Candy Apples

Once upon a time there were two sisters and both had magical powers.  Their powers came from a very special magic dust that they had inherited from their father.  A tiny sprinkle was enough to transform anyone into anything they wished.  The two sisters were very wise and kept the magic dust hidden and only used it when it was absolutely necessary.  That was how they were able to live such peaceful and happy lives together for so many years.  When the sisters got to be quite old, they found that it was very difficult to keep up with all the housework like they used to do.  They knew it was time to get someone to help with the cooking and cleaning, but they did not want to hire anyone from the nearby village because it would be so hard to explain the magical things that happened around the house.

Then one day, the oldest sister had an idea.  They didn’t need to hire someone from outside, they could just use the magic dust to make themselves a servant.  So they went out into the yard and sprinkled some magic dust on a young pig sow and she immediately transformed into a serving girl.  They took the pig-girl inside and showed her how to cook the dinner and wash the dishes and scrub the floors.  Everything went along fine until the weather began to get cold and the apples were all ripe on the trees.  Pigs are very greedy about apples.  When the pig-girl went to market she would spend all her money buying bushels of apples and bring them home forgetting to buy flour and sugar and other necessary things.  In no time at all, the house was stuffed full of apples.  The sisters, at their wits end, finally ordered the pig-girl to make candied apples and take them to the village for the Halloween celebration.  They thought it was as good a way as any to get rid of all those apples.

When the pig-girl was making the candied apples, though, she realized that she didn’t have any sugar.  She had been so excited to buy more apples last week that she had completely forgotten to buy sugar.  Then she remembered seeing a box full of sparkling powder that looked just like sugar up in the attic the last time she had cleaned it.  Without telling anyone, she hurried up and dumped that box into the pot of candy apple glaze.  When she had finished dipping all the apples, those were the most beautiful candied apples ever.  She licked her lips while she was packing them up and she would have eaten one if the sisters hadn’t come in right then to compliment her on her cooking and hurry her on her way.

At the village, the pig-girl added the candied apples to the food table.  They looked so shiny and delicious that they were quickly grabbed up by everyone, young and old alike.  Everyone said that they were so sweet and light and crispy and flavorful that it was almost like magic.

Of course, it was magic.  That sparkling powder was the magic dust and every person who ate an apple was given the power to transform.  Without anyone to say the magic words and tell what they should change into, each person changed into whatever they were thinking of at the time they ate the apple.

First to eat was a little boy.  He had been whining all day for food and drinks and candy and treats, and his poor mother was at her wits end.  As soon as they arrived at the celebration, the little boy jerked free of his mother’s hand and ran straight to the big pile of apples.  No one even noticed the him as he slipped under the table and crunched down on the apple.  And no one noticed when, with a little POP!, he turned right into a big pile of candy.

The next person to eat an apple was a young girl.  She had been dreaming of having her very own pony.  Everyone DID notice when a lovely white pony with braided mane and tail appeared at the party, but they all assumed someone had just brought it in for the celebration.

The apples were disappearing quickly, and here and there people were being transformed.  A young man suddenly grew a foot and big muscles popped out on his arms.  A woman became as beautiful as a princess.  Two men turned into goats and began butting horns at once.

An old woman ate one and immediately she was forty years younger.  She was so surprised that she started to look for the village doctor to ask him about it, but on the way she heard the dancing music start and she couldn’t resist joining in the dancing on young legs again.  Hours passed before she left the dance circle.

By that time, the ordinary village celebration looked like a circus.  There was a juggling clown, a striped tiger, and a woman so small she could fit in the palm of your hand.  Somehow someone had swelled up like a big balloon and was floating around, bouncing off tree branches and the roofs of houses.  And invisible girl slipped in and out of the crowds, and a boy darted around running so fast he was only a blur.

Several days passed before the pig-girl came back into the village to do her shopping.  She couldn’t believe what she saw.  A rabbit sat in the sheriff’s chair.  The innkeeper was opening his shutters with hands that were solid gold.  An old man flew (yes, flew!) right up to her and told her the whole story.  Horrified, she ran straight home and told the two sisters all about it.

