Transgendered Fairy Tales
by Kaleigh Way
In a time long ago and a place far away, there lived a merchant who was incredibly lucky and enormously rich. He had three children: two of them were girls and the youngest, Laris, was a boy. They were all accustomed to the good life and to always having whatever they wanted.
One day, it all changed. Their house caught fire and burned to the ground, and with it all the splendid things they owned: books, pictures, clothes, furniture — everything! At first it didn't seem so bad, because the merchant had money in the bank, but soon bad news was followed by worse. All of the merchant's ships were lost at sea, either to pirates or to storms. When he tried to cash in some of his assets in other countries, he discovered that his agents abroad, whom he trusted as himself, had cheated him in every way possible.
In the end, from great wealth he fell into poverty.
All he had left was a little house in the middle of nowhere, very far from town, in the midst of deep wood. Its only safety lay in its being hard to find. Here he was forced to retreat with his children, who were in despair at living such a life.
When calamity first struck, the children had the happy idea of going to live with one or another of their friends. Imagine their surprise when none of their friends would have them! Not only that, but the children's suffering was made more acute when their friends blamed their misfortune on their own extravagance.
Friends, neighbors, and even strangers told them quite plainly that if they would only "buckle down and get serious" they could easily pull themselves out of their difficulty. The children were told, "If we help you, we would only weaken your character. So the best help we can give you is none at all!"
In the end, there was nothing left to do but depart for the cottage, as dismal as it seemed. Since they were too poor to have servants, the girls had to cook and clean, and the son had to cultivate the fields. Their clothes were rough and often mended, and their life was the simplest possible. The girls complained constantly about the luxuries and amusements they lacked. Only the boy tried to be brave and cheerful, and gave himself to their new life with energy and curiosity. He was as sad as the girls when misfortune overtook their father, but his natural spirit was too bright and positive to stay down for very long. He tried his best to amuse the family, and to persuade his sisters to join him in songs and games. However, all his efforts fell flat. Not only that, but because he wasn't downcast, the girls declared that this simple life was all he was fit for, and that he was nothing more than a peasant at heart.
Two years later, when they had all become more-or-less accustomed to their new life, some extraordinary news came. Quite by chance, their father heard that one of his ships, which he long believed to be lost, had come safely into port with a rich cargo. The three children believed that this was the end of their poverty and wanted to move immediately to town. The father, however, was more prudent, and begged them to wait a little. It was harvest time, and rather than risk everything on the strength of a rumor, it was better for him to go alone, and make sure of the facts. As he prepared to go, the girls began to daydream aloud about their return to a comfortable life and their old circle of friends. They began making a list of gifts they wanted their father to bring on his return: dresses, shoes, jewels, and so on. Only the son had doubts about the way things would turn out, but he kept those doubts to himself. His father noticed his silence and asked what gift he wanted from town.
"The only thing I want is to see you home again safely," the boy replied.
This answer angered his sisters, who thought he was blaming them for asking such costly gifts. His father was pleased, but didn't want to come back without a gift for his son, so he told him to choose something.
"Well, since you insist," the boy replied, "It would be nice to have a rosebush to plant by the front door. Our house used to be surrounded by flowers, but here there are only weeds."
The town was more than two week's distance from the cottage, but the merchant arrived as quickly as he possibly could. He found that the news of the ship was quite true, but that his former partners, who believed him dead, had already divided the ship's goods between them. Since he had taken no interest in the business for such a long time, they told him that he had no reasonable expectation of sharing in the profit. They also maintained that he owed more money that he ever would have gained, and would be lucky if he could leave town before he was shut in the debtor's prison.
One of the partners was kinder than the rest, and in secret gave the merchant enough money to cover his trip and the cost of staying in town. He also packed up a number of shoes, clothes, and trinkets that his own children no longer used, so that his friend would not return home empty-handed.
