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A Tale of Fairyland
(The Princess Nobody)
By Richard Doyle, Andrew Lang
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2000 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
THE PRINCESS NOBODY
ONCE upon a time, when Fairies were much more common than they are now, there lived a King and a Queen. Their country was close to Fairy Land, and very often the little Elves would cross over the border, and come into the King's fields and gardens. The girl-fairies would swing out of the bells of the fuschias, and loll on the leaves, and drink the little drops of dew that fell down the stems. Here you may see all the Fairies making themselves merry at a picnic on a fuschia, and an ugly little Dwarf is climbing up the stalk.
Now the King and Queen of the country next to Fairy Land were very rich, and very fond of each other; but one thing made them unhappy. They had no child, neither boy nor girl, to sit on the Throne when they were dead and gone. Often the Queen said she wished she had a child, even if it were no bigger than her thumb; and she hoped the Fairies might hear her and help her. But they never took any notice. One day, when the King had been counting out his money all day (the day when the tributes were paid in), he grew very tired. He took off his crown, and went into his garden. Then he looked all round his kingdom, and said, "Ah! I would give it all for a BABY!"
No sooner had the King said this, than he heard a little squeaking voice near his foot: "You shall have a lovely Baby, if you will give me what I ask."
The King looked down, and there was the funniest little Dwarf that ever was seen. He had a high red cap like a flower. He had a big moustache, and a short beard that curled outwards. His cloak was red, like his cap, and his coat was green, and he rode on a green Frog. Many people would have been frightened, but the King was used to Fairies.
"You shall have a beautiful Baby, if you will give me what I ask," said the Dwarf again.
"I'll give you anything you like," said the King.
"Then promise to give me NIENTE," said the Dwarf.
"Certainly," said the King (who had not an idea what NIENTE meant). "How will you take it?"
"I will take it," said the Dwarf, "in my own way, on my own day."
With that he set spurs to his Frog, which cleared the garden path at one bound, and he was soon lost among the flowers.
Well, next day, a dreadful war broke out between the Ghosts and the Giants, and the King had to set forth and fight on the side of his friends the Giants.
A long, long time he was away; nearly a year. At last he came back to his own country, and he heard all the church bells ringing merrily. "What can be the matter?" said the King, and hurried to his Palace, where all the courtiers rushed out and told him the Queen had got a BABY.
"Girl or a boy?" says the King.
"A Princess, your Majesty," says the Nurse, with a low curtsey, correcting him.
Well, you may fancy how glad the King was, though he would have preferred a boy.
"What have you called her?" he asked.
"Till your Majesty's return, we thought it better not to christen the Princess," said the Nurse, "so we have called her by the Italian name for Nothing: NIENTE; the Princess Niente, your Majesty."
When the King heard that, and remembered that he had promised to give NIENTE to the Dwarf, he hid his face in his hands and groaned. Nobody knew what he meant, or why he was sad, so he thought it best to keep it to himself. He went in and kissed the Queen, and comforted her, and looked at the BABY. Never was there a BABY so beautiful; she was like a Fairy's child, and so light, she could sit on a flower and not crush it. She had little wings on her back; and all the birds were fond of her. The peasants and common people (who said they "could not see why the first Royal baby should be called 'Ninety'") always spoke of her as the Princess Nobody. Only the Courtiers called her Niente. The Water Fairy was her Godmother, but (for a Fairy reason) they concealed her real name, and of course, she was not christened Niente. Here you may see her sitting teaching the little Birds to sing. They are all round her in a circle, each of them singing his very best. Great fun she and all her little companions had with the Birds; here they are, riding on them, and tumbling off when the Bird kicks. And here, again, you may observe the baby Princess riding a Parrot, while one of her Maids of Honour teases an Owl. Never was there such a happy country; all Birds and Babies, playing together, singing, and as merry as the day was long.
Well, this joyful life went on till the Princess Niente was growing quite a big girl; she was nearly fourteen. Then, one day, came a tremendous knock at the Palace gates. Out rushed the Porter, and saw a little Dwarf, in a red cap, and a red cloak, riding a green Frog.
