This story was originally posted on April 17, 2019. I think we all do great and terrible things now and then. And sometimes, the bad choices we make can cause us big problems down the road. In fairy tales, the effects are magnified, of course. I think that’s what makes them so much fun to read.
Once upon a time, a king and queen were thrilled when they had a tiny new daughter. They invited the kingdom to celebrate, and gave special invitations to the resident fairies. The fairies made it a habit of attending baby blessings and using their magic powers to grant special powers and gifts to special babies.
Of course, a baby princess is a special baby indeed, and the fairies were delighted to come. All but one. Somehow, her invitation had been lost in the mail, and she felt snubbed.
“How dare they not invite me?” the fairy asked. “Inviting everyone except me is a deliberate insult.”
“I’m sure they meant to invite you,” the other fairies said. “Come anyway. I’m sure they’ll have great flower nectar and that spicy cracker mix you like.”
“Oh, I’ll come,” the fairy said. “I’ll give the baby a blessing they’ll never forget.”
“That’s the spirit,” the other fairies said, ignoring her dark tone.
And the day for the baby blessing came. The fairies hovered around the baby, giving her gifts of wisdom and beauty and other princessy things. The last fairy hovered over the princess and smiled much too widely.
“I bless you with the ability to go without sleep. In fact, you won’t ever sleep at all.” And then she swooped away cackling.
The crowd was confused. “Was that a good thing or a bad thing?” the queen asked her husband.
It didn’t take long for the answer to be clear. A baby that never sleeps at all is a very bad thing. Even with a rotating watch over her, the princess soon exhausted all her caregivers. She had so much extra time to figure out how to get into everything. She was always alert, never tired, and once she was a toddler she could soon outrun even the fastest runners in the kingdom.
“She will do great or terrible things,” the king said sadly one day, as he untied the laces of the shoes that had all been strung from the banisters of the spiral staircase.
“That’s fifty-fifty odds, right?” the queen said. She was still hunting for her shoes. “That’s not so bad.”
But the princess grew up to do both great and terrible things, as we all do. She just managed to do them on a bigger scale. She was, after all, a princess who never had to sleep. She had more time and resources than most.
By the time she was seventeen, her father sent her out on daily quests just to keep her out of trouble. She rescued kittens from trees and babies from dragons and ladies from lakes. She painted fences and helped build cathedrals. Her father started running out of quests.
And then he had the best idea yet. He sent her to go help out the fairy that had given her such a unique gift. The princess rode off on her horse and the kingdom breathed a sigh of relief for another day.
The fairy, on the other hand, found that her woes were just beginning. The princess had decided to build a gazebo in her yard at midnight. The fairy woke up to a terrible racket, and try as she might, none of her hexes could hit the princess. They just bounced off her polished shield like those fuzzy yellow balls bounce off tennis rackets.
The princess remodeled her kitchen and she couldn’t find anything. She dug up her potion ingredients and planted a bed of thorny roses. Then, when the fairy was hiding in the library, the princess came in and started indexing the books by the authors’ first names.
Enough was enough. The fairy stood and aimed her wand at the princess’s back. “You will be an ordinary princess who sleeps just as much as an ordinary princess does.”
The princess kept sorting books. “I am an ordinary princess,” she called over her shoulder. “I sleep an ordinary amount, for me.” And that night, she dug a wishing well that only worked if you threw in polished diamonds.
The fairy strode out, dark circles under her eyes. She pointed her wand at the princess. “I take it back. Whatever I said that made it so that you are here keeping me up at night, I take it back.”
The princess looked confused for a moment. “I think that maybe I’m sleepy?” And then she curled up next to the well and fell asleep for the first time in her life.
She rode home the next day, after the fairy urged her to go home and tell her parents the good news. Her parents were thrilled.
Of course, bad habits aren’t easily unlearned, and the princess never did sleep as much as everyone else. But, she did get into a little less trouble. And the entire kingdom rested easier.