By now, bad weather had begun, and this made the trip home longer and more difficult. Because of the wind and the snow, he had to travel slowly and stop more often. Finally, when he was less than a day's distance from home, he was almost exhausted with cold and fatigue. He was so anxious to arrive that he pressed on anyway, deeper into the woods, but night overtook him, and the darkness and the deep snow made it impossible for his horse to carry him any farther. There was not a house or a light to be seen, and the only shelter he could find was the hollow trunk of a tree. He crouched there, trembling, all night long. In spite of his weariness, the howling of wolves kept him awake. When the sun finally rose, he wasn't much better off because the snow had covered his tracks, and the sun was so deeply hidden by clouds that he wasn't be sure which way to go.
Through trial and error, he found a sort of trail. At first it was rough and slippery, and he fell down more than once, but soon it got wider, easier, and more level. At last he found himself on a broad tree-lined road that led directly to a splendid castle. The road was quite clear of snow; the merchant couldn't imagine how it had been done. He was even more astonished by the castle itself — he had no idea that he had such a exalted neighbor!
He entered the courtyard and made his way to the stable. There were a number of beautiful horses there, but no people. He called, but no one answered. Finally, the merchant took one of the more out-of-the-way stalls, and left his horse there. He also gave her something to eat. He still had enough money to pay for that!
Next he entered the castle itself. The warm air revived him, and he realized how hungry he was! He roamed about as much as he dared, calling out, knocking on doors, but never finding or hearing a single soul. At last, tired beyond degree, he returned to a little room near the front door and sat down by the hearth. Sooner or later someone would find him; at the very least, the servant who tended the fire.
He slept deeply for several hours, until his hunger woke him. Imagine his surprise when he found a little table next to his chair, set with a good dinner. Clearly someone had seen him, kept the fire going, and brought him food. After calling out a thank-you to his unseen host, he fell upon the meal. It was more than a day since he'd eaten, so (as you can well imagine) he left nothing on his plate.
The merchant once again went through all the rooms of the castle, calling, seeking, but finding no one. He began to feel uncomfortable and excited at the same time. He passed the little room where he'd slept and ate, and saw to his surprise that the dirty dishes were gone, along with the little table. How curious! By now, he was quite sure that there was not a living soul in the place, yet someone or something was seeing to his needs! The merchant began to wonder if this magical place was meant for him, and whether he could bring his children to come and live there.
When he checked on his horse, he found that all the horses had been fed and groomed, his own included! And yet he still hadn't seen a single servant anywhere.
Earlier, while he was on an upper floor he had taken a good look at the landscape, and had a pretty good idea of where he was and how he'd get home. But now it was late afternoon — too late in the day to start that journey. The best plan would be to stay another night and start in the morning. On his way back from the stable to the castle, he saw a gate that was closed and locked. Through the gate he saw the most marvelous garden, and when he saw this garden he was sure (if he hadn't been before!) that the castle was enchanted, for the garden was in full bloom, while everything outside was covered with snow.
There were flowers of every kind, and lovely little trees. His nose told him that there were aromatic herbs as well, and the scents changed with every shift in the light warm breezes that wafted through the iron gate. The merchant couldn't open the gate, so he returned to the castle to look for a way in. He found none.
At last, his curiosity got the better of him, and he climbed the wall. It felt as if he'd returned to the fullness of Spring. All the plants were at their loveliest. The fruit trees were rich with fruit; every flowering plant bore fulsome blossoms. He wandered, enchanted, drinking in the sights and the scents, along with the sounds of the softly bubbling fountains. Oh! If only he could stay there forever!
And then, the merchant heard a stronger call: his stomach informed him that it was time for another meal. Quickly he trotted back to the gate and made ready to climb the wall once again. Before he did, he noticed several bundles lying on the ground, along with a shovel and some other garden tools. They were bushes and trees, ready to plant. Their roots were protected by burlap sacks, and soft white sheets hid the upper parts of the more delicate plants.
The merchant had an idea. His son had asked for a rosebush, and quite frankly with all his troubles the merchant had forgotten. Still, he had a trunkful of dresses and shoes and things for his daughters — the gift of his one last friend, who had no sons. Here, providentially, was something for his boy; now he could at least carry home a gift for each of his children. Our friend searched through the plants until he found a pretty little rosebush. He could manage to keep it inside his coat for the day it would take to get home. He slipped the plant through the gate, and started making his way up the wall.
