Sunday, 25 December 2016


The Princess and the Toad
                   by Dahn Batchelor

 I wrote this fairy tale for my five grandchildren.

Once upon a time, many years ago and far away, there lived a young princess who lived in a castle that was surrounded by beautiful mountains. Below the small hill that the castle was situated on, was a winding river and a short distance away from the castle was a small village, one of many that were governed by King Ludwick, the father of the young princess. 
Now one would think that Princess Serena was a happy child but unfortunately she was not. The main reason for her unhappiness was that she had no one to play with. She had no sisters or brothers and of course, she knew none of the children in the village closest to the castle because her parents always kept her in the castle.

She had to play all by herself and that can be extremely boring after a year or so of playing by oneself. One of the ways she played by herself was to wander all over the castle and visit all the many rooms; and there were many of them in the castle to visit. Serena also visited the ballroom, the hallways and her father’s private office. Boring!

When she was in her mid teens, she found a way out of the castle. There was a door at the rear of the castle that was never used by anyone and she discovered where the key to the door had been hidden. She decided that it would give her an opportunity to visit the village that was just a short distance away. Perhaps she would find friends there to play with.

She realized that she couldn’t tell them that she lived in the village because the village wasn’t that large and everyone in the village probably knew everyone else in the village. She decided to simply say that she was the daughter of the cook in the castle.                                                                              

She arrived at the village in ten minutes and then walked   on the smooth road leading through the village until she had found a group of girls playing in a field. It didn’t take her long to make friends with them, especially when she told them that she lives in the castle. 
One of them asked her, “I hear that the king and queen have a child, is that so?”
Serena replied, “Yes they do. Her name is, ah…ah…Maria.” Serena didn’t want to give them her real name as she didn’t want them to know that she is the daughter of the king and queen.        
One of the girls asked, “What’s the princess like?”
Serena paused and then said, “I hardly ever see her as I am only the daughter of the cook but she seems nice.
All that spring, summer and fall she played with the girls every afternoon after lunch and before supper. She didn’t visit the village as much in the winter months as it was too difficult for her to tramp through the heavy snow. All she could do was stare at the village from the window of her bedroom at night. But when the snow went away, she returned to the village and again she played with her new found friends.

By the time Serena was twenty-years old, the king and queen began discussing their daughter’s future.  
The king said to his wife, “My dear. We have to begin looking for a husband for our daughter, one that can help her reign this kingdom after we are gone.”
The queen asked, “Do you have someone in mind?”
“Alas, my dear, I do not. I have made enquiries but it would appear that the young princes in the various kingdoms are either married or they have been spoken for.”
The queen thought for a moment and then asked, “What about Prince Wilhem? I remember when we were invited to their castle years ago, the boy seemed quite sweet and intelligent also.”
“I agree my dear but I heard about a year ago that the prince is missing. No one seems to know where he disappeared to.”
The queen asked, “Has anyone made any inquiries?”

