The Princess and the Progress
Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Bygone, a royal baby was born. The king and queen had tried for many years to have a child, but with no success. As their frustration and sorrow grew, the kingdom prayed. And then, after five long years, Queen Sophie discovered she was pregnant. For nine months, the kingdom held its collective breath and King Antioch hovered nervously.
Finally, one bright spring day, the baby was born. The king and queen were now parents to the most beautiful baby girl they had ever laid eyes on. They named her Aurora and the kingdom exhaled.
When Aurora was one month old, her parents held a celebration. Everyone in the kingdom was invited, and some lined up for hours to offer gifts and blessings to the new princess. The king and queen received each guest in turn. The pile of gifts grew and the blessings included things like health, happiness, good eyesight, and a strong stomach.
As mid-afternoon rolled around, a strange-looking woman stepped up to take her turn. She had frizzy hair, dainty features, and wings. It took King Antioch a moment to realize he was actually looking at a fairy. But not just any fairy. This one clearly belonged to the Radical Fairies from the far side of the realm. As he moved in his seat, Queen Sophie placed her hand on his arm.
“We did invite everyone in the kingdom,” she said quietly.
With a grumble, King Antioch waved the fairy forward.
The fairy stepped up to Aurora’s bassinet and smiled. “The princess is so lovely,” she said. Then she began to wave her wand. “The fates they move both hot and cold, but mortals must not question why. When the princess is 18 years old, she will prick her finger on a needle and die.” The fairy grinned and vanished in a puff of smoke.
Up until then, the day had been going really well. As the fairy’s words sank in, King Antioch jumped to his feet and bellowed across the room. “The celebration is over. Everyone must leave the castle immediately.” He grabbed the bassinet, took Sophie’s hand, and practically flew to their private chambers.
After a lot of pacing and cursing, King Antioch knew what he had to do.
The following day, a Royal Decree was issued. It banned all needles and needled things from the kingdom. That included spindles, brooches, hairpins, and needles used for sewing, knitting, embroidery, cross-stitching, crocheting, needlepoint, and lace-making.
The decree created some challenges for the kingdom. For example, all clothing now had to be imported from other realms, and women had to find creative ways to keep their hair up. But the greatest challenge was finding things for the girls of the realm to do. Until the decree, while the boys of the realm went to school, the girls were taught to spin thread or sew and knit, or they learned how to make lace, or do needlepoint. They were also taught how to put their hair up. Some were lucky enough to receive lessons in music or dance, but there’s only so much singing and dancing you can do. As it was, most of the girls were left twiddling their thumbs, which was slowly driving their parents crazy.
As King Antioch listened to yet another complaint from a parent—this one with three young daughters—he found himself at a loss about what to do. Queen Sophie placed her hand on his arm.
“I have an idea,” she said. The king leaned in and Sophie whispered in his ear. When she finished, he looked at her dubiously. She raised her eyebrows. “Well, do you have a better idea?”
So King Antioch issued another decree. This one proclaimed that all girls in the realm would now be expected to attend school, just like the boys.
When Aurora was old enough, she attended school as well. She was a bright girl who grew into a bright young woman. As King Antioch watched his daughter soak up her education like a sponge, he wondered why he hadn’t insisted that girls go to school sooner. Sure, the tapestries on the castle walls were looking a little ragged with no one to repair them, but his daughter’s mastery of trigonometry held a different kind of beauty.
Eventually, Aurora’s eighteenth birthday arrived. That autumn, she set off for college. As the royal procession made its way through the countryside, they came upon a quaint museum.
“Stop,” Aurora said to the coachman. She hopped out of her carriage and wandered over to peruse the items sitting on the museum’s front lawn. “What’s that?” She pointed to a strange wooden contraption.
“M’lady.” The curator stammered, clearly unaccustomed to having visitors. “That is a spinning wheel.”
The king’s carriage pulled up behind Aurora’s. King Antioch watched in horror as his daughter approached the spinning wheel. As he moved to try and intercept her, Queen Sophie placed her hand on his arm.
“Don’t worry,” she said.
He paused, halfway out of the carriage.
“Ouch!” Aurora yelped. The king looked at his daughter. She had pricked her finger on the spinning wheel’s spindle. But, instead of collapsing to the ground, Aurora simply grinned and sucked the tip of her finger. Then she examined a few more items before turning and climbing back into her carriage.
King Antioch looked at his wife, who smiled serenely.
“Sometimes you need a little magic to make good things happen,” she said.
As understanding dawned, King Antioch got back in the carriage and the royal procession continued moving forward.
This story was inspired by this week’s WordPress Weekly Challenge, which asked us to think about a lost art. For some reason, I thought of spinning wheels, which naturally made me think of Sleeping Beauty. I hope you enjoyed my take on the fairy tale!
I’m also linking up with the moonshine grid over at the yeah write community. It’s a great place for you and your blog to hang out on the weekends.