The Princess Who Hated Her Bath

Princess Petunia was beautiful in every way and was generally quite a sweet-tempered girl, but she had just one very, very stubborn flaw. She absolutely refused to take a bath. Her servants made the water hot, they made it cold, they made it just-right-in-the-middle-deliciously-warm, but still she wouldn’t go near it. Her maid added bubbles and pretty pink coloring so that the whole bath looked like a cotton candy cloud, but Princess Petunia just shook her head and got back in bed. Her mother offered her candy to take even one bath, but Princess Petunia just closed her eyes and shuddered. Her father said he would take away her pony if she didn’t bathe, but Princess Petunia just cried and cried and ran outside.

As time went on, Princess Petunia got dirtier and dirtier and smellier and smellier. She would play outside and take off her shoes and come in with feet all black from the earth, but never would she wash so much as her little toe. She would run and jump and climb in the trees until she was quite a sweaty mess, but never would her own smelliness offend her as much as the tiniest whiff of soap. She would accidentally get bits of food or drink in her hair, and they would stick there for as long as they felt like staying.

The king and queen were quite alarmed. Who ever heard of a princess who wouldn’t take a bath? How could she go to royal balls with blackened feet and bits of food in her hair? How could she greet the royal guests with dirt on her hands and smudges on her cheek? The king called in a royal doctor to study scientifically the causes of the problem. He asked Princess Petunia a great many important questions, but all she would say was, “Baths are icky. I will never take one.”

Was it the water she objected to, he asked, or the soap?

“Oh, by all means, the water,” said Princess Petunia. “Water is just too wet for me. And the soap is truly terrifying. It is just so sickeningly sudsy.”

Was she afraid of the water or just uncomfortable while in it?

“Oh yes, I’m very afraid,” Princess Petunia said calmly. “Water is so disgustingly wet, and I am quite uncomfortable with how fearfully wet it would make me.”

After many similar answers, the doctor gave up in a fit of impatience. “You’re daughter is impossible!” he shouted. “It is my professional opinion that she will never be persuaded to take a bath. You may as well give up now.”

The king was quite ready to take the doctor’s advice, but the queen called in an important fashion consultant to convince her daughter of the importance of being clean. The important consultant immediately began to create a beautiful new dress for Princess Petunia. Each time the princess came to be fitted for her dress, the important consultant was horrified by her dirtiness and gave her long lectures. On the final fitting, Princess Petunia had such filthy hands that the important consultant actually fainted from horror and when he came back to himself and saw Princess Petunia touching the elegant dress with those terrible hands, he ran screaming from the castle and was never seen again.

The king and queen despaired. Without telling anyone, the king began to make preparations to hide Princess Petunia away in the corner tower where no one would be able to smell her.

But her maid still had one idea. She also did not tell anyone, but one night she went to visit her wise old grandmother and told her all about the very smelly princess. The wise old grandmother said they should leave it all up to her.

The next day when Princess Petunia was running through the woods, she came across a pool of water. Normally, she ran right around the pool and never got close at all, but today she saw something strange. There was an old woman splashing in the pool and laughing like a little girl. Princess Petunia stopped and stared.

“Who are you?” she asked, “and what are you doing in that horrible pool?”

“Who I am is none of your business,” said the old woman rather rudely, “and I should think any stupid little girl could see what I am doing.” She continued to splash and laugh and squirt water up into the tree branches above her.

Princess Petunia watched for a minute. “I do not think I am a stupid little girl,” she said finally, “but I do not see what you are doing.”

The old woman laughed. “I am having fun,” she said. “If you can’t see that then you are more stupid than you think.”

“How can you be having fun in the water?” asked Princess Petunia. “Isn’t it just like a horrid big bath?”

“Oh no,” said the old woman. “It is not at all like a bath. Do you see a bath tub? Do you see a bathroom? Of course not. If you think this is like a bath, you must really be quite a stupid little girl.”

