This old French fairytale is lovely but A Little Creepy in parts. An evil mouse orders a young girl to play with fire and burn things down. A prince looks after her, and does not believe her story about the evil rodent.
Read by Natasha
Adapted by Bertie from Old French Fairytales by Comtesse de Ségur
Illustrator: Virginia Frances Sterrett (1900–1931)
Music: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune By Debussy Apollo Symphony Orchestra Partners in Rhyme.
The Evil Mouse
Hello, This is Natasha and I’m here with an old French fairy tale about an evil mouse. Listen on, if you dare.
One night, a prince and his hunting party rode through a forest by torchlight. The dogs were on the trail of a fawn. The little creature darted across a stream and hid itself among some bushes, but the pack of hounds did not run her down. Instead, they stopped by the stream and gathered around something else that they had unexpectedly discovered. The prince rode up and jumped down onto the ground. He parted his way through the pack, and only now did he see what they had found. A young girl lay by the side of the stream. He knelt down and felt the pulse in her neck. She was alive – just. Her clothes were simple, but when he held her hand in his, he saw that her skin was fine and white and her nails were carefully manicured.
“Lady, wake up, you should not sleep here, there are wild beasts in the forest who may harm you.”
But she did not awake.
The prince called for his men to cut down some branches, to tie them together, and to make a stretcher. This they did, and they carried the sleeping maiden back to the castle where the serving maids laid in her a soft bed.
An entire day and night went by before she awoke. When the prince heard the news that she had opened her eyes, he went to her room and knelt down by her side.
“Have no fear,” he said, “for you are safe here.”
As she turned her lovely head towards him, her large eyes filled with tears, and she said, imploringly, “I am truly afraid, but not for the any of the reasons that you might suspect. The person I fear more than any being, from the natural or the supernatural world, is myself. Yes, I am the one that I fear, and so should you. Do not trust me. I will not repay your kindness well. If you are wise, you will turn me out. Do this, I beg you: send me away from your lovely castle before I do you harm. ”
The prince smiled and said, “Fair maiden, you do not seem to me like one I should fear. You’ve been unwell, and you’ve had a bad dream, that is all.”
“Oh I how I wish that it were true!” exclaimed the girl. “I will give you my story, and when you have heard it through, tell me then if it sounds like a dream.”
The prince agreed to her proposal. He settled himself in a chair in the corner of the room and listened to what the young girl had to say.
“My name”, she said, “is Rosalie and I am a few days short of my sixteenth birthday. Until recently, I lived with my good father. He always treated me gently, and in the main I returned his generosity and kindness with obedience, as a good daughter should. But there was one occasion when I disobeyed his orders, and oh how I regret my foolish actions! It was my childish curiosity that got the better of me!
“We lived in a large house surrounded by a lovely garden. I wandered freely wherever I wished, except to one place where I was forbidden to go. At the bottom of the garden there stood a little shed. Every morning, before breakfast, my father visited that shed. When he left it, he locked the door firmly behind him and placed the key in his pocket. Many times I asked him what was inside the shed, and he always replied:
‘Rosalie, do not ask, and if you respect me, do not try to satisfy your curiosity on this matter. On no account must you ever go inside the shed.’
‘Yes father, I promise,’ I said. And for many years, I kept my word, until one day, after my father left the house wearing his best suit, I noticed that he had placed the key to the shed on the side table. It was large and rusty, and no doubt would not have fitted easily into his suit pocket. I looked at the key for a long time and wondered:
‘Why does father not want me to look inside the shed? Surely he does not have a prisoner inside there, for he is too kind for that? And if it were some wild, ferocious beast, would I not hear it roar? Could it be that I have a relative, some family member, of whom he is ashamed for some reason? Is that possible? If that is so, I have a right to know, and if I do not take this opportunity to find out, I might never discover the truth of this dark secret.’
And so with great trepidation, I picked up the key and I walked slowly, but determinedly, down the garden path to the shed. When I reached the wooden building, I turned the key in the lock. It was stiff, but I managed to release the bolt. I pushed the door open a little way, and called out:
‘Is there anyone inside?’
