A/N: To my old readers - if there are any reading this... yes, it has been awhile. Years, has it not? Though I have kept in contact with some of you, I'm sure you noticed I suddenly dissapeared from the face of the earth for awhile. I didn't really think I'd ever upload anything here again.. but upon an e-mail today, from a Reviewer tht I never expected to hear from, asking me to update Perchance to Dream kind of jolted me back into a writing sort of mode. I was surprised that anyone actually liked it - aside from Digidaydreamer and Nickel City. So here I am, back into the writing world... and if that one reviewer is reading t his, the new chapter of PTD will be up shortly. Perhaps you will enjoy, or not, this story I wrote for my College Writing class.
This is a retelling of a Grimm fairy tale. I believe the original was titled: The Golden Bird. This time, however, it is through a very different perspective.
Through Fox Eyes I See
An Alternate Retelling of a Classic Grimm Fairytale
By: Belle the Shadow-cat
It is not easy living a life as a fox – particularly if you happen to be a cursed one. And that was what I happened to be: a cursed one. Exactly how I was cursed I cannot speak of, for a block was put upon my mind that inhibits me from doing so. The curse left me changed. I still looked much like a normal fox of the red-furred variety, albeit with an abnormally long tail and strength unbefitting for one of my kind. For many years I dealt with this curse, and though man y would say I was not altogether unfortunate, I was very much eager to be rid of it.
The details for getting rid of it were none-too desirable, namely the cutting off of my head and legs. The person of which I had to instruct to perform the gruesome task, also had his or her own requirements. First, he or she must trust me, secondly he or she must perform the said task with his or her own will; I couldn't threaten them to do it, nor could I outright demand it of them, otherwise, there were no other stipulations.
Time and time again I had attempted to waylay persons of various statuses, hoping to aid them in some way. After all, how else was I to gain their trust? But that did not come easily. I was a fox, after all, and we were preceded by an unsavory reputation for betrayal and deceit.
Nevertheless, I was a patient fox, and I was always seeking out opportunities. At times I would sneak into various houses and gardens, hoping to overhear some plight in which I could make myself available, as well as gather tidbits of information. I would not doubt it if I was the most knowledgeable of persons concerning the territories and various going ons between the citizens of the kingdom.
It was during one of my ventures that I snuck into the residence of one of the areas kings. I had snuck into the area many times before, and knew much about the current residence that resided in the castle. The most prominent of which was the king and his three sons.
The king was a selfish man. He had an appetite for everything he did not have. He thought he was very charismatic and good-looking, though he was anything but. I had seen the fool in more situations that I care to remember. None of them suggested he had a grain of intelligence. It offended me to think he was in charge of a number of towns.
The eldest son resembled his father in terms of personality. He thought himself highly intelligent, and that he was too good for anyone. I had no doubt that he was severely spoiled as a child, and I doubted he ever was left wanting anything in his life. The second oldest son was even more lacking on the intelligence department. He, however, was good looking (by popular consensus of the female population) and possessed a personality that was tolerable to get along with, even if he was stupid. The last son was by far the one with the best qualities. No doubt, he took after his deceased mother. He was gentle faced with black hair, and obviously had a bit of common sense. He was an easy-going boy, and quite amiable to get along with – his father, I noticed, did not see him that way. The king saw the boy – Eli as he was called – as a runt of the litter, hardly to be paid attention to. Thus, he was hardly influenced by the King.
I don't think the king ever made a more wise decision in his short, pointless life.
Now, I had been watching their residence for a few days. In the palace's garden their lay a golden apple tree, rare to be sure. At this time, they were close to becoming ripe, and being the possessive person that he was, counted every apple upon the golden tree. The king was ecstatic to find the tree in such good health, until, that is, he found that one apple was missing a few days later.
The king was very much appalled by this fact, and set his eldest son out to guard the apple tree, and to catch the no-good thief who had gotten away his prized possession. The eldest son attempted to guard it, but upon the rise of the moon at midnight he fell asleep, letting the winged perpetrator escape with yet another apple. This, of course, preempted the king to send out his second son. Still, at midnight, the second son succumbed to sleep and another apple was stolen. Of course, one would be led to expect the third son would be allowed to guard, and he was, even if the king doubted that the boy would have any success. However, the boy had. The youth had fended off the golden bird as it descended with an arrow, not quite bringing it down, but hitting it in the wing. He received a golden feather for his troubles.