“Well,” replied the king, “There has been a rumor going about that Lord Maggotwort has turned the poor prince into a toad.”
“Oh dear. Why would that horrible man do that?”
“You realize my dear that I am only going by the rumors but from what I have been told, it seems that Lord Maggotwort wanted the property next to the castle the parents of the boy live at and since they refused to sell Lord Maggotwort the property, he cursed them and told them that he would turn their son into a toad and imprison him in a stone hut many miles away. The king and queen called his bluff and within a day, the young prince disappeared. To this day, no one has found the prince or knows where the stone hut is located.”
A couple of days later, the queen summoned their family doctor to the throne room. When the doctor arrived, she spoke to him. “Doctor Mulgar. I have been told that there is a sorceress some considerable distance from us who has supernatural powers, is that so?”
“It is, Your majesty.”
“Our daughter appears to have lost any interest in going out with young me and we are hoping that perhaps the sorceress can give her a potion that will increase her desire to meet a young man, preferably a prince in one of the other kingdoms.” 
The doctor responded with, “The sorceress has potions that serve many purposes and from what I hear, they are not only powerful but they are also effective. I am confident that she has a potion that will serve your purpose.”
“That information pleases me, doctor. Can you arrange to have that potion delivered to me?”
The doctor sad sadly, “That would be impossible, Your Majesty. The sorceress never gives samples of her potions to anyone outside of her hut. If you want your daughter to take the potion, you will have to send her to the sorceress’ hut where she will then be given the potion to drink in front of the sorceress.”
The queen thought for a moment and then said, “Can you take her there and then return her to me after she has taken the potion?”
“I can take her there, Your majesty but once she is in the hut of the sorceress, I cannot guarantee whether or not your daughter will return to the castle.”
“Can’t you just bring her back yourself?”
“No, your Majesty. I can only take her to the edge of the forest the sorceress’ hut is in. After that, your daughter will have to find her own way to the hut and find her own way back.”
The queen frowned and then said sadly, “I don’t want to lose our only daughter, doctor.”
“I am sure, Your Majesty that the sorceress will do her no harm but I should add that her services will demand a heavy price.”
“We can pay the price.”
“It is not you that will have to pay the price, Your Majesty. It is your daughter that the sorceress will demand payment from?”
“What kind of payment will the sorceress want?”
“I have no idea, Your Majesty but I do believe that her potion will be successful and when your daughter comes home to you, she will return with a prince in hand, one that she truly loves.”
The queen shuffled uneasily on her throne and then said, “I will discuss this with the king. Come tomorrow and I will give you our answer.”
With that having been said, the two parted.
The next morning, the king and queen met the doctor in the throne room and with them was their daughter Serena.”
The king spoke. “Our daughter has been told of our plans and she is in agreement with our plan to have the sorceress give her a potion that will increase her desire to meet a young man she can truly love.”
“Is she aware that she will have to pay a heavy price for the potion.”
“Yes, said the king. “She is fully aware of that fact and is still willing to go with you to meet with the sorceress.”
Actually Serena didn’t need any real persuasion. She was excited at the prospect of getting out of the castle and venturing far into the countryside with the doctor.
Within an hour, they left the castle with a horse that carried a week’s supplies. For three days, Serena and the doctor walked along country roads, passing through small villages, crossing over streams and small bridges and all the time getting closer to their destination; the forest in which the sorceress lived.                
On the fourth day, they saw the forest where the sorceress lived. The doctor told Serena that they couldn’t enter the forest until after dark.
“Why do we have to wait until it get’s dark?”
The doctor replied, “Because my dear, there are many paths and trails in the forest but only one will lead you to the sorceress’ hut and when it gets dark, I will explain why we must wait until nightfall.” 
When nightfall arrived, the doctor led Serena into the forest until they reached a path that had small faint lights along the sides of one of the paths.  
 The doctor explained the lights. “It is called, bioluminescent light which is common root rot and wood decay fungi found inside many of our forests. The most actively growing and respiring fungal cells generate light. The conditions in the forests that allow the fungi to grow fast, allow light to be produced. The sorceress has collected much of the fungi and placed it along the side of the path that leads to her hut. Anyone trying to find her hut during the day would be lost in the maze of paths and trails but to those of us whom she trusts, she has told us her secret.”
“Then let’s go to her hut.” said Serena with excitement in her voice.
“My child. I cannot go with you. You must go on your own as the people who require her potions are the only ones permitted to be near her hut. But do not be alarmed as there are no wild animals in this forest that you should be concerned with and if you follow the trail faithfully, you will arrive at her hut within an hour.”
Serena was concerned but she believed the doctor since he seemed sincere so after shaking hands with him, she said, “Please wait for me so that when I return to you, we can return to my home.”
After an hour, she finally reached the small hut that was on the left side of the trail. She was nervous because she wasn’t sure that she wanted to go into the sorceress’ hut on her own. She was wishing that Doctor Mulgar was with her at this moment.
Suddenly she heard a voice call out from the hut, “Come into my home, my child. I have been waiting for your visit.”
 Serena asked herself, ‘How did she know that I was here?’
When Serena entered the hut, she saw a middle-aged woman sitting at a table with a spoon in her right hand over a bowl of brown-coloured soup. She wore a brown dress with long sleeves and white cloth covering her head that also covered her shoulders.
The sorceress then spoke to Serena. “I have been expecting you, my dear.”
“How did you know that I was coming?”
“The spirits keep me informed.”
Serena didn’t feel as nervous as she was when she was outside the hut. The sorceress seemed pleasant and friendly.
“You have been sent to me for a potion that will give you the desire to seek a man that you can love for the rest of your life. Is this true?”
Serena was embarrassed. It was true but she didn’t want to tell a stranger of her desires.
The sorceress then smiled and said, “Your desire is normal for a young woman like you and I do have the potion for you that will make your desire even stronger.”
Serena responded with, “I have always hoped that I could find a young man I could love but the men I met didn’t inspire me at all. They were either ugly, boring or simpletons.
The sorceress smiled and asked, “Do you remember meeting Prince Wilhem years ago?”

