The