The Role of a Proper Princess

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Role of a Proper Princess

Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, good mother, good looking, good tempered, well groomed and unaggressive.” -Leslie M. Mclntyre

Once upon a time, in another land, there lived a young princess.  She was born into a royal family and every member of the kingdom took a shining to her.  The young princess was named Rebecca and raised with all the finery that the king and queen could bestow upon her.

The young princess found that her curiosity only grew as she aged.  The little girl who had once watched birds flapping their wings above the land’s pond became a child who wondered what it took for a single seed to grow into a massive tree.  That same child matured into a young woman who looked around her castle and didn’t quite understand the way that things were.  The young princess decided that she would go and investigate the world that lay outside the ancient stone walls.

The next morning, Rebecca revealed her plans to her attendant, Marion.  Marion had suspected that her precocious loved one might concoct such a plan, but she still did her best to talk the young princess out of the adventure.  Marion knew it wasn’t her place to challenge one of noble birth; yet she had to try.  Enemies might kidnap the unescorted princess.  Anything could happen outside of the castle that might let the beloved woman get hurt.  Rebecca listened to Marion’s caring advice.  She told her attendant how much she respected Marion’s concerns, but Rebecca’s mind was set and would not be moved.

As a last attempt for protection, Marion pleaded that Rebecca take some guard or knight with her.  The young princess refused, saying that she wanted to explore the world on her own.  Finally, the two agreed on a compromise.  Rebecca would have no human escort, but Matthias, Rebecca’s loyal dog, would come along.  Matthias couldn’t argue too effectively with the young princess’s plans, but his teeth and growl were fierce enough to protect her against robbers or scoundrels.

Marion borrowed some shabby clothes from a younger peasant and bestowed them on the young princess.  In the dark of the night, a shabbily dressed woman slinked out of the castle with a canine companion following in her steps.

The night was dark and silent.  Stars shone through the trees and the moon aided in Rebecca’s journey by lighting up the cloudless sky.  More than once Matthias stopped and growled at the slightest noise.  As far as Rebecca could see, there was nothing to be afraid of.  Yet the dog’s back would arch and a slow rumble built up in his throat all the same.  Matthias had been charged from birth as Rebecca’s companion, and his instincts were honed to be a protective one.

The sun rose after a long night.  Rebecca should have been weary from a night of roaming around the woods.  However the elation of being out among the people of her kingdom invigorated her.  She hadn’t known it when she set out, but it was market day.  Colorful flags were flapping in the summer breeze and street callers were attracting the townsfolk to their crafts.  Blankets with one-toned colors could be bought.  Baskets that had been hand-woven were plentiful.  Rebecca found herself admiring a silversmith’s work.  A bracelet drew her attention and she couldn’t help but admire it.

“That would be a nice addition to a maiden as lovely as yourself”, the man in the tent said.  “To be honest, there is a small defect on the back.  Why don’t you take it as a gift?”

“What a horrible notion”, a voice beside Rebecca said.  She turned to find an old man leaning heavily on a wooden staff.  “Accepting such favors from strangers in unacceptable.”

“Oh come now”, the first man replied.  “It’s just a harmless gift.  I have a wife, I have daughters; I’m only being friendly.”

“Bah”, the old man replied.  “You’re being too forward.  This woman couldn’t possibly allow such a brazen affront to continue.  Would you?”  The man looked to Rebecca and then interrupted whatever response she might have offered.  “Of course she couldn’t.  The matter is settled.”

Rebecca found herself conflicted.  On the one hand her parents had taught her that even though they had no need for offerings; people became offended when the rulers turned a tribute down.  At the same time, she didn’t want to have trinkets thrust upon her because someone thought she was attractive, or worse, pitied her.  She walked away, leaving the two men to argue excitedly with each other.

At a large fruit stand Rebecca came across a man and wife busily selling food to the crowds that gathered near.  The vendors clearly had a reputation, for it was the most popular area in the market.  The man and wife greeted each customer by name, took their coins, and thanked each person for coming.

“It’s a nice day for shopping, isn’t it?”

Rebecca hadn’t noticed that the man was talking to her.  She looked to Matthias who looked back with expectant eyes.

“I say, the weather is quite pleasant”, the husband offered again.

“Oh yes”, Rebecca replied.  “Very nice.”

“Have you found any wares worth purchasing today?”

“Leave her be”, the wife replied.  “She’s far too busy to be stopped by the likes of you and your intrusions.”

“What’s wrong with talking?  The lady seems as though she’s out for a relaxing stroll.  She has no cart or baskets with her.”

“Aaah”, the wife replied.  “That’s just like a young person.  They’re always loafing about when there’s plenty of work to be done.”

“Come now Mary”, the husband rebutted.  “With all the troubles and toils that us folk have to put up with, shouldn’t we take the time to enjoy the wonderful creations around us?”

“Aaaah”, the wife replied.  The look on the husband’s face indicated to Rebecca that the woman made that response quite often.  “While you two are running around ‘enjoying’ things, the rest of us have to do all the work.  The crops don’t tend to themselves and the children don’t get raised all alone.  Hard labor should be sought out each and every day.  There’s plenty of it to be done, I promise you.”