 The memory of that meeting with the young prince brought happy memories to the fore. They were both eleven years old when her parents and she visited Prince Wilhelm’s parents many summers ago. They played games around his parent’s castle such as hide and seek. The prince was very friendly to her and she to him. As the years passed by, she missed him but she gave up any hope of ever seeing him again. Now, it would appear that her dream of seeing him again might become a reality.
“Does this mean that I can meet him again?
The sorceress smiled and replied, “You will see him again if you find him.” replied the sorceress. “You are going to be given the task of finding him and bringing him to his home again.”
“But I have no idea where he is. How will I find him if I don’t know where he is?”                                                                                                                     

The sorceress reached into a cupboard and pulled out a small object and handed it to Serena. Then she said, “This is a talisman.”    

 It was circular and made of metal.

“What is a talisman?”                                                                                  

The sorceress strung a string through the top of it and said, “A talisman possesses supernatural and magical powers. This talisman must be with you when you are searching for Prince Willelm.”                                                                    
Serena had heard stories of talismen but had never seen one before. She put the string with the talisman attached to it around her neck and then asked, “How will this talisman help me find the prince?”
The sorceress replied, “Your mind will pick up the message that will give you the direction that you must follow to find the stone hut that the prince is imprisoned in.”
“How far is the hut from here?” asked Serena.
The sorceress looked at her sadly and then replied, “It will take you at least a week to find it.”
“Then I had better leave now.”
The sorceress put her hand up as to stop Serena from getting up from the chair she was sitting on. She gave Serena the potion which she drank. It was bitter. Then the sorceress said, “There is a price you must pay.”
Serena smiled and said, “My parents will be happy to pay whatever you want.”
The sorceress looked at Serena with a firm voice and said, “It is you that must pay the price, not your parents.”
“What price must I pay?”
“You must find the prince and return him to his castle. For every week that passes before you have achieved your task, you will age ten years.”
“But suppose I don’t find him.”
“Then in one and half months from today, you will be eighty-two years of age and you will die of old age.”
Serena looked at the sorceress and asked, “Isn’t there any other way?”
“Do you love the prince?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Would you risk your life for him?”
“Yes, I would.”
“Then you had better leave now.”
Serena asked, “Will I still be an old woman if after five weeks I finally find him and return him to his home?”
“No, my child. Once you and the prince arrive at his parent’s castle, you will revert back to the twenty-two year-old woman you are today. Now be off with you and remember; follow the directions where the talisman leads you.”
For the next ten days she followed the directions that the talisman subconsciously told her mind to follow. She walked between the mountains and then she finally reached a small forest. Inside the small forest was a stone hut. She wondered, ‘Is this the hut the prince is in?’ 
She approached the door and spoke loudly. “I am Serena. Is Prince Wilhelm inside the hut?”
She heard the croaking of a toad. She looked inside. On a table was a small toad. She thought it would be silly talking to a toad but she had nothing to lose by talking to it. “She said, “I am looking for Prince Wilhelm.”  
The toad didn’t open its mouth but she heard a voice in her mind. It said, “I am the prince you are seeking.”
She looked around and saw nothing but the table with the toad on it. She hadn’t heard the story about Lord Maggotwort turning the prince into a toad. Her parents thought the information would be too distressing to her.                                 
The toad looked at her with any angry expression on its face and said, “You obviously haven’t heard about Lord Maggotwort’s curse in which he turned me into a toad.”
Serena thought that she was going insane talking to a toad. However, she realized that strange things happen in the world she lived in. Then an idea came to her mind. She asked the toad, “How old were we when we first met in your parent’s castle?”
Serena got excited. She had found the prince. Then she asked, “Is there a mirror in this hut?”
The toad turned its head to its right. Serena saw a mirror on the wall and looked at it. She was aghast. She wasn’t twenty-two years old any longer. She was a thirty-two-year-old woman now. Then she asked the prince,

