Once upon a time, there lived a not-so-wealthy prince, certainly not as wealthy as one would expect a prince to be. Alas, his father had perished recently in a war, and his mother had suffered from the Plague and followed her husband soon thereafter. I suppose, technically, the young man was now a king.
The young man was also unmarried. There were many princesses who would have gladly been his bride, for he was a very handsome and kind prince or king, as the case may be, indeed. As it was, the prince did not feel a deep love for any of these princesses, and his parents were no longer able to push him into a loveless marriage for the sole purpose of producing an heir. Therefore, the orphaned prince decided to remain single.
One day, a young man happened to knock on the prince's door. As the prince was not wealthy, he had no servants to answer the door for him, and so he opened the door himself. Before him stood a young man, perhaps the same age as the prince himself. The man had blonde curly hair and blue eyes, quite the opposite of the prince's dark locks and orbs.
"Good day, my lord," the man addressed him.
"And good day to you, sir. How might I be of service?" the prince replied kindly.
"If I may be so bold as to ask, I have been traveling many a day and would like to settle down for a bit. I am looking for work to do and a place to stay."
"I see," the prince said. "Please do come in, and tell me more about yourself."
The young man entered the modest palace, and the two of them sat at a wooden table in the kitchen.
The blonde man introduced himself. "My name is Martin. I come from the land known as Sleepy Hollow. But I have traveled far and wide and have learned many trades. I can till the ground and sow seed for your farm. I can take care of your cows and sheep. I can also cook you a meal fit for a king." Here Martin smiled sheepishly as he said, "But the work I love most is performing. I am quite skilled at acting and have written plays as well. I also have a bit of a penchant for drawing that I believe I inherited from my mother."
"Indeed." The prince smiled. There was something about the young man that was so friendly and honest, that the prince found himself trusting him immediately. "You are certainly welcome to stay here. While I may or may not be a king, that decision is still being made, I look forward to sampling your cooking. And I am very interested in seeing your plays. Unfortunately, my fortune is rather modest, so besides room and board, I will not be able to pay you much."
Martin smiled broadly. "Room and board is more than adequate, if all you wish is for me to cook and entertain. Thank you, my lord. I hope you will not be disappointed."
"My name is Daniel. Prince Daniel. And I hope it is I who will not disappoint you."
The two men soon became good friends. Martin found that Daniel enjoyed acting as well, and he wrote plays that the two of them could perform in the village. Many of his plays were based on the adventures he had both as a young lad and while traveling around the country.
One day, Martin told Daniel a story about his beautiful cousin, Princess Halena. As he talked, he drew a picture of the beautiful princess. Daniel was immediately smitten. He spent many hours staring at the portrait Martin had painted of her. She looked like an Indian princess with her tanned skin and long, straight, dark hair. Her eyes were the color of ripe blackberries, and her lips the rosy red of raspberries.
"Martin," Prince Daniel proclaimed one day, "I must visit this lovely princess and ask her to be my bride."
"But, Daniel, I have recounted many a time that she is a spoilt and selfish woman. If you have not fine jewels and trinkets to offer her, she will not accept, nor would her parents let her accept." Martin spoke directly and plainly, that is, more plainly than usual, to his friend. "I implore you. Give up this feebleminded inclination. No boon can eventuate of it."
The two men were in Daniel's garden. Daniel stopped by a rose bush; a bush so fine, so lovely, and so rare, that only a single rose ever bloomed on that bush once every other year. But what a rose it was. It was the most beautiful deep, dark shade of red and had a perfume pure, sweet and strong. There was no other rose like it anywhere.
"Smell this rose, my friend," Daniel commanded. "Is it not the most precious and exquisite rose you have ever seen? Take a whiff of its luscious scent. Does it not make you forget all cares and worries? I will send this rose to Princess Halena." His hand reached out to pluck the rose, a rose he would much rather leave on the bush, but his love (or rather, lust) had made him seek the most unusual gifts to bestow upon the lovely princess. "And listen," he continued, "Do you hear that nightingale? Is that not the most beautiful and moving song you have ever heard? Listen well. Does it not make you full of gladness, forgetting all sorrows? I will catch that nightingale and send it to Princess Halena as well."
Martin shook his head sadly, a few blonde curls tumbling into his eyes with the motion. "You are generating a grievous solecism. She will rebuff these inestimable lagniappes. She does not extol the same ideas as sensible men, such as you and I. Moreover, you yourself have oft said you favor a Rosacea that bides on the bramble than one that has been clipped. You yourself are mindful that a Luscinia megarhynchos confined will never trill nor warble as felicitously as he will when perdured in the coppice."