I thought I heard a little squeaking sound. I put my ear closer to the gap in the doorway and I heard a song:
A lonely prisoner I pine,
No hope of freedom now is mine;
I soon must draw my final breath,
And in this dungeon meet my death.
‘So it’s true,’ I said to myself, ‘here is the unfortunate creature whom my father holds captive.’
Tapping softly upon the door, I said: ‘Who are you, and what can I do for you?’
‘Open the door, Rosalie! I pray you open the door!’
‘But why are you a prisoner? Have you committed some crime?’
‘Alas! no, Rosalie. An enchanter keeps me here a prisoner. Save me and I will prove my gratitude by telling you who I truly am.’
My hand trembled as I pushed the door fully open. I peered into an apparently empty shed. Then, I noticed something scuttling across the floorboards towards me.
UGHH! It was horrid little mouse! A dirty gray colour he was, with a disgusting tale like a piece of string. I froze to the spot. The mouse stopped by my foot and looked up at me with his piercing red eyes.
‘Rosalie!’ he said, in his evil little voice, ‘You have delighted me with your foolishness ! So it has turned out that curiosity didn’t just kill the cat. It has been the downfall of you and your father.’
I began to sob. ‘What do you mean little mouse?’ I asked, ‘What have I done that is so wrong?’
‘Nothing!’ exclaimed the mouse, ‘Your disobedience of your father has turned out wonderfully – for me. He! He! He! I am the fairy who goes by the name of Detestable. It is a name that suits me well, because all who are foolish, gentle and good detest me! HA HA HA! And none more so than your father who turned me into a mouse and imprisoned me in this shed. Now you have broken your word to him, and you have followed my commands to the letter. You are in my power Rosalie, and from now on must do all that I say.’
‘I shall not!’ I exclaimed. ‘Why should I obey you? – you’re just a wicked little mouse.’
‘You shall soon see about that,’ he squeaked, and he ran towards the house. I chased after the dirty rodent, and tried to crush him in the door, but he slipped inside. Then I grabbed a broom with which to beat him, but it immediately burst into flames and burnt to ashes. Next I seized a kettle of boiling water and poured its contents over my tiny enemy, but as the water fell to the floor, it transformed into cold milk, and formed a puddle on the stones of the kitchen.
‘It’s no use,’ squealed the mouse exultantly, ‘You can’t kill me because I’m a fairy, and now you must do as I say. Go to the fire, light a taper, and burn down the house.’
‘I shall not,’ I said. But already I felt my resistance was weakening. I could not help myself. And I admit to you that this part only of my sorry story felt like a dream – I did as the detestable little creature said – I went to the fire, lit a taper, and then used it to set alight to the thatch of the house which overhung the window. It has been a dry summer, and the roof caught fire quickly. Soon an almighty blaze took hold of the building.
‘What have I done? What have I done?’ I exclaimed, and I ran out of the house, down the garden path, and into the forest. I kept on running through thickets and briars until I came to the stream where you found me. There, I fell into a deep sleep.
Now do you not believe me? Am I not the most disobedient and ungrateful child who ever lived? Does my wickedness not fill you with repugnance? What are you waiting for, why have you not turned me out?”