“How long will it take us to return to your parent’s castle?”
The prince replied, “Before we return to my home, we have to go to Lord Maggotwort’s castle and retrieve the talisman he used to turn me into a toad.”
“How far is it away from here?”
“It will take you at least three weeks for you to take me to his castle.”
“Oh no,” cried out Serena. “I will be fifty-two years of age by then.”
“Uhh?” exclaimed the prince.
Serena explained to him what the sorceress told her.
“Then we had better leave now so that we can get back to my parent’s castle and you can become a sweet twenty-two year-old again.”
Serena smiled at the prince’s compliment about her being sweet. She picked up the toad and placed it in her hand. She had to make sure that she didn’t squeeze it too hard. A dead toad would result in her dying of old age in six more weeks if it took six weeks to arrive at his parent’s castle. She had to take great care that the toad was always safe in her hand. 
The prince was right. It did take Serena three weeks carrying the prince as a small toad with her to arrive at Lord Maggotwort’s castle high on a mountain. They arrived at night. There didn’t appear to be anyone at the entrance so they opened the door and walked inside the castle. Soon they were looking down at a courtyard. There was snow on the ground and the roofs of the buildings surrounding the courtyard. At the furthest end of the courtyard there appeared to me some event going on because they could hear music and laughing coming from the building at that end of the courtyard.

Serena asked, “What should we do now?”                                                 

The prince replied, “We will have to lie low until he goes to bed. Then we will have to wander around this castle until we find Lord Maggotwort’s bedroom. I am sure that he doesn’t sleep with the talisman so he probably will place it on a desk in his bedroom.  That’s where you can snatch it.”
For four hours, they hid in the castle’s dungeon until everyone had gone to bed.  Then they wandered about the castle until they found the room where Lord Maggotwort slept. The real problem that they would face would be that the Lord sleeps with one eye open. The only way they could slip by him without being noticed would be if Serena slid along the floor.
When they slipped into the Lord’s room, they discovered to their horror that he wasn’t sleeping in his bed. They discussed as whether they should return to the dungeon or take their chances and head towards the table in the room. They decided on the latter. Just as they reached it, they heard footsteps approaching the room.
Suddenly the door opened. A man carrying a candle walked into the room, It was Lord Maggotwort. He screamed at what he believed was a woman over fifty-years of age.

“Who are you and what are you doing in my private quarters?”    

Wilhelm called out to Serena. “Grab the talisman on the table and let us flee from this monster.”

Serena reached for the ruby–gold encased talisman and turned towards the door with the talisman in one hand and the toad in her other hand. While running towards the door, she sidestepped Lord Maggotwort’s efforts to grab her.

As Serena ran down the hallway outside the Lord’s bedroom, she saw a mirror on the wall ahead of her and decided to glance at it to see what she looked like. She was horrified. She looked like what she really was-----a fifty-two-year-old woman. Worse yet, she ran like a fifty-two-year-old woman.