“I am NOT stupid,” said Princess Petunia. “I just don’t see how you can laugh when you are in all that very wet water.”

“Come in and you will see,” said the old woman.

“Oh no, oh no,” said Princess Petunia. “I could never. I hate the wet, wet water.”

“Suit yourself,” said the old woman, and she went back to her splashing and laughing.

Princess Petunia watched for a long while. Finally she said, “And you’re sure it’s really nothing like a bath?”

The old woman rolled her eyes. “We are in the forest. What do you think?”

Taking a deep breath, Princess Petunia ran straight into the water. In no time at all, she was splashing and laughing right along with the old woman. The old woman showed her how to dip all the way under the water and open her eyes and look for shiny rocks on the bottom of the pool. Princess Petunia thought that was great fun. Then the old woman produced a bar of soap and began to toss it back and forth. Princess Petunia was so busy playing catch that she didn’t notice the bubbles all around her. At last, when she was quite clean but still didn’t know it, the old woman said it was time to go home. When Princess Petunia got out of the pool, she noticed the most lovely smell.

“What is that wonderful fragrance?” she asked, looking all around for flowers.

“It’s you, Princess,” said the old woman with a grin.

“Me?!” said Princess Petunia, looking down at her now clean clothes and hair and hands and feet. “What kind of magic is this that makes me smell like a flower and look all white and shiny?”

“It’s the magic of a bath,” said the old woman. “You’ve just had your very first one.”

“But you said…” stuttered Princess Petunia. “But I thought…”

“Exactly,” said the old woman, handing the princess the bar of soap.

And after that, Princess Petunia was always the first to jump into the bath on bath day, though she often insisted on doing it outside in the forest pool. Her parents thought this very odd, but they were so happy to have a daughter that smelled like a flower instead of a rotten fish that they let her do just as she liked.

At the Ringing of the Bell

Once upon a time there was a lowly maid who helped to clean the palace kitchens. Whenever someone wanted her help, they mostly just said, “Come here, girl!” But actually her name was Sarah. Sarah’s life was not an easy one. She had to get up before the sun each morning and help prepare breakfast for the royal family. Her own breakfast was a crust of bread and some tea before clearing the dishes and scrubbing the kitchen. Her cleaning duties lasted until well after dark, when she finally ate her dinner of stew and dropped into her bed. Only on Sundays was she given half a day to rest and do what she liked. And what she liked was to spend time with her best friend, Thomas.

Thomas was a stable boy, which meant that he spent his days cleaning up after the horses, giving them food, and doing anything anyone told him to do. Stable boys never got to tell anyone else what to do, not even the horses. But Thomas always looked forward to Sunday when he had the afternoon free to spend with his best friend, Sarah.

Thomas and Sarah had been friends for as long as they could remember. Each Sunday afternoon they would meet in the woods outside the castle as soon as the noon bell had rung and not go home until the bell rang again at sunset. When they were younger, they would climb trees or fish in the river or play tag among the tree roots. Now that they were older, they mostly just walked and talked or sat on stumps and read to each other. Not many of the castle servants knew how to read, but one of the knights had befriended Thomas and taught him to read, and later he spent many Sunday afternoons teaching Sarah to read also. Their favorite stories were of adventure and travel. They always dreamed about seeing the ocean one day and sailing to far off lands. But then the sunset bell would ring, and Sarah would go back to the kitchens, and Thomas would go back to the stables and they would work as usual all week long. But Sarah would often think over things they had read or talked about while she was polishing the silver or sweeping the long winding staircases, and when she did she would smile, no matter how tired she felt.

Then the kingdom went to war against the neighboring kingdom. The king sent all his knights to fight, but he needed foot soldiers, too. That meant that every farmer, blacksmith, and stable boy of the right age was going to war. Sarah knew that Thomas was going to become a soldier, but she didn’t want to think about it. She just worked and worked so hard and so long that she got all her work done in half the time, so she volunteered for extra jobs. There were lots of extra jobs in those days because so many of the male servants were off preparing to be soldiers, too. So Sarah was at the top of the bell tower, polishing the bell with all her strength, when Thomas found her to say goodbye.

