them reigned in peace and happiness to the end of their long lives.
Once upon a time Prince Vatchagan, the king’s only son, was traveling on one of his many hunting trips with his brave and trusty servant Nazar, and his faithful sheep dog Zanzi.
By and by Prince Vatchagan and his trusted servant Nazar came to the village of Atzik and sat down by the spring to rest. Just then the girls of the village came to fetch water. The prince was thirsty and asked them for a drink. One of the girls filled a jug and the fountain and handed it to Vatchagan, but another girl pulled the jug out of her hands and poured the water onto the ground. Then she filled the jug again, and again emptied it. Vatchagan’s throat was parched, but the girl went on as though teasing him. She filled and emptied the jug six times and then she finally handed it to him.
He drank his fill and then demanded of the girl, “Why didn’t you let me drink right away? Were you playing with me, teasing me, or what?”
“No,” answered the girl, “we do not tease strangers in our village. But you were tired and hot, and the cold water might have harmed you. I gave you time to cool off.”
The girl’s words astonished Vatchagan, and he was charmed by her beauty. He inquired, “What is your name?”
“Anait,” said the girl.
“Who is your father?”
“He is the shepherd Aran. But why do you want to know our names?”
“Is it so terrible to ask?”
“I suppose not. But then it wouldn’t be so terrible for you to tell me your name and where you come from.”
“Should I tell you the truth, or lie to you?”
“Whichever you consider more worthy.”
“I consider it more worthy to tell you the truth, but the truth is that I cannot yet disclose my name.”
“Very well, but in the meantime please give me back my jug.”
Saying farewell to the King’s son, Anait took up her jug and walked away. The prince, his trusty servant and his dog returned home.
Vatchagan’s heart was heavy within him. His mother, the Queen, came to him and asked, “Dear Vatchagan, what ails you?”
“Mother, the pleasures of life hold no charm for me anymore. I yearn to go into the desert to the village of Atzik and marry the shepherd’s daughter Anait.”
The Queen was much alarmed at the prospect of her son’s marrying a shepherd’s daughter and her husband, the King, heartily agreed with her. But Vatchagan wouldn’t hear of having any other bride. Finally, the King and Queen reluctantly accepted his choice. They sent their son’s faithful attendant Nazar and two noblemen to Atzik, to ask the shepherd Aran for the hand of his daughter.
Aran received the visitors in an hospitable manner. The guests sat down on a carpet that Aran spread out for them.
“What a beautiful carpet!” said Nazar, “Probably your wife made it?”
“I have no wife, she died some ten years ago,” replied the old shepherd. “My daughter Anait wove the carpet.”
“Even in the tents of our King there are no carpets as beautiful as this one! We are glad to hear that your daughter is such an artist,” said one of the noblemen. “Rumors of her virtues have reached the Palace. The King has sent us here to talk things over with you. He wishes you to give your daughter in marriage to his only son, the Heir to the Throne, Prince Vatchagan!”
The noblemen expected that Aran would leap to his feet from joy at hearing this unexpected news, or at least at first refuse to believe it. But Aran did neither. He bowed his head and followed the design on the carpet with his finger, remaining silent.
Nazar said to him, “Why do you seem so grieved, brother Aran? We have brought your joyous tidings, not sad ones. We shall not take your daughter away by force. If you consent, you will give her away; if not, you will keep her.”
“Dear guests,” said Aran, “the truth is that I have no power to decide whom my daughter will marry. She must decide for herself. If she consents, then I have nothing against it.”
At that moment Anait entered, carrying a basket of ripe fruit. She bowed to the guests, placed the fruit on a tray, served it and then sat down at her loom. The noblemen watched her closely, and were astonished at the speed with which her fingers flew back and forth, weaving the design.
“Anait, why do you work alone?” asked Nazar. “We have heard that you have taught quite a number of pupils to weave.”
“That is true,” she replied. “But I let them go to gather grapes.”
“I also hear that you have taught your pupils to read and write?”
“Yes, I have. Now the shepherds read as they tend their flocks, and teach each other to read and write. The trunks of all the trees in our woods are covered with writing, as are the walls of our fortress, the stones and the rocks. Someone takes a piece of charcoal and writes down a word, and others continue. And so our hills and valleys are full of writings.”
“With us, learning is not so developed,” sighed the prince’s servant Nazar. “City dwellers are lazy. But if you come to us, then perhaps you can teach us all to read and write. Anait, cease your work! I have important matters to discuss with you. See what gifts the King sends you!”
He brought out silk dresses and precious jewels. Anait looked at them casually, then asked, “And why should the King be so kind to me?”
“The son of our King, Prince Vatchagan, met you at the spring. You gave him water to drink, and he liked you. The King has sent us to ask you to become his son’s wife. This ring, this necklace, these bracelets — all these, are yours, if you consent!”
“So the hunter at the well was the King’s son?”
“He is a very nice young man. But let me ask you one thing: Does he know a trade?”
“Anait, he is the King’s son. All citizens are his servants. He doesn’t have to know a trade.”
