Allow me to share with all of you this valentine to my husband. Dale, you may recall I told you this fairy tale 14 years ago, though it’s grown up a bit since then. Happy Valentine’s Day to my soul mate, with all my love…
Why The Princess Hit The Road
by Cara Lopez Lee
Once upon a time there was a lonely Princess who, like most princesses, was in search of a prince. Since most searches of that kind end in disaster, you might wonder why she bothered. It might be blamed on her Fairy Godmother.
Her Fairy Godmother was an invisible companion, who had long watched over the Princess without making her presence known. It wasn’t until the Princess celebrated her fifteenth birthday that the Fairy Godmother finally appeared and told the young girl something about the future.
The Fairy Godmother told her, “The day will come when you’ll meet a wonderful prince, the one who is destined to be with you forever.”
And the Princess asked, “How will I know when I find him?”
The Fairy Godmother replied, “You will know when you feel the deepest of feelings.”
So the Princess began to search, in the eyes, in the smiles, in the words of each man she met, trying to find signs that this was the one who would give her “the deepest of feelings.”
One day she met a prince who made her cry, first by telling her sad stories about how he’d spent his life in a castle all alone, then by telling her cruel things, like, “You make me unhappy. You don’t know how to listen. You’re not worthy enough to deserve a prince.”
Sometimes when she went into the village she would see the prince at the local well, laughing and talking with one pretty maiden or another. She often wondered why he did not laugh or smile half so much when he talked to her. This made her feel very sad.
Because she felt sad, she thought, “So this is the prince my Fairy Godmother spoke of. Sadness must be the deepest of feelings.”
But the Fairy Godmother whispered in her ear, “No, he is not the one.”
The next day the prince left the castle, headed down the main road and walked away, traveling out of the kingdom in search of a princess who he believed was worthy of a prince.
Then the Princess met a prince with whom she lost her temper. She didn’t like it when he teased her about how much time she spent trying to impress her parents, the King and Queen. She had spent weeks overseeing the decorating of the castle, months learning to play the piano, and years struggling to write a great book, only to find that her parents had no time to pay attention.
And the prince? He told her that she was wasting her time and that her accomplishments were meager. He made fun of the stories she wrote, told her that the piano was not her instrument, and insulted her redecorating because he considered it “women’s work” and therefore not hard to do.
This made her feel very angry, and she thought, “Oh, this must be the prince the Fairy Godmother spoke of, because anger, well, that is a deep feeling. And this anger is a good thing, because it will help us improve each other.”
But the Fairy Godmother whispered in her ear, “No, he is not the one.”
The next day the prince went to the Kingdom’s main road and walked away, looking for a woman who was more intelligent and talented, who would understand the things he could teach her about life, music, and books.
Another prince came to the castle grounds one day to see its famous flowers. He stumbled upon the Princess in the royal garden and showed her how he could pull apples from a tree – without using his hands. Instead, he leapt into the air and pulled the apples down with his teeth. This made her laugh.
He made her laugh all the time. The funny prince told jokes and sang silly songs. He bought her pretty presents and played hide-and-seek with her in the castle’s many rooms. One day they baked a cake for the Queen and decorated each other’s faces with the frosting.
He told her he enjoyed the sound of her lovely laughter. Even when she wanted to talk seriously with him, he tickled her or made funny faces until she started giggling again.
He made her laugh so much that she thought, “Oh yes, this is the prince my Fairy Godmother told me would appear. He makes me feel great joy, a very deep feeling indeed.”
“No,” said the Fairy Godmother, “he is not the one.”
The next day the prince left to seek another princess, one he would be willing to tell his secret sorrows, about the parents who died when he was a boy, about the wishes he had to be a great painter, and about all the wishes he had that never came true. He was afraid to tell these things to the beautiful Princess because she seemed too perfect for him.
Then one day a prince arrived from a neighboring kingdom, one she had met before at great dances and gatherings and affairs of state. He stayed for the summer, because his father had sent him to make a deal to open a gold mine that bordered the two kingdoms.
In his free time, he often talked to the Princess and they became good friends. He made her laugh and cry. She felt full of anger one minute, and love the next. She never knew what mood this prince would be in, and her moods changed with his.
One day he told her, “I’m so happy with my wonderful life, for I’m a man who is free to travel. I’ve seen many amazing places, from the mysterious East to the Wild West, and I’d love to show them to you.”
But the next day she was confused when he told her something much different. He said, “I’m so sad about my miserable life because my time is not my own. All my father sees in me is a boy he can use to run errands. He doesn’t realize I wish to lead battles and slay dragons and save damsels in distress.”
His feelings about her changed each day, too. One day he told her that she was kind and that she made him happy. The next day he told her that she wanted too much attention and that she made him angry. She felt exhausted trying to keep up with his many moods, yet she also felt lucky to be with this exciting man.
The Princess thought, “Surely this is the prince I’ve been waiting for, for when I’m with him I feel so many deep feelings: happiness, sadness, anger, confusion, love. These feelings are deep indeed.”
But, “No,” said the Fairy Godmother. “You are mistaken. He is not the one.”
And the prince went back to his kingdom, until one day his father put him in charge of an army and he died in battle in a faraway land. The Princess cried when he left and cried when he died. For a year she wouldn’t venture outside the castle, and she began to doubt the words of the Fairy Godmother.