Of course, the first thing the two sisters did was to get out their box of magic dust.  And of course, it was empty.  When they heard what the pig-girl had done, they were terribly angry.  Then they laughed just a little.  Then they began to desperately search for something to do to fix the situation.  In one of their father’s old books, they finally found the recipe for a potion that could reverse transformations.  Sadly for the village, it took about three months to brew.  Still, the sisters went right to work.  They also sent the pig-girl to the village to round everyone up and explain.

It was a long three months in the village.  Being made of gold and being able to fly are not really as wonderful as they might seem like they would be.  Being a goat is not wonderful at all.  Even being forty years younger is surprisingly tiresome after a while.  Finally the day came when the sisters called everyone to their house to take the potions.  Those that could drink it, did.  Those that couldn’t had it poured over them.  Soon everyone was back to normal, including the little pig running around in the sister’s yard.

The sister’s did not try any more transformations after that.  They hired a nice young girl from the village to do their housework.

And no one in that village ever ate a candied apple again.

The Flower Palace

Once upon a time there was a princess named Rose who lived in a glorious palace of flowers. A thick tangle of rose vines, all abloom, made up its walls. It’s roof was of interwoven lilies. The castle door was one enormous daisy with a teeny tiny tulip as a door handle. Princess Rose slept in a bed of petunias with a lovely geranium canopy. She drank her tea at a daffodil table with the cleverest little foxglove cups on zinnia saucers.

For generations, Princess Rose’s family had been tending the flower palace, planting and watering, pruning and shaping. Princess Rose was no exception. She was happy to spend her days caring for the living treasure that was her home. But in one way, her life was nothing like her mother’s or her grandmother’s. In her day, the palace was under a curse.

In the year that Princess Rose was born, a nefarious wizard came to live next door to the flower palace. He had a black heart and despised all things that grew and were beautiful, so naturally he hated the flower palace with all of his being. He searched all of his evil books and tried with all of his wicked power to destroy the palace, but he couldn’t do it. The palace had a power of its own, not the power of enchantments and spells, but the power that all things share that live and grow and feed on the earth, made even stronger by the love and wisdom of generations of caretakers. The wizard’s evil spells were no match for that kind of power. But not for nothing was he called nefarious. In his wickedness, he came up with a plan to erase the flower palace from his sight. In the dead of night, he cast his spell, a spell that hid the beauty of the flower palace. Whenever anyone looked at the palace, all they would see was a dismal castle of ordinary gray stone.

Princess Rose was only three years old when this spell was cast, and her father and mother did not live long after that dreadful day. So it was that life as she knew it was both beautiful and incredibly sad. She lived with loveliness from morning until night, but she could never share it with anyone. Once she was old enough to have visitors for dinner, she began to invite people she knew from the nearby town. She knew the power of the spell, but every time she still hoped. She would look around at the rose covered walls and think how much her friends would enjoy their fragrance. But then the friends would come, and all they would see were rough stone walls with no scent at all. Or Princess Rose would open her daisy door and picture the look on her friend’s face when she saw the exquisite tulip handle. But then the friend would come and see nothing but a thick wooden door with a dull brass handle, and Princess Rose would be disappointed again. None of Princess Rose’s friends could understand why she kept living all alone in such a cold and gloomy place. She had long since given up trying to explain it to them. If she talked of flowers, they only thought she was crazy, and no matter how many times she tried to show them the beauties of her home, they could never see what she saw. It was a lonely life and full of hard work. The flower palace was enormous, and there was enough work for a whole family of people, but Princess Rose was all alone.

On Princess Rose’s 18th birthday, she made a decision. Now that she was no longer a child, she wanted to do something to lift the curse that the wizard had placed on her home. She began to read her own kinds of books and talk to the gypsy people who passed through the town in order to learn what they knew of spells and counter spells. After much hard work, she discovered what she had been looking for. It was a special potion which was meant to open the eyes of anyone who drank it so that they could see the truth. It took many weeks to create the potion exactly as it was meant to be. Princess Rose gave up sleeping and eating until it was finished. At last, when it was ready, she invited her dearest friend to tea, and served her the potion in a charming foxglove teacup. Her friend drank it down and there was a pause. She looked around for a moment blinking rapidly, and Princess Rose held her breath. The her friend shrugged and went on chatting as usual. For just a moment she had thought she could distinctly smell the fragrance of a thousand roses, but then the sensation had gone away. The wizard’s curse was just too strong. Princess Rose was crushed. She knew that she had no hope of ever making anyone see how beautiful her palace was, and she felt so lonely she wanted to cry.