"Tell the King he is wanted," said the Dwarf.
The Porter carried this rude message, and the King went trembling to the door.
"I have come to claim your promise; you give me NIENTE," said the Dwarf, in his froggy voice.
Now the King had spoken long ago about his foolish promise, to the Queen of the Water Fairies, a very powerful person, and Godmother of his child.
"The Dwarf must be one of my people, if he rides a Frog," the Queen of the Water Fairies had said. "Just send him to me, if he is troublesome."
The King remembered this when he saw the Dwarf, so he put a bold face on it.
"That's you, is it?" said the King to the Dwarf. "Just you go to the Queen of the Water Fairies; she will have a word to say to you."
When the Dwarf heard that, it was his turn to tremble. He shook his little fist at the King; he half-drew his sword.
"I'll have NIENTE yet," he said, and he set spurs to his Frog, and bounded off to see the Queen of the Water Fairies.
It was night by the time the Dwarf reached the stream where the Queen lived, among the long flags and rushes and reeds of the river.
Here you see him by the river; how tired his Frog looks! He is talking to the Water Fairy. Well, he and the Water Fairy had a long talk, and the end of it was that the Fairy found only one way of saving the Princess. She flew to the King, and said, "I can only help you by making the Princess vanish clean away. I have a bird here on whose back she can fly away in safety. The Dwarf will not get her, but you will never see her again, unless a brave Prince can find her where she is hidden, and guarded by my Water Fairies."
Then the poor mother and father cried dreadfully, but they saw there was no hope. It was better that the Princess should vanish away, than that she should be married to a horrid rude Dwarf, who rode on a Frog. So they sent for the Princess, and kissed her, and embraced her, and wept over her, and (gradually she faded out of their very arms, and vanished clean away) then she flew away on the bird's back.CHAPTER 2
IN MUSHROOM LAND
NOW all the Kingdom next Fairy Land was miserable, and all the people were murmuring, and the King and Queen were nearly melted in tears. They thought of all ways to recover their dear daughter, and at last the Queen hit on a plan.
"My dear," she said to the King, "let us offer to give our daughter for a wife, to any Prince who will only find her and bring her home."
"Who will want to marry a girl he can't see?" said the King. "If they have not married pretty girls they can see, they won't care for poor Niente."
"Never mind; we can only try," said the Queen. So she sent out messengers into all the world, and sent the picture of the Princess everywhere, and proclaimed that the beautiful Princess Niente, and no less than three-quarters of the Kingdom would be given to the Prince that could find the Princess and bring her home. And there was to be a great tournament, or sham fight, at the Palace, to amuse all the Princes before they went on the search. So many Princes gathered together, all full of hope; and they rode against each other with spears and swords, and knocked each other about, and afterwards dined, and danced, and made merry. Some Fairy Knights, too, came over the border, and they fought with spears, riding Beetles and Grasshoppers, instead of horses. Here is a picture of a "joust," or tournament, between two sets of Fairy Knights. By all these warlike exercises, they increased their courage till they felt brave enough to fight all the Ghosts, and all the Giants, if only they could save the beautiful Princess.
Well, the tournaments were over, and off all the Princes went into Fairy Land. What funny sights they saw in Fairy Land! They saw a great Snail race, the Snails running so fast, that some of the Fairy jockeys fell off on the grass. They saw a Fairy boy dancing with a Squirrel, and they found all the birds, and all the beasts, quite friendly and kind, and able to talk like other people. This was the way in old times, but now no beasts talk, and no birds, except Parrots only.
Now among all this gallant army of Princes, one was ugly, and he looked old, and odd, and the rest laughed at him, and called him the Prince Comical. But he had a kind heart. One day, when he was out walking alone, and thinking what he could do to find the Princess, he saw three bad little boys teasing a big Daddy Long Legs. They had got hold of one of his legs, and were pulling at it with all their might. When the Prince Comical saw this, he ran up and drove the bad boys away, and rubbed the limb of the Daddy Long Legs, till he gave up groaning and crying. Then the Daddy Long Legs sat up, and said in a weak voice, "You have been very kind to me; what can I do for you?"
