• The Pleasantly Plump Princess

    Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom where the magical realm resided among the mortal one, there lived a pleasantly plump princess. Now this princess was pretty and fair in her own special way. However, in this kingdom, only the slim were considered beautiful. And alas for our dear plump princess, her well-meaning but misguided family tried day after day to slim her down.

    At breakfast, her two beautiful younger sisters would gently scold, “Don't eat so much! You'll slim down much faster that way.” At lunch, her kindly mother would tenderly rebuke, “You can eat more later, after you've slimmed down.” But, every night before she went to sleep, her father would affectionately pat her on the head, wink, and say, “Your sisters and your mother mean well, but don't mind them. I think you are beautiful already.” Our princess took his words to heart and did not mind her mother and sisters' advice. And for many years lived blissfully unaware of the cruelty of the world.

    A few years passed, our princess stayed pleasantly while her two sisters grew to be even more beautiful than before. Soon, many suitors swarmed in from all over the country vying for their hands in marriage. Some came in an attempt to gain the throne and a beautiful bride. Others came just to view the two beautiful princesses. The king took pride in the attention he assumed all three of beautiful daughters brought. In celebration, he declared a national holiday in honor of his daughters with festivities that lasted three days – one for each of his daughters. Everyone was invited – the adults, the children, even the animals!

    The first day was a tournament. The second was a garden party. And on the third and final day was a monstrous ball. Everyone was having a wonderful time. Everyone, that is, except our princess. A shy girl, she stuttered around the gentlemen, walked into tables and chairs, and tripped over her own shoes. The suitors shied away from her. They did not ask her to dance. They avoided talking to her for her stuttering made them uncomfortable. Our poor princess stayed glued to the wall all throughout the ball, miserable and ashamed. “Father must be wrong,” she thought. “I'm not beautiful. I'm ugly and plain.” As she thought these fateful words, a wall grew around her heart, hiding the pain and shame she felt inside.

    She fled from the ball, too ashamed of her face and figure to stay any longer, and barricaded herself in a room at the top of the east tower. She locked all the doors and fell on the bed, sobbing as if the world had come to an end. And, indeed, in our poor plump princess' mind, it had, for who would marry a pleasantly plump princess?

    In the morning, the guests were preparing to return to their own homes while the castle inhabitants were cleaning up after the three day celebration. Everyone was too busy to notice that our dear princess was missing. High in her tower, the princess tossed and turned. She was too sad to sleep. “I mustn't go out anymore. Who would want to look at such an ugly person as I?” she said to herself. “I'll stay in this tower forever.”

    Truly? Forever? That is a very long time.

    “Who's that?” the princess whimpered. She could not see anyone.

    That is not important. A cloud appeared before the pleasantly plump princess, slowly revealing the form of a lovely lady. “Only know that I can help you with this conviction of yours to stay here forever.”

    “Y-you can?” the princess stuttered. “How?”

    “It is very simple,” the lady replied. “I just need a strand of your hair. Only know that no one can release you from this tower but yourself. If you want to, you can just walk out. No one can force you out of here.”

    Our poor princess was too distraught to think straight and thus yanked out a strand of hair and handed it to the lady. The lovely lady took the strand, chanted in a long forgotten language, and vanished.

    “Oh, even the lady could not help me!” the princess cried in despair. Then, she heard a rumbling sound. She glanced outside. Her tower has separated itself from the rest of the castle! And all the doors to it disappeared, leaving only a tower in the middle of the garden.

    A crowd had gathered after hearing the rumbling. Finally, our princess' father, mother, and sisters noticed that they had not seen her all day. They looked up at what was formerly the east tower and saw her leaning out of the window. “Get down,” they screamed. “You're going to hurt yourself!”

    “I'm fine.” the princess replied. “I want to stay up here.”

    Her family fretted. They loved her dearly and wanted her home with them. They were so close and yet so far from her. However, the princess had made up her mind. She had books and everything she needed in the tower thanks to the lovely lady. She could always check on her family by looking out the window. She could be happy living here by herself.

