I’m serializing my fairy tale novel, Tickling Butterflies. A new fairy tale ‘episode’ is published every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
Here’s the story so far.
Enjoy the latest fairy tale:
The Troll’s Question
(Containing the beautiful story of John the Cute’s first encounter with vanity.)
Towards the end of John the Cute’s race against Death, a race for the future of the Land of All Legends, John the Cute came upon the only bridge that led to the big city of Green Is In.
On the bridge stood a Troll.
The Troll stopped John the Cute.
“No one crosses my bridge,” said the Troll, “without answering my question truthfully and paying the price for his truth.”
John the Cute looked around and saw that the bridge was the only way into the big city of Green Is In, which was the only quick way to the palace, where King Charming the Fourth lay dying. Going around would delay his journey by a week at the very least.
“Ask your question,” John the Cute said.
The Troll began to tell a story.
Deep in the city of Green Is In, said the Troll, is a special tower, containing a hundred rooms, one on top of the other, that almost reach the sky. The building is a special building, designed for people such as yourself who might be seeking a wife. The building is called the Bevy of Beauties.
Anyone who walks into the first floor of the Bevy of Beauties, continued the Troll, finds himself surrounded by dozens of beautiful women of all sorts and shapes. That person can then choose to court one of the beauties for a wife. If he likes the sum of her beauty and her character, and if she likes the sum of his beauty and his character, they can get married.
However, that man has a choice. He can leave the women he has already seen and move up to the next floor. There he will find even greater beauties, who have faces like dolls and perfect bodies, standing in the middle of the room in a way that would seem most beautiful.
Anyone can choose to court one of these women, or to move up to the next floor. There is a room full of even greater beauties. And so on, with each floor, up until the hundredth floor, where you will find the greatest beauty of all. However, there is a catch. The higher you go in the Bevy of Beauties, the less the women move.
The women, you see, stand in such a way as to only be beautiful. The more beautiful they are, the more afraid they are of moving into a position that would make them slightly less beautiful, even for a moment.
The higher you go, the less the beautiful move. At the hundredth floor, there is only one woman. She is a woman who is more beautiful than all the women in the Bevy of Beauties and all the women in the Land of All Legends. She stands frozen in the middle of the room, looking like a magnificent doll, and never moves a muscle. That is how much she wants to always appear beautiful.
If you want to choose her, you will not be able to choose from the sum of her character and her beauty. You cannot learn anything about her character, since she does not move, and only talks to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ with her mouth closed. You will only be able to choose her, judging her beauty.
“To keep beauty,” continued the Troll. “You have to lose your freedom of character. To have complete freedom of character, you have to give up on beauty. Which is more important to you, John the Cute: Beauty or freedom of character?”
John the Cute did not have to think. “Freedom of character is more important to me. I wish to live my life as I see fit, and not be hampered by constraints.”
“I have asked you which is more important to you. But I may not have been clear: Which do you choose? You may only cross the bridge with one or the other, not with both. Which is it: Beauty or freedom of character?”
“I choose freedom of character.” John the Cute was firm.
“Are you certain? You wear your beauty on your face, John the Cute. You wear it in your name, as well. Will you give it up?”
John the Cute nodded. “In my travels and during my childhood, I have learned the dangers of beauty. I choose freedom of character.”
The Troll nodded and blinked. Within that blink, John the Cute lost his cuteness. His face was now a cracked mask of the troubles he had seen. Greed and death and lies and temptation filled his cheeks with wrinkles and cracks, telling the story of his travels and of his life.
“You may now cross the bridge, John the Cute.”
John the Cute, now no longer cute, nodded, and passed the Troll silently.
Once he was on the other side of the bridge, he turned to the Troll and said, “Tell me something, Troll. Did Death pass this bridge recently?”
“Indeed he did.”
“And did you stop him and put a choice to him?”
The Troll answered immediately, “No one stops Death.”
John the Cute nodded, and another wrinkle of worry was added to his face. He then turned around and continued with hurried steps.
(To be continued on Sunday…)