"Oh, help me," said the Prince, "to find the Princess Niente! You fly everywhere; don't you know where she is?"
"I don't know," said the Daddy Long Legs, mournfully. "I have never flown so far. But I know that you are all in a very dangerous part of Fairy Land. And I will take you to an aged Black Beetle, who can give you the best advice."
So saying, the Daddy Long Legs walked off with the Prince till they came to the Black Beetle.
"Can you tell this Prince," said the Daddy Long Legs, "where the Princess Niente is hidden?"
"I know it is in Mushroom Land," said the Beetle; "but he will want a guide."
"Will you be my guide?" asked the Prince.
"Yes," said the Beetle; "but what about your friends, the other Princes?"
"Oh, they must come too; it would not be fair to leave them behind," said the Prince Comical.
He was the soul of honour; and though the others laughed at him, he would not take advantage of his luck, and run away from them.
"Well, you are a true Knight," said the Black Beetle; "but before we go into the depths of Mushroom Land, just you come here with me."
Then the Black Beetle pointed out to the Prince a great smooth round red thing, a long way off.
"That is the first Mushroom in Mushroom Land," said the Beetle. "Now come with me, and you shall see, what you shall see."
So the Prince followed the Beetle, till they came to the Mushroom.
"Climb up and look over," said the Beetle.
So the Prince climbed up, and looked over. There he saw a crowned King, sound asleep.
Here is the Prince Comical (you see he is not very handsome!); and here is the King so sound asleep.
"Try to waken him," said the Beetle; "just try."
So the Prince tried to waken the King, but it was of no use.
"Now, take warning by that," said the Black Beetle, "and never go to sleep under a Mushroom in Mushroom country. You will never wake, if you do, till the Princess Niente is found again."
Well, the Prince Comical said he would remember that, and he and the Beetle went off and found the other Princes. They were disposed to laugh at being led by a Black Beetle; but one of them, who was very learned, reminded them that armies had been led before by Woodpeckers, and Wolves, and Humming Birds.
So they all moved on, and at night they were very tired.
Now there were no houses, and not many trees, in Mushroom Land, and when night came all the Princes wanted to lie down under a very big Mushroom.
As they marched through Mushroom Land the twilight came upon them, and the Elves began to come out for their dance, for Elves only dance at dusk, and they could not help joining them, which was very imprudent, as they had plenty to do the next day, and it would have been wiser if they had gone to sleep.
The Elves went on with their play till midnight, and exactly at midnight the Elves stopped their play, and undressed, and got up into the boughs of a big tree and went to sleep. You may wonder how the Elves know when it is midnight, as there are no clocks in Mushroom Land, of course. But they cannot really help knowing, as it is exactly at twelve that the Mushrooms begin to grow, and the little Mushrooms come up.
Now the Elves covered every branch of the tree, as you see in the picture, and the Princes did not know where to lie down. At last they decided to lie down under a very big Mushroom.
It was in vain that the Black Beetle and Prince Comical warned them to beware.
"Nonsense," they said. "You may sleep out in the open air, if you like; we mean to make ourselves comfortable here."
So they all lay down under the shelter of the Mushroom, and Prince Comical slept in the open air. In the morning he wakened, feeling very well and hungry, and off he set to call his friends. But he might as well have called the Mushroom itself. There they all lay under its shade; and though some of them had their eyes open, not one of them could move. The Prince shook them, dragged them, shouted at them, and pulled their hair. But the more he shouted and dragged, the louder they snored; and the worst of it was, that he could not pull them out of the shadow of the Magic Mushroom. So there he had to leave them, sound asleep.
The Prince thought the Elves could help him perhaps, so he went and asked them how to waken his friends. They were all awake, and the Fairies were dressing the baby-Elves. But they only said, "Oh! it's their fault for sleeping under a Mushroom. Anybody would know that is a stupid thing to do. Besides, we have no time to attend to them, as the sun will be up soon, and we must get these Babies dressed and be off before then."