He'd only climbed a foot or two when strong hands grabbed him from below. "Who told you to steal my roses? Wasn't it enough that I let you into my palace and fed and warmed you? Is this how you show your gratitude, by breaking into my garden and taking my plants? Your insolence and greed will not go unpunished."
The man turned to find a beast who stood on two legs like a man, or a man who had the form of a beast. He was not much taller than the merchant, but was massive and muscular, and his aspect was fierce. The merchant's legs turned to jelly. He was afraid that the monster would eat him alive, right there on the spot!
"Pardon me, noble sir," the merchant cried, falling to his knees. "I am truly grateful for your hospitality, of which I was in desperate need. Your kindness to me was so magnificent that I didn't imagine you would be offended by my taking such a little thing as a rose."
The beast snorted. "You're quite ready with excuses and pretty speeches, but your flattery will not save you."
"At least spare me for the sake of my family!" the merchant cried. "I am their only parent, and all they have in the world. I only wished to take the rosebush because our miserable cottage is surrounded by weeds. I hoped to bring a little joy into their difficult lives."
The beast grunted and fell silent, thinking. Then he asked, "Do you have any daughters?" The merchant nodded. "I will forgive everything," the monster told him, "if you send me one of your daughters."
The merchant cried out in despair. "Do you think that I'm so cruel? That I would buy my life with the life of my child? How could I ever compel a daughter of mine to do such a thing?"
"There must be no compulsion," the beast replied. "If she comes, she must come willingly. You must tell your children everything, and see if any of them are courageous enough, and love you well enough to come here and save your life. You seem to be an honest man, so I will trust you to go home. I grant you a month to see if one of your daughters will come back with you and stay here, so you can go free. If none of them are willing, you must come back alone, after saying goodbye to them forever, for you will belong to me."
The beast drew a heavy breath. "And do not imagine that you can hide from me. If you do not return at the appointed time, I will come and fetch you."
The merchant agreed to everything — there was nothing else for him to do, but he didn't think for a moment that either of his thoughtless daughters would consider taking his place. Nor did he wish them to. He promised to return in a month's time, and asked permission to leave at once. But the beast shook his head.
"You can go in the morning," he said. "I will have a horse ready for you, and one to bring your daughter. Now go and eat your supper. Tonight you may sleep in any of the upstairs bedrooms. After the sun has risen, when you will hear a golden bell, come down and have your breakfast. Then take the two horses and go." The beast opened the gate to let the merchant out. As he did, he gazed at the rosebush on the ground. Then he said, "I will have the rosebush prepared for travel. It will be packed on the second horse. Care for it well, and remember your promise." Then he locked the gate and walked away.
The merchant was so upset and sorrowful that he couldn't eat more than a mouthful. He went upstairs and chose a bedroom, where he lay fully clothed upon the bed, unable to close his eyes. He remained there, awake and unmoving, until the sun rose and he heard the tinkling of a bell. He sat up, put on his boots, and went downstairs, where he managed to choke down some of his breakfast.
The horse carried him quickly home, but he was so lost in thought that he didn't notice. His children ran to meet him, and when they saw him on a splendid horse and wrapped in a rich cloak, they were sure that everything had gone well. He hid the truth from them at first, until at last he gave his son the rosebush, and then he said, "Here is what you asked me to bring you. If only you knew what it cost!"
The children begged to know the meaning of this enigmatic phrase, and soon he told them everything, from beginning to end, and then they were all terribly unhappy. The children were upset over their lost hopes, and they were angry about the beast's demands. None of them wanted their father to return to the castle, and they began making plans for killing the monster when he came to fetch him. The merchant however, was a man of his word, and tried to make the best of the last days with his family. The girls turned upon Laris, and said that it was all his fault, and that if he'd only asked for something sensible that this never would have happened.
The boy couldn't help but feel guilty, and said, "You're right. It is my fault, but how could I have known? I tried to ask for the simplest thing I could think of, but look what trouble it caused. The worst part is that I'm not the one to suffer for it. There must be a way for me to go and take my father's place."
No one wanted to hear this sort of talk, so his father forbade it, and his sisters stopped nagging him. They tried to live an uneasy peace in their last days with their father. But Laris persisted. He returned again and again to the idea, insisting that he would either go in his father's place, or accompany him on his return.