“That is so, but even a master can at times be forced to become a servant. Everyone should know a trade – be he king, or servant, or prince.”
The noblemen were very surprised at Anait’s words.
“Then you refuse to marry the King’s son because he knows no trade?” asked the noblemen.
“Yes. Take back all the presents you brought with you. Tell the King’s son that I like him well enough, but, may he forgive me! I have sworn never to marry a man who knows no trade.”
They saw that Anait was firm in her decision, so they didn’t insist. They went home and reported everything to the King.
When the King and Queen heard how Anait had answered, they were relieved and felt sure that Vatchagan would change his mind about marrying the peasant girl. Instead he said, “Anait is right. I must master some craft, just like all other people.” So the King had no choice but to call together his noblemen in council, and they unanimously declared that the most fitting craft for a King’s son to learn was the art of weaving gold cloth. They sent to Persia for a skilled craftsman, and in a single year Vatchagan learned to expertly weave cloth. He wove a piece for Anait out of precious golden threads, and sent it to her.
When Anait received it, she said, “Tell the King’s son I consent to marry him, and take this carpet back to him as my present.”
The marriage celebrations lasted seven days and seven nights.
Now it happened that soon after the wedding, Vatchagan’s friend and trusted attendant Nazar suddenly disappeared. Despite an extensive search, no trace of him could be found. Finally all hope of ever finding him again was abandoned.
Some years passed. The King and the Queen, having lived to a ripe old age, both passed away. Vatchagan became King, and Anait became Queen.
One day Anait said to her husband, “My King, I notice that people say that everything is well in our kingdom, but what if they do not speak the whole truth? From time to time perhaps you should inspect the whole country yourself, going around in disguise, sometimes dressed as a beggar and sometimes as a worker or a merchant.”
“You are quite right, Anait,” said King Vatchagan. “In the old days when I used to go on my hunting trips, I knew my people far better. But how can I go away now? Who will rule the kingdom in my absence?”
“I shall,” said Anait, “and no one will ever know that you are absent.”
“Then I shall set forth tomorrow. If I am not back in twenty days, you will know that something has happened to me, or that I am no longer alive.”
So King Vatchagan, disguised as a common peasant, roamed about his kingdom. Finally, he approached the city of Perodj.
At the outskirts of Perodj, a band of robbers suddenly attacked him. The robbers stole all the money he had and dragged him to a cave deep within the forest. The cave opening was bolted with an iron door. The head robber produced a huge key, opened the door, and threw Vatchagan inside. Then he stepped in and slammed the iron door shut behind them. The head robber threw Vatchagan against the cave wall. He snarled, “What craft, if any, do you know?”
“I can weave such a precious cloth of gold that it is worth a hundred times more than mere gold thread!”
“Is your cloth really worth as much as all that?”
“I am not lying. Besides, you can always verify the price!”
“All right, so I shall. Now tell me what instruments and materials you need, and then you can start to work. But if you work isn’t worth what you say it is, I’ll not only send you to the slaughter house, but have you tortured first!”
The head robber marched outside the door and locked the door behind him. Finding himself thus cut off, Vatchagan moved deeper inside the cave. He walked on for some time. Suddenly, a faint gleam of light appeared ahead of him. He went towards it, and came to a depression within the cave, from which there issued groans and cries. Suddenly a shadow moved towards him. As it came nearer, the shadow seemed to take the form of a man.
Vatchagan stepped forward and cried, “Who are you – man or beast? If you are a man, tell me where I am!”
The shadow came closer, and they saw that it was a man. But he was so thin and bone-like that he looked more like a living skeleton. Stuttering and weeping, he said, “Follow me. I shall show you everything.”
He led the king down a wide corridor. A number of pale men sat working. Some were sewing, some were weaving, and some were embroidering. The guide who looked like a skeleton then explained, “That monster, that head robber who brought you here, got hold of us a long time ago. I don’t know how long ago it was, because here we have no day or night – only eternal dusk. Men who do not know a craft are killed after they are robbed, and men who do know a craft have to work like slaves until the day they die.”
Vatchagan looked at the man closely, and recognized his dear and faithful servant Nazar. He didn’t say anything to him, however, because he was afraid that the shock might kill the weakened man.
Soon a member of the robber band, a very tall man, delivered the requested materials, and Vatchagan began to work. He wove a piece of marvelous gold cloth that was covered with designs into which he wrote a full description of what was happening in the cave. Not everyone, however, would have been able to read the true meaning of the designs.
The tall robber was very pleased when Vatchagan gave him the finished cloth. Vatchagan said, “I told your leader before my cloth was worth a hundred times its weight in gold. Between you and me, this particular piece is worth twice as much again, because I have woven certain magical talismans into it. It is a pity that not all will understand their true value. Only wise Queen Anait herself could know what this piece is really worth!”
Hearing this, the tall robber decided to say nothing about it to anyone, not even to his leader, the head robber. Instead, the tall robber decided to secretly sell the piece of cloth to the Queen herself and pocket the entire sum.
