Monday, July 28, 2008
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful woman. She was so beautiful that no one was surprised when the Prince, soon to be crowned as King, proposed to her and brought her back to the castle. They lived together, seemingly happily, for several years, and had together two lovely girls. But even though most of the Kingdom loved to see their beautiful royal family together, among those close to the castle there was uneasiness and the faintest whisper of unpleasantness. The Queen was not as kind as she was beautiful. The King was perhaps strange in ways that Royal Eccentricity didn't entirely excuse. Still, no one could put their finger on any serious complaints and they ruled the Kingdom and upheld the laws in ways that everyone found satisfactory. And if people were maybe not as sure as they'd like to be of the King and Queen, no one had any complaints whatsoever about the Princesses. The eldest looked as tho she would be as beautiful as her mother someday. And if she was a bit more serious and quiet than necessary, she was also intelligent and as kind as people secretly hoped that the Queen would be. Her younger sister was a charming little girl that everyone loved to spoil. But she didn't become selfish with it, she just kept trying to assert her independence in ways that everyone agreed was really very cute. Her older sister clearly adored her, and had a protective attitude that everyone found very touching, even if they - perhaps deliberately - never wondered what she would ever have to protect her from.
The younger daughter, Falada, was born on a day and at an hour considered extremely lucky by those in the Kingdom, and so by tradition she was considered to bring luck to anyone around her. As such, the King kept her near during any negotiations important to the Kingdom. Her sister, Yuiko, of course also attended all such ceremonies, since, as the eldest child, she could be expected to be either the Heir or the wife of a King in another Kingdom. It was perhaps this fact that made the two girls more serious than most other children their age. People in the Kingdom became accustomed to the two girls attending all serious affairs of state, and were made very uneasy if Falada wasn't there to bring luck and Yuiko wasn't there as a symbol of the continuity of the Kingdom. The Queen never received quite as much attention, and perhaps some of that explained why when she became ill, she seemed almost to enjoy being the center of attention - for a time. In the beginning, she had all kinds of people attending her and cossetting her. Famous artists came in to paint her picture. One, done by a very famous artist, was a particular favorite of hers and she had it hung prominently in the front halls of the castle. However, as her sickness wore on and began to have a toll on her appearance, she shut everyone out more and more, as the Queen was rather vain. And when she finally passed away, everyone was genuinely sad, and the King was very public in his display of grief. Over time, as the royal family mourned and everyone gazed upon the beautiful woman in the portrait, it was gradually forgotten that the Queen was vain, and more than a bit unkind, and that she had made the King make her a very strange promise.
Before she passed on, the Queen told the King that he could not re-marry unless he found someone who was as beautiful as she. As time passed, people gradually forgot the strangeness of this request and began to take it as common sense - for looking at the beautiful portrait of the beautiful Queen, it seemed only right that the King could only re-marry someone as beautiful as her. And as Yuiko grew older and took after her mother more and more - physically at least - people meant it only as a compliment when they told her how much she resembled her mother. If it seemed Yuiko wasn't entirely pleased by the comparisons, no one noticed.
As Yuiko grew into a young woman, people began to speculate as to who she might marry. For, unless the king remarried soon, it was likely that her husband would rule the Kingdom eventually. Some people pressured the King to re-marry immediately. Others lobbied for various suitors for Yuiko. Yuiko just looked more and more uncomfortable, while the King grew to have a stranger and stranger look in his eyes when he looked toward Yuiko. Even still, it came as a shock to just about everyone when the King announced that he would re-marry and Yuiko would marry. But what he said next was more shocking still, as he announced that there would be only one wedding between the two of them, as he intended to marry Yuiko! Who else could be found that was as beautiful as his first wife? And who else could be more worthy of his beautiful daughter? The more obsequious of the ministers immediately agreed. The rest found themselves somehow swiftly banished to posts in far away areas.
Poor Yuiko didn't know what to do. When she protested the plan to her father, he merely remarked that Falada was growing up to be a beautiful young woman as well. At this Yuiko grew pale, and never seemed to quite recover her coloring again in all the days that followed. However, Yuiko was clever and Yuiko was brave. So the very next week, Yuiko said she would agree to the marriage on 3 conditions. Yuiko’s father said it didn’t really matter if she agreed or not, but he was generous and he was willing to indulge her. In reality, he was more than a little impressed with his own power, and Yuiko’s requests were entirely designed to appeal to his ego. For her first request, Yuiko said, “Father, I would like to be married in a dress made of Sunlight, that I might show the Kingdom that, like my mother was, I am more beautiful than the sun.” To this request, the King swiftly agreed, thinking that as any girl, all it took to buy her obedience was a few pretty things. This foolish thought was swiftly confirmed by Yuiko’s second request, “Father,” she said, “for my second request, I would like diamond jewelry that will make me sparkle and shine in the night even more brilliantly than then the stars so that the whole of the night sky will know of our Kingdom’s wealth, and of your generosity to your bride.” And her father swiftly agreed. Then Yuiko moved on to her third request, the only one she truly cared about: “Surely, father,” she said, “with a King as clever as you, and a Queen who has inherited a share of that intelligence directly from you, we don’t need anything as trivial as luck. Let us send Falada away to boarding school in a neighboring Kingdom. That way I will not be distracted from attending to you or to the Kingdom, and perhaps Falada will meet someone as a match that will bring further power to our Kingdom.” The King agreed. And the tiniest bit of color crept back into Yuiko’s face, which her father mistook for excitement about the upcoming wedding.
Immediately Yuiko went to explain her plan to Falada. Falada would go to the boarding school as swiftly as possible, but along the way she would switch places with her serving maid. The maid looked enough like her that the people at the school who, after all, had never seen Falada in person, would believe it was her. And the serving maid would go along with it because she was am ambitious person. In point of fact, Falada had never liked her much, but that is another story for another time, as is Falada’s journey to the school. What is necessary to know for this story is that Falada successfully slipped away and hid herself as a goose girl.
Once she knew her sister to be safe, Yuiko quickly exchanged the largest and most beautiful of her diamonds for cash and promptly ran away. The King was incredibly angry, and did not acquit himself well in this disappointment. He searched everywhere for Yuiko, and then for Falada when he did not find Yuiko. However, neither of his children were to be found anywhere. And he made so many foolish decisions, and spent so much of the Kingdom’s coffers in the search, that even the most loyal of his ministers soon found it was to their benefit to curry favor with other power. Yuiko and Falada's father was eventually deposed, and had to spend the rest of his life in the castle’s tower. He lived well enough, tho not in a way that made him at all happy.
Rule of the Kingdom passed to a distant cousin of Yuiko’s, who was as kind as Yuiko’s parents were not. He swiftly found that he did not need luck either, because sound judgement and compassion were more than enough to rule a Kingdom well. Seeing this, Yuiko had no desire to go back to her father’s lands, and instead she collected Falada and the two girls came to the US where they hoped to meet many new friends and live Happily Ever After. The end.
p.s. I hope you don't think the bit about me being 'charming' is too much, Atsuko wrote that bit for me. She said I wasn't even really in my own story. I don't know if what she wrote about me is true or not, but I guess I wouldn't mind if it was. It's true everyone tried to spoil me, but I don't want to seem spoiled. I think I can be that way tho, I think maybe Atsuko was too kind... ^^;