As you might expect, the king was more then happy to take the feather out of his son's hands, deeming it worth more than the apples themselves. He was not satisfied with one feather, he wanted the whole bird, and he planned to send his eldest son to do the job.
I knew where the Golden Bird roosted, so I made sure that I would be spotted when the eldest son walked passed. After all, this was a chance to break the curse.
As I expected, I had a run in with the fellow at the outskirts of the thick woods. I was about to chat with the eldest son, when he decided to point his gone at me. That had not gone as planned, so I decided, knowing his prideful nature, to be a suppliant creature.
"Do not shoot me, great sir!" I implored, in my most humble town, holding up a black-tipped paw. He was staring at me, but at least he seemed willing to entertain my request. " In return for your mercy I will give you good counsel. I know that you are on a quest for the Golden Bird, so I will give you this advice: You shall arrive at a village by nightfall, and you will find two inns next to one another. One is an elegant, merry place with many people therein, and though you may be tempted to go in it, do not. It is the second you must enter, despite its grim nature."
In thanks for my advice, he cocked his gun and pulled the trigger. The shot was ill-aimed, and I managed to avoid it, fleeing into a clump of bushes, glaring as he strutted confidently away. Inwardly, I hoped he forsook my advice, and went into the merry inn. To my uttermost delight, I found out the eldest son had done what I had hoped, and went into the second inn. He had forgotten all about the Golden Bird, his father, and everything else.
The second son came upon my path about a month later. I was standing at the usual place, my long fluffy tail curled around my body. This boy was more amiable, and responded well to certain things, so I said in a humble, though obviously awed voice: "Please do not shoot me, sir! Pray tell me, are you great son of the king who lives just hither?" I pointed to the direction of his castle with my paw.
He seemed pleased, and nodded dumbly.
"Then I have come up to offer you advice, for I know you seek the golden bird."
He didn't respond with thanks, even though he took awhile to digest what I had said, he merely asked, "How?"
My face was deadpan, and I wondered how such stupidity was possible – but then I remembered his father. "I had heard of your coming journey and bravery from the fair maidens of which you have acquaintance with." I paused. He didn't comprehend. I cleared my throat. "In other words, your girlfriends told me."
That rung a bell. The nod he gave me I supposed was indication to go on. I intended to make my instructions as simple as possible. "In the next town you arrive in, there will be two inns next to each other, go into the one that doesn't have any maidens – girls – in."
And so he set off. I had heard tell at a later time that he had not heeded my advice. Whether this was for want of intelligence, or the fact he just disobeyed my orders because there were girls in the other inn, I didn't know.
Now, that left only one son to take up the task. I hoped he was as intelligent as I thought him to be, and waited patiently for him to arrive. He came a week later, looking as determined as a full-fledged knight would be rescuing their beloved princess. He was carrying a gun like his brother's had.
"Please, sir, do not harm me! If you do not, I will give you counsel."
The youth smiled, and waved his hand dismissively. "Be easy and do not fear, Little Fox, you need no offer me your counsels, for I shall not harm you."
"Nevertheless," said I, "I shall give you advice, and you shall not regret it. I know you seek the Golden Bird, and I know where it rests. Allow me to take you there at great speed –" I noticed his incredulous look. "— I am stronger then I appear. Come! Take hold of my tail."
With a great burst of speed, I took him to the village. I arrived in good time, giving him the same advice as I had his foolish brothers, telling him to meet me at daybreak. He acquiesced, doing as I instructed. Upon the next morning, I met with him, and told him next what he must do.
" Go on quite straight when I leave you, and you will soon come to a castle, in front of which a whole regiment of soldiers is lying, but do not trouble yourself about them, for they will all be asleep and snoring. Go through the midst of them straight into the castle, and fear nothing. Go through all the rooms, until you come upon a chamber where a Golden Bird is hanging in a wooden cage. Close by, there stands an empty gold cage for show, but beware of taking the bird out of the common cage and putting it into the fine one, or it may go badly with you."
I wished him well after I had taken him to the outskirts of where the castle lay, having confidence in him. I waited for him 'till the next day had come. He never passed me, and out of concern, I went my way to the front of the castle myself, and noticing the obvious hubbub, inquired of one of the soldiers: "What is this great commotion about? It has awakened me from my den."