“Surely we must find time to relax every now and then”, the husband offered.

“That’s what you say every time that I find you napping on a pile of hay.  Work, Lucas.  Work is all that keeps us alive.”

A new crowd of customers was surging towards the couple.  Rebecca allowed herself to be pushed off to the side.  Life out here was more complicated than she had experienced at home.  In the castle, whenever she asked for something it was given to her.  Her whims because edicts.  Even her father and mother had been quick to grant her what she wanted.  She was starting to see that there were many ways to look at things.

Suddenly, a small boy bumped into Rebecca.  Matthias barked as the ragged youth ran away from them, pushing through the small crowd.  Cries and shouts echoed from the fruit sellers that she had just left.  Soon two guards were running past everyone.  Matthias began to growl at all the confusion.  Rebecca kneeled to comfort her friend.  The dog continued to be on the defensive.  Rebecca whispered, “All’s well, Matthias.  All’s well.”

A moment later, the two guards returned with the small boy suspended in the air between their arms.  Their dented and damaged armor had barely enough sheen to let the bright sun reflect dimly off their metal shells.

“Is this the one?”  The first guard gestured to the small boy and the husband nodded.  “Right then”, the guard said as he looked back at the boy.  You are to be taken to the town square and placed in the stockyards for a week.”

“Let me go!  My family’s starving.”

“Well then they’ll have one less stomach to feed for a week”, the second guard joked.

“If I don’t steal, my little brother will die.”

“And if we let you steal, then the whole town will fall apart.”

“Mercy, Sir.  I won’t tell”, the young child begged.

The first guard grabbed the boy by the neck and pinned him against the trunk of a large tree.  He tore of his heavy helmet, threw it to the second guard, and glared at the boy.

“Now see here”, he began.  “You’re a thief.  You’ve got your excuses just like every other thief.  What would happen if I didn’t teach you a lesson?  You’d keep on thieving, that’s what.  Then what food would I feed my family?  How’m I going to keep from losing my station so that I don’t become poor too?  There’s got to be laws.  It’s as simple as that.”

Rebecca was too horrified at the display to speak.  She watched as the second guard grabbed the boy by one arm.  Then the two guards marched off, roughly carrying the thief away.

“Not a pretty picture, is it?”

Rebecca’s shock was interrupted by a minstrel that had strolled up beside her.  He stood in dusty clothes with a lute and a faded leather hat.

“I still find it hard to see others suffering.  But I suppose the guard does have a point.”

Rebecca gave the minstrel a questioning look.  She could tell that he still had many buckets of opinion to add to the lake of discussion.

“What do you think?  Or perhaps I’m being too forward”, the minstrel said apologetically.

“Don’t you have more to say?”

“Excuse me?”

“All these people are quite happy to throw their opinions at me.  I assumed you would be too”, Rebecca explained.

“Ha”, the minstrel laughed.  “I do believe you are correct, good woman.  However I thought it kind to let you have your say.”

“Even if I’m a woman?”

“I admit it isn’t always custom”, the minstrel said as he looked back at Rebecca.  “Yet it always seemed that everyone with a mind was worth listening too.  Wise words can come from anywhere.”

Matthias barked and leapt about excitedly.  He trotted over to the minstrel, stood up on his hind legs, and put his front paws on the man’s legs while he barked excitedly.

“See?”  He beamed as he scratched behind Matthias’s ears.  “Wisdom’s everywhere.  Isn’t that right you scruffy hound?”

“You’re actually asking my thoughts?”

“Sure”, the minstrel said.  “You had a concerned look on your face.  You obviously had something to say.  Why wouldn’t I listen?”

“What is your name, good minstrel?”

“Henry”, he replied.  “And yours?”

“Rebecca”, she answered.

“Ah ha, like the princess”, Henry commented.

“Exactly like the princess”, Rebecca said with a cheery expression.  She laughed merrily, surprising even herself.

“Why the sudden laughter?”

“Perhaps I’ll tell you one day”, Rebecca teased.  “Tell me, are you here often?”

“Oh, I should say so”, Henry replied.  “I’m always about town, but I tend to take advantage of the shade offered by this particular tree at least once a week.  ‘tis such a pleasant tree.  What do you think of it?”

“I believe I should like to climb up its branches one day”, Rebecca replied.

“Ha!  Well perhaps one day you’ll climb while I’ll play and we’ll both make merry with the help of this tree.”

“I should like that very much”, Rebecca replied.

“What if today was that day?”

“I think that is a fine idea” Rebecca said.  “However I must be getting home.  I’d like to discuss that boy’s fortune with my parents.  Yet, I find myself very much enjoying your ideas.  I shall seek you out again, good Henry.”

“And fair Rebecca, I should look forward to hearing what your mind has been up to.  You are a complex woman indeed.”

Rebecca motioned for Matthias to join her and started walking back to the castle.  She looked over her shoulder and called back to Henry, “Perhaps one day you’ll find out how right you are”.

(If you’ve never read the Aesop’s Fable that establishes this sort of theme, I’d suggest you check it out.  It’s a quick read, honest.)

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About anecdotaltales
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

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