“I only have ten minutes,” he said. “It took so long to find you. I wanted you to have this.” He handed Sarah a small book, covered in brown. It was their favorite adventure story and the only book that Thomas had of his own.

Sarah wanted to cry, so she didn’t say anything but just kept polishing the bell as hard as she could.

Thomas came over and touched the giant bell. “They say that the echoes from this bell can be heard even across the far seas, so I’m sure I’ll be able to hear it in whatever place I am going. Sunrise, midday, and sunset, whenever I hear this bell, I will think of you and of Sunday afternoon.”

Sarah whispered, “And I’ll think of you.”

And then Thomas was gone. And Sarah went back to work.

The war lasted a long time. Thomas fought in many battles and went through many dangers, but somehow he always made it through alive. And every morning, when the sun came up, he could hear the faint echo of the castle bell and he thought of Sarah and of happier times. And every day when it was just noon, Sarah heard that same bell as she carried the loaded trays of food into the dining hall for the king’s dinner, and she thought of Thomas and prayed for his safe return. And every night as he pitched his tent in yet another cold field, Thomas heard the bell again and remembered what he was fighting for.

There came a night when Sarah couldn’t sleep. She was exhausted from a long day of hard work, but her heart was so heavy she couldn’t even face her bed. She had never felt this way before. She paced up and down and up and down by her bed, trying to tell herself that everything was fine and she would need her rest for tomorrow, but she didn’t believe that everything was fine. She knew in her heart that something was terribly wrong. Finally, she couldn’t stand it any longer. Grabbing her cloak she ran up the many steps and into the bell tower. She didn’t have any plan. She just knew that Thomas was in some terrible danger and she wanted to be as near to him as possible. When she got to the bell tower she prayed yet again that Thomas would be safe and well, but she didn’t feel any better. She wished she could be with him and tell him that she was thinking of him. She wished he could know that she was standing here looking out over the trees and hills that were between them. Without even thinking, she stopped wishing and did what she knew needed to be done.

At just that moment, far away in a darkened field, Thomas lay badly wounded. The army had been ambushed as they set up their camp for the night, and many men had been killed. The knight who led Thomas’ company of soldiers had been killed, too, and Thomas had fought bravely to defend his body against the enemy. At last, help came, and the enemy was driven away. But not before Thomas was struck with a sword through his side. He was carried to the tent where men were tending those who had been hurt in the battle. Thomas’ wound was bandaged and he was given something strong to drink for the pain. But still he was bleeding, and the doctors did not have much hope for him. Then, from far away, a bell began to ring and ring and ring and ring. Every man in the tent stopped and listened with wonder. No one even noticed the tear that made its way down Thomas’ face.

Back at the castle the king was furious. He had been woken up in the middle of the night by the loud bell ringing and ringing. He had rushed to his window expecting to see enemies coming to cause such alarm, but there was nothing. Who would dare ring the bell for no reason? By the time his guards got to the top of the bell tower, no one was there, but the king would not let go of his rage so quickly. All the next day he had his guards question everyone in the castle. Finally a young gardener said that she had seen one of the maids climbing the tower after everyone was asleep. When the guards came to Sarah to ask what she knew, she couldn’t lie. She admitted what she had done. The king was even more angry that such a thing could have been done by a lowly serving girl, and he ordered that she be locked up in a tower cell.

Not long after that, Thomas was sent home. He was miraculously recovering from his injury, but it would be a long time before he had the strength to be of any use as a stable boy, much less a soldier. When he arrived at the castle, he was brought before the king. The king had heard of his bravery and had decided to put him in training to be a knight. This was a special honor that very few men received. Thomas was so happy and grateful that even the old king smiled.

