Friday, November 4, 2011
Prince Hyacinth and the Dear Little Princess
Anyone who loves “Rocky and Bullwinkle” knows that one of their most popular segments was “Fractured Fairy Tales,” which were basically parodies and pastiches on the stories we all know and love. Surprisingly, their off-beat, satirical, sometimes just plain stupid versions of fairy tales were a great inspiration to me in creating this blog. Sometimes, however, when they couldn’t think of a story, they would make one up. Not surprisingly, I was under the impression that this is a story they made up. Imagine my surprise when I realized it came from "The Blue Fairy Book" by Andrew Lang! Even with this knowledge, however, I will always associate it with Fractured Fairy Tales.
Once upon a time there was a lovely little kingdom ruled by a lovely little king who was very unhappy. You see, he was in love with a beautiful princess. The problem was she was under an enchantment. Every day the king would visit her and ask “How are you?”
“Enchanted,” she would say.
“Have you tried a cold compress?”
“Yes, it didn’t work.”
“What about ibuprofen?”
“No, that doesn’t help either.”
The rest of his time was usually spent pacing the floor of his castle, worrying. One day, while he was pacing a fairy appeared in front of him.
“Uh oh!” he said. “You’re not gonna turn me into a frog are you?” This king lived in perpetual fear of being turned into a frog...we all have our hangups.
“What? No, of course not. Look, you are the king who’s girlfriend is under an enchantment, right?”
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“Good, then this is the right place. I’m here to tell you how to lift the enchantment.”
“Yes, I know.”
“So, how do I do it?”
“Step on her cat’s tail.”
There was a long silence before the king said, “Er…what did you say?”
“Step on her cat’s tail! Now I’ve gotta go. Three kingdoms over there’s a girl who wants to go to a ball and meet a prince. Good luck!” And with that, the fairy vanished. The king was confused, but he still went to see the princess.
“How are you?”
“Taking plenty of vitamins?”
“Lots of fluids?”
“Have you tried Pepto-Bismal?”
“That helped a little, but I’m still enchanted.”
“I see. Well, maybe it would help if I stepped on your cat’s tail.”
“What? How would that help?”
“I don’t know. Never mind. Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, honey.” But as the king turned to go, the princess’s cat walked across his path and he stepped on her tail by accident. With a loud yowl, the cat changed before the king’s eyes into a huge ogre. “Okay, now I get turned into a frog, right?”
“No!” said the ogre. “I’m here to deliver a prophecy.”
“Yes, and here it is: The princess will marry you and give birth to a son who will have a nose like a casaba melon. And, until he says to the world, ‘I have a nose like a casaba melon,’ he’ll have a nose like a casaba melon. Understand?”
“Not really,” said the king, but it didn’t matter, because the ogre and turned back into the cat who was so freaked out by the experience that she ran straight under the bed and stayed there for a whole month. But the good news was that the princess was no longer under her enchantment. She and the king were married at once and nine months later, the queen gave birth to a beautiful baby boy…at which point the king turned into a frog and was never heard of again.
The queen, however, was very proud of her son whom she named Prince Hyacinth. And, indeed, he was a beautiful boy…except that he did have kind of a big nose…kind of a huge nose…kind of an enormous, gargantuan, unbelievable nose. The queen, of course, having been under an enchantment at the time, did not hear the prophecy so she didn’t know how the curse could be lifted. What she did know was that she didn’t want her son to grow up feeling self-conscious about his looks. So she passed a law that all citizens of her kingdom had to wear large, false noses so that the prince wouldn’t think it was unusual. This law was rigidly enforced and anyone who entered the country, even if it was just to pass through, was issued a false nose at the entrance which they returned on their way out, kind of like 3-D glasses at the movies.
The years went by and the boy grew into a fine young man with a nose like a…well, you know. And when he was twenty-one, a dance was held at the palace and all the eligible maidens from across the lands were invited to come, in the hopes that one would be Prince Hyacinth’s soul mate. Of course there were many beautiful ladies at the party, but the one Prince Hyacinth liked best was a dear little princess from a nearby kingdom…who wasn’t wearing a false nose! Somehow it had fallen off and nobody had noticed!
“Get out of here at once!” cried the queen.
“Mother, please,” said Prince Hyacinth, a name I don’t get tired of saying. “I like her.”
“Like her? But…look at her nose!”
“So she looks a little different. There’s room for all kinds of noses in the world. Big ones, small ones…” he turned to the princess and said, “I’m sorry if we upset you. Perhaps you’d let me give you a kiss to make up for it?” She agreed but with his nose he found it very difficult to kiss her.
“Why don’t you just take it off?” said the princess. You see, she assumed that it was a false one just like everyone else’s, since she didn’t know the reason for the law.
The queen was horrified, but the prince just laughed. “Okay, you tell me: How do I take off my nose?”
“Like this!” said the dear little princess and she reached over to the first party guest she could find and pulled off his nose. Prince Hyacinth was shocked. He started yanking at everyone’s nose and each one came off in his hand. Even his mother's! Now he realized that all his life he’d been the one who was different. The freak! “But you said it yourself, your majesty,” said the princess, “there’s room for all kinds of noses. Big ones, small—”
“Big? My nose isn’t just big! It’s…it’s…oh, let’s face it, dear little princes: I have a nose like a casaba melon!”
As soon as he had said these words, that very same fairy who had told Prince Hyacinth’s father to step on the cat’s tail appeared. “Wait a minute!” she said. “What’s that you just said?”
“Er…I said I had a nose like a casaba melon?”
“That’s what I thought you said. Okay, curse is lifted, spell is broken, sign here, initial here and…alakazam!”
In a flash of light and a puff of smoke, two things happened. One is that the fairy vanished to deal with a sleeping princess in another part of the world. The other is that the prince’s nose was back to a more normal size. He and the dear little princess got married and lived happily ever after without even turning into frogs!
NEXT WEEK: "The Box of Robbers"