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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Ondine

Once there was a king who had three sons, a daughter, and a magic cup.  His eldest son, Hans, was strong and brave.  His second son, Fritz, was wise and well-educated.  His third son, Rudy, was handsome and charming.  His daughter, Bess was everything you could want a princess to be, and more.

One morning the king was awakened by loud wailings and lamentations.  The door to the royal treasury was broken down, the magic cup was missing, and between the treasury and the lake was a slimy slippery path as if a slug had been walking about a bit.

Hans, who was brave and strong, immediately announced, "I will recover the magic cup," and dove into the lake.  Underwater, the slippery path turned into a shiny, silvery rope leading down into the black depths of the lake, down past startled fishes and rocky ledges to a glimmering crystal palace. (This was around the era of Beowulf when all heroes could breathe underwater.)

At the door of the palace stood a fearsome troll. which Hans swiftly killed.  (What a wonderful thing it is to be brave and strong!) Entering the palace, Hans was greeted by a lissome maiden in diaphanous robes.  She fell into his arms, laid her head on his bosom and sighed, "You have saved me from the troll.  Truly you are a hero.  Is there nothing I can do to repay you for your bravery and strength?"

"Ah, shucks, Ma'am. Twarn't nothin'," demurred Hans, blushing to the crest of his helmet.  He did not, however, let go of the maiden."

"Oh it was!" she asserted, raising her dewy eyes to gaze adoringly into his.  "It was everything!"  She threw her arms around his neck, stretched up on her tippy toes, and kissed him on the mouth, whereupon he changed into a little red carp which she swallowed at one gulp.

The next day, when Hans did not return, Fritz, (who was wise and well-educated) declared, "I will recover the magic cup and save my brother Hans."

So he tied a long rope around his waist and told the royal guards to pull him back as fast as they could if they should feel three tugs on the rope.  Then, putting a large rock in each pocket to save himself the rouble of swimming down, Fritz jumped into the lake.

He sank like, well, like a rock, down into the black depths of the lake, down past startled fishes and rocky ledges to a glimmering crystal palace at the bottom of the lake.  At the door of the palace stood wicked wizard whom Fritz speedily out-spelled.  Entering the palace, Fritz was greeted by a lissome maiden in diaphanous robes.  She fell into his arms, laid her head on his bosom and sighed, "You have saved me from the troll.  Truly you are a scholar.  Is there nothing I can do to repay you for your wisdom and education?"

"Assuredly, Demoiselle, the deed was of little consequence," demurred Fritz.  He did not, however, let go of the maiden."

"Oh it was!" she asserted, raising her dewy eyes to gaze adoringly into his.  "It was everything!"  She threw her arms around his neck, stretched up on her tippy toes, and kissed him on the mouth, whereupon he changed into a little red carp which she swallowed at one gulp.

The king's guards felt the rope go slack and pulled it up as fast as ever they could, but Fritz was gone.

"Well," said Rudy, "It falls to me to rescue the cup and avenge my brothers Hans and Fritz." So Rudy curled his hair, buffed his nails, brushed his teeth and put on his best party clothes.  Then he had the royal guards row him out into the lake where he called out,"Ho, mighty and mysterious denizen of the lake. Come, let us reason together."

Immediately the water began to roil and boil, and a lissome maiden in diaphanous robes rose from the lake standing on a clam shell.

"Are you Rudy?" she sighed."  Hans and Fritz never told me you were so handsome.  Oh, if only you would kiss me, I would give you anything you ask."

"Well come here, sweetie.  I have a kiss just for you." Rudy swept her into his arms and kissed her on the mouth whereupon she changed into a little red carp which she swallowed at one gulp.  Then, laughing nastily, she dove back into the lake.

When the royal guards told the king what had happened he was devastated and cried, "I will give half my kingdom and the hand of my daughter, Bess, in marriage to anyone who can recover my magic cup and avenge my sons, Hans, Fritz, and Rudy."

"Oh for crying in the sink!" snarled Bess, and stomped off.

Bess spent the rest of the day wandering around the palace, going up to the attic and down to the wine cellars, out to the stables, and in to the spare bedrooms.  And everywhere she went she spoke to the spiders.  That night, after everyone had left the dining room, she pushed the chairs and tables against the walls, scattered five pounds of salt on the floor, locked the door behind her, and went to bed.

Early next morning, when she unlocked the dining room, she found that the spiders had spun the salt into a beautiful shimmery white cloak.  Bess put flowers in her hair, threw the cloak around her shoulders, and went walking along the lakeside, singing sad songs and mourning her brothers.  Soon the water began to roil and boil, and the lissome maiden rose from the lake, standing on a clam shell.

She called out to Bess, "Princess, why do you weep?"

"My father promised my hand in marriage to anyone who will recover the magic cup and avenge my brothers.  What if the man who does it is ugly?  Or boring?  What if he never bathes?  What if no one can do it?  Will they hold me in escrow till I'm a dried-up old maid? Whatever shall I do?"  Bess wrung her hands pathetically.

"Ah, Princess, I pity you," said the ondine (for that is what the lissome maiden truly was.)  "I will return your father's magic cup and free you from this nonsensical vow of his."

She drew the cup from beneath her diaphanous robes and glided off the clam shell and onto the beach, leaving a slimy, slippery trail as if a slug were walking about a bit.

"How can I repay you?" cried Bess, clutching the cup to her bosom.

"A simple kiss of friendship--"  began the ondine, with a hungry gleam in her eye.

"Oh no.  That's not nearly enough.  I'll give you my spider silk cloak." And holding the magic cup in her teeth, Bess whipped her cloak off her shoulders and wrapped it around the ondine.  The five pounds of salt, which the spiders had spun into the silk, began to work.  with terrible screams, the ondine dissolved into a puddle of slime, in the midst of which were three little red carp.  Bess plucked them out and dropped them into the cup whereupon they turned into Hans, Fritz and Rudy.

The king was a man of his word, and though he hated to do it, he gave half his kingdom to Bess and her own hand in marriage.  Later, she married a gypsy king and spent summers on the road with him, but that's another story.  I wish I could say they all lived happily ever after, but Hans and Fritz never went swimming again, and handsome Rudy never ever kissed another woman on the mouth, though he an his wife did have seven children and a long, successful marriage.

6 comments:

  1. Ah. The perfect fairy tale. How fun. And how Roxie. It burbles with humor and orientation to a different gravitational axis.

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  2. I love it when the words make my head tilt like a confused puppy.

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