Daniel took a short moment to decipher his friend's words. "Yea, it is true that I prefer to smell a rose and hear a nightingale as I walk through the gardens. Alas, I have no fine jewels or precious metals to offer her, and these two gifts are much finer than any jewel or metal, so she will surely appreciate them."
And so Daniel caught and caged the nightingale, and with the rose, sent them by messenger to the palace of King Harold as a gift for his daughter, Princess Halena.
King Harold held the two boxes he had just received in his hands, trying to guess what was inside by their weight. The one box was much too light to hold something of any significant value. The other box had holes in it, and, as he peered through these holes, he could tell there was a small bird of some sort sleeping inside.
Halena entered the room, followed by a flock of ladies-in-waiting who were giggling. "Father, you sent for me?" Halena asked, and then she spied the two packages.
King Harold nodded. "Yes, my dear. And yes. These are indeed gifts for you from a princely suitor."
"A prince. Which prince, Father? Have I heard of him? How old is he? What does he look like? Which lands does he rule?" Halena couldn't help being excited. She had dreamt of marrying a handsome and wealthy prince for as long as she could remember. Alas, the princely suitors that had come calling thus far were either old or ugly.
"So many questions!" The king smiled. "He is Prince Daniel of Brook Land, and I believe my younger brother might know of him, as Brook Land is not too far from Sleepy Hollow. I shall send a messenger to seek more information about this potential match for you. Meanwhile," King Harold held out the long, thin box to his daughter, "let us see what he has brought for you."
Queen Mathilda had entered the royal chambers just a few moments after her daughter. "Yes, Halena, open the gifts, and let us see what the prince has offered you."
Halena lifted the lid of the long box. Her ladies-in-waiting surrounded her, peering over her shoulder. Daintily, she lifted the dried rose from the papers. Even in its death, the perfume from the rose was sensational. "Oooohs" and "aaaahs" came from the princess' attendants, for even stripped of life, they had never seen a more beautifully perfect rose. "But what is it?" Halena cried. "A dead flower? Is that all?"
"But, my lady," an attendant named Gloria dared speak out. "It is the most beautiful and perfect rose ever. And smell that glorious scent. It is like heaven itself."
"Hmph. You keep it then. I want nothing of it." Princess Halena thrust the box at the slightly older woman, eager to get the nasty thing off her hands.
Queen Mathilda quite agreed with her daughter. "But let us see what is in the other box," she suggested. "Perhaps the second gift will be more worthy of you."
King Harold handed the other box over, shaking his head. "I doubt very much you will find this to your liking. I hesitate to even give it to you."
Princess Halena snatched the large box from her father greedily, not noticing that it had air holes cleverly disguised in the decorative pattern covering it. She tore the top off and nearly shrieked, as the nightingale, awoken by the daylight, began to sing. "Tell me this is a beautifully manufactured music box, designed to imitate a real nightingale."
Gloria again stepped forward. "I'm sorry, my lady, but, clearly, you can see that is indeed a real bird. And it has the most beautiful song, even more beautiful than most nightingales."
Halena opened the door of the cage. "Fly away then. I do not want any nasty animals in this palace." The nightingale quickly flew out an open window and rested on a branch to continue its song. Halena screeched and covered her ears. "Ow. Make it stop, please. Somebody chase that -- that thing away!"
Queen Mathilda came forward and held her daughter in a comforting, if stiff, embrace. At the same time, one of the attendants went obediently to the window and yelled at the poor, harmless bird, "Shoo! Shoo! Fly away back to your prince!" When the bird ignored her, she closed the window to at least smother the melodious singing. She turned around and shrugged her shoulders, smiling sheepishly.
"Prince Daniel! Prince Daniel!" The messenger ran into the hall, out of breath. He knew his prince would want the news quickly and bluntly.
"Yes, what is it?" Daniel asked, as he came around the corner.
"I gave the gifts to King Harold for his beautiful daughter, Princess Halena, just as you asked, Sire."
Daniel's eyes lit up excitedly at the mere mention of her name. "And? Did she like them? Was she pleased?"
"Well, no, Sire." The messenger looked nervous.
Martin had followed Daniel into the room at a more leisurely pace. Patting his friend on the back, he whispered, "As I told you she would not be."
Daniel pushed Martin aside, though not roughly. "How did she react?" he asked.
"She wanted nothing to do with them, Sire."
"Very well." Daniel waved his hand and the messenger left. "Martin, perhaps I should have solicited your advice first. What would you have me do to win your fair cousin's heart?"
"Nothing," Martin muttered under his breath. Louder, he added, "Verily, I do not postulate a union betwixt my raven-haired consanguinity and yourself."
