Tuesday, February 04, 2003

vignette 01: the princess who wanted the moon

Once upon a time, the youngest princess of a distant kingdom suddenly took ill. Her step-mother, the Queen (for her deceased father had taken a new wife before he died), was beside herself with sorrow, because the best physicians, apothecaries and chiurgeons could do nothing for the little girl.

Now news of this nature travels faster than lightning and there came to the kingdom a young storyteller. This man had no healing skills beyond his firm belief that there was nothing a story couldn’t cure.

The Queen, at her heart’s breaking point, allowed the storyteller to see her daughter, offering him anything he wanted, if only he brought back, hale and healthy, the laughing child that once ran circles around the palace guards and brought dismay to the cooks in the great castle’s kitchens.

The storyteller sat beside the princess’ sick bed, took her temperature, felt her pulse and looked at her pale tongue.

“What is wrong with you?” he asked.

“I saw the moon one night, beautiful and silver,” the weak little girl told him. “And when I realized that I could never have it, I felt like life was not worth living.”

“What made you think you couldn’t have the moon?” the storyteller inquired.

“Well, my step-mother told me that the moon is half the size of the kingdom and made of purest silver. Apart from being heavy, it would take more horses than the kingdom has to bring it to me.”

“Ah, I see.”

“Then the court Wizard told me that the moon is twice the size of all the mountains in the kingdom and made of painted rocks. With the moon being secretly dull, we didn’t have enough silver paint in all the kingdom to keep it shiny if he brought it to me.

“Is that what he said?”

“And the court Jester told me that the moon is a hundred times the size of the largest poppy seed bun and made of empty air. Apart from being too sweet, it would put all bakers out of business if he brought it to me.

“Oh.”

The princess sighed the softest sigh and looked longingly at the moon framed in her window.

“But what so you think?” the storyteller asked her, after a while.

“I think the moon is exactly the size of my thumbnail (because I can cover it when I put my thumb against it) and made out of whatever metal coins are made of,” she told him. “That’s what I think.”

“In that case, I’ll fetch you the moon.” the storyteller stood up and smiled at her. “But for now, you must sleep.”

And with those words, he left her to the arms of slumber.

The next evening the storyteller presented her with a small metal coin, no larger and no smaller than her thumbnail. On both its faces were symbols of the moon.

“Here you go,” he said as he pressed the coin into her hand. “The moon is yours.”

The princess took the moon with great happiness, and immediately color and laughter filled her spirit and she ran all the way to the great court where her step-mother was utterly surprised by joy to see her.

“I have the moon, mother,” the princess said in her step-mother’s embrace. “He gave me the moon.”

At that moment, the Queen and the storyteller exchanged winks before the Queen, holding the princess by the hand, pulled on the curtain cords. The moon, large and full, glimmered in the night sky.

“But then, my beloved daughter, what is that?” the Queen asked, pointing to the moon in the sky.

“Yes, my princess, how can you have the moon I gave you when it is floating high in the sky?” the storyteller asked, with a forlorn expression.

“That,” the princess said, pointing to the moon outside, “is tonight’s moon.”

“This,” she said, raising the coin the storyteller gave her, “is last night’s moon. There’s one for every night.”

“Ah,” said the Queen.

“Ah,” smiled the storyteller.

“I’m fine with just one,” said the princess, closing her hand over the coin.

Years later, when she herself became Queen, the princess would take out the coin whenever circumstances were unkind and remember the time when everything in the world had an answer, if one just took the time to think things through.


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