by Andrea Ruggirello
A princess lived in a castle on top of a hill. She was a beauty with long black hair, darker than ebony, and lips, full and red. However, she was blind. Her eyes were a peculiar lovely clear blue, but they saw only darkness.
Her parents, the King and Queen, despaired of finding her a husband.
“Who will wed a girl who cannot see him?” the Queen would whisper as she and her husband lay in bed.
Surprisingly, on the princess’ sixteenth birthday, dozens of men showed up at the castle door, laden with presents and dressed in their finest, ready to court the maiden.
The men who arrived were of high stature and well mannered, but their physical flaws were abundant. Drooping eyes, gaited limps, and crooked teeth were in plenty.
It was then that the King and Queen realized their daughter’s blindness was not a curse but a gift. They would not have to worry about a beautiful but cruel or conceited man sweeping their daughter off her feet. These men had been rejected by women their entire lives, and were humble and kind. And they had come in hopes that the princess, with her unseeing eyes, would see them for who they were.
And so the men were brought inside the castle to wait their turn. The line moved slowly, but steadily, and dejected suitor after dejected suitor emerged. Finally, the King went into his daughter’s chambers to see what was the matter.
“None are the right one,” was all she said.
“Please,” the King begged. “Please, my child, choose one of these men. They are good and they are kind, and they will take care of you when your mother and I are gone.”
“I will choose the one that is right for me,” she replied, crossing her arms.
The King sighed. “These men have traveled a long way and brought you beautiful things. Why can you not just choose?”
“I care not for peacock feather necklaces and enchanted wizard crystals,” she said firmly. “I care only for the man whose voice is like music to my ears, whose hands fit perfectly in mine.”
The King gave up then, and allowed the next eager gentleman inside his daughter’s chambers.
Days later, as the number of courtiers grew smaller and smaller, the Queen again started to despair.
One evening, after supper, the doors to the castle opened and a man entered. He was tall, dark, and handsome, a prince from a neighboring kingdom. The Queen was surprised and flattered that he had come to seek their daughter’s hand and immediately sent for her daughter. The King, however was wary.
“Do not be too trusting,” the King warned his daughter. “This one is beautiful, and the beautiful can hurt worse than any.”
The princess waved away her father’s worries, sure this man would be like the others. She led him into her chambers and they began to talk. She was startled to hear a deep confident voice and leaned in closer to allow his voice to fill her ears. When he told her that her beauty was more radiant than that of a thousand unicorns, she reached for his hands. They were large and square and her delicate fingers slid into place between his. They talked long after everyone else had gone to bed, thinking he had already been rejected and shown himself out.
His hand eventually found its place beneath her hair, at the nape of her neck, as his voice flowed in and through her.
* * *
The princess awoke in the middle of the night to her usual darkness. She felt for the prince next to her but he did not seem to be there.
She pulled up the sheet around herself and went out into the lit corridor. It was then that she realized. She could see. The white of the walls, the orange glow around the candles, the gleaming wooden floor that stretched before her. She could see all of it. She looked down at her own sheet-wrapped body, and her pale hands and let out a cry of delight. She ran back to her room and turned on the oil lamp. Her bed was empty and the clothes had disappeared from the floor. The prince was gone.
The princess went into her parents’ chambers, sobbing tears that were a mix of joy and deep sorrow.
“Father, Mother!” she cried. “My eyes are healed and I am in love.”
The King rubbed the sleep from his eyes and the Queen raised her head.
“What are you saying?” he asked.
“I can see, Father. I can see your bushy black beard and mother’s golden hair. And I have fallen in love. But he’s left me.”
The King sat up straight then. “The prince?” he asked fiercely. “The prince who came this evening?”
The princess nodded.
“My dear daughter...have you bedded this man?”
The princess nodded again, hesitantly, wiping away a stray tear. The Queen let out a small cry of horror.
The King lowered his head. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry but I warned you. I warned you about the beautiful ones.”
“I never even saw his face!” the princess cried.
“No man will have you now. You must be banished.”
“Father! My heart is broken, Father. And did you not hear me? I finally have my sight returned to me! Please,” she begged.
“I’m sorry. I have no choice,” her father said as he turned away. He sent the princess deep into the darkest part of the forest where the only thing to see was blackness.
Copyright © 2009 by Andrea Ruggirello