    The king was frantic. He loved his pleasantly plump daughter for she was kind and gentle. He sent out a decree that whoever could rescue his daughter would have her hand in marriage and receive the throne since she was the eldest daughter. But, alas, all the suitable gentlemen remembered the awkward princess and were not quite sure they wanted to marry her even though they would be king if they did. Still, some tried because they desperately wanted to be king; to gain power and status. But, to no avail, for the princess was stubborn, and none of them could coax her to come out.

    A few years passed, the people grew restless. They needed to be assured that the kingdom would be in good hands. Since the pleasantly plump princess was still in her tower, they petitioned the king to change his decree and choose one of his other daughters as heir. The king steadfastly refused. He believed that if the right man showed up, he could coax the king's beloved eldest daughter from the tower.

    A few more years passed, the people learned to live with the uncertainty and continued on with their lives. Some of them would still grumble at the pleasantly plump princess but most just went on with their daily activities.

    One day, a very handsome man with an olive complexion walked into town. People stopped and stared. They had never seen someone with such dark skin. Even the farmers never achieved that shade of tan. He strode into the inn and asked for some food. He was a prince from a country south of this one, although not the crown prince, that was his older brother. No, he was just the second prince. He was on a journey to see the world.

    “Why is there a tower off to the side of the castle?” he asked. “It is a very odd place to put one.”

    “It used to be connected to the castle,” a particularly drunk customer said. “but one day it just up and moved over.”

    “That is the tower that houses the king's eldest daughter.” the innkeeper replied. “She is sweet and kind little thing.” He sat down at the table. “A bit stubborn though. She is the source of our unrest here.”

    “How so?” the handsome prince asked.

    “Well, she is the heir to the throne so whoever marries her will become king.” another customer grumbled. “The king refused to let his other daughters be the heir so we are left with a princess who refuses to leave her tower.”

    “Surely, people have tried to remove her from the tower,” the prince said.

    “Many have tried,” the man growled. “but there's magic guarding that tower. No one can go in and force her out. No, the only way for her to get out is if she walks out on her own.”

    “Little chance of that happening,” another man chimed in. “she was the one who locked herself in there; saying she didn't want people to see her ugliness.”

    “Ya, she is a homely little thing,” the innkeeper added. “Nothing grotesque, mind you, just a little on the plump side, pleasantly plump, if you will. Then again, no one's seen her since she locked herself in there.”

    The prince said nothing. He just pondered all that had been said. After supper, he left the inn and went out to prepare for his journey to the next country. Curiosity, though, got the better of him and he sneaked inside the castle walls to get a better look at the tower and its “pleasantly plump” inhabitant.

    “Hello?” the handsome prince quietly queried. “Hello?”

    “W-who's there?” The princess it seemed had not quite lost all of her stutter throughout the years. “What d-do you want?”

    “What a pretty voice,” the prince thought. Out loud, he said, “Oh, nothing. I was just curious about this lone tower.”

    “I'm certain the townspeople have already told you the entire story,” the princess said irritably. “Now go away and leave me alone.”

    “As you wish, my lady,” the prince responded. He was intrigued. Surely such a pretty voice belonged to a pretty woman as well? “But I will return on the morrow.”

    “NO! Stay away!” the princess muttered. “Just leave me alone.”

    The next morning, the handsome prince came just as he said. The princess was shocked. Usually, the men would leave after she told them to go away.

    “Good morning, princess,” he said. “I trust you slept well?”

    Good manners dictated, “F-fine, thank you. Now, please, just go away.”

    The prince ignored the last part, “I slept very well too. The inn in town has very comfortable beds. Maybe you should come and see for yourself sometime.”

    “No,” the princess replied hesitantly. “Thank you.”

    “Why not?” the prince said. “They're clean, if that is what you are afraid of.”

    “I'm not afraid of the cleanliness of the place!” the princess snapped. “I just do not want to leave my tower.”

    “Well, you are missing all the wonders the world has to offer you, my lovely lady,” the prince said temptingly. “You are missing the flowers, the beauty of the lakes, all these wonders that you could see if you leave your tower.”

    “NO, thank you,” she growled. “And I am not lovely!”