Then one day a young man in the clothes of a plain farmer came riding up to the castle. He got off his horse and walked slowly to the door, where he stopped. Princess Rose, who was watering the roof, saw him and thought how strange it was that he didn’t knock. Instead he very carefully reached out his hand and touched the door with one finger. Princess Rose put down her watering can. The young man was carefully brushing each petal of the daisy door. Princess Rose sat down hard among the lilies. He could see that the door was a flower. He could see it!

Princess Rose went slowly down the morning glory staircase. She could hardly believe what she had seen. With a deep breath, she opened the front door.

The young man stepped back. “You…you live here in this place?” he asked very softly.

“Yes,” said Princess Rose. “Do you like it?”

“Like it? Like it? It’s the most…wonderful…beautiful… I don’t have any words.”

“You can see the flowers?” breathed Princess Rose.

“I can’t see anything else,” said the young man. “How did such a place come to be?”

So Princess Rose invited the young man inside and told him the story of the flower palace and of the curse that was on it. The young man told her his story, too. His name was James, and he was the youngest son of a wealthy farmer who had seven sons. His brothers were taking over the farm, and so James’ father sent him off to make his own way in the world. He had traveled far and tried many jobs, but none that seemed to suit him. No matter where he went, he always eventually found a reason to move on. Not until he had seen the flower palace did he ever think he there could be one place worth staying forever.

So he stayed, first as a gardener and friend and then much, much later as Princess Rose’s husband. They never discovered a way to lift the curse and they never knew why James was able to see the flowers, but they did eventually have children, and the flower palace was filled with the laughter of a happy family. Soon friends gathered there who could not see the glorious beauty of the palace but who could feel the love that filled it.

And they all lived happily ever after.

The Mad, Bad King

Once upon a time there was a mad, bad king, who didn’t want anyone to be happy.  He had never had any happiness himself, and he did not think it was fair for anyone else to have something the king didn’t have.  Getting rid of happiness is harder than it seems, though.  Happiness is sneaky and has a tricky way of popping up when you least expect it.

At first, the king just made a law saying that no one was allowed to be happy.  Whenever his soldiers caught anyone smiling or laughing or doing something fun, they would capture that person and put him in the dungeons.  This didn’t really work, though.  Pretty soon the dungeons were full, and there were lots of people still being happy out there.

The king gave his soldiers a new order.  Anytime they saw someone being happy, they were to take away whatever it was that made them happy.  At first it was easy.  If a little boy was having fun riding his bike, the soldiers would take the bike away.  Then they would take away every bike in the kingdom, so that no one else could enjoy one either.  If a little girl smiled while eating a lollipop, the soldiers would take away all the lollipops in the kingdom, just in case they made anyone smile.   Pretty soon there were no toys in the whole kingdom.  All the candy was gone, too.  Then one day, a soldier saw a woman humming while she watered her roses.  The next morning, all the flowers in the kingdom had been dug up and thrown away.   The day after that, the king saw a family playing happily with their puppy dog.  He immediately made his soldiers round up all the puppies and kittens in the kingdom and lock them away in the dungeons.  Of course, to do that, they had to let all the prisoners out, which made them and their families very happy, but they had learned their lesson, and they did not act happy until they were all at home and had closed the doors and curtains and no one could see them.

For a while, it seemed that the king’s plan was working.  He never saw anyone smile or laugh or sing or dance.  Everything was just as gloomy as the mad, bad king himself.  But then spring came.  The trees started budding.  The sun was shining, the air was warm, and the sky was bluer than blue.  People began to stay outside as much as possible and have picnics and talk with their neighbors.  Children ran around together and played tag.  Babies crawled on green grass with little gurgles of delight.  The mad, bad king was furious.  But who could get rid of spring?

The king called in the most famous magician in all the world.  He offered him all the gold in his treasury if he could make it cold and miserable again.  The magician agreed.  The next morning when everyone woke up, the ground was covered in snow.  A cold wind was blowing.  Things were very quiet and dull in the kingdom that morning.  Hardly anyone came out of their houses.  But then in the afternoon, some of the older children put on coats and hats and scarves and came out to dig tunnels through the snow.  Once the ground was cleared a bit, the younger children came out, too.  Some of them started to build a snowman.  Then some fathers and mothers came out to admire the snowman.  Pretty soon, most everyone was outside.  A few people started a snowball fight.  Some women handed around hot chocolate.  It was obvious that everyone was having a good time.

