When I used to take part in the Countdown Word Game, I played along with a few other bloggers. One week, Matt, the inventor of the game, imposed a theme for our stories.
The theme was ‘Fairy Tales’ and I wrote one of my usual ‘airy-fairy’ tales. However, Lucy and her niece Danu, who also took part, we most displeased with the theme. Danu complained that fairy tales were generally rather ‘anti-feminist.’ The heroines were often ‘namby-pamby’ characters, who did the bidding of male counterparts.
I said that this didn’t have to be the case and said that I would prove her wrong. Bold words ………
A few days later I had to sit for two long hours in the doctor’s surgery, as I was having a ‘Glucose tolerance’ test and so, to wile away the time, I decided to write a fairytale especially for Danu. Here is the result, re-blogged for your amusement. Did I succeed ?
A MODERN FAIRYTALE
Once upon a time, not too long ago, in a land far beyond the Misty Mountains, there was a kingdom, ruled by a mighty King called Ulthar. Now Ulthar, as in all the best stories, had a beautiful daughter, Ciara, who should have been the light of his life, his comfort in his later years and mother to his grand-children. The King had been widowed for many years and so Ciara had been raised by a variety of nurses, nannies and tutors. She had been schooled in all the subjects thought suitable for a Princess of the Realm. She was proficient in many languages, knew all about the customs and traditions of the neighbouring lands. Had learned how to speak to foreign dignitaries, without actually voicing an opinion and, most importantly, knew the way to wave continually to her subjects without developing cramp in her arms.
She had the finest music teachers and could play the piano and harp like a professional and she sang like an angel. Her dance-master, brought in at great expense from a far off place, had taught her the Waltz and the Gavotte and other lady-like dances and her grace and elegance delighted all at State Balls and other grand occasions.
She was dressed by the finest couturiers and her shoes and slippers were all handmade. In short, she was the very epitome of perfection; the most fabulous Princess the land had ever seen.
But Ulthar was most displeased, his daughter was not at all what he had hoped. Despite all her royal indoctrination, Ciara was a rebel, a thorn in his side and though he loved her dearly, he despaired.
It all began when, as a young child, she refused to eat any meat. This severely disrupted the royal meal-times and, thinking it to be just a fad, many meat-based delicacies were put before her, to tempt her back into ‘the fold’, but Ciara just clamped shut her sweet little rosebud mouth and would not permit any of it to pass her lips.
This then escalated and she became a Vegan !
Ulthar had never heard the word before and the royal Librarian had to scurry to the drawing room with a huge dictionary and find the offending word and explain all its implications. Ulthar was appalled, but Ciara was adamant, also insisting that her Father dismiss the royal Shoemaker; who only seemed capable of working in the finest calf leather, and employ someone who would make her footwear in some alternative materials.
The royal Chef was non too pleased either, and minions were dispatched to purchase Vegan Cookbooks. Suddenly banquets were a whole new experience, as a Vegan menu had to be included and more choices provided.
Ciara was rebellious in other ways too. She went out and about, among the people, visiting the poor and caring for the sick. Ulthar protested vehemently, this was not her job, what would people think ? It was totally undignified and downright dangerous ! But Ciara continued with her visits, she was a very determined girl and would not be dictated to by anyone, not even her Father.
However, there was one thing upon which Ulthar would not be moved and that was the matter of marriage. From an early age, Ciara had been betrothed to a Prince from a nearby Kingdom. This Prince was rich, handsome, intelligent and erudite, everything a Prince should be, and the wedding was due to take place in six months time. Time enough to instill some sense of duty into the wayward Princess.
Ciara, however, had other ideas and was refusing to be ‘married off‘ like some inanimate object, some possession.
Now, Ulthar had always given in to Ciara’s whims and fantasies, but in this he was unmoved and so, at the advice of the royal Physician, who fancied himself as a bit of a psychologist, he decided to lock Ciara away until she came to her senses. It was amazing what a bit of solitary confinement, with only books for company, could achieve.
The Palace had a very high tower in the west wing and so a suite of rooms was prepared and Ciara was taken there and locked in.
She cried and raged and beat her fists against the heavy oak door. She begged and sulked and pouted and threw books and plates at the poor servants who tended to her. She refused to co-operate in anything, leaning out of the high windows and calling out to the people far below. But she was far too high for anyone to hear her and her words drifted on the breeze and were carried far away and all she succeeded in doing was giving herself a migraine.
She sighed with frustration as, after fourteen days, she realised that her Father was serious, he really intended to keep her prisoner !
Well, Ciara was no Rapunzel and she did not intend to wait around for some stupid suitor to climb the tower and rescue her. But, what to do ?
She ran her fingertips along the shelves of books that lined one wall of her sitting-room, then selected a slim volume and spent the remainder of the day, curled up on a velvet sofa, reading.
Next day, she had calmed a little and sent a message to her Father, saying that, if she was to remain in the tower until her wedding day she would like to do something creative, she would like to make some dresses. This delighted Ulthar, who hoped she may be coming to her senses. Ciara had also indicated that she wished to weave her own cloth for a special garment and she had included a short list of requests;
1)A loom made from the lightest of metals, not wood, as she wanted strength but did not want a splinter in her delicate fingers.
2)Quantities of faux-silk, to weave into cloth.
This was all agreed and soon a loom, made to Ciara’s own, exacting specifications was delivered and the royal chemists were set to work , spinning bobbins of the finest, most delicate polymer.
Day after day, Ciara sat weaving at her loom and, eventually, yards of the most beautiful cloth lay shimmering on the table. Ciara worked tirelessly and the servants began to notice a change in her attitude. She was more reasonable, more agreeable than she had been for weeks. Ulthar was thrilled at the news; he suspected that Ciara had finally changed her mind, that she was secretly making her wedding trousseau and so he decided to go and visit her that very afternoon.
Ulther climbed the hundreds of steps up the spiral staircase to Ciara’s suite. He was accompanied by the Master of the Tower, who jangled many keys on a thick golden hoop. A huge key was selected and turned in the ancient lock and the enormous door swung open. Ulther entered, ready to embrace his beloved daughter.
The room was, strangely, empty and so he strode into the royal bed-chamber; but no ! Ciara was nowhere to be seen.
Back in the sitting room he noticed no loom, no bolts of shimmering cloth, just an empty room, quiet and still, except for the breeze that blew through the long, open windows and slightly lifting the heavy drapes. A book lay open on the table, its pages fluttering. Ulther walked over to it and glanced at the title page,
“ How to build a Hang-Glider “
Rushing to the window, he saw something high in the sky, reflecting the sun’s rays. It was Ciara, free as a bird, floating on the thermals on her home-made hang-glider; a glider fashioned from the lightest of metals and the finest of polymer cloth.
Well, there you go Danu, I hope you like this fairytale with a modern twist.