There are some familiar themes in this French fairytale - and also some unusual twists. Avenant (which means "charming" in French) is sent by a king to woo a Princess on his behalf. Along the way he meets some animals whom he helps out - and as we all know - one good turn deserves another.
But is it a good idea to send somebody else on such a delicate mission as to ask for marriage?
And will the king be grateful to Avenant if he charms the Princess?
And if old people could grow younger - would it just be their looks that changed?
Bertie has adapted this story from a classic French tale by Madame d'Aulnoy (1650 to 1705). It is sometimes known as The Story of Pretty Goldilocks or The Beauty with Golden Hair. We've given it a simpler name and our ending is slightly different from the original.
Adapted by Bertie.
Picture by Bertie
Read by Richard.
Proofread & Sound edited by Jana Elizabeth.
Hello, this is Richard, and I'm here with a classic French fairy tale with some familiar themes and unusual twists.
The Princess Golden.
There was once a king who decided that it was time to get himself a wife. He sent for pictures of all the nearby princesses who were young and single. Having studied the portraits carefully, he whittled his potential queens down to his top three. After a little more consideration, he found the one who was particularly to his liking. Her name was Princess Golden, and she was famous for her long golden hair.
“Certainly, if she’s at least half as pretty as her picture, then she’s the one for me,” thought the king, and feeling pleased with himself for a decision well made, he ordered his most skilled ambassador to go and fetch her. Although this ambassador had never failed in any mission of peace or war, the king ordered him to take twenty one carriages filled with wonderful gifts that would assist his silver tongued speech to hit home.
Princess Golden received the ambassador politely and listened to his honeyed words on behalf of the king. She replied that she was most flattered by his kind offer, but she did not feel ready for marriage. She returned all his wonderful gifts, apart from a box of English pins that were very scarce in her country.
The ambassador returned with the twenty one carriages but no princess. As soon has he arrived home, he sent his family abroad for their safety. The next day he went before the king to report his failure, and was duly punished with life imprisonment.
As the guards led him away, the king called out, “See if you can talk your way out of the dark tower! HA HA!”
The king thought for a week about what could have possibly gone wrong, and decided that the ambassador’s ugly face had reflected badly on his own.
“Next time, I’ll be sure to send a good looking young chap, and she’ll think that a handsome servant works for an even more handsome king,” he thought.
He consulted with all the ladies in court, who all agreed that the most charming, eligible, and good looking man in the service of the king was a messenger called Avenant.
The king summoned Avenant and decided that he did indeed have the right talents for this delicate mission, which he explained in great detail.
“And as a backup policy, you shall take sixty four carriages filled with precious gifts,” said the king enthusiastically.
Avenant bowed deeply before replying, “If I may be so bold, sir, I believe that a lady cannot be bought by riches. I would advise a simple gift to charm and delight her - such as a sweet little dog in a pretty basket. In my humble judgement, sir, such a gift would be the best way to soften her heart.”
“Brilliant,” exclaimed the king, “and far less costly too! What a wonderful chap you are! How clever of me to have chosen you! But should you fail to persuade the princess, don’t bother coming back, unless you fancy living in the dark tower with that old windbag of an ambassador. I had to listen to his long words and boring speeches for years and years, and I can tell you he’s no fun to be with at all.”
Avenant set out for the kingdom of the princess, taking with him a little dog called Cabriole. After walking for some hours, he stopped by a stream to rest and to think about his mission. He must succeed in persuading the princess to marry the king. His whole life depended on it. He looked at Cabriole and said:
“Do you promise to plead your hardest with those big brown eyes of yours?” and Cabriole replied, “Yes master, I shall, and don’t fret, because that look in my eyes never fails to win a heart.”
Just then, there was a sudden splash and a thud on the bank. Cabriole sprung to his four feet with a woof and they both saw that a huge golden carp had jumped right out of the water and landed on the grass, where he was wriggling and gasping. Avenant thought for a moment about what a fine lunch the carp would make, but seeing how the poor creature was struggling for his life, he took pity on him. He scooped up the fish in his hat, and tipped him back into the stream. The carp dived to the bottom, full of joy to be alive, before he popped up again and called back,
“Avenant, my thanks to you, and I’ll be sure to never forget this good turn of yours, for you have saved my life.”