    With that, our dear princess retreated deeper into her tower and refused to come to the window no matter how the prince cajoled and joked and tempted. Ever optimistic, the prince went back to the inn, determined to convince the princess to leave her tower. The next morning, he was back again to try coaxing the stubborn princess to leave her tower. However, the princess remained adamant; she would not leave her tower. The prince returned to the inn, vowing to persuade the princess, a lady he was fascinated with, to come out of her tower. Day after day, the prince went to the tower, sometimes with gifts, both tangible and invisible, always asking if she would leave her tower before he returned to the inn. And day after day, the princess refused to leave her castle though her resolve weakened with every day that he came. Never had she encountered such a determined suitor.

    The king watched the proceedings from his window with a sad and hopeful heart. He wished and prayed that the prince could convince his daughter to leave the tower. He even invited the prince to stay in the castle, but he had refused, saying that he did not want to impose. The king sighed and turned from the scene. He did not know how much longer he could continue to rule. He was getting on in years and had hoped his daughter would have taken over the throne by now. With a sad and heavy heart, he returned to his paperwork and set about taking care of his country for the day.

    Two weeks have passed since the prince and the princess first spoke to one another. Now the princess regarded the prince as a friend no matter that they had never met face to face. Still, she liked his honesty and his sense of humor. He never seemed to get annoyed with her even when she snapped and growled at him. She felt herself falling in love with him and was afraid. What if she acquiesced and he ran away from her ugliness? She sighed and waited for him to come.

    The prince was starting to fall in love with the princess as well. She was a beautiful woman in personality. Truly, he cared not what she looked like. He knew her heart and loved it already. Now all he needed to do was convince her about he beauty of her heart. He despaired of ever doing so but he persevered for he loved her.

    “Good morning, sweet,” the handsome prince sang out. “I trust you slept well?”

    “Good morning.” The princess had lost her stutter since she started to speak with the prince although she was still awkward around him. “And yes, I slept well. You?”

    “I slept very well as you well know,” the prince joked. “You know all about those comfortable beds at the inn.”

    As was their custom since the second day, they talked about everything in and out of the world. Both enjoyed these talks very much and reveled in finding a companion as curious and hungry for knowledge as them. But, this day, they both felt a tension that had not previously been there. Perhaps it was their awareness of one another. Or perhaps it was their realization of their feelings for the other that was the cause. Whichever, the mood had changed between the budding friends.

    So when the prince asked the princess to leave her tower, as he always did, she cried, “I don't know! I don't know anymore!”

    “Sweetling, just come out. I love you already. Nothing in your looks could compare to how much I already love your heart.”

    “But what if my ugliness is too much for you to bear? I would rather die than know that my ugliness made even you turn away from me.”

    “There is no way that could happen. Our love is too strong for something as trivial as looks to get in the way.”

    “But how can I know for sure? There must be some way.”

    “You just have to trust in our love. Believe in my love and in me that I will not turn away from you. How can I when you are my heart and reason for being?”

    “Okay. I'll try.” And with that, the pleasantly plump princess slowly walked down the stairs to the bottom of the tower.

    “Believe in us. Believe in me. Believe in him,” the princess chanted the entire way down. “Our love is strong.”

    As she reached the bottom, a door revealed itself in the stone of the tower. Gingerly, the princess reached out to the door knob, turned it, and pushed it open. Slowly, she stepped out of the shadows and into the light of day, closing her eyes in preparation. Gradually, she opened her eyes. The prince stood there with his mouth agape. “He is so handsome,” she thought. “Oh no, he does not like me.” Sobbing, she turned, ready to run back into her tower. A hand at her elbow stopped her.

    “Please do not run from me, sweetling,” the prince pleaded as he pulled her gently into his arms. “Why would you ever think yourself ugly? I find you the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on.”

    Of course, the princess was still pleasantly plump, but her love had made her beautiful. Unhurriedly, as if afraid she might flee if he moved too quickly, he lifted his hand to her face, raised it, and set his lips gently on hers in the sweetest of kisses.

    “Marry me, my love,” he whispered.

    “Yes,” she murmured as he kissed her again.

    “HOORAH!” cried the king as he dragged his daughter in a weepy hug. “This calls for a celebration! Hooray for the prince who has finally returned my daughter to me. And hooray to our new king. Thank you, my son. You have given me a gift more precious than all the gold in the world.”

    And, of course, what could a fairy tale end with but a happily ever after?