The first thing Thomas wanted to do was go tell Sarah that he was going to become a knight. But he couldn’t find her. He searched over the whole castle, but she was nowhere. Finally he found one of the other maids and asked where Sarah might be. She told him what had happened. Thomas was struck to the heart that Sarah had been punished for something that had saved his life. He went straight to the king and begged to be allowed to tell his story.

The king was a hard man who carried many burdens and did not show mercy easily, but he liked young Thomas, so he listened. And he soon found that even a hard man could not be unmoved by such devotion. He agreed to release Sarah from her cell.

What Thomas said when he finally saw Sarah or what Sarah felt when she heard what had happened are not things meant to be shared. Suffice it to say that in time Thomas became a knight and in time Sarah became his wife. They traveled many places and had many adventures, but they were never parted 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 Princess in the Bottle

Once upon a time there was a young man who had no home and no family. His life was a life lived on the road, traveling from place to place, finding work whenever he needed it and adventure even when he didn’t. His only companion was an old gray horse, who through some long ago mistake had been named Black. The young man’s name was Peter, which means Rock and was a much more fitting name.

A traveling life makes for many stories, but the greatest tale of young Peter’s life started with a small creek and a fishing line. Peter had always been an excellent fisherman, so whenever he had nothing else to eat, he would look for a long stick, tie on his string and hook, and catch himself a fine supper. On this particular evening, the fish were biting well, and Peter had just caught enough for a feast when his eye fell on something glittering among the rocks on the bottom of the creek. Without a second thought, he reached down and pulled up a sparkling glass bottle with a red cork in it. The sight of this bottle was so amazing that Peter immediately dropped his line of fish. It wasn’t the lovely shape of the glass or even the brilliant color of the cork that caused such astonishment; it was what was inside the bottle. This bottle didn’t hold wine or vinegar or water. It didn’t even hold a perfect model of a ship. It held a princess.

Peter could not believe his eyes. Inside the bottle was a princess so tiny and so beautiful that he thought he must be dreaming. As you can imagine, he lost no time pulling the cork out of the bottle. As soon as he did, he heard a tiny, beautiful, but very angry voice saying, “Why did you drop the fish?! I’m starving!”

That was the last thing that Peter expected to hear. But the thought of a tiny, beautiful, starving princess was more than he could bear, so he quickly caught a few more fish and roasted them over his fire. When they were cooked all through, he broke off a small piece and dropped it into the top of the bottle. The princess ate it, quick as a wink, and asked for more. Peter passed her bits of fish through the opening of the bottle until finally she was full. She was much less angry now. She even thanked him for the food in a very polite voice.

As for Peter, he was not at all interested in eating. He just wanted to hear how a princess came to be in a bottle. He could see very well that she wouldn’t fit through the opening. The princess told him that her name was Selina and that her father was the king of a neighboring kingdom. It seemed that her father had done something to anger his chief magician who had punished his king by shrinking his only daughter and trapping her in a bottle. Once she was trapped, the magician had carried her secretly out of the castle and thrown her into a nearby river. The river carried her far away, out of her father’s kingdom and down to this point where it dwindled to a tiny creek, and she had finally come to rest among the rocks. The king did not know what had happened to his daughter, only that she had disappeared.

“So I knew that no one would be looking for me,” finished Selina, “and I was quite sure that I was going to die of starvation in this horrid bottle. Until you came along, that is, and I saw your fish. Nothing ever looked or tasted so good.”

“Isn’t there anything I can do to help you get out of that bottle?” asked Peter.

“I’m sure I don’t know,” said Selina sadly. “My father’s chief magician is very powerful. I doubt that anyone could undo one of his spells, and I’m sure he wouldn’t want to do it himself.”

But Peter had not spent his life traveling for nothing. Once, several years before, Peter had met an old woman who was said to have magical powers. Peter thought he would visit her and see if she knew any way to reverse the spell.