"Pish!" Daniel exclaimed. "I will go myself. As a matter of fact, I will go as a commoner, not as a Prince about to be named King. I will see if I can be of service to King Harold and thus stay on the castle grounds. Perhaps then I will get to know her better myself, and she will come to know me." Daniel nodded his head, pleased with his plan. "I will leave tomorrow. Will you accompany me?"
Martin shook his head sadly. "Alas, no. I have no desire to return to Uncle Harold's kingdom at this time. But I have been yearning to travel again; perchance this is a good time for us to part ways. Temporarily, I hope."
"Temporarily, certainly," Daniel answered. "You have been a good friend these many fortnights. I would not want our friendship to end."
The two friends enjoyed a great feast that evening, and, in the morning, they went their separate ways.
After many days of travel, Prince Daniel did not look like a prince at all. When he arrived at King Harold's door, he looked rather more like a beggar. This was fine as far as Daniel was concerned. It made his asking for work all the more believable. King Harold's eldest son, Knutson, was rather suspicious of Daniel, but Knutson's brother, Capelton, took an immediate liking to the young man.
"Father," Capelton said, "I'm certain we can find some work for this honest man to do."
"He has no references, Father," Knutson pointed out. "Are you sure you can trust him?"
"Whatever work needs to be done, I am at your service," Daniel reaffirmed, trying to ignore the older brother.
King Harold nodded his head in thought. Making his own decision, he told the young man at the door, "I am afraid the only work we have available right now is as the Royal Swineherd."
"Swineherd?" Daniel asked. "That's perfect. I'll take it!"
And so Prince Daniel of Brook Land became the Royal Swineherd at King Harold's palace in Champion Creek. Capleton showed Daniel to a miserable little hut and apologized for the uncomfortable lodgings. Daniel reassured him that the hut was fine, and he was eager to get to work. He also managed to glean from the young prince that his sister enjoyed all sorts of trinkets.
Daniel busied himself with his new work, but, in his spare time, he practiced his artisan skills. He was not a painter or storyteller like his friend Martin, but he did like to whittle and carve, and he liked to practice work as a smith, as well. Knowing that Halena liked trinkets, he quickly whittled a very delicate looking rose that quite rivaled the real rose he had sent her before.
Halena and her attendants happened to take a walk every afternoon, and the walk led them past Daniel's hut. Daniel noted the time of day they came by, and, after his rose was ready, he made sure to be outside his hut holding it. His plan worked. Halena spied the carving of the rose, and she wanted it.
"Gloria, go talk to that ... that ... servant there, and get that rose for me," she ordered one of her attendants.
Gloria bowed and walked over to Daniel. "Our Princess would like that rose, Swineherd," she said matter-of-factly.
"Oh, would she now? And what will she pay me for it?" Daniel asked with a smirk.
"Pay you?" Gloria was shocked. "Why should the Princess pay you for what is her property?"
Daniel grimaced. Of all the nerve! "And what makes her Highness believe that the rose is her property? I worked many hours whittling this rose to make it perfect, and, if she would like it, then I demand payment."
Gloria walked away in a huff and reported her conversation to the princess. Daniel observed them whispering to each other. It wasn't long before Gloria returned to the swineherd's side. "What payment do you wish?" she asked, scowling all the while.
"I wish for the Princess herself to come talk to me," Daniel replied. "That is all."
"Very well. I will tell her Highness." Again, Gloria huffed away, and soon Princess Halena herself was standing next to Prince Daniel.
"Of all the arrogant requests," she muttered to the swineherd. "That is all I have to say to you." With that, she snatched the rose and went back to her attendants.
After they were out of sight, Daniel burst into laughter. He then went back to work, all the while thinking what he could make next for the gorgeous princess.
A week later, Daniel again stood outside his hut waiting for the princess to walk by on her daily jaunt. He held a small wooden bird sitting on a tree branch. The leaves of the tree were made of a various kinds of metals, and they tinkled quietly in the breeze. Predictably, Princess Halena decided she must have the little trinket. Once again, she sent Gloria to inquire about it.
Gloria frowned at the swineherd. "Our Princess wishes to have that bird." She held out her hand expectantly.
"Does she now?" Daniel's eyes twinkled mischievously. "And is she willing to pay the price for it?"
"Very well." Gloria grimaced. "I will tell her highness you wish her to talk to you, again."
"Wait," Daniel said. "For this piece, I demand a kiss."
Gloria's eyes widened, and her jaw dropped in shock. Without a word, she turned on her heels and told the princess what the reprobate wanted. To Daniel's delight, the princess approached him, followed by all her ladies-in-waiting.