Then one day, the girls were looking at their father's travel trunk. It contained some dresses, shoes, and other clothes that simply did not fit either one of the sisters. They wanted to see, yet again, if it might be possible to let them out enough to make them fit. Unfortunately, it could not be done. "They're just too small!" one cried, and between one exclamation and another, it was said that the outfits were so small that only a girl the size of Laris could wear them. And thus was born the seed of a plan.
The beast had said he wanted one of the merchant's daughters. Well, what if Laris dressed up as a girl? He was small enough; he could be pretty enough — at least enough to fool a two-legged monster that only wanted to eat him anyway.
The merchant had many qualms, but he had also begun to reflect that the beast had never said that he would eat him. In fact, it seemed more likely that the beast meant to make him a servant of some kind. Better still, his children replied. Laris would be happy to work, especially in such a beautiful place.
Many arguments were made, and Laris was dressed and re-dressed several times in each of the outfits. It was true, he was more than passable. In fact, he was quite pretty in a dress, and the girls rehearsed him in everything a girl could be expected to know or say or do. Sometimes the merchant was frightened, and sometimes he was charmed, and once he even went so far as to laugh in delight at his new fictious daughter, who had been christened Zelinda, after a girl in a story.
The children did not tell their father, but Laris found a place to hide a knife within the folds of his girlish dress, and if the circumstance proved favorable, it would serve to cut the monster's throat.
At last the father managed to convince himself that "Zelinda" would simply be a servant to the beast, and nothing more. It would be one less mouth to feed, and the situation was almost enviable: the palace was beautiful, and the beast, although ferocious, seemed refined and even noble. Perhaps much good could come to Laris in the monster's service.
At last the fatal day arrived, and Laris, with his hair coiffed and wearing the best of his dresses, was lifted by his father into the saddle. "Remember," he cautioned the merchant, "from here on I am Zelinda, and you must call me nothing else." His father gave a grim assent, and mounted his own horse. The two horses seemed to fly over the rough terrain, and the two riders passed the time in argument. The merchant spent the whole journey trying to persuade his "daughter" to turn back, but Laris would hear nothing of it. The lad was full of resolve, and not in the least frightened. As the sun set, they arrived at the castle.
To their great surprise, wonderfully colored lights shone in all directions, and soft music was heard from the courtyard, although when they entered, there were no musicians to be seen. Beautiful statues held flaming torches, and the whole palace was illuminated from bottom to top. "The beast must be very hungry," Laris commented, "if he makes all this celebration for the arrival of his prey."
When they entered the house they found a delicious supper waiting, and only two places laid, so they sat down. Both of them were quite hungry after their long ride, and the food was exquisite. They had scarcely finished when they heard the heavy tread of the beast in the hallway. Laris did his best to hide his terror, and with a great effort saluted the monster respectfully.
This seemed to please the beast. After taking a good look at the pretended daughter, he spoke in a voice that did not seem angry, but would have made the boldest heart shake with fear. "Good evening, old man. Good evening, young lady." The merchant was too terrified to reply. The beast turned to "Zelinda" and asked, "Have you come willingly? Will you be content to stay here when your father goes away?"
Laris answered that he was quite prepared to stay.
"Good," the monster replied. "Since you have come of your own accord, you may stay. As for you, old man, at sunrise tomorrow you must take your leave. When the bell rings, get up and eat your breakfast. You will find the same horse waiting to take you home. But I warn you, do not come to my palace ever again."
Then to Laris he said, "Take your father into the next room, and help him choose everything that your little family would like to have. You will find two trunks there: take anything you wish, fill them as full as you can, and I will have them sent to your cottage. It's only right that they have something precious to remember you by." He then wished them good night and went away.
The room he indicated was full of beautiful things: clothes, jewels, and even gold. The merchant was sure it was only a trick, but Laris did not agree. "I cannot believe he meant to deceive us. In any case, all we can do is pack the trunks and fasten them up." So they divided the gold between the two trunks, then added many jewels, and finally as many dresses, shoes, and other garments as they could fit.