The mad, bad king was enraged.  He called for the magician again and demanded that he make the snow go away.  The magician just shrugged his shoulders.  The king didn’t have any money left to pay him this time.  He had used all his gold getting the magician to make the kingdom cold.  The king yelled and screamed and finally called for his soldiers to put the magician in the dungeons.   The soldiers rushed toward the magician with their swords raised.  The magician just calmly raised his hand and said a few words very quietly.  The soldiers stopped, waiting for something magical to happen.  Nothing happened.  After a moment, the bravest soldier stepped forward again and tied up the magicians hands.  Then the magician did a very strange thing.  He began to jump up and down and make noises like a monkey.  The soldiers thought he had gone crazy, but then they heard a strange noise behind them.

“He, he, he, ha, Ha, Ha, Hee, Hee, Hee, HAR, HAR, HAR!”  The mad, bad king was laughing.  He laughed so hard that he fell on the ground.  He laughed so loud that some of the soldiers started to giggle, too.  Pretty soon everyone in the room was roaring with laughter.  When things finally calmed down, the king stood up and ordered that the magician be released.

“I feel so good!” he said.  “I feel… I feel…HAPPY!”

The magician’s last spell had worked.  The mad, bad king was not mad or bad any more.

So they all trooped out of the castle to play in the snow, and the king invited everyone in the kingdom inside afterward for hot chocolate.  All the puppies and kittens were released from the dungeons, and someone found all the toys and candy hidden away in the storerooms.   After the best party you could ever imagine, they all proceeded to live happily ever after.

Prince and Princess

Once upon a time there was a young prince named Leo who lived with his family in a giant castle.  Life as a prince is pretty great, but it’s also more work than you might think.  True, Prince Leo got to eat off of golden plates at every meal and take a bath in a bathtub the size of a swimming pool every night, but he also had to dress up in stiff clothes for horribly boring formal dinners and copy lines over and over to make his handwriting as fancy as possible.  Even his favorite parts of being a prince were hard work.  Every morning he had to practice horseback riding and sword work and archery.   And every afternoon he studied ways to break through evil enchantments.

Prince Leo had an older sister named Princess Elena.  Princess Elena was about to be 15 years old, and everyone was planning a huge birthday party for her.  Her father, the king, had ordered his cooks to make the biggest feast anyone had ever eaten in the castle.  Her mother, the queen, had ordered the most beautiful dress of shimmering purple made for her to wear.  Prince Leo worked hard in all of his free time to make a wonderful present for his sister.  Using only his own little knife, he was carving a huge wooden horse for Elena that looked just like her favorite real horse, Fettle.  Prince Leo tried hard to keep his present a secret.  He  only worked when he knew Princess Elena was at her dancing lessons, and he kept the horse in one of the lowest dungeons where she would never go.  But Prince Leo knew his sister.  He knew that she couldn’t stand secrets.  She never said anything, but he was pretty sure that she had spied out what he was working on.  He hoped she would still like it, even though it probably wouldn’t surprise her.

Unfortunately, before he could find out if she liked it or not, everyone in the castle got a much worse surprise.  On the night before her party, Princess Elena went missing.  She had been trying on her party dress one last time when the seamstress was called out of the room.  When the woman came back, Princess Elena was gone.  They searched the entire castle, but she could not be found.  No one had any idea what had happened until one of the servants found a black feather on Princess Elena’s pillow.  A black feather: the calling card of the wicked sorcerer Malvent.

Once the king found out that Malvent had taken Princess Elena, he called for all his advisers to meet him in his throne room.  The talked long and hard about what should be done.  The generals suggested sending out knights to hunt for her, but the king knew that swords and shields would be of no use against a sorcerer like Malvent.  Instead, he asked his chief minister which of his men was the most skilled at battling sorcerers spells.

“There can be no doubt,” said the chief minister.  “The best man for such a job is Prince Leo.”

