From, The Red Fairy Book, edited By Andrew Lang
And retold by William Thompson
For my Daughters
ONCE upon a time there lived a King who had three daughters. One day, the King had to go to war, so he called his daughters and said to them:
“: My dear daughters, I must go to war. The enemy is at hand with a terrible army. It is a grief to me to leave you. While I am gone, take care of yourselves and be good girls. Look after everything in the house. You may walk in the garden, and you may go into all the rooms in the palace, except the room at the end of the hall on the second floor. Into that room you must not enter, for much harm would befall you.”
“Don’t worry, father,” they replied with dignity. “We would never disobey you. Go in peace, and may you win a glorious victory!”
Upon his departure, the King gave his daughters the keys to all the rooms in the palace. He reminded them once more of the room they mustn’t enter. But the parting was hard, and with tears in their eyes, the three daughters hugged their father. “Come back to us!” they cried.
“I will,” said the King, gravely. And he hugged his daughters in turn. And with that, he rode from the palace, sitting tall upon his great, black horse.
After that, the three daughters felt so sad and dull that they did not know what to do. To pass the time, and to keep themselves from worrying about their father, they decided they would divide their days between working, reading, and enjoying the garden. All went well for a time, but every day they grew more and more curious about the forbidden room.
“Sisters,” said the eldest Princess, one afternoon, as they walked through the palace, “all day long we sew, spin, and read. We have explored every corner of the garden, and we have looked into every room in the palace. It is dreadfully dull. Could it hurt to just have a peek in the room at the end of the hall on the second floor?”
“Sister!” cried the youngest, how can you tempt us to disobey our father? He must have had a good reason for telling us not to go in there. Don’t you think?”
“I’m sure,” offered the second princess, looking superior, “that the sky won’t fall if we just have a peek. Its unlikely dragons and monsters will be lying in wait.”
“And how,” added the eldest, “will our father ever find out?”
While they talked, they suddenly found themselves in front of the door at the end of the hall on the second floor. With a mischievous smile, the eldest fitted the key into the lock, and snap! The door stood open. With a little shiver of anticipation, one by one, they entered the room.
“Why it’s just an old book,” said the eldest, sounding disappointed.
The room was indeed empty, but in the middle stood a large table, with a gorgeous cloth, and on the table lay a big open book. Still determined to find something interesting, the eldest stepped up to the book and read:
“The eldest daughter of this King will marry a prince from the East.”
The eldest gave a little gasp, and then the second Princess stepped forward. She turned over the page and read:
“The second daughter of this King will marry a prince from the West.”
The sisters were delighted, and laughed and teased each other. “So here are some secrets our father is keeping,” they said.
The youngest did not want to go anywhere near that book. She hung back, but her sisters dragged her forward. “Turn the page,” they said. “Turn the page.”
Fearfully, the youngest turned over the page and read:
“The youngest daughter of this King will be married to a pig from the North.”
Now if she had been nearly struck by lightning the youngest princess would not have been more frightened. She almost fainted from misery, and if her sisters had not held her up, she Would have dropped to the floor right there. Once she recovered herself a little, her sisters tried to comfort her, saying:
“How can you believe such nonsense?” said the eldest. “When did it ever happen that a King’s daughter marry a pig?”
“What a baby you are!” said the second sister. “Won’t our father and all his soldiers protect you, even if such a creature came a wooing?”
The youngest Princess felt a little better, but her heart was Heavy. She kept thinking about the book and what it said: that happiness awaited her sisters, while she was fated to marry a pig.
Even more, she felt guilty for having disobeyed her father. She grew ill, and in a few days she had gone from being rosy-cheeked and merry-faced to pale and sickly. She stopped playing with her sisters in the garden, ceased gathering flowers to put in her hair, and never sang as was her wont.
In the meantime, the King had royally trounced the enemy, and he hurried home to his daughters. Everyone went out to meet him before the great gates, and all the people rejoiced at his Victorious return. The King went straight into the palace, not even bothering to change out of his dusty cloak and muddy boots.
The three Princesses came forward to meet him. His joy was great as he embraced them all in his arms, for he had missed his daughters terribly
It wasn’t long before the King noticed that his youngest child was looking thin and sad, and suddenly he felt as if a hot iron were entering his soul, for it flashed Through his mind that she had disobeyed him. He felt sure he Was right, but to be certain he sat them down and looked at them gravely. “My daughters,” he said. “Did you disobey me about the room at the end of the hall on the second floor?”
The three princesses looked at him, and then they burst into tears. “We did, father! We did!” they cried. “We are dreadfully sorry.”
The King was so distressed that he was almost overcome with grief. But he took heart and tried to comfort his daughters, who continued to sob.
“My daughters,” he said, gently. “What’s done is done, and no amount of tears will change it.”
Life slowly got back to normal in the palace, and soon even the youngest forgot about the book and what lay in wait for her.
One fine day a dashing prince from the East appeared at the Court and asked the King for the hand of his eldest daughter. Remembering the words of the book, the King gladly gave his consent. A great wedding banquet was prepared, and after three days of feasting the happy pair were accompanied to the border with much ceremony and rejoicing. After a month, the same thing befell the second daughter, who was wooed and won by a debonair prince from the West.
Now when the young Princess saw that everything happened exactly as the book had said, she grew sad. She barely ate, and she wouldn’t put on her fine clothes nor go out walking, and declared that she would rather die than marry a pig.
The King tried to comfort his daughter the best he could. “Perhaps things will not come to pass in the manner the book suggests,” he said.
But he didn’t believe it, and neither did the princess. And despite feeling anxious about what was to come, the princess couldn’t help sometimes walking the battlements, watching the north-road to see what fate would bring her.
(To be continued)