In the meantime, Queen Anait ruled the country so well that all were satisfied, and nobody even suspected the King was absent. But Anait was greatly worried. Thirty days had now passed since her husband’s departure, which meant that her husband was now ten days overdue. In her dreams she saw all kinds of misfortunes happening to him. The sheep dog Zanzi kept howling, and Vatchagan’s horse wouldn’t touch his food and kept neighing pitifully, like a foal abandoned by its mother. Even the river rolled by ominously, without making a sound. All these bad omens greatly frightened Anait, and she was even afraid of her own shadow.
One morning she was told that a merchant had arrived from foreign lands, and wanted to show her some wares. She had him brought to her.
The merchant bowed to the Queen and handed her a piece of gold cloth folded on a silver tray. She glanced at it, without examining the design, and said, “What is the price of your cloth?”
“O gracious Queen, it is worth three hundred times its weight in gold, just counting its material and workmanship. As to my efforts in procuring this treasure and bringing it to you, I trust you will value that as you please.”
“What, the cloth is as expensive as that?”
“Gracious Queen, this cloth contains a mystic power. Do you see those designs? They are not just ordinary ones, but magical talismans. Whoever wears them will be happy forever.”
“Really?” smiled Anait, and spread out the cloth. She saw that there were no talismans on it, but a series of designs made of letters. She read them in silence, and this was the message the writing conveyed to her:
My incomparable Anait, I am in a terrible situation. The man who brings you this cloth is one of the monsters who is keeping us captive. Nazar is here with me. Search for us to the east of the city of Perodj, in a cave marked by an iron door that lies near a crescent-shaped lake. Hasten, for without your help we shall all perish soon. Vatchagan.
Anait read the message through twice, pretending to admire the designs. Then she said, “You are right. Only this morning I was in deep grief, but since I saw these designs, I feel happy and gay again. Your cloth is priceless, and I am ready to give half a kingdom for it. But, as you know, no creation can be of more value than its creator.”
“Long life to the wise Queen, who speaks the words of truth!”
“Then bring me the man who made this cloth, he should receive as much as you will, in reward for his work!”
“Gracious Queen,” replied the greedy tall man, “I do not know who wove this cloth. I bought it in India from a certain merchant, and he got it from some other merchant, and where he got it from, I do not know.”
“But you just said yourself that the materials and workmanship alone cost three hundred times its weight in gold. How could you know what it cost if you didn’t produce the cloth yourself or know who did?”
“Gracious Queen, I only tell you what I was told myself in India, but I…”
“Enough!” cried Anait. “I know who you are! Guards, seize this man and throw him into prison!”
When the man was led away, Anait ordered the alarm to be given. The citizens, whispering anxiously to each other, gathered at the palace. No one knew what was happening.
Anait came out on the balcony, armed from head to foot.
“Citizens!” she cried. “The life of your King is in grave danger. All who love him must follow me. By noon we must be in Perodj.”
In an hour all were armed and on horse. Anait mounted her steed and ordered, “Forward! Follow me!” and galloped off towards Perodj, the crowd following behind her.
She reined in her horse only when she arrived at the crescent-shaped lake east of the city. Anait soon noticed the cave door set in from the banks of the lake, which, though it was cleverly hidden by bushes and drooping branches, glinted for a moment in the sun. She approached the door and ordered that they should be opened. Silence. She made a great deal of noise and repeated her order. Still no response. As she knew she could not force the locked iron doors open, Anait distributed dozens of tools and ordered all the citizens to chip away at the stone around the cave door. With so many hands at work, soon one hole appeared clear through the stone, then another, and another, and then the holes were enlarged. Finally, Anait’s horse forced through the weaker stone in between the holes. Then it was an easy matter to remove the door entirely. The citizens watched all this effort with awe and amazement.
“Come closer,” cried Anait, “See what is concealed behind these doors!”
A terrible sight met the gaze of the citizens. Men who looked more like ghosts than living beings crawled out of the terrible dungeons. Blinded by the light, they groped around aimlessly. The last to come out were Vatchagan and Nazar, supporting each other and shielding their weakened eyes from the sun. Anait’s warriors carried out those who could not walk.
Anait knew that the robber band and its leader must be hiding deep within the cavities of the cave. Nazar advised her where she would find them. Shortly thereafter she and her warriors emerged from the cave, dragging along behind their horses the members of the robber band, each one securely tied with rope.
Anait rushed to the hastily erected tent where Vatchagan and Nazar had been brought. Then she sat down next to her beloved husband. The faithful servant Nazar, weeping, kissed the Queen’s hand and said, “Oh, great Queen, you saved us today!”
“You are mistaken, Nazar,” said Vatchagan. “She saved us years ago, on the day when she asked you whether the son of your King knew a trade!”
The story of Vatchagan’s adventures spread to all the cities and villages of the Kingdom. Even in other lands people talked of them, and praised Vatchagan and Anait. The popular minstrels composed songs in their honor, and went around from village to village singing them.
That is how the story of Vatchagan and Anait lived through the ages, and survived until our day.