The Improper Princess
Servants raised three daughters of a widowed king and provided for every whim. The eldest princess grew to be as kind, caring and charitable as her mother. When she was fourteen, she wanted to live in a convent. The middle princess became as regal, royal and respectful as her grandmother. She married the prince of a distant kingdom.
The youngest princess was unlike anyone in her family. She was sloppy, rude and lazy. She refused to learn needlework or dress in gowns. She climbed trees and rode horses. She would not sit at the royal table. She stole brownies, cookies and potato chips from the royal kitchen. She refused to attend tournaments, festivals and three-day balls. She hid in a closet and read.
Desperate to have her transformed into a proper princess, the king assembled his council. The old men debated her fate.
The astrologer consulted star charts, “She is an Aquarius with Pisces rising. Her moon and planets are in Gemini. Send her to the watery realm of Atlantis and wed her to a merman or a dolphin-man.”
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The ambassador suggested she attend military school. The prison warden wanted her kept in a dungeon. The wizard could transform her into a frog and marry her to a frog prince.
The king ignored their suggestions. He sent her to the kingdom to the North where his widowed sister lived with her seven daughters.
“She misses her sisters and never knew her mother. The girl needs a strong feminine influence,” said the King.
The Princess traveled to the modest bronze castle in a desolate place without trees or horses. The library consisted of romance novels and the kitchen was stocked with healthy foods: granola bars with carob chips and frozen yogurt made with honey. The princess couldn’t climb trees, ride horses or read science fiction.
The princess shared a room with seven cousins. She learned Abigail and Beatrice despised Carrie and Didi. And vice versa. The other three girls were friendly until a pair would decide to exclude the third. Edwina and Fallon would snipe about Gilda. The next week Gilda and Fallon would whisper about Edwina. Then Fallon would be the victim of gossip.
No matter which of her cousins the princess tried to befriend, the cousin spoke poorly of her sisters. Gossip seemed inevitable living with seven girls. When she slipped out to be alone one day, the princess met the Old Weaver in the courtyard. She shared her dilemma. The Old Weaver picked up a cushion from a stool.
“See this pillow, give me your dagger, and I’ll tell you a tale,” said the Old Weaver.
The princess handed her a jeweled blade.
“There were once seven silly geese. They were never silent. Their names were Sally and Sid, Caesar and Sylvester, Stallone, Sydney and Sheldon. Seven noisy geese on seven noisy days. Their constant honking disturbed the peace of the farm. The farmer wrung their necks and plucked their feathers. My brother stuffed their feathers in this pillow.”
The princess watched the Old Weaver slice the pillow.
“Princess, watch the feathers fly. You think when you tell Abigail ‘Carrie has stringy hair’ she’ll never know what you said. Beatrice tells Didi within minutes. Didi tells Carrie. Edwina already told Gilda you laughed about her burping. Words are feathers. They are never recovered. Can you take back what you said and have a true friendship with any of your cousins? Can you stuff every feather back in this pillow?”
The Princess grabbed the pillowcase. Reaching in bushes and behind rocks, leaping in the air and chasing the bits flying like butterflies, she gathered hundreds of feathers. When she returned to the courtyard, the Old Weaver had left. She looked at the half-filled pillow soaked with her sweat and realized the woman had been right.
“What can I do with wet feathers?” said the Princess.
She grabbed a handful. Rolling them in her hand she molded them into a horse’s head. She grabbed more to sculpt a neck, chest and withers. Wishing she could ride the horse of feathers, the little white horse shook its head and grew into a full-sized horse. She climbed on the horse’s back and flew away for a week and a month, an hour and a day. When she returned, she kissed the horse on the muzzle promising to never repeat gossip. The horse transformed into a white dove and flew away.
The princess had been in the bronze castle four and twenty minutes when she found herself listening when Edwina said Carrie looked nauseating in that lime-green gown. Beatrice told the princess that Didi stank of pinto beans and lentils. She heard Abigail complain that Gilda was spoiled and got everything because she’s the baby. When the princess took the chamber pots to be emptied, she met the Old Weaver.
“Would you like a tiny tale?” said the Old Weaver.
The girl followed her behind the privy to a pile of mud.
“It’s a simple story. Gossip is like mud. It dirties everyone who touches it. Teller and Listener. Attacker and Victim.”
“It’s not a fairy tale, Old Weaver. What about Once upon a time and the three siblings? The three tasks and the helpful animals? Where is the quest or Glass Mountain? The Happily ever after or the end?”
“Here is the end, Princess,” said the Old Weaver as she shoved her in the mud.
The old woman disappeared before the princess could stand up. She tried to tidy herself as she walked to the bronze castle. Sticking her hands in her pockets, the princess felt mud.
Remembering the magic of the feathers, she sculpted a horse. She wished to care for her pet. The mud horse shook its head and grew into a bay colt. The princess gave it food and water. She slept outside with the young horse in a shelter made of brush. When the princess saw her cousins she refused to participate in the sniping.
When Carrie would demean Beatrice, when Edwina would offer an opinion of Fallon, the princess would interrupt, “You are my friends and family. I will not listen to gossip” before walking away.
When the bay horse had grown strong enough to be ridden, the princess bid farewell to her family. She rode off to meet six helpful animals, complete three difficult tasks and rescue a prince held captive at the top of Glass Mountain. They married and had three daughters. The princess and her prince, her children and her horse lived happily ever after.