Fed up, she decided to leave her kingdom in search of adventure. She filled a purse with gold, mounted her horse, and rode off to faraway lands.
The Princess saw many things on her travels. She lived among peasants and taught reading, writing, and piano to the children at their village school. She went to the largest mountain she’d ever seen and hired a guide to help her climb to the top. From that high perch she saw the ocean, and decided to travel there. When she arrived at the ocean she came upon a graceful sailing ship, and paid the captain the last of her gold to take her across the waters and teach her to sail.
Across vast seas she sailed. She braved waves that almost knocked the ship over, learned to find her way by the stars, and watched dolphins at play.
Finally she arrived upon a strange shore, and decided to live there. She gathered and polished seashells to sell to the rich lords and ladies who visited the quiet beach.
One afternoon, as she sat amid the shells and watched the sunset, she leaned back and stretched, soaking in the warmth of the sun’s rays. She thought, “How beautiful is the golden sun. How powerful, yet soothing is the sound of the waves upon the sand.”
A deep feeling of peace came upon her, the deepest feeling of peace she had ever known. The feeling made her smile. Then a shadow fell across her face.
She looked up into the most amazing eyes she had ever seen. There, standing beside her, was a prince. His green eyes sparkled with kindness, laughter, and curiosity. They reminded her of the same soothing ocean waves that had comforted her. He looked familiar, as if she had seen him before.
He said, “I’m sorry to disturb you, but you have the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen, and I felt that I must tell you so.” She smiled wider, but said nothing. She was trying to place his face. So he continued, “I often come here just to watch the sunsets and listen to the peaceful sound of the waves. It’s a comforting sound, like a sound of home.”
“I was just thinking almost the same thing,” she replied.
“Ah, I thought I recognized that smile,” said the prince. His eyes fell on the collection of shining, colorful seashells gathered at her feet. “You collect shells?” he asked.
“I sell them.”
“But music and stories aren’t merchandise to be bought and sold. They’re gifts to be shared,” he said.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “Stories? Music? What do you mean?”
“You mean you’ve never listened to a seashell sing you its story?” asked the prince.
The Princess shook her head.
The young man picked up a large white shell with a sunset-colored spiral leading to its hidden center, and held it to her ear. She heard the gentle but powerful roar of the sea, and laughed.
“Oh, that,” she said. “I’ve heard the sound of the ocean inside a shell before. It certainly is a magical sound. But I hear no singing, no story.”
“To hear a shell sing its story, you must listen not just with the ear, but with the soul. That is where all stories begin, deep within each one of us,” the prince explained.
He then listened to the shell, looked up at the setting sun and told the Princess a story, of the faraway shore where the shell was first formed: “In that kingdom there are no battles. It’s a land where love is constant and joyful, never painful or confusing. In that country, both laughter and tears are valued – when you cry there is alway s someone who will hold your hand, and when someone laughs you know the laughter is true. It is a place where everyone follows their dreams, and no one makes fun of them or criticizes them for doing so. It is a country where people are kind. It is a place of peace.
“But the shell grew bored lying on that peaceful beach. So one day it found its way to the great ocean currents and floated away in search of other lands. On its journey, the shell was pounded by waves and scoured by wind. After floating at sea for many days, it grew homesick. Finally, it landed on this shore, very tired and lonely. Then a lovely princess picked it up and polished it, and discovered the hidden beauty within the shell. That beauty was created by all the crashing and pounding, by the winds and waves that had tossed it at sea. And now it lies here in your hand, waiting to tell the end of its story.”
The Princess felt that the prince had read her mind, and that the story was about her in some way.
“Will you come and walk with me on the beach?” he asked.
She took his outstretched hand and walked with him. They talked, and she learned that the story of the seashell was not hers, but his own. The prince had once been a poor man, raised by peasants in a land far to the West. His parents and his neighbors had always seemed sad to him and he’d never understood why. So he had left in search of happiness.
He had been gone many years before he realized that the sadness was within him. Then he arrived on this beach and stayed. Each day, as he listened to the waves, they slowly taught him to be happy. His only disappointment was that, although he met many visitors to this beach, none of them seemed to understand how waves could make someone happy.
That’s when the Princess realized why the man seemed so familiar. She whispered to her Fairy Godmother, “This is the prince you told me about many years ago, isn’t he?”
Her unseen companion appeared one last time. The Fairy Godmother smiled, nodded, and vanished into a beam of sunlight. The beam touched an ordinary seashell, chipped and broken and dull, and the shell flashed with a momentary sparkle of light. The Princess picked it up and held it to her ear. She heard the faint sound of singing. The sound filled her with a great love for this man who had opened her ears to the possibility of music in unexpected places. She beckoned to the prince and held the shell to his ear.
“Do you hear it?” she asked.
And, of course, he did.
As she got to know the prince in the days and weeks and months that followed, sometimes she felt sad. Sometimes she grew angry. Sometimes she was confused. Often she laughed with joy. Always she felt love. Whatever happened in the years ahead, she knew this was the Prince she had been looking for. She knew because, forever after, whenever she was with him, in her heart she felt peace, the deepest of feelings.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you, and may you all be blessed with the discovery I have made: that love is not a destination to travel to, but rather a place to come from.