Thursday 27 September 2012

Rewriting the great bedtime stories I remember from my childhood

Once upon a time in a land far away there lived a handsome rich prince. Everybody wanted to marry him but he was a shrewd young man, mature for his years and wise about the ways of the world. He wanted to marry a true princess yet none of the many girls sent to his court had stolen his heart and he remained unmarried. Indeed many of the girls who came to court him claimed to be princesses with vast realms and riches to match his, but in truth their story was all window dressing and sooner or later each had been exposed for the fraud they were. Of course the prince kept on devising new tests to weed out these fraudsters but the gold diggers were always keeping one step ahead, so the prince had to devise yet more tests for the candidates for his hand. This stalemate had gone on for many years and the young prince was most unhappy and most frustrated and in reality running out of ideas. He had always been very careful about these tests, knowing that if any girl passed his test he would be honour bound to marry her. Now he was getting really worried. There were more and more suitors, who were more and more desperate to succeed in the tests, by fair means or foul, and some very dubious characters were to be seen accompanying some of the young ladies to court. Stories abounded of midnight raids on the wardrobes of other suitors, poison being put into other suitor’s food to make them sick, and other underhand methods being employed to eliminate competition.

As he sat contemplating his predicament one day his steward came to say that there was a pleasant surprise guest waiting to see him. To his delight it was his old aya, who had nursed him and all his sisters when they were young children, but whom he had not seen for a great many years. As they sat reminiscing over tea and cake the young prince told his old friend of his dilemma. The night drew on and the prince insisted that the old lady stay in his apartments not in the local hotel, and so she came to be around when the next batch of likely spouses came the following day. At first the prince was his usual polite but uninterested self. This batch was the same as before. No one grabbed his attention, they all looked identical “babes”, their conversations were boring, and their chaperoning mothers were battleaxes. Then just as he was thinking he might try and slip quietly away to go riding, cupid’s arrow struck. Across the other side of the room was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, with golden locks and bright vivacious green eyes, standing quietly looking at the pictures on his castle walls. He went over to speak with her and no sooner had he sat down with her than his steward came to ask if they needed a candle for the evening. Time had just vanished during their conversation. The prince escorted the young woman to her suite in the castle and wondered back to his apartments in a state of total euphoria.

Next morning however he woke in a desperate state, was this love, could she be for real? How could he find out. He had no new test for this batch just the usual ones which of course by now were old ones and everyone passed. His steward brought in breakfast and the days mail and told him his old aya had asked to see him first thing. The old lady came all excited. She too had notice the young couple talking for hours, and wise old woman that she was had taken action to help her young ward in his time of need. To her delight she now came to report that only one of the batch had passed her test. the young prince was at the one time delighted and frightened as he realized this was either the end of his nightmare or the beginning of another, potentially, worse one. He was cornered, he would have to marry the woman who had passed the test. But who was it. Now the old lady was a right romantic and wanted to keep the moment extremely special and stubbornly refused to tell the prince unless he came straight to his grand hall where all the girls were waiting to make the announcement. The prince realized that much as he loved his old aya, and had always trusted her, he was fearful that the chosen girl would not be the one he had fallen for. What he thought would he do then? Break his word? Marry another? A very worried and concerned prince walked slowly to his fate in the great hall.

There in front of all the court, the lords, ladies, the suitor’s families and chaperones, the old aya stood up to all of her frail height and commanded attention as she told them that her young ward’s long , and arduous quest was at an end. His future wife had been chosen because only one had passed the latest test. As the old lady took a breather, partly because she was old and partly for effect as she knew how to work an audience: there was much muttering debate and questions flew around the room. Finally the old aya continued her story, she explained that she herself had made every one of the girls beds the night before. More muttering was heard. Curses were heard to rise telling of her incompetent bed making being the cause of a most disturbed night’s sleep, of nightmare interrupted sleep, of complete inability to get any sleep whatsoever during the past night, of endless tossing and turning.

No not everyone, retorted the old aya:  all but one. Eyes darted round the room trying to find the one girl who did not look, dishevelled, tired, baggy eyed, and incessantly scratching unseen itches. Within a few minutes it became clear that everyone was looking at one girl. She quietly stood up and when asked how she slept,  said she had had a beautiful, sound and very restful night’s sleep, thank you very much and didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

By this time the prince was on his feet trying to see who this was and to his amazement and delight he found it his conversation partner of the previous night. How? his eyes asked his old aya? She clasped him tight and whispered in his ear, that only someone who was truly in love could sleep soundly with a itchy powder on her sheets. At this the prince kissed his old aya on both cheeks and raced across the room, fell down on bended knee and asked the girl if she would marry him . Of course, just as the old aya knew she would, she said yes, because she too had been struck by cupid’s dart the previous evening and had gone to bed in a state of total euphoria after taking her leave of the prince.

The couple married later that day with great pomp and ceremony and much music and dancing. The old aya was given pride of place at the head of the prince’s wedding feast table and her own private apartment in the royal household for the rest of her days. The couple lived happily together for a great many years and had lots of children. But they never forgot the old woman who had ensured their union and they took care of the old aya for the rest of her life.

1 comment:

  1. I have itchy powder in my bed too, and I sleep well, but no princess. What does that mean Sheila?