"Why, where are you going to?" said the Prince.
"Ah! nobody knows where we go to in the day time," said the Elves.
And nobody does.
"Well, what am I to do now?" said the Prince to the Black Beetle.
"I don't know where the Princess is," said the Beetle; "but the Blue Bird is very wise, and he may know. Now your best plan will be to steal two of the Blue Bird's eggs, and not give them back till he tells you all he can."
So off they set for the Blue Bird's nest; and, to make a long story short, the Prince stole two of the eggs, and would not give them back, till the Bird promised to tell him all it knew. And the end of it was, that the Bird carried him to the Court of the Queen of Mushroom Land. She was sitting, in her Crown, on a Mushroom, and she looked very funny and mischievous.
Here you see the Prince, with his hat off, kissing the Queen's hair, and asking for the Princess.
"Oh, she's quite safe," said the Queen of Mushroom Land; "but what a funny boy you are. You are not half handsome enough for the Princess Niente."
The poor Prince blushed. "They call me Prince Comical," said he; "I know I'm not half good enough!"
"You are good enough for anything," said the Queen of Mushroom Land; "but you might be prettier."
Then she touched him with her wand, and he became as handsome a Prince as ever was seen, in a beautiful red silk doublet, slashed with white, and a long gold-coloured robe.
"Now you will do for my Princess Niente," said the Queen of Mushroom Land. "Blue Bird," (and she whispered in the Bird's ear), "take him away to the Princess Niente."
So they flew, and they flew, all day and all night, and next day they came to a green bower, all full of Fairies, and Butterflies, and funny little people. And there, with all her long yellow hair round her, there sat the Princess Niente. And the Prince Charming laid his Crown at her feet, and knelt on one knee, and asked the Princess to be his love and his lady. And she did not refuse him, so they were married in the Church of the Elves, and the Glowworm sent his torches, and all the bells of all the flowers made a merry peal. And soon they were to travel home, to the King and the Queen.CHAPTER 3
LOST AND FOUND
NOW the Prince had found the Princess, and you might think that they had nothing to do but go home again. The father and mother of the Princess were wearying very much to hear about her. Every day they climbed to the bartizan of the Castle, and looked across the plain, hoping to see dust on the road, and some brave Prince riding back with their daughter. But she never came, and their hair grew grey with sorrow and time. The parents of the other Princes, too, who were all asleep under the Mushroom, were alarmed about their sons, and feared that they had all been taken prisoners, or perhaps eaten up by some Giant. But Princess Niente and Prince Charming were lingering in the enchanted land, too happy to leave the flowers, the brooks, and the Fairies.
The faithful Black Beetle often whispered to the Prince that it was time to turn homewards, but the Prince paid no more attention to his ally than if he had been an Ear-wig. So there, in the Valley Magical, the Prince and Princess might be wandering to this day but for a very sad accident. The night they were married, the Princess had said to the Prince, "Now you may call me Niente, or any pet name you like; but never call me by my own name."
"But I don't know it," said the Prince. "Do tell me what it is?"
"Never," said the Princess; "you must never seek to know it."
"Why not?" said the Prince.
"Something dreadful will happen," said the Princess, "if ever you find out my name, and call me by it."
And she looked quite as if she could be very angry.
Now ever after this, the Prince kept wondering what his wife's real name could be, till he made himself quite unhappy.
"Is it Margaret?" he would say, when he thought the Princess was off her guard; or, "is it Joan?" "Is it Dorothy?" "It can't be Sybil, can it?"
But she would never tell him.
Now, one morning, the Princess awoke very early, but she felt so happy that she could not sleep. She lay awake and listened to the Birds singing, and then she watched a Fairy-boy teasing a Bird, which sang (so the boy said) out of tune, and another Fairy-baby riding on a Fly.
Excerpted from A Tale of Fairyland by Richard Doyle, Andrew Lang. Copyright © 2000 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
THE PRINCESS NOBODY,
ADDITIONAL FULL-COLOR PLATES,