The Egg Princess

2013-0519.Red HenA Fairy Tale

Ivana’s parents, Ivan and Svetlana, were the poorest egg farmers in Polentia. They had but two hens, and the red one hadn’t laid in over a year. But Ivana was always happy. “Someday, I am going to be a princess,” she would say.

“What prince would marry you?” they asked.

“Oh, I’m not going to get married,” she would reply. “I’m going to be a princess on my own merits.”

One day an old man came by, pushing a cart hung with pots, lamps, shoes, stove parts, bags of nails, and other wares. “Pots! Lamps! Shoes! Stove parts! Nails! Other wares!” he cried, stopping outside their door.

Svetlana came out to see. “I need a butcher knife,” she said. “Oh, and a whetstone.”

“Butcher knives, butcher knives, butcher knives” muttered the tinker. Ivana saw him open a drawer that was full of butcher knives, rattle them around noisily, and pull one out with a flourish.

“Last one!” he said, handing Svetlana the knife to inspect. “The knifemaker has left the trade. I may never have another. Couldn’t take less than ten gorbins for it.”

“I’ll give you two,” said Svetlana.

While they haggled, Ivana crept up and opened the drawer. It was empty. She pulled it out farther. It fell onto the ground with a bang, and broke in two.

“You broke my magic drawer!” the tinker cried

“Magic? What are you tinkering for if you’re a wizard?” asked Svetlana.

“I’m not a wizard,” he said. “A fairy gave me that drawer years ago. I can put as many things in it as I want, and then when I need one of them, I say its name three times, and pull it out.”

“Can you mend it?” Ivana asked.

“All my mending supplies were in the drawer,” came the sad reply.

“We’ve got glue,” said Svetlana. She ran into the cottage and came back with a glue pot and a brush, which the tinker used to mend the drawer.

“You should let that set for an hour, at least,” Svetlana said. “In the meantime you can tell us a story. Do you know any stories?”

“Like in a storybook?” asked the tinker.

Svetlana nodded.

“No. But I can tell you true stories about my travels. I’ve seen a lot of marvelous things.”

“Do you have any stories about princesses?” Ivana asked.

“Funny you should ask that,” the tinker said. “I just came from the land of San Callay. The queen asked me for an ivory comb for the princess.

“‘Your daughter?’ said I.

“‘No,’ came the sad reply.

“‘Then who is this princess of which you speak?’ said I.

“‘Someday there will be a princess in San Callay,’ said she. And that was all she would tell me.”

He went on to describe San Callay, and the queen’s beautiful castle, and her beautiful horses, and her beautiful hunting falcon, and her beautiful knights in shining armor, and her many other beautiful things. As he told his tale, Ivana’s eyes lit up like a bonfire on an autumn night.

When he finished, he put the drawer back into the cart, said “whetstone” three times, and pulled one out. He sold the stone and knife to Svetlana, bade them goodbye, and went on his way.

The next morning, Ivana was not to be found.

“There’s a pile of red feathers in the yard,” said Ivan.

“And a pot of warm broth on the stove,” said Svetlana through her tears. “Still,” she added thoughtfully, “it’s been a year since it’s laid any eggs.”

Miles away, Ivana was asking the tinker how to get to San Callay.

“Go back along this road,” he said, “and in three days you will come to a crossroads. Take the left road, follow it for three more days, and you will be at the castle. If you get lost, call out three times for the Fairy of the White Lace.”

Ivana thanked him, and went on her way. At the end of three days, she came to the crossroads. She had just sat down and eaten some chicken when a crow pecked at her shoe.

“Pardon me,” he said, “but can you help me?”

“How may I help?” asked Ivana.

“Could you spare some chicken for an old crow?”

She gave him some chicken, then Poof! He turned into a handsome prince.

“You have saved me from the enchantment!” he cried. “Now I will marry you and make you my princess!”

“No thanks,” said Ivana. “I want to be a princess on my own merits. Thanks for the offer though.”

“Fair enough,” said the prince, and he went on his way.

When Ivana awoke the next morning she couldn’t remember which direction she was supposed to go.

“O Fairy of the White Lace!” she cried thrice. “Help!”