The prince sat still for a moment. Then he said kindly, “You asked me at the start of your story to judge if your tale has the ring of real life, or if it sounds to me like a terrible dream. I have listened to all you have said, and while the strength of your feelings and your sincere horror makes every word seem true to yourself, to me, who is not so close to this story, it has the quality of a fairy tale. I have no fear of a fairy disguised as a mouse. Such characters are invented by nurses to scare their children into obedience. It is no doubt something you heard when you were very little, and it has returned to you in your fever as a vivid dream. I am not a doctor, but I proscribe chicken broth and lots of a rest. In a few days time, your strength will be restored, and you will see this story through my eyes for what it is – a bad dream.“
Rosalie was too weak and weary to argue any more. She was soothed by the kind words of the prince, and comforted by the softness of her pillow, and the warmth of her covers. Soon she fell back into a gentle sleep. A few days later, as the prince has predicted, she felt recovered and strong enough to walk around the garden. There she found many pretty flowers and sweet singing birds. Her nerves were soothed, and she felt happier than she could remember. Eventually she came to a tall tree that was wrapped in a cloth. She felt a burning curiosity to see what the tree looked like under its covering. Although she knew that she should not do this, for she was a mere guest in the castle, she slipped her fingers between the gaps in the canvass and undid the studs that held it together. Suddenly, there was a clap of thunder, and the cover fell to the ground. Rosalie stood back and stared in amazement. It was a tree of marvelous beauty with a coral trunk and leaves of emeralds. The fruits were of precious stones of all colors—diamonds, sapphires, pearls, rubies, opals, topazes. While she was still dazzled by the brilliance of what she had discovered, she heard a little voice. It said:
“Rosalie. Listen to me. Go to where the gardener has set up a bonfire to burn old leaves. Fetch flames from the fire and burn down this tree. Do as I say Rosalie. Do not resist for you will only tire yourself out if you fight me. You are in my power and have no choice. “
And again, as if in a dream, Rosalie did as the little mouse said, and went to fetch the flames. She set light to the wonderful tree, and surprisingly soon its trunk and branches were a heap of ashes on the ground. Some little goblins appeared, and following the directions of the mouse, they picked up the precious stones and leaves and carried them off.
Rosalie watched on helplessly. When the goblins and the mouse had disappeared from sight, she sobbed hot tears and tore at her dress.
“I have betrayed my host who was so kind to me; the charming prince who, if I had only played my cards right, might have brought me joy and happiness for the rest of my life. Oh what a fool am I ! I should not blame that magical mouse, for he cannot help being evil. It is I who am my own worst enemy!”
When she had made this speech, to noone but herself, she ran out of the garden and into the fields behind the castle. She ran and she ran, this time determined to find a lonely spot where she could fall into one last dreamless sleep.
It was not long before the gardener discovered the ashes of the tree. He informed the prince, who immediately understood that Rosalie was the one who had done this terrible deed. A guard had seen the girl running across the fields. The prince ordered the stable boy to fetch his horse and his best hunting hound. A maid brought the pillow on which Rosalie had laid her auburn curls, for it bore her scent. The hound was soon on the the trail. They rode across the field, and out onto the moar. Some hours later, the prince discovered Rosalie hiding herself behind a boulder. She had stumbled, twisted her ankle, and could run no further.
“I am so sorry, I am so sorry,” she cried out, “I could not help myself. “
The prince dismounted. “I know,” he said, “there’s no need to tell me. An evil mouse commanded you to burn down the tree. It was a thing of marvelous beauty, planted by my great grandfather, who they say had magical powers.”
“You don’t believe me, do you?” said the girl. “But if your grandfather had magical powers, why is it not possible for an evil fairy to take the form of a mouse?”
“Because”, said the prince, but he did not complete the sentence. Just then he noticed a gray little creature sitting on top of the boulder. The mouse was shaking – with laughter.
“Ha Ha Ha!” said the mouse, “Now you too are in my power.”
“Never!” cried the prince, And so saying he drew the sword that had been made years ago by his grandfather. It was a magical sword that could kill fairies, and with a swipe of its sharp blade he cut off the head of evil rodent.
And that is the story of The Evil Mouse, read by me, Natasha, for Storynory.com
Do I have to tell you that Rosalie married the prince and they lived happily ever after? The only trouble they received from mice after that was the sort that could be dealt with by the castle cats.
Bertie says that he has based the story on “The Little Gray Mouse” by The Countess of Ségur. She was a born in St. Petersburg, in Russia, in the year 1799. Her father was sent into exile, and the family moved to France. The countess wrote a number of novels, as well as a book of Old French Fairy Tales. Bertie has changed this story around a little bit. In our version, there are fewer fairies, and the state of Rosalie’s mind is more important.
And don’t forget, we have loads more free stories, from all over the world, at Storynory.com.