Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, lived a good king and queen. The land was fair and prosperous, but one day there appeared in the forest near the castle a wicked witch, and, as you might imagine, things became less fair and prosperous after that.
The witch was very old and very ugly. She had huge bushy eyebrows and a nose that was so long that you wouldn’t believe me if I tried to describe it to you: some said that it looked like a gurney. Well, what happened was that people who wandered into the forest fell under the enchantment of the witch and, no matter who they were, or what they looked like before, they turned into very old and very ugly people with exceedingly long noses. The witch, who was evil at heart and always trying to turn good things into bad, also gave the people a grumbling attitude so that they never tried to solve their problems, but just shuffled around grumbling all the time.
One day, the king and queen went riding abroad in their royal carriage, and the king remarked to the queen: “How camest it to be that so many of our subjects are old and ugly and have such long noses?” They rode on farther and the queen remarked: “How camest it to be that there is such grumbling in the land, when the weather is fair and the crops are bountiful?”
When the king and queen returned to the castle, the queen went up a long and winding stair, into the highest tower, to a door that was locked with twelve locks. The queen unlocked each lock and then entered a wondrous room that was decorated with mysterious wooden carvings overlaid with gold and inset with jewels. On one side there was affixed to the wall a silver mirror and on the sides of it were two candles in golden candlesticks, and the candles never went out. (Of the creation of this room and its remarkable objects, no tale tells, the castle being very ancient.) The queen approached the mirror and asked in rhyme, as her mother had taught her:
Mirror, mirror on the wall
Why’s there grumbling, one and all,
And why the brows all rough and ferny
And noses long just like a gurney?
The image of the queen in the mirror began to swirl and twirl, and in place of the queen’s image, there appeared the image of Belinda the Wise (the good witch of whom many tales are told). The kindly voice of Belinda replied:
Deep midst the forest, down in a ditch,
There lives a foul and evil witch.
To save the land, and people dear,
The king must go. There he will hear
Three tasks to do, but should he fail,
The king will die, and all shall wail.
That was disturbing news. The queen loved the king very much, and was afraid that he might die, and so she didn’t tell him about what the mirror had said about the tasks. Well, as you can imagine things just got worse and worse. More and more of the people fell under the spell of the witch’s enchantments. Nobody tilled the fields; nobody milked the cows. The cobbler and the blacksmith stopped their trades. Soon there was nothing to eat, and naturally they blamed it all on the king. Indeed, people took to coming to the castle and shouting bad things to the king, saying that they needed a new king, one who make the crops plant and plow themselves, and the cows milk themselves, and the shoes and tools make themselves.
The king was very distressed by this turn of events and decided that he needed to take some time off alone to ponder the solution. So he decided to go hunting in the forest, taking his heroic steed Valencia, his faithful hound Marvo, and his shotgun KABOOM. And he set off towards the forest. Continue Reading →