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Voices in Fairy Tales

by Michelle Tocher

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Beauty’s Eldest Sister

Our family has gone from riches to rags. First, our mansion in town burned to the ground. We lost everything. Then my father, who was a prosperous merchant, lost all his ships at sea. You can’t imagine the calamities! Shipwrecks, pirates, fires, and storms. We fell into the direst poverty. For the two years all twelve of us children have been crammed into a dark cottage in the middle of a dismal forest. My six brothers work in the fields as peasants and the rest of us do household chores.

Then my father announces that one of his ships has come safely to port, and it’s loaded with rich cargo. Right away we want to go to town, and this time, I’ll shop for as many jewels and dresses as I can get. I can’t trust my father to secure my fortune.

We’re all eager to get to town to spend some money, but Father begs us to wait a little. It’s harvest time, and he’s needed in the field. We protest. Why should he work as a laborer? His ship has come in! Finally he says he’ll go first and make some inquiries about the ship.

My youngest sister doubts that we will be as rich as we were before. While we load our father with requests for jewels and what-not, she asks for nothing but a rose. She’s such a pain. Let’s hope it’s full of thorns!

Beauty’s Eldest Sister, Beauty and the Beast, Blue Fairy Book. Illustration by Walter Crane.