Alternate Fairytale – The Princess in the Tower

Hi there! This a short story about a rebellious fairy-tale princess who succeeds in outwitting her sexist family. Enjoy!

fantasy-2935246_960_720Once upon a time, in a faraway land where the grass sings lullabies and the foxes fly, where the streams lie purple under the moon, when dragons roam in the wilderness, there lived a princess.

She lived, as is usual, with the royal family of her own tiny kingdom, in a beautiful palace on the border of one of the immense ocean forests of this land. The princess had reached the age of 16, just one year before the traditional ceremony where she would be locked away in a tower in the forest, as had her mother before her, and her mother before her, to be rescued by a brave knight who would be her husband. But the princess was wild; she did not stay in the palace to sew, or weave, or learn how to rule – instead she read books and attempted to have adventures, following fireflies and trying to catch faeries. Her parents were in despair at her unruliness. Her father believed that the tower must be the only solution to their problems – and so he sent his three brave sons into the forest to find one.

The eldest son located a tumbling tower of ancient stone, with a thin wooden door – but the king thought this far too easy to escape, for the princess would be sure to attempt to do so. The middle son found an immensely high tower of smooth glassy stone with a door of solid iron – but the queen thought that it would be too hard for a prince to enter to rescue the damsel. The youngest son, however, found a tower of mossy stone, located deep in the forest, with a door of solid oak. Inside it was dusty and plain – perfect for a princess to learn patience. The king and queen thought it ideal.

The princess lamented her fate, and more than once attempted to escape the palace and run away into the woods, but her attempts were futile. The palace witch, under orders from the king, imbued her door with magic so that she could not open it without permission, and bars were placed on her windows. Desperately she tried to break out, but to no avail.

And so dawned the day of her seventeenth birthday. A feast was held in her honour; her mother cried. And then, with chains and her wrists, her brothers rode with her deep, deep into the forest. She begged them and screamed at them, but they ignored her. Eventually, she was locked away in the tower, and her brothers rode off, leaving her there alone.

She kicked at the door – but oak is not easily broken. Toes however, are, and she lay in despair, clutching her foot. Wiping her tears with a determined air, she walked up the winding, rickety staircase. The walls of the tower were damp and cold. Moss was growing in the cracks in the mortar, and she shivered. Reaching the top, she found a wide, round room, seemingly bare but for a bed and a desk. She wandered over to the desk, curious as to who had been there to write on it. She ran her hand across the ancient oak surface, scattering the thick layer of dust that coated it. She placed her finger on a strange knot in the wood, and jumped back in surprise as a drawer of dusty parchment flew open. Curious, she started to examine the words – and smiled. Perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Weeks passed, and the princess found many hidden sources of knowledge in that room. Slowly, falteringly, she started to master that very same knowledge. Dusty tomes were found on hidden shelves, scraps of parchment in the walls, items of power lay under the floorboards. She learnt to use it all.

Meanwhile, in her fairy-tale home, her parents were starting to be concerned. No prince had visited her tall tower, no knight in armour, no fair and handsome rogue. They were never going to be able to marry off such a wild and reckless princess. Her mother took to wandering around the flower garden, picking the petals off the blue roses, or tending to the star-buds. But then – then something rather unexpected happened.

She walked straight in the door of the palace – the princess, returned, but not a knight or a prince in sight. The king rose from his throne with an angry ‘what is the meaning of this?’ but she just smiled.

“I came to say, father, that I shan’t be needing you any longer. You see, you really should have checked the tower you left me in.’

And she drew from her elegant purple sleeve an elegant wooden wand, with which she brought down thunder from the sky and fire raging up from the earth.

For in this land, where dragons hoard treasure on the mountaintops, where the sun shines light on the faery court, people forget that it is not only princesses who inhabit towers.

But wizards, too.

And so the princess lived happily ever after as the most powerful sorceress the land had ever known, feared and loved by all, and never, ever, marrying a prince.

The end.

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