"Make a circle around us," she demanded of her attendants, " so no one can see this." To Daniel, she added, "Breathe a word of this to anyone, and I will make sure my father takes your head." Then she quickly kissed him on the cheek and tried to grab the bird and tree.
"Ah, ah, ah." Daniel shook his head, as he held the carving out of her reach. "A kiss on the lips, my fairest."
"Fine!" Halena stomped her foot, but then quickly kissed him on the lips.
Daniel smiled and handed her the gift.
"He is impossible!" he heard the Princess complain to Gloria, as they walked away. "Yet, one must encourage the artisan."
And encouraged, he was. The weeks went by, and, with each trinket he made, he demanded more and more kisses as payment. On one particular afternoon, Daniel had ready for Princess Halena a music box that played the beautiful tune, "Ah, my dear Augustine, all is gone, gone, gone!" It so happened this was also Princess Halena's favorite piece of music, and the only one she was able to play herself, in spite of the many piano lessons she'd had.
"Ask him how many kisses he wants this time," the princess demanded of her attendants. When Gloria returned and told her that the swineherd wanted one hundred kisses, Princess Halena was outraged. But she was so greedy, that once again she gave in to the scoundrel's demands.
Unfortunately, for giving someone one hundred kisses does tend to take some time, King Harold walked by while Princess Halena was still on the eighty-sixth kiss. Seeing all the ladies-in-waiting huddled around the swineherd's hut, he was rather curious as to what was going on. When he saw what was happening, he was outraged. "Get out! Get out!" he screamed at both Daniel and his daughter.
Prince Daniel blushed and stammered, but, realizing he was in the wrong, quickly gathered his belongings and left.
"You, too!" King Harold yelled at his daughter. "How dare you degrade yourself thusly? Out! And never return!"
Princess Halena was in tears, but, as she had no other options, she followed the swineherd. She did not even have any belongings to take with her, except what she now considered to be the wretched music box.
Gloria, who had never really cared for the princess, followed them discreetly.
"This is all your fault!" Halena yelled at the back of the swineherd, who was only a few paces in front of her.
"My fault?!" Daniel yelled back. "You selfish, arrogant fool. No one forced you to kiss me. You could have turned down the trinkets I offered. No. This is entirely your own doing, Princess Greediness."
"Greedy? You say I'm greedy?" Halena stomped her feet as she walked. "How dare you demand all those kisses from me? If you had just asked for gold coins, instead, like a normal beggar!"
Daniel stopped and turned around. "But I'm not a normal beggar, am I? Maybe if you had accepted my first gifts, I wouldn't have had to resort to such foolish tricks to get your affections."
"What are you talking about?" Halena caught up to him. Her breathing was hard as she was not used to his fast pace. Her blackberry eyes flashed angrily, and her raspberry lips glistened with sweat.
Daniel wanted to kiss her again, this time with passion, but then he saw deeper into her soul and realized what a fool he had been. "As a prince, I sent you a rose and a nightingale, yet you rejected them. You would not have me for a suitor. So, I came to see you for myself, to try to understand why you did not appreciate the magnificent and beautiful gifts. And I discovered you were willing to kiss a swineherd for a few fancy trinkets." He spit on the ground. "You deserve your fate."
Halena was quite surprised. "You are the prince from Brook Land?" She studied him and realized that, under the grime from working, he was rather handsome. She sat down on a rock and started to cry. "Oh, if only I had married you then, how happy we could have been!"
Daniel scowled and started to walk away. Gloria took that moment to step out from behind a tree, startling both the prince and the princess. "You are both selfish, arrogant, and foolish," she hissed. "Princess Halena, how long have I waited on you, attending to your every need, and not once have you shown any appreciation. Prince Daniel is correct. You deserve your fate. I hope you come to appreciate all you have lost as you travel the countryside like a poor beggar girl. It is punishment enough for you." She turned to the prince. "And you, Prince Daniel, playing games with the heart of a young woman. How dare you call Halena arrogant? I suggest you look in a mirror when you utter those words. Little did either of you know that I am an enchantress. Your punishment, Daniel, for yes, I will punish you ... " she broke off, apparently trying to decide what to do. "You will be cursed to live the life of a beast, ugly and mean looking, until you can find true love." With that, she pulled a wand out of her skirts and pointed it at the startled prince.
Halena screamed as she saw Daniel transformed, hair growing from every part of his body. His eyes became the yellow eyes of an animal; his teeth grew into fangs. Then she ran away, before Gloria decided to do anything to her.
Daniel growled, literally, but a tear fell from his eye. Slowly, he lumbered away.
Gloria returned to King Harold's castle, a satisfied smile pasted on her face.