As she rounded a corner, she was suddenly facing a horde of guards in the large hall she ran into. Everyone of them all wore heavy armour.                        

The toad said, “Run, Serena. They won’t catch up to you because the heavy armour will hold them back.”                                                                                         

Serena ran to the hallway to the left and even though the toad was right about the armour holding them back, she wasn’t much faster since she wasn’t running as a twenty-two-year-old young woman but instead was running as a fifty-two-year-old middle-aged woman.                                                                                
Serena ran down some winding stairs that took her and the toad in her hand into the deep recesses of the castle and after a few minutes, she found an exit that led her to the outside of the castle. When she looked behind her, there was no one following them.

For two weeks, she walked over many hills and through many forests and into many valleys. At the end of the first week, she turned sixty-two years of age. She was getting increasingly tired as she aged but fortunately, the only burden she carried with her was the toad and the two talisman around her neck. She was able to obtain food from the villagers and she was amazed that they were so willing to put her up at night.                                                          

At the end of the second week, she was now seventy-two years of age. Walking at that age was difficult for her. She was suffering from arthritis, trouble with her left hip and was simply exhausted. However, with one day before she was to turn eighty-two, the day before she would expire, they reached Prince Wilhelm’s family’s castle.                                                                                                                
When they reached the entrance, the toad turned to her and said, “Now, my dear. I want you to kiss me.”
“Oh, no!” she exclaimed. “Surely you don’t want me to kiss a toad?”               

The prince replied, “With the ruby talisman hanging around your neck and a kiss from you, I will change into a human being and wear the same clothes I was wearing when Lord Maggotwort cursed me and changed me into a toad.”

Serena raised the toad to her lips and after closing her eyes, she kissed it.   

Suddenly she fell backwards and when she stood up again, there before her was Prince Wilhelm just as he said he would be when he changed to what he was before he was cursed.
Serena didn’t have a mirror to look at but she felt much younger than she felt a moment earlier.

The prince saw her as she was when she was twenty-two years of age because that was what she was now.
The prince ran up the stairs leading to the grand hall of the castle where his mother was waiting for him at the top of the stairs. Serena had decided to wait at the bottom of the stairs so that the prince and his parents could share this great moment in their lives alone. Ten minutes later, he returned to the bottom of the stairs and said to her, “Serena, my dear. My parents want to meet you and express their gratitude to you for rescuing me.”

Two months later, they were wed. The wedding took place in a great cathedral in a city fifty miles from the prince’s parent’s home. Hundreds were invited and coaches were retained to bring all the people invited to the wedding so that they could be taken to the cathedral for the happy event. The guests also included the friends Serena had in the small village next to her parent’s castle who acted as her brides-maids and a special invitation was delivered to the sorceress who accepted the invitation. Of course, no invitation was delivered to Lord Maggotwort who by now was sulking in his castle knowing that the power he no longer had with his gold and ruby talisman was no longer in his possession.

Princess Serena would be Queen Serena after the princes’ parents were deceased but for now, she was happy just to be the wife of Wilhelm. She looked grand in her wedding gown and everyone told the prince how fortunate he was to have found such a beautiful woman to marry. Naturally they didn’t know that he often dreamed of the moment when Serena would someday be his bride even when he was as young as eleven years in the year he first met her.  
The prince and his wife, Serena built their own home which was a huge mansion and was midway between their parent’s homes. This was so they and their children could visit the children’s grandparents more often.

They had two daughters and two sons and they made sure that they were close to each other in their ages so that they would always have a close friend to play with. They would not end up being lonely like their parents were when they were the only children in their parent’s castles.             

They were always proud of their parents because their parents looked so grand. The boys were always excited then they saw their father on his horse. Many years later when their mother was seventy-two years of age, she looked many years younger.

Serena, Wilhelm, their children and the parents of Serena and Wilhelm lived happily thereafter.                                                                               
The moral of this story is that the adhesive that binds two people together is the perseverance they share when they are facing their common stresses in life.  

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