Avenant bowed deeply and went on his way wondering if his hat and his hair now had a slightly fishy smell.
A little later, he was skirting around a field of wheat, when he heard a cawing sound in the sky. He looked up and saw a black crow being chased by an eagle.
“They say that crows are highly intelligent creatures,” he said to himself, and his little companion looked up and said, “Yes, indeed, they are almost as smart as dogs.”
Avenant could not stand by and do nothing to help, so he reached for his hunting bow, took aim, and fired an arrow straight at the eagle. The flying predator fell down and the crow was saved.
“Caw!!!” He called from the sky. “Avenant, my thanks to you, and I shall be sure to never forget this good turn of yours, for you have saved my life.”
Avenant took off his fishy hat and bowed deeply, before continuing on his way.
Towards evening, he was passing through a wood when he heard a frantic “Twit Twoo” sound. He looked up into a tree and saw that an owl had been caught in a net that some woodsmen had stretched between the branches. He took pity on the lovely bird who was in such distress, and using his knife, he cut her free. The owl flapped her brown wings and called out:
“Twit Twoo, Avenant, my thanks to you, and I shall be sure to never forget this good turn of yours, for you have saved my life.”
The next morning, Avenant finally reached the palace of the princess. His arrival was announced to the princess, and she thought, “His name has a pleasing sound. I expect he is far nicer than the first ambassador, that boring fellow with a wart on the end of his nose whose name was something like, Bunionson. I thought he would never stop talking, and I couldn’t wait to get rid of him, though the pins he gave to me have come in handy.”
She started to prepare herself to look her best for the new ambassador, and two hours later she met him in the council hall. She found that he did indeed have a pleasing manner, as well as offering her a delightful dog as a present. She thought to herself, “Well this isn’t the actual chap I’m going to marry. He’s just a messenger. But he’s so nice, I don’t want to ruin his diplomatic career with a straight “no” for an answer. I’d better do the decent thing and send him on an impossible mission.”
“Ahem,” she said. “Your proposal is jolly interesting, but before I can even consider whether to say “yes” or “no,” I need you to do me a small favour. Last week I lost a precious ring in the stream. Can you go and find it for me please?”
The boy bowed deeply and promised to do his best to help the princess out, and backed away from the throne and out of the chamber. Once outside the palace, he was so cross that he threw his hat onto the ground and stamped on it.
“Bother!” He said. “I’ll never find a ring in the bottom of the stream. Some fish has probably eaten it for breakfast by now.”
But his little dog looked up at him and said, “I say master, don’t give up without even trying.”
And Avenant replied, “Yes, I suppose you are right, little Cabriole.”
And they set off back the way they had come. When they reached the bubbling stream, Avenant took off his boots and socks, rolled up his trouser, and waded into the water. He lifted up rocks and delved amongst the water weeds, but the cause was hopeless. He was just about to give up when he heard a loud splashing sound. He looked round and saw the golden carp leaping in and out of the water. And guess what he was holding in his mouth? It was the ring of course! He tossed it to Avenant and called out, “One good turn deserves another,” before diving back into the water and swimming away.
Well you can imagine how pleased the young man was with himself for helping out that fish in its hour of need. He returned to the palace and presented the ring to the princess.
She slipped it onto her finger without any change of expression. Outwardly she was as cool as a cucumber, but inside she was thinking, “Who is this remarkable young man? I must test him further to see if he is more than just lucky. Let’s find out if he’s a wizard with magical powers.”
“Ahem,” she said. “Thank you for finding the ring. But before I can even consider your proposal, there is just one more little thing I must ask you to do for me. Not long before you came along, a giant called Gallifron asked for my hand in marriage. “What, I can’t marry a giant,” I had said, “I can hardly see over the top of your foot, let alone look you in the eye.”