"We have just sentenced one who would have taken our king's Golden Bird to death, unless he brings my king the legendary Golden Horse. If the boy can, the king shall spare his life."
I scowled, though not at the fact the boy had tried to take the Golden Bird, he had obviously not followed my instructions. And when I came across the youth, I told him so.
"Look you," I growled, flashing my gleaming fangs, "this has happened because you did not give heed to me. However, be of good courage. I will give you my help once more, and tell you how to get to the Golden Horse. You must go straight on from where I leave you, and you will come to another castle. Go into the stables, and you shall find a horse. The grooms will be lying in front of the stable; but they will be asleep and snoring, and you can quietly lead out the Golden Horse. But of one thing you must take heed; put on him the common saddle of wood and leather, and not the golden one, which hangs close by, else it will go ill with you."
I took him near the castle in question, reminding him in case he had forgotten, to put upon the horse the saddle of wood. Then, I left him.
Again, he landed himself in prison for his efforts. He had not heeded my advice, for I had watched him secretly. I liked the boy, but it bode ill with me that he should throw away my explicit advice twice. Nevertheless, when the youth was set free on the condition he bring the princess from the Golden Castle to him, and if he did so, he'd receive his life and the Golden Horse in return.
Now, I knew very well where the whereabouts of the beautiful princess was, and I knew even more so, how to bring the princess out of her abode. So when the youth stumbled upon me, black hair uncombed, and his face weary, I decided to give him yet another chance, and in so doing hoped to gain my fortune as well.
"I ought only to leave you to your ill-luck," said I, making no attempt to hide my disappointment in him, "but I pity you, and will help you once more out of your trouble. This road takes you straight to the Golden Castle, you will reach it by eventide; and at night when everything is quiet the beautiful princess goes to the bathing-house to bathe. When she enters it, run up to her and give her a kiss, then she will follow you, and you can take her away with you." I cleared my throat, hoping to emphasize the final requirement. "But I warn you, do not allow her to take leave of her parents first, or it will go ill with you."
As I dropped him off at the trial to the castle, I made it a point to follow him. I was concerned for the Princess's wellbeing as well. I kept to the shadows, watching everything closely. I would not correct him if he went along the wrong path, so I made sure to keep well-hid in the berry bushes. He did well at first, until the princess had convinced him, with tears in her eyes, to let her ask leave of her parents first.
Head under paws, I groaned. At least I knew with surety the second son would have proceeded better at this situation. The thought filled me with a slight twinge of regret, but only a little.
I thought that was the end of my companion, but the king was merciful, and I heard him say to the boy: "You can only find mercy if you take away the hill which stands in front of my windows, and prevents my seeing beyond it; and you must finish it all within eight days. If you do that you shall have my daughter as your reward."
My ears pricked up at this, for I cared about the Princess exceedingly much for reasons of my own, and endeavored to make sure that this quest turned out to be a successful one. Still, I was discontented with the fact that the boy had not heeded my advice, and was inclined to have him dig himself for the first six days. He, however, was getting nowhere, it was plain to be seen. Not to mention it was exceedingly painful for me to watch. The youth was weary and tired, and had gone without sleep for many days. So, on the seventh morning, I approached him and said: "You do not deserve that I should take any trouble about you; but just go away and lie down to sleep, and I will do the work for you."
And I did so, for I was not a normal fox. The dirt fell easily under my claws, and by the eighth morning, the deed was done. I left the boy to sleep where he was, slinking out passed the boy, around a large mound of dirt, lest any guards see me.
When the boy awoke, I followed him. He was well rested, and looked as happy as the first day in which he came upon me. The king was honorable and true to his word, and let him go, allowing his daughter to leave with him.
The youth looked for me, but I kept myself purposely hidden, watching the interactions between the prince and princess. He treated her well, and with respect. Had he not, I would have seen to it she was brought out of his possession; but she was in good cheer, and happier then I had seen her in a long time, so I was compelled to help him once more.
I smiled as I stepped onto the path, looking up at him with my intelligent black eyes. I halted him with an upraised paw, and said good-naturedly: "You have certainly got what is best." The Princess blushed. "But the Golden Horse also belongs to the maiden of the Golden Castle."
The youth was concerned, looking at the princess for confirmation.
"It is so," she replied, her blue eyes sparkling.
"How shall I get it?" asked the youth.
