Fairy tale related to Beauty and the Beast (Enchanted Conversation)
|*This fairytale was written specifically for a contest in Enchanted Conversation, a magazine dedicated to the more old fashioned sort of fairy tale. This was for the "Beauty and the Beast" issue, and won the contest and a place in that issue. This plays on the theme of what might have happened that preceded the tale we know. They requested stories of about 1500 words.
Once upon a time in the darkest reaches of a distant forest, there lived a witch and her daughter, Lucia. Lucia was pure and sweet and cheerful, and the witch loved her dearly.
Lucia was very lonely. To keep her company, the witch gave Lucia a magic mirror that would show her what was happening anywhere in the world. Lucia would sit for hours, watching the people in towns and cities, but especially in castles. She longed to live in a castle rather than the small dark cottage in the woods.
One day, Lucia asked her mother if they could move out of the forest into town so that Lucia could make friends and play with other children. Hearing this, the witch flew into a terrible rage and took the magic mirror away, hiding it where it would never be found.
"You must not ever leave the forest," she told Lucia. "If you do, a terrible fate will befall us both."
Lucia had never seen her mother so angry and was very frightened. She promised that she would stay in the forest forever.
As the years passed, Lucia grew into a young woman, plain but good-hearted. She spent her days collecting flowers and berries in the woods, dreaming of places she had seen in her mirror. She imagined living in a town and marrying a handsome Prince. "I would be happy with the Prince, and the ladies of the court would keep me company." But Lucia knew she would never meet a Prince in the deep woods.
One day as Lucia was walking, she saw a bird with purple and red feathers pinned beneath a fallen bough. The bird struggled to free itself but could not. Lucia hurried over. When the bird saw her, it ceased its struggles.
Bracing her back and lifting with all her strength, Lucia managed to hold up the heavy bough long enough for the bird to escape. Though not badly hurt, the bird did not fly away, but sat watching her with a curious expression. Lucia walked closer. To her surprise, the bird spoke.
"Since you have rescued me," said the bird, "I will grant you a wish. Be careful, as I can only grant one."
Lucia was surprised. She had never before heard a bird speak. Forgetting her mother's words of caution, Lucia blurted out, "I wish to live in the town near the castle and fall in love with the Prince."
"As you wish," said the bird.
Suddenly, Lucia found herself in a cozy little cottage she had never seen before. She rushed to the window and gasped at the sight before her. The house sat at the edge of a town with people walking about just as in her magic mirror long ago. Beyond the square stood an imposing castle.
For the rest of the day, Lucia wandered the town, greeting people as they walked past. She wondered how she would meet the Prince, but was confident in the bird's promise.
When evening drew near, Lucia returned to her cottage. She was hungry and realized that she had nothing to eat. She also missed her mother and wondered what the witch thought about Lucia's absence. Sad and lonely, Lucia lay down in the small bed. Tomorrow, I must find work so that I may eat, she thought as she drifted off to sleep.
As morning sunlight streamed through the windows, Lucia woke to the sound of trumpets. She rose and dressed quickly, then stepped out her front door. There in front of her cottage stood a beautiful carriage with four horses and royal guards nearby. Nobody moved and Lucia guessed that they must be waiting for her.
Smiling with joy, Lucia ran to the carriage and pulled open the door. There, in royal splendor, sat a Prince far more handsome than she had ever imagined. Lucia's heart swelled with love, but as stepped up to the carriage door, she felt a rough hand on her arm.
"Come away from the carriage. How dare you approach the Prince?" The royal guardsmen gathered around her with angry faces and weapons drawn.
"But, I thought that the Prince…" Lucia stopped. She didn't know what to think.
"Away with you. Don't ever approach the Prince again." The guards closed the door. As it closed, Lucia saw the Prince throw her a haughty look and turn away.
Back inside her cottage, Lucia wept until she could weep no more. Her love for the Prince was overpowering, but he cared nothing for her. She lay on her bed and thought back to the words she had spoken to the bird, I wish to live in the town near the castle and fall in love with the Prince.
The bird had granted her wish, but Lucia had not thought to wish that the Prince would love her in return. Lucia was angry at the bird and herself, but knew that she must accept her fate.
After asking at many shops and houses, Lucia found work washing clothes. She worked long hours in the heat, and her hands grew twisted and sore from wringing out the heavy cloth. As she grew more tired, she became even more plain until no young man would have found her appealing, much less a Prince.
Yet every morning she was woken by the trumpets. Every day the Prince and his procession would travel in front of her house and stop while the castle gates opened. Lucia wished she could stay away and not watch, but her love for the Prince grew and grew as she had wished. She could not tear herself away from the door while the Prince's carriage lingered, although the guardsmen watched her closely and kept her from the street. Each day the Prince would look out at her with the same haughty look, and then turn away.
A year passed and then another. Lucia took on the appearance of an old woman although she was still quite young. The long days of heavy work took their toll and her health started to fail, or perhaps it was just that her heart was breaking more every day.
Then one morning as she lay sleeping, there came a sharp rapping on the door. Lucia had no friends and no visitors and didn't know who it could be. She opened the door to see her mother standing on the step. Far older and more wizened than Lucia remembered her, the witch stared moment, finally crying out her name, "Lucia!"
The two threw their arms around each other, and each told her tale. Lucia explained about the bird, and how she had gotten her wish but not true happiness. The witch talked of finding Lucia gone and of searching the country far and wide, looking for her daughter. As the witch came to the end of her tale, the trumpets blared outside.
Forgetting her mother, Lucia ran to the door and threw it wide. There stood the carriage and inside her beloved Prince. When the witch came up beside her, Lucia pointed at the Prince and told of her consuming love. The witch looked at her plain, work-worn daughter and then out at the handsome, haughty Prince. She said in a sorrowful voice, "He will never love you, child."
Distraught at hearing her deepest fears spoken aloud, Lucia at that instant felt she must know for sure. She ran to the carriage, though the witch begged her to stay back. Throwing open the door, Lucia started to speak when she was struck down by the guardsmen. She lay in the street, mortally wounded. The Prince looked out at her for a moment, turned to the driver and said, "Drive on!"
But in front of the carriage stood the witch, eyes flashing with rage. Pointing her finger at the Prince, she spoke in a terrible voice. "You have killed my daughter with your indifference. She was not beauty enough for you? Well then, you shall share her fate. From this day forward, you shall be a Beast, fearsome and terrifying to all. Nobody will look upon you except with loathing. And you shall remain a Beast forever, never able to tell a living soul the nature of your curse, unless..."
At this she paused, and gave a wicked smile, "…unless you can find a maiden who will love you as a Beast and agree to marry you. Only then will you return to your human shape." The witch muttered her spell, but the royal guards soon set upon her and cut her to the ground. As she lay dying next to her daughter, the guards looked back to the Prince.
In his place there was a monster, a hideous Beast who gave a roar and leapt out of the carriage. Howling with rage, the Beast slew the guardsmen who knew his secret and fled into the castle. There he stayed for countless years though his townspeople all moved away and the wilderness grew around his castle.