After that, the two went upstairs to bed. The next day, breakfast was waiting, and after that, the father returned home with many a sigh.
Laris returned to his room and found that he was still very tired from his trip. Soon he fell sound asleep. In his dream he was the girl Zelinda, and as she wandered near a brook in a park, an attractive young man came to her, and in a voice that struck her heart said, "Zelinda, you were brave in coming here, but have no fear. Nothing in this castle will ever harm you, and your every wish will be gratified. But you must try to find me, for only you can set me free!"
"How can I find you?" the girl asked.
"Don't let your eyes deceive you. And please, I beg you, do not leave this place until you've set me free." After saying this, the youth faded into the air.
Zelinda looked around her, and saw a stately and beautiful lady standing near her, who said, "Zelinda, don't regret the choice you made, for you are destined to a better fate. There is only one thing to remember: Don't be deceived by appearances."
The dream was so lovely and interesting that Laris didn't want to wake up. But the clock called Zelinda twelve times, and so he woke. It was unsettling: the dream had been so convincing, so real, and yet, in the dream he was not only dressed as Zelinda, he was Zelinda! And to speak of "appearances deceiving" while he was wearing a dress! The irony did not escape him.
After he made sure that his dress and hair were just so, he went down to the midday meal. After eating, he sat in a corner of a sofa and thought again about the dream. Who was the young man? He appeared to be a prince. He spoke of being set free... did that mean he was a prisoner of the beast? And if he couldn't trust appearances, did that mean that the prince might be some animal or object in the house? Could he be one of the invisible servants?
In the end he told himself, it was nothing but a dream, and went to explore the palace. He found a room lined with mirrors, where he could see himself from every side. There, hanging on a candelabra, was a necklace, the kind that holds a tiny portrait. Imagine his surprise when the portrait turned out to be the prince from the dream! Well, here was a clue! Perhaps it would help in some way to free him. So he slipped it on his neck. Then he moved on to other rooms. There was a library full of books — enough to last a lifetime. There was a portrait gallery, and one of the portraits was the young man from the dream! Next he found a room full of musical instruments. He tried his hand at some of them, and sang a few of the songs he found, but it wasn't long before he felt bored. The sun was beginning to set.
He hadn't even been in the palace for one whole day, and it was already tiresome. As troublesome and mean as his sisters could sometimes be, Laris would have welcomed their company. His father had warned him that he might be alone, but he never imagined how difficult it was to beguile the hours in solitude.
Supper was waiting, but the whole house was silent. At last he heard the beast coming, and his heart began to pound. However, the monster didn't look at all ferocious, and only said, "Good evening." Laris answered as cheerfully as he could, and thought he managed to conceal his terror.
The beast then asked, "Zelinda, have you succeeded in amusing yourself today?" Laris told the beast of the rooms he had been in. The beast then asked, "Do you you think you will be happy in this place?"
Laris replied, "A person would be very hard to please if they could not be happy here."
After an hour or so of similar chitchat, Laris began to think that this monster was not nearly as awful as he first seemed. Then, as the beast rose to leave, he said in his gruff voice, "Zelinda, do you love me? Will you marry me?"
Laris, who had begun to relax and enjoy the beast's company, grew quite alarmed. He could not, in any case, marry the beast, but he was afraid to make him angry by refusing. "What can I say?" he cried.
"Say 'yes' or 'no' without fear," the beast said patiently.
"Ah! No, then, Beast," he said hastily.
"Since you will not, I bid you good night," the monster said, and then he was gone.
Soon after, Laris was lying in bed asleep, and once again he dreamt he was the girl Zelinda. The prince approached her, and full of distress said, "Oh, Zelinda! Why are you so unkind to me! I think you will leave me as a prisoner forever!" Then the dream changed, and became as strange as any other dream, but the prince was always there. When Laris woke he compared the image in his mind with that in his locket, and found that they were the same.
In the morning, Laris went for the first time into the garden. The sun was shining and the fountains played, but he was surprised to find that everything was familiar to him, and soon he came to the brook and the myrtle tree where Zelinda first met the prince in the dream. He looked carefully around the place, convinced more than ever that the prince was a prisoner of the beast. However, he could not find a clue that would help him set the prisoner free.