"That I will tell you," I answered in good humor, "first take the beautiful maiden to the King who sent you to the Golden Castle. There will be unheard-of rejoicing; they will gladly give you the Golden Horse, and will bring it out to you. Mount it as soon as possible, and offer your hand to all in farewell; last of all to the beautiful maiden. And as soon as you have taken her hand swing her up on to the horse, and gallop away, and no one will be able to bring you back, for the horse runs faster than the wind."
I would know, for I had ridden the Golden Horse, once upon a time. Both Prince and Princess promised to do so, and I would not be left behind, and followed him from a distance. They arrived at the castle, and all was as I predicted. It went inconceivably well, and I accosted him on his journey on the back of the Golden Horse.
"You also seek the Golden Bird, which is the maiden's possession as well," said "So I will help you get the Golden Bird. When you come near to the castle where the Golden Bird is to be found, let the maiden get down, and I will take her into my care. Then ride with the Golden Horse into the castle-yard; there will be great rejoicing at the sight, and they will bring out the Golden Bird for you. As soon as you have the cage in your hand gallop back to us."
He galloped away naught a minute later, a joyful expression upon his features.
"I must thank you for your help, dear Fox," said the fair skinned princess, "for getting my possessions back and helping the Prince."
"It is no problem at all," I replied. "If there is anything else I may help the fair maiden with, I would do so. But tell me first, are you happy?"
"I am," the princess said.
It was not long before the Prince returned, successful in his endeavor. Now he had it all: The Golden Bird, the Golden Horse, and the Maiden. I had helped him, and surely he trusted me and would do as I asked. It was time to ask for my well-earned favor.
"Perhaps you would consider rewarding me for my help," I began, "for I am in great need of a favor."
"What do you require? If it is within my realm, I shall do it."
"When you get into the wood yonder, shoot me dead, and chop off my head and feet."
"That would be a show of gratitude to one who has so helped me, no doubt" the prince replied, looking grim. "I'm afraid I cannot bring myself to possibly do that for you."
"If you will not do it I must leave you, but before I go away I will give you a piece of good advice. Be careful about two things. Buy no gallows'-flesh, and do not sit at the edge of any well."
And I left, saddened that I would not be allowed to be set free. But my chance came again when it came to my attention the prince had disobeyed my orders, buying his brothers when they were sentenced to be hanged. They, in turn, pushed him into the well, making away with the treasures the Prince had worked to hard to acquire.
His two brothers had already made it to their kingdom, bluffing that they had accomplished the tasks when it was not so, having threatened the princess with death if she was to speak. I was determined not to help the youth, and leave him to make his own way out of the well; but after I had heard of the grief of the princess and her golden possessions, as well as taking into account the prince's brother's lies and betrayal, I hardened my resolve. I was a compassionate creature, and it was beyond me to leave a friend to die in a well, so stealing a rope from the village in question, I went to the well, looking down it, glad to see my friend unhurt. "Once again, friend, you refuse to heed my advice. But yet I cannot give it up so, for the Princess is grieved and the Golden Bird will not sing, and the Golden Horse will not eat; so I will help you up again into daylight."
"You are not out of all danger yet," I said, as he clambered out of the well. "Your brothers were not sure of your death, and have surrounded the wood with watchers, who are to kill you if you let yourself be seen. But there is a poor man whom you might change clothes with, and travel in disguise." And in this way we made it to the king's palace.
The Prince reunited with his dear Princess and were married, and after he had told his father of his brothers' treason, the king made a rash, yet wise decision in some aspects, to hang his sons.
As for me, I lived out my life in the outer woods, watching as the Prince and Princess lived a happy life, though I was without a true life of my own. Finally, I could take it no longer, and came up to the prince, and pleaded with him.
"You have everything now that you can wish for, but there is never an end to my misery, and yet it is in your power to free me," and again I asked him to shoot me dead, and chop off my head and feet.
With much pain, he acquiesced.
I was plunged into darkness for but a short while, by whole body aflame and writhing. I could feel a transformation come over me, and when I next opened my eyes, I was full of joy, for I was back to my original self again.
I was a man – a prince in fact!
Even more to my delight was when I was finally reunited with my dear sister, who I could never speak of my curse before. She was none other then the Prince's new wife whom I had helped rescue.
Now, I can truthfully say we lived happily ever after.