Then Poof! There stood a fairy dressed all in white lace. “How may I help?” she asked.

“Do you know the way to San Callay?”

“That way,” said the fairy, pointing. “If you need any more help, call the Fairy of the Mauve Chintz. I’m being redeployed.” Then Poof! She disappeared.

Ivana went on her way until the day was old. She had just sat down and eaten some chicken when two little men tapped her ankle. “Pardon us,” they said, “but can you help us?”

“How may I help?” asked Ivana.

“We need you to settle our argument. My brother says he should inherit our father’s land because he is the oldest.”

“What would you do with the land if you had it?” she asked the eldest.

“I dunno,” he admitted. “I want to be an import/export broker, but I don’t understand the math I need to pass the test. He understands the math, but wants to be a farmer.”

“So why don’t you give him the land, and you teach him the math?”

They thought a moment. “That will work!” they said. “Thank you!” And they went on their way.

When Ivana awoke the next morning she couldn’t remember which direction she was supposed to go.

“O Fairy of the Mauve Chintz!” she called thrice. “Help!”

Then Poof! There stood a fairy dressed in mauve chintz. “Whatcha need, hon’?” she asked.

“Do you know the way to San Callay?”

“That way,” said the fairy, pointing. “If you need any more help, call the Fairy of the Green Antimacassar. I gotta use my comp time or I’ll lose it.” Then Poof! She disappeared.

Ivana went on her way until the day was old. She had just sat down and eaten the last of her chicken when a lion limped up to her and touched her knee.

“Pardon me,” he said, “but can you help me?”

“Do you have a thorn in your paw?” asked Ivana.

“No, worse. I have a philosophical conundrum.”

“Why the limp then?”

“War wound.”

“What’s the conundrum?”

“Does the existence of meals on legs prove there is a Great Lion in the Sky?”

“The existence of the Great Lion in the Sky is a question of faith that cannot be determined by logical reasoning from empirical evidence,” Ivana explained.

“Well that’s a load off my mind,” said the lion. “I’ve always felt the Great Lion was watching over me, but never thought that argument made any sense. Thank you!” And he went on his way.

When Ivana awoke the next morning she couldn’t remember which direction she was supposed to go.

“O Fairy of the Green Antimacassar!” she intoned thrice. “Help!”

Then Poof! There stood a fairy dressed in a green antimacassar. “That way,” she said. “And I’m the last fairy on this road, so if you get lost again, you’re on your own. Oh, and when you see the queen, give her this globe.” She handed Ivana a silver globe studded with emeralds and rubies. Then Poof! She was gone.

When the day was old, Ivana reached the Castle of San Callay, and banged on the gate. “Please let me see the queen!” she called.

The gatekeeper opened the gate. “Why?” he asked.

“Because I need to give her this silver globe.”

“That’s as good a reason as any,” said the gatekeeper. He led her to the doorkeeper, who led her to the majordomo, who led her to the chamberlain, who led her to the queen.

“O Queen,” she said, “Please accept this silver globe.” The queen took it, then, Poof! She turned into a fairy dressed in orange-and-lime brocade.

“That’s quite a dress,” said Ivana.

“Yeah, hideous, isn’t it?” came the sad reply. “But at last you are here! The kindness and wisdom you showed to the crow, the gnomes, and the lion prove you are worthy to be the princess of San Callay.”

“Not queen?” asked Ivana.

“No, just princess—San Callay is a principality.”

“Princessipality,” corrected Ivana.

“Right,” agreed the queen. “The last princess had a terrible hunting accident that doesn’t bear going into. I have been regent ever since. May your reign be long and prosperous, Princess Ivana!” she cried. Then Poof! She was gone.

“Tell me,” said the princess to her chamberlain, “what is San Callay like?”

“We have some 1,000 souls,” he said, “and rich farmland.”

“Have we any neighbors?”

“Yes, Torpon, to the west. Great trade goes between our two lands.”

“What do we trade with them? Corn? Minerals? Cattle?”

“Well,” came the sad reply, “mostly eggs.”


Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

3 thoughts on “The Egg Princess

  1. ROTFL. And it’s got the right rhythm, the 3 tests, and a spunky heroine. And an ironic ending. Well done! 🙂

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