When it was clear that the search was fruitless, he returned to the palace and found an aviary full of rare birds, some of whom could talk, and all of them so tame that they would perch on his shoulder and eat from his hand.
The evening meal passed much the same as the day before. After an hour of chat, the monster asked the same question, and left after Laris' polite refusal. At night, he dreamt of the prince.
Each day the same thing happened, but each day Laris found a new, strange thing in the palace, which was pleasant when he was tired of being alone. One day, he found a room with a curtained window. Each time he lifted the curtain he would see a new and different shadow show, with dances, colored lights, and music. It was ingenious and endlessly amusing, and Laris passed many a hour there.
Every evening after dinner and conversation, the beast never failed to ask, "Zelinda, will you marry me?"
As he came to understand his companion better, he saw that when he said, "No, Beast," that the monster went away quite sad. And yet he soon forgot this in his happy dreams in which he was Zelinda. The prince and the lady continued to tell the girl in the dream to distrust appearances, to be guided by her heart and not her eyes, and other equally perplexing things. Try as he might, Laris could make no sense out of this advice, since it did not help him locate the prince or give him a way to set the poor lad free.
Still, as time went on, Laris began to miss his family more and more, until his homesickness was written plainly on his face. The beast asked him what was wrong. Laris had long since ceased to be afraid of the monster. He knew that he was really gentle, in spite of his ferocious appearance and dreadful voice. So he told him that he missed his family. The beast drew a heavy sigh.
"Oh, Zelinda! Do you have the heart to desert me? To leave me alone in this place? What more can I do to make you happy? Do you hate me? Am I so loathsome that you wish to escape?"
"Oh, no," Laris replied in a soft voice. "I don't hate you. I would be very sorry if I never saw you again, but I long to see my father. Can you let me go? For two short months? Let me go now and I will never leave, not for the rest of my life."
The beast sighed and seemed to wrestle with himself. At last he took a ring from his pocket and put it on the pretended girl's finger. "I cannot refuse you anything you ask, even if it cost me my life. There are four trunks in the room next to yours. Fill them with everything you wish to take with you. But remember your promise, and come back when the two months are over, or you may be sorry, for if you don't return in time you will find your faithful beast is dead. You do not need a chariot or horse to bring you back to me. Only say goodbye to your sisters and your father the night before you come away. Then after you are in bed turn this ring around upon your finger and say, 'I wish to go back to my palace and see my Beast again.' Good night, Zelinda. Fear nothing, sleep peacefully, and before long you will see your father once more."
Laris could hardly sleep that night for excitement, but when he did he was once again the girl Zelinda, and she found the prince lying on some grass, sad, weary, and without spirit. "What's wrong?" she asked.
He looked at her reproachfully and said, "How can you ask me that? You're abandoning me! You're leaving me to my death!"
"Don't take it so hard," Zelinda told him. "I'm only going to let my father know I'm well and to see that he is the same. I've promised the beast faithfully that I'd return. Do you know, he also said he could die if I didn't return?"
"What would you care?" the prince asked. "How could that matter to you?"
"I would be an ungrateful wretch if I didn't care for such a kind beast," she cried indignantly. "I would die rather than cause him pain. I assure you, it is not his fault that he looks the way he does."
Just then a strange sound woke her, and when Laris opened his eyes he found himself in a room he had never seen before. It was a nice, well-appointed room, but nowhere near as elegant as a room in the beast's palace. He could hear his father's voice outside, so he dressed quickly, finding the four trunks near his bed. He rushed outside and found his father and sisters, and they were quite astonished, not only because they didn't expect to see him, but also because they were not used to seeing him in a dress.
After many hugs and much conversation, he told his father about his strange dreams. After some consideration, her father said, "I will have to answer you as if you were a girl, for it's clear that the prince and the beast both take you for one.
"You say that the monster, as frightful as he is, loves you dearly and deserves your love and gratitude. I think that the prince must mean that you ought to reward the beast by doing what he wishes, in spite of his ugliness."
Laris had to admit that this was very probable. Still, even if he wanted, there was no way that he could marry the beast. And yet, he often returned to the memory of his dreams as Zelinda in the company of the prince. Truth be told, he would gladly live in that dream world, if only he had the chance.