He was very disgruntled by my answer, and told me that all the other princesses he had asked to marry had similar sentiments. Then he gave me a week to change my mind, and said that if I didn’t do as he asked, he would squash all my subjects - now a week is almost up - so I need you to go and kill him please.”
“I can but try,” replied Avenant bravely, and he backed out of the chamber. Once he was outside the palace he took off his left glove and started to eat it.
“Are you hungry, master?” asked his little dog.
“No, I’m just frustrated,” he replied. “That annoying princess is just trying to get rid of me.”
“Well let’s go and take a look at this giant,” said little Cabriole.
“Perhaps she was exaggerating about his size.”
But she hadn’t been exaggerating at all. If anything, he was bigger than she had described. He was as huge as a castle. In fact, he was so big that he kept a cannon to use as a pistol.
Avenant called up to him, “Hey Mr. Giant, I’ve come to give you a good whopping!”
The giant put on his spectacles and peered down to take a closer look at his challenger. When he saw a boy and a little dog, he laughed and was about to squash both of them with his little toe when something started to bother him. It was the crow who was pecking at his ear. He tried to swipe the annoying bird away, and in doing so, hit himself so hard that he knocked himself clean out. A moment later, brave Avenant finished him off with his sword.
The Crow called out, “Caw! One good favour deserves another!”
The boy bowed deeply to thank the dear bird for his kind deed.
The news of the giant’s defeat spread fast. When Avenant reached the palace and stood before the princess, she found it hard to disguise her pleasure and relief at what he had achieved. Still, she decided to give him one more test.
“Ahem,” she said. “Before I can even consider your request, there is a third little favour I must ask of you. Before I marry, I wish to have a few drops of water from the fountain of eternal youth and beauty. This will stop me from getting wrinkly and grey, and will be sure to keep my king pleased with me, even after the passing of a great many years, when, as you know, people are prone to forget why they were so keen to marry someone in the first place.”
The boy bowed deeply and backed out of the chamber. When he was safely outside the palace, he punched his fist against the wall and hurt himself a great deal.
“Do you mean to knock a hole in that wall?” asked his little dog.
“No,” replied, Avenant. “I’m just annoyed because like all princesses she won’t stop at two impossible tasks. Oh no, she has to have three. Bad things always come in threes. This time we haven’t a chance. The fountain of eternal youth is in a deep, dark cave on top of Mount Enormous, and its entrance is a long tunnel that is guarded by snakes and scorpions. Nobody has ever managed to make their way into it, though many have died trying.”
“Well,” said the little dog, “we’ve certainly succeeded against odds before, so let’s go and try our luck this time.”
Avenant bought a new hat and some gloves, because it was going to be cold on top of Mount Enormous, and the pair set off on their third mission to woo Princess Golden on behalf of the king. After a week of trudging up a steep path, they found themselves in front of the entrance to the cave of eternal youth.
It was guarded by a serpent who gave them his coldest stare and hissed:
“Enter here and stay for all eternity. As you are both young, you will never grow old... sssssssssss!”
Cabriole and Avenant glanced at each other. The little dog said, ”I say master, let’s go home.”
Avenant nodded to his friend and replied, “That princess is pushing her luck if she thinks we’re going into that cave. There’s a reason that water from the fountain of eternal youth is so rare - it’s because nobody can get near it.”
But as they started to head back down the path, they heard a sound up in the sky: “Twit Twoo!” They looked up and saw the owl winging her way towards the dark cave. She flew into the entrance, and after some time returned with a little bottle of water in her beak. She set this down before Avenant and said:
“Twit Twoo, one good favour deserves another.”
Avenant bowed deeply and thanked the good owl, because truly she had done them a great favour.
Now this time, when they reported their success to the princess, she could not hide her delight.
“Who would not be thrilled with a few drops of water from the fountain of eternal youth?” She exclaimed. “This is a most worthy gift. A king who has a servant as loyal, brave and brilliant as you are, my dear Avenant, must be a very great man indeed. I shall marry him, after all.”
Avenant bowed deeply and said, “Is there anything else we can do to help you today?”
