Fairy Tale The Mouse Princess

 The Mouse Princess

Many years ago, there lived a French king, who had three sons. As time went by and he grew older, he made up his mind that he would enjoy his last years quietly and decided to hand over the crown to one of his sons, but which one? He knew that each son had certain qualities which would make a good and wise ruler, but no one son had all of them. It was then that he realized the most important quality of all in a king. It was a good queen. He called his three sons to him and to each of them he handed a bundle of flax, saying, "Each of you shall take this flax to the lady of your choice, for her to spin into thread. In seven days time, you must return with the thread to me." The two elder brothers each loved a lady of the Court, one a countess, the other a duke's daughter. They realized that their father was setting a test to find a good queen for one of them, so they went at once to their ladies. Both maidens were very beautiful but being of noble birth, they had never learned to spin flax.

However, both set to work eagerly, for each wanted to be a queen. The youngest son had no maiden whom he loved. He was too quiet and shy to mix at Court. Sadly, he put the flax away in his pocket and rode out into the forest. Now, a few years before this, in a nearby kingdom, a young princess had been unlucky enough to displease a wicked witch and the witch had turned her into a mouse. "A mouse you shall stay, until the day you make me laugh," the witch had cackled. Since the witch was very bad tempered and had never been known to laugh in her life, there seemed very little chance for the princess ever to return to her natural form, so she had run away. On the day that the youngest prince rode by, the mouse princess was sitting on top of a ruined wall and it just so happened that here the young prince stopped to rest for a while. Seeing that he looked sad, the mouse ran down to join him. "What is the matter?" she asked. The prince told her the whole story and when he had finished, she said, "Do not worry. Leave the flax with me. When you return in seven days, you will see what you shall see." A week later, the prince returned and the mouse was waiting for him with a little box. The puzzled young prince thanked the mouse and returned to the Court. His brothers were already there, showing their father the thread woven by their ladies. The countess's thread was a thick and as coarse as rope, while that spun by the duke's daughter was thin and straggly. Then, the youngest prince offered the box to his father and when the king opened it, he found a ball of bright, shiny thread, as fine as hair, but so strong that he could not break it. The king smiled and said, "Now, I have seen what your ladies can do. Tomorrow, I would like to see the ladies themselves. Bring them here at midday and then I will tell you which of you is to become king in my place." 

The two elder princes hurried off to their ladies, who, when they heard the news, were thrown into a great fluster and began to search out their finest gowns and jewelry. The youngest prince returned at once to the forest and explained this new problem to the mouse princess. "I know you cannot help any more, little mouse," he said, "but I would like to give you my ring, a gift for helping me this far." He slipped off his ring, gave it to the mouse and before the mouse could reply, he had remounted his horse and ridden away. "I will help you," the mouse princess called out, "I will think of something." However, next day came and she had no plan, but she decided to go to the Royal Court anyway, to comfort the sad young prince.

She ran until she thought she could run no more, but she was still a long way from the palace. Then, suddenly, she saw a black cockerel wandering along the path. Perhaps she could ride to the palace. Quickly, she plaited some grass to make a bridle and found a dock leaf for a saddle and then with the young prince's ring in her mouth, she mounted the cockerel and set off once more. It so happened, that on the way to the palace, they had to pass the castle where the wicked witch lived and as they passed by, the witch was sitting at her window. Now, as you have heard, this witch had never been known to laugh, or even smile, but when she saw the mouse riding a black cock, she gave a scream of delight and laughed helplessly until the tears ran down her cheeks. At once, the princess returned to her natural form and the cock became a fine, black horse. Quickly, they galloped towards the palace, for it was nearly midday. In the court, the two elder princes stood before their father with their brides, the countess and the duke's daughter, who were both so laden with jewels and finery that they could hardly move. At the back, all alone, stood the young prince. "Where is your bride?" the king asked him.

Just as he was about to answer, the mouse princess appeared. "I take it this is she," smiled the king. "You have chosen wisely, for here is a natural beauty, not one made so by fine clothes and flashing jewels. You shall become king and this fair maid shall be your queen." The puzzled prince was about to protest, when the princess showed him the ring he had given the mouse and then he understood. 

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