The king was surprised and also proud.  Prince Leo was still very young.  But he was a prince, and he begged his father to let him go and bring back his sister.  The king agreed.  He knew that Prince Leo had the best chance of success.

That night, Prince Leo studied all the maps and memorized the way to Malvent’s fortress.  Then, early in the morning, he set out to rescue his sister.  The sorcerer Malvent lived on a jagged mountaintop.  The road to his fortress was narrow and steep.  Half way up, Prince Leo had to leave behind his horse because the path was just too tight for a horse to pass through.  Climbing on foot was cold and tiring work.  And it wasn’t just the steep climb and the frigid wind that made it difficult.  Soon, a weird mist began to creep up around Prince Leo’s ankles, then his knees, then his waist.  Soon he was surrounded by the mist and couldn’t see where he was going.  Fortunately, Prince Leo had studied enchanted mists, so he knew just what to do.  He reached into the bag at his side and pulled out a special candle that his mother had made.  Once he had the candle lit, the love his mother had put into it cleared the mist just enough for him to see where his feet needed to go.  Step by careful step, Prince Leo reached the doors to the fortress.

The fortress doors were also enchanted.  They would only open with certain words.  Fortunately, Prince Leo had studied enchanted doors, and so he knew just what to do.  He closed his eyes and remembered all the enchanted passwords he had memorized, trying them out one by one.  On his fifth try, he found the right words, and the door opened.  Prince Leo walked boldly into the main hall of the fortress.  He knew that sorcerers always keep their prisoners high up in the tallest tower, and so Prince Leo began to climb the stairs.

Naturally, Malvent’s stairs weren’t ordinary stairs.  When Prince Leo was halfway up, the stairs suddenly began to jump around and almost pitched him straight over the side.  Fortunately, Prince Leo had studied enchanted stairs, and so he knew just what to do.  Reaching into his bag again, he pulled out a pair of his father’s boots, which he slipped onto his own feet.  All of his father’s wisdom which was in the boots helped Prince Leo find just the right places to step as he climbed and climbed those jumping stairs.  Finally, he reached the very top, and opened the door in front of him.

Behind the door was a round room containing seven cells.  In the cell that was straight in front of him, Prince Leo could see his sister, Princes Elena, sitting on a stool and knitting something large and blue.  He cried out with joy, and rushed forward.  He was just about to open the door to her cell when he heard her voice from behind him.

“No, Leo!”

He turned and saw his sister in the cell behind him.  Then slowly he turned and saw that each of the seven cells had a girl in it.  They all looked exactly like Princess Elena.  All at once they all began to talk.

“I’m the real, Elena!”

“No, Leo, you know me.  I’m your sister.”

“Don’t let any of the other ones out.  They’ll turn into monsters as soon as the door is open.”

Unfortunately, Prince Leo had never studied enchanted monsters that look like your sister, and he didn’t know what to do.  For several minutes he just stayed right where he was, turning on the spot and staring at all those copies of Princess Elena.  Then he had the perfect idea and stopped where he was, looking straight at the first Elena.

“What did I make you for your birthday?” he asked.

“I don’t know!  You kept it a secret,” said the first one.

“That’s a trick question,” said the second one.  “You bought me some jewelry.”

“No, you wrote me a song,” said the third one.

“You know that it was a surprise,” said the fourth.  “I really don’t know.”

The fifth Elena blushed.  “You carved me a wooden horse,” she whispered.

And quick as a flash, Prince Leo opened her door and grabbed her hand.  She smiled at him, while the other Elenas all turned back into monsters and began gnashing their teeth at him from behind their bars.  Leo and Elena ran for the stairs.

They were down all the stairs and almost to the front door when Malvent himself appeared right in front of them.  He raised his hands and began to say the words of a spell.  Fortunately, Princess Elena had also studied enchantments by evil sorcerers, and she knew just what to do.  She grabbed the edge of the blue cloak that she had been knitting in her cell and threw it over the sorcerer.  His spell rebounded off the cloak and hit himself.  Where once there had been a terrifying sorcerer, there now stood a large gray hippopotamus.   The prince and princess ran out the door and down the path.  When they reached the point where Prince Leo had left his horse, they found several men standing.  The king had sent his men to escort his children home.

Princess Elena had a beautiful birthday party.  Among other exciting games and prizes, it featured a ride on a real hippo.  And they all lived happily every after.