His sisters had gotten quite used to being without him, and seemed to find him in the way. They didn't want to present their brother-in-a-dress to their friends or be seen around town with him. You would think, then, that Laris might return early to the beast's castle. But he didn't. He kept putting off his departure until a dismal dream helped him make up his mind. Once again, he was the girl Zelinda, wandering on a lonely path in the palace garden, when she heard groans from behind some bushes. The bushes hid the entrance to a shallow cave. She ran inside to see what was the matter, and was astonished to find the beast, lying on his side, apparently dying. In a weak voice he reproached her for being the cause of his distress. Then the stately woman appeared, and said in a grave tone: "Ah, Zelinda! You are only just in time to save his life. See what happens when people don't keep their promises? If you delay one day more, you will find him dead." Then Zelinda and the woman were alone in a wood. Zelinda, frightened and perplexed, began to weep. "I would save the prince and marry the beast if only I could!" she cried.
The woman replied, "Everything will be possible, if only you return."
Laris was so terrified by this dream that the next morning he announced his intention to return at once, and watched impatiently for the day to end. He was prepared to make any sacrifice to save the beast and the prince.
Finally the sun set. Laris said goodbye to his father and his sisters, and as soon as he was in bed he turned the ring around his finger and said, "I wish to go back to my palace and see my Beast again." He fell asleep instantly, and woke to hear the clock say, Zelinda seven times in its musical voice, which told him that he was in the palace once more. Everything was as it had been. The talking birds called "Zelinda! Zelinda!" and twittered and cooed. Everything was the same, and yet something was different, like a dream. Laris was no longer Laris. In his place Zelinda stood and walked through the beast's palace. The girl from the dream was now awake and alive.
The day passed slowly, and the beast was nowhere in sight. After listening and calling for a long time, our young friend thought to look in the garden, where the beast had suffered in her dream. Near that spot there was indeed a cave, and in it lay the beast. Was he asleep? or "Dead, and all my fault!" the girl cried.
She looked more closely and found that the beast wasn't dead, though he was barely breathing. He began to revive after Zelinda brought some water from a fountain and sprinkled it on his face.
"Zelinda!" he said in a soft, weak voice.
"Yes, it's your Zelinda," she replied. "I was so frightened! I thought you were dead! Oh, beast, I never knew how much I loved you until just now, when it seemed I was too late to save your life!"
"Can you really love such an ugly creature as I am?" the beast asked faintly. "Oh, Zelinda, you arrived just in time. I thought you'd forgotten your promise. But go and rest now. I will see you again by and by."
Reassured by the gentle voice, she went back to the palace, where supper was waiting. Afterward the beast came in as usual, and asked about her father and whether she'd enjoyed her trip. Zelinda answered politely, and quite enjoyed telling him all that had happened. At last, when it came time for the monster to go, he asked, as he had asked so often before, "Zelinda, will you marry me?"
She answered softly, "Yes, dear Beast, with all my heart."
As she spoke, a blaze of light lit all the windows from the outside, and fireworks crackled and shot into the air. The night was full of whistles and bangs, and the sky was full of bright trails, colored stars, and sparkling lights.
Turning to the beast in amazement, Zelinda found that he had disappeared, and in his place stood the prince she knew from her dreams! At the same moment the wheels of a chariot were heard outside, and two women entered. One was the stately woman in her dreams, and other was so grand and queen-like that she hardly knew which to greet first. Then the one she already knew said to the other, "You see, my queen, this is Zelinda, who had the courage to rescue your son from his terrible enchantment. They love one another, and need only your consent so they can marry and be perfectly happy."
"I consent with all my heart!" the queen responded. "How can I ever thank you, you charming girl, for restoring my dear son to himself?"
Then she embraced her son, who in the meantime had greeted the fairy and received her congratulations.
"Now," said the fairy to Zelinda, with a twinkle in her eye, "Would you like me to send for your father and your sisters, so they may dance at your wedding as well?"
And so she did. The pair was married the very next day with the utmost splendor, and Zelinda and the prince lived happily ever after.
© 2007 by Kaleigh Way
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