Tuesday, 6 May 2008
The Wizard's Table
Almost a thousand years ago in a castle by the shore, there was a king who had a beautiful daughter called Mirabelle. She was a poet, a weaver, a swords-woman of some skill, a fine archer, a natural equestrian and was as beautiful in heart and mind as she looked. To be so beautiful might be a burden to some, but Mirabelle was both modest and kind. She charmed everyone with her sincerity and gentility.
Of course every young man was in love with her. The royal gardener's son made bouquets for her. The shepherd of the royal flock gave her the finest wool for her maids to spin. The royal cook's son gave her the most wonderful cakes. She gently deflected them all. Her father was determined that she should marry a prince and rule after him.
Now nearer the shore lived a wizard called Grimalkin. He was young-ish, handsome-ish and superb at magic. He lived alone with his books and his spells and tried to do good with his magic. He was both in love and not in love with Mirabelle. He loved her beauty, her wit, her smile.... and yet he detested the fact that he did love her so much. It was annoying after he'd gone to so much trouble to study his magic arts.
So when, one sunny morning, a boat appeared on the shore and a young and handsome prince stepped onto the beach, the wizard was quite glad to find that the prince was in love with Mirabelle - along with the rest of the kingdom. He directed the prince to the castle having given the young man breakfast and off the prince went. But as handsome as he was, the prince's heart and mind did not match his good looks at all. He was proud and imperious, demanded to be obeyed and served and was vengeful when disobeyed. Some princes are just like that - it comes of being spoilt when young I'm told. Grimalkin did not notice this because he was too busy fussing around his kitchen making the breakfast.
The prince strode up to the castle, declared himself at the king's hall and was led in to see the king. There he declared that he had come to see the princess Mirabelle having heard of her beauty and accomplishments. The king sent for Mirabelle who finished her breakfast and arrived in the hall with her eyes bright and her smile intact. The king told her of the prince's desire and the prince confirmed it, giving Mirabelle a week to give her decision to marry him. He did not say what would happen if she did not decide to marry him. He did not think that would happen. His pride again - getting in the way.
But when he'd left the castle and got to his hotel he was quite sure that he wanted to marry Mirabelle and that he would be really quite cross if she said 'no'. He was that kind of suitor - unable to understand that someone might not love him. Unfortunately that was the affect Mirabelle had on people just by her being so lovely.
The prince decided to make sure of his success, so he took from his pocket a small box and placed it on a table. He made a glass of wine with one potion and another glass of wine with another potion. The first potion would make Mirabelle fall madly in love with him. The second potion would make her fall madly out of love with anyone. For the prince was determined that if he could not marry her, nobody else would either. This I'm afraid to say is another bit of silliness indulged in by some men who believe that women are their property. The prince's pride made him this foolish, but there was no excuse for it. In one glass he soaked a peach. In the other he soaked a plum. Then he went to bed.
Mirabelle created five challenges for all her suitors. Whoever should overcome all the challenges would be her husband. She thought she was being fair, but honestly she did not much care for marriage. She hoped that at least any husband might love her and be worthy of her love. More than that she did not mind.
The first challenge was with bow and sword. The second was with the horse. The third was with poetry. The fourth was a challenge of compassion and the fifth was a challenge of making a cup of tea for her grandma. Everyone understood the first four challenges, but nobody understood the fifth at all - least of all her grandma.
Still, if that was what the tests were to be so be it.
The prince joined the rest of the would-be suitors and went first. The first challenge was easy. So was the second. The third was a little trickier but not terrible. The fourth he threw money at, but the fifth... ah, that got him. The tea was not strong enough. He forgot to put two sugars in as grandma liked it and there was far too much milk in it. Grandma made a face at the first sip and wrinkled her nose. She looked at the prince, sighed and put down her cup decisively. The prince was shocked... then dismayed... then furious! He swallowed his fury and begged grandma to take the tea again, but she refused. He wheedled, pleaded, then threatened and stormed. When he threatened, Grandma took up her knitting needles - pointedly. When he stormed she began knitting and ignored him.
The prince dashed out of the room and took from his bag two jars with the peach and the plum in each. Now the peach bore the potion to make Mirabelle fall in love with him and the plum bore the potion to make her fall out of love with anyone. But in his rage, the prince could not quite remember which was which. He presented the jar with the plum to the princess and left the palace smiling cruelly to himself and planning to find another princess who was even more beautiful and accomplished than Mirabelle (there wasn't, but he didn't know that). Mirabelle, not fully realising what he was like, she felt sorry for him. But he had failed to complete all the challenges and that was that. She put the plum down on her dressing table and left it.
That day, nobody did any better than the prince for which Mirabelle was grateful. She went to her chamber in the evening to read a book and saw the plum in the jar. She was not really fond of plums, so she threw out the plum and a bird ate it. But the plum disagreed with the bird and while it was flying out to the forest, it flew over the prince and pooped on him. This, I am afraid to say did not improve his temper.
Now after four days of men trying to fulfil the challenges, Grimalkin decided to go and talk to the princess, but he was nervous so he didn't go. The princess meanwhile, seeing him on the beach decided to go and talk to him. She found him early in the morning at his table. Two simple ships either side of a glass globe sat upon the table and Grimalkin was conjuring up gentle winds for the fishing boats to bring them home safe in the evening.
When Mirabelle saw him she suddenly felt a voice in her heart... as if it were calling to her. She stopped, letting the sea breeze flap her dress and caress her hair. She gazed at the magician and seeing him all straight-backed and yet soft-voiced and concentrating on the spell, she smiled. He appealed to her in ways she could not quite define and yet.... She waited until he finished the spell and as he turned to go back to his cottage she asked him,
"Good wizard, I wonder how you would make my grandma a cup of tea?"
Grimalkin turned and seeing her he blushed and harrumphed. Then tugging at the edge of his coat and his hat, he took a deep breath and raised one eyebrow.
"I'd ask her how she has her tea and then make it," he answered snappishly.
Mirabelle smiled and asked him,
"Will you marry me, Grimalkin the Wizard?"
Grimalkin was stunned and gaped open-mouthed for a moment before shaking his head and fleeing back into his cottage and shutting the door. He also hid under his bed, but Mirabelle didn't know that. Love is terribly nerve-racking you know. Grimalkin wasn't sure he should go out for a few hours just in case she asked him again. It did him no good, for by the end of that month, Mirabelle had wooed him into submission and he finally said yes. So they were wed and the moral of the tale is this: never marry anyone who won't make your grandma a decent cup of tea. At least that's what my grandma told me.