Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Apprentices

Birmingham City University, School of Art.

There was once a man who had three sons and there being few schools in those days, he sent them off to be apprentices. The eldest went to be a shoemaker, the middle one went to be an engineer and the youngest who was a bit of a dreamer went off to be a sorcerer.

The eldest learned quickly and soon he could make such shoes that everyone wanted them. He made shoes that made tall people look elegant, short people feel and look taller, fat people look and feel slimmer and skinny people look a little broader, but not too much. He made shoes for runners that made them extra fast and shoes for women that made them fall in love - or if they wished, fall out of love. He made boots for men that made them dashing and brave and boots that could carry a man across whole continents to their loves - or to meet their enemies in duels. In short then, he became a shoemaker paragon.

The middle son also learned quickly even though his brain had to learn vast amounts of mathematics. He learned about Boltzmann's Constant and Phillipson's Inconstant. He knew all about Gauss' Theorem and Haus' Functions and Cobb-Douglas' Fourths and such maths that are beyond my poor little brain. The result was that he was capable of designing all kinds of wonderful machines and structures.

As for the youngest, well you may imagine it is hard to find sorcerers and it was hard then too. Somehow in the heart of a great city, he did find one willing to take him on. Now this sorcerer's apprentice was no fool. He studied hard and swept the floors and asked intelligent questions and fed the cat. He became partial to good wine and looking at Anne Marie the sorcerer's cook who was not in the least bit interested in him.

"One day you'll just run off and marry a princess and you won't remember me at all," she told him.

Still and all, he loved her quite considerably and swore he would rather have her love than the love of the most beautiful princess in all the world. Anne Marie laughed and told him to go and study. There was one book, the Last Book in the sorcerer's library, which the sorcerer did not mention. For the young man was becoming very quickly as good a sorcerer as his master. But the young man was also very perceptive and one evening he crept into the library and took the book for the night. He called up a tiny djinn of light and read the book under the bedclothes with the djinn curled up asleep in his hand, glowing softly. Reading that book he learned a great deal and from that he became a greater sorcerer than his master. Yet he knew better than to let his master know it.

Now it happened that after many years the man became old until he knew that his time was coming (Death had sent him a letter saying so). As such, he sent for his sons for he wished to know that they would be able to find their place in the world. He was certainly glad to know that they excelled at their chosen professions and knowing that they would be well he asked them who they would share their lives with.

The eldest had made shoes for the princess of Ecuador and she had fallen for him. They were to be married very soon. The middle one had fallen for the duchess of Lancashire and they too were to be married soon. The youngest had studied and though he loved Anne Marie, she had not said she loved him.

He went back to the city and asked her for her hand in marriage.

"What for?", she asked him, "You'll just run off and marry a princess and you won't remember me at all."

"Doubt that the stars will fall, doubt the sun will rise or that birds will sing, but never doubt I love you," he answered romantically.

Anne Marie laughed and told him not to be silly.

"After all, only a man who could tidy up a house in an instant could be mine," she said.

The youngest son said a few magical words and Anne Marie's little house was suddenly as neat and tidy and clean as any new house.

"Yes," Anne Marie said, "But can you cook and how would we live - if I married you of course?"

The youngest son said a few more words and made a couple of gestures too. The table was full of beautifully cooked food. As for how they would live, the youngest son told her that he would provide them with all they needed with his magical powers.

"Oh you big silly. One day you'll just run off and marry a princess and you won't remember me at all," she told him.

Now it happened, that the Princess of Ecuador and the Duchess of Lancashire had a little talk with their husbands and told them about the Princess of Poland who was at that time the most beautiful princess in the world. It seemed that she had been imprisoned for being beautiful by a wicked and rather comely witch who would rather she was considered more beautiful. Witches can get like that, it's all the fashion magazines they read.

The eldest son went to the witch and offered to make her a beautiful pair of shoes in return for the release of the Princess of Poland. The witch thought about it and agreed, but when the shoes were made she took them and imprisoned the eldest son. She did look rather lovely in the shoes though. The Princess of Ecuador was very angry, but she did not know what to do.

The middle son used all his engineering abilities and built a tunnel to free his brother and the Princess of Poland, but he ended up imprisoned too. The Duchess of Lancashire was not happy, but there was nothing she could do either.

The two fiancees went to the youngest son and told him that his brothers and the most beautiful princess in the world was being held by the Wicked Witch of Wythenshawe.

"We are furious but there isn't anything we can do," they told him.

The youngest son saw his chance now. He went round to Wythenshawe to see the witch and demanded she release all the prisoners.

"Or what, young man?" she sneered.

"Don't make me turn you into something horrible," the young man replied.

The witch made a spell but the young sorcerer countered it and made ivy grow up around her tightly and quickly. Before it could reach her arms she had responded with an enchantment. The young sorcerer answered it with an incantation followed by a spell and a cantrip. Around they went like this until the air was sizzling with magic. Then the young man whispered a word and the witch's shoes vanished. The witch was mortified. If he started with her shoes there was no knowing what else he'd remove. She yelled a spell and his sorcerer's hat grew so that it fell over him. The sorcerer then vanished from the hat and appeared behind the witch and tickled her mercilessly until she was gasping and shrieking for him to stop.

"Release the prisoners then," he told her.

"I can't, the Princess of Poland is too beautiful and who will love me if she's around?" the witch gasped.

The sorcerer told the witch that if she was a lot nicer and sweeter then nobody would resist her for she was very beautiful. The witch asked him if he would marry the Princess then.

"Oh no, I'm in love with Anne Marie," he said firmly.

The witch did not believe him but as she was afraid he'd start tickling her again she released the prisoners. The two brothers were very cross with the witch but the youngest brother mollified them with a mollifying spell and they returned to their fiancees who were much happier. The Princess of Poland was stunningly beautiful. Her skin was clear and fine, her eyes were soft and dark and her hair was lustrous. Her figure was elegant and she was wickedly witty and funny. When the young sorcerer saw her he asked her if she would help the witch find a true love.

"Easy that," the Princess answered, "I love the witch of Wythenshawe, I came looking for her but suddenly I was imprisoned in a cave and I have longed for her all this time."

You may imagine how astounded and indeed how foolish the witch felt. She kissed the Princess who blushed very prettily and asked if the witch would be hers. The witch agreed and the marriage would be held very soon.

As for the sorcerer he went back to Anne Marie who hearing of the Princess sighed and married the young sorcerer. That's life for you.


Freyalyn said...

And thank you for a smile - this brought a grin to my face. And a snigger when I remembered that the Duke of Lancashire is now the Queen!

Joel Le Blanc said...

I love it! That's absolutely hilarious.

Griffin said...

Well I didn't want to write a replica of a folktale where they always get married in the conventional way. I very nearly made her the Princess of Lancashire... er but then thought the House of York might send the boys 'round!

Rosemary in Utah said...

This one is great fun!

madameshawshank said...

"Doubt that the stars will fall, doubt the sun will rise or that birds will sing, but never doubt I love you."

oh golly 'n gosh!

G, this tale's a hoot and a half..