It was a journey of several weeks to reach the old woman. Peter carried Selina in her bottle in front of him as he rode Black, and positioned her near the fire at night to keep her warm. Every morning, he baked a little cake of flour and passed pieces through the opening of the bottle for Selina’s breakfast, and every night he fed her fish or nuts or berries that he had found through out the day. They passed the evening talking and telling stories and sometimes Selina would sing one of the many songs she had learned from her mother. Those were happy weeks, though Selina was very tired of being in her bottle, and at last they arrived at the old woman’s cottage.

When Peter showed the old woman the bottle and told her Selina’s tale, the old woman sighed a very big sigh. She picked up the bottle and studied it closely. “Yes, yes,” she said. “I’m afraid there really is no other way.”

“No other way?” asked Peter. “Then there is one way at least!”

“Yes, there is a way. There is always a way. I’m sorry to say it young man, but it seems you are going to have to drink it.”

Peter was confused. “Drink it? Drink what?”

“Drink what’s in the bottle.”

Peter was even more confused. “But Selina is in the bottle. Only Selina.”

“No, not only Selina. Selina and something else.”

Peter studied the bottle closely. He couldn’t see anything in there but Selina.

“Pour it out,” said the old woman, handing Peter a cup.

Selina braced her arms and legs on the glass and nodded at Peter. Peter shrugged and tipped the bottle over the cup. A stream of dark red liquid poured into the cup, filling it to the brim.

Peter was astonished. There hadn’t been any red liquid in the bottle before. At least, none that he could see. But there it was in the cup before him. It didn’t look very tasty, but if it would free Selina, he was willing to try it. He picked it up.

“No! Wait!” shouted Selina. “You don’t know what it is. What will it do to him?” she asked the old woman.

“I don’t know,” said the old woman. “But it won’t be good. There’s no doubt that it’s some sort of poison.”

Selina was horrified. “You can’t drink it! It could kill you!”

Peter just looked at her, and his eyes were as calm and steady as a rock. He had just realized something. He had just realized that even if this poison killed him, Selina would be worth it. Still keeping his eyes only on his princess in the bottle, he picked up the cup and drank down all the poison.

The effect was instantaneous. Peter’s eyes closed, he gritted his teeth to keep from yelling from the pain. Then the pain slowly, slowly grew less and less, and the world faded from his sight. Peter was dead.

In that same moment, the glass of Selina’s bottle disappeared, and she was standing there fully grown. With a sob, she threw herself down on Peter’s chest. She cried and cried until she couldn’t cry any more, and as she cried she felt something strange. The old woman was holding the cup up to Selina’s cheek, capturing all her tears. When Selina finally calmed, the cup was full. Quick as a wink, the old woman tipped the cup and poured Selina’s tears into Peter’s mouth.

He coughed. He sputtered. Then he sat up. Selina was so happy to see him alive, and Peter was so happy to see her free of her bottle and back to her normal size that neither of them could say anything. They just sat and looked at each other happily for a long, long time.

And then they thanked the old woman, got onto Black, rode to Selina’s home, and lived happily ever after.

Bluebell and Buttercup

Not so far away, but very, very long ago, there lived two fairy sisters named Bluebell and Buttercup. In their day fairies looked the same as other people, only much more beautiful and with powers that could be felt though they couldn’t be seen. Bluebell and Buttercup, the only daughters of the fairy queen, were the most beautiful of all the fairies and the most powerful, too. But they were spoiled and selfish and didn’t realize that their power was given for the good of everyone. They thought their power was theirs to play with, and that is exactly what they did.

The sisters were always causing trouble. When they were just two years old, Bluebell caught three mice, turned them purple, and kept them as pets. Buttercup was jealous of those mice, so she grew them all three feet tall to scare her sister. They ate all the cats in the county before the fairy queen finally caught them and shrunk them down again.

When they were five, Bluebell discovered that she loved chocolate, so she turned all the fence posts in the neighborhood into chocolate bars. The sun came out and melted all those chocolate fences before she could eat them. The cows and sheep and horses and chickens all got free from their fields and ran loose everywhere. In the middle of the chaos, Buttercup decided to make the best of the melted chocolate situation and turned all the grass into vanilla ice cream to make some sundaes. The mess was unbelievable. It took all the fairies several days to pick up all the sticky chicken feathers and wash the chocolate clumps out of the sheep’s wool.

