Friday, December 27, 2013

Lang's Fairy Tales: Prince Hyacinth

Here is the short version of Prince Hyacinth and the Dear Little Princess:

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A king fell in love with an enchanted princess. A fairy told him that treading on the tail of the princess's cat would break the spell. The king thus broke the spell, but the angry cat, a wizard in disguise, foretold that his son would only be happy when he learned that his nose was too long. Worried, the king told no one of this bizarre curse.

Shortly after the wedding, the king died, but his wife did give birth to a son, Hyacinth, who had an enormous nose. The queen spoiled him, as did the courtiers, so that Hyacinth believed large noses were beautiful and small noses ugly. When he grew up, he chose a lovely princess as his bride, being willing to overlook her small nose as she was beautiful in every other way.

Just when Prince Hyacinth was about to kiss his bride, however, the wizard reappeared and kidnapped her. Devastated, the prince rode out to rescue her. He found a cavern inhabited by an old woman, the same fairy who had helped his father. The fairy made fun of Hyacinth's enormous nose, which angered the prince. Enraged, he rode away, but everywhere he went, people made fun of his enormous nose.

The fairy, meanwhile, rescued the beautiful princess and placed her in a crystal palace. Prince Hyacinth came to the palace and saw her inside the palace. The princess stretched out her hand through a window for him to kiss, but his large nose got in the way. "My nose really is too long," he thought. At that moment, the palace vanished, the prince was reunited with his princess, and his nose became a normal size. The prince had learned to value honesty over vanity, and he and his princess lived happily ever after.

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You can read the long version of the fairy tale at Wikisource (the original story is appx. 2500 words long). The story is by the 18th-century French author Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, who also wrote a very famous version of Beauty and the Beast. I really like the moment when the cat turns into a wizard, but the best part of this story is surely the social satire; it's a very humorous fairy tale. Here is the part about how the prince was raised:
The Prince was brought up with great care; and, as soon as he could speak, they told him all sorts of dreadful stories about people who had short noses. No one was allowed to come near him whose nose did not more or less resemble his own, and the courtiers, to get into favor with the Queen, took to pulling their babies' noses several times every day to make them grow long. But, do what they would, they were nothing by comparison with the Prince's. 
When he grew sensible he learned history; and whenever any great prince or beautiful princess was spoken of, his teachers took care to tell him that they had long noses. 
His room was hung with pictures, all of people with very large noses; and the Prince grew up so convinced that a long nose was a great beauty, that he would not on any account have had his own a single inch shorter!





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