“Er no,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for more than three impossible things. That would be unbecoming”
Avenant and the little dog backed out of the chamber. When they were both safely outside the palace, Avenant could not contain his delight. He danced for joy.
“We did it!” He exclaimed. “We’ve succeed against all odds, and now we’re going to be rich, rich rich!”
“Yup,” woofed the little dog. “The king’s going to be pretty pleased with our work when you deliver Princess Golden to him.”
A week later, they set off for home. This time Avenant sat in a carriage opposite Princess Golden who held Cabriole on her lap.
Although the road was a little bumpy, it was far better than walking. Princess Golden was very curious to know how Avenant had succeeded in his adventures, and he told her everything, including how he had helped the carp, the crow and the owl, and how the creatures had returned his favours. She enjoyed listening to his stories and said:
“I’m so glad you love animals, because I do too.”
She thought how modest Avenant was, because other men might have boasted of their courage, and she saw that he had won against the odds because his heart was kind. He was about the same age as her, and had a most charming manner. In short, she wished that he was the one that she was going to marry.
When they reached the end of their journey, Avenant presented Princess Golden to the king. He was very pleased with her, but she, to tell you the truth, was not quite so sure about him. He was rather older than she had expected, and his manner was arrogant. He did not say anything particularly amusing or interesting, and liked to boast about all the people that he had thrown into the dark tower.
As time went by, and the day of the wedding drew nearer, the king started to notice how the princess seemed bored in his company, and how fondly she spoke of Avenant, and suggested that he reward him for his courage and loyalty. The king thought to himself, “I’ll give Avenant his just deserts,” and ordered him to be taken to the dark tower.
“Be sure to put him in a cell with the ambassador,” he told the guards. “They have a lot to tell one another.”
But even though Avenant was now safely out of the way, Princess Golden did not seem to grow any fonder of the king. In fact, she spent even more time in her room, and he thought that he could hear her crying.
“It must be the gap between our ages,” he thought to himself, and he devised a cunning plan. When Princess Golden went out for her walk in the garden, he crept into her room and looked into her closet. There he found the little bottle containing the precious water from the fountain of eternal youth. He poured a few drops into a glass of lime soda and knocked back the drink. Zing! He immediately felt twenty years younger, and when he looked in the mirror, there he was as he liked to imagine himself - full of youth - with hair, all his teeth, and no dark rings under his eyes. You could see where his waist was supposed to be, and gone were all his warts and wrinkles.
Thrilled and excited, he left the room and started to head down the stairs. He even thought about sliding down the banisters. His plan was to find his bride to be, and to show her his renewed self. She was sure to be happy with him. But on the way, he noticed another change that had taken place inside him - this one was more subtle.
The water had not only washed away the marks of time, but it had also worked its magic on his heart, and in doing so, it had purified his soul. He sat on a bench in the garden and looked at the world anew - as if for the first time - in all its beauty and imperfection.
“Why can’t we live in an ideal world?” he asked. “Why can’t everyone have what they want? Why do old fuddy duddies have to make up all the rules?”
And the more he thought about it, the more he realised that he had ideals. And chief among his ideals was True Love. Yes, he thought, everyone should marry for one reason alone - and that reason was the Big L.
“I don’t love Princess Golden,” he thought to himself, “I just liked the idea of having a beautiful wife. It’s clear whom she really loves, and as I’m king, I can make good things happen.”
And so this story has a happy ending. The king released Avenant, and everyone else whom he had unjustly imprisoned, and even a few that he had justly sent to jail. The ambassador was reunited with his family - his wife saw this as a mixed blessing - and Princess Golden married the messenger who had won her heart. They lived happily with their little dog, Cabriole, and numerous other pets that they collected as time went by. As for the king, he spent a lot of time partying, and did not pay much attention to running the Kingdom. Instead, he appointed the ambassador as his prime minister and the old fuddy duddy got on with making sure that everything ran smoothly.
And that was the story of ‘The Princess Golden,” adapted by Bertie from a classic French fairy tale and read by me Richard, for Storynory.com