When the girls were seven, they needed more time to play outside with their new bouncy ball, so they stopped the sun in the sky. It burned and burned until some of the dry grass caught fire, and there was a big blaze, and everyone was so tired from being awake for so long that they couldn’t even lift the buckets of water to fight the fire. If the fairy queen hadn’t come just in time and made it rain all over the fire, who knows what would have happened?

On their tenth birthday, Buttercup turned all the trees purple because that was Bluebell’s favorite color, and Bluebell made hundreds of mushrooms grow everywhere because they were Buttercup’s favorite food. All of that was fine until their two spells collided and giant purple mushrooms the size of trees began to sprout up everywhere. One popped up right under the Buttercup’s feet and she was stuck on the top of a twelve foot tall mushroom until her mother came along and fixed things again.

But the worst catastrophe of all happened when Bluebell and Buttercup were thirteen. Bluebell had gotten a new dress. It was purple, of course, and sparkly and swishy. She was so proud of her dress that she couldn’t stop talking about how pretty she looked it in. Buttercup was annoyed. When she couldn’t take anymore of Bluebell’s bragging, she said, “Like a toad all green and spotty, make that purple dress turn dotty!”

Bluebell’s sparkly purple dress was suddenly covered with ugly green polka dots. She was so mad that she instantly said, “In any dress I’m prettier than you, especially when your skin is blue!”

Buttercup instantly turned bright blue. She was furious. She ran at Bluebell yelling, “Think you’re pretty when you’re tall? Let’s see what you look like small!”

Bluebell shrank down until she was only the size of a leaf. The flowers in their mother’s garden towered over her. She couldn’t see her sister. She couldn’t see anything but the stems of the flowers and a little patch of blue sky peeking through the roof of yellow tulips above her. She was so scared that she spoke without thinking, “I’m a fairy, I won’t cry, I just need some wings to fly.” Instantly, delicate wings sprouted from her back, and she fluttered up above the flowers. Elated, she looked around for her sister.

At first she didn’t see her. It wasn’t until she heard a voice calling her name that she turned and saw Buttercup, two inches tall, flying toward her on tiny fragile wings. Each sister stared at the other’s blue face. Every spell that they had spoken had worked on both of them, and they hadn’t even realized it. They began to feel a little afraid. Buttercup whispered, “Spell go back without a trace. Give me back my normal face.” Nothing happened.

Bluebell sniffled a little and said, “Even if my sister wins, magic make me big again.” Nothing happened. They couldn’t undo their own magic. More scared than ever, the sisters flew off to find their mother.

They looked in the queen’s palace, but they didn’t see anyone. They looked in the gardens and in the forest, and still they didn’t see anyone. Now they were absolutely terrified. Finally, they went to the queen’s fairy pool. There they saw all the fairies gathered around the water, looking at their reflections. Every single one of them was tiny and blue, and every single one of them had wings. Bluebell and Buttercup were horrified. Their mother flew over to them.

“Girls, I assume we have you to thank for our new appearance?”

The girls nodded miserably and waited for their mother to make everything right. She did nothing. “I’m sorry, girls, I already tried. There is nothing I can do either. Together your magic proved too strong to be undone.”

Buttercup and Bluebell felt so sorry for what they had done that they worked very hard from that day on. They helped everyone make new tiny houses to live in out of twigs and flower petals and hollowed out pumpkins. They learned how to make a tiny little oven for baking tiny loaves of bread. And they made friends with all the animals of the forest, so that none of them would eat the fairies as they went about their work. Eventually the fairies learned to enjoy their new wings and make the best of their new life. But Bluebell and Buttercup never used their magic again.

And so it is that to this day, all the fairies are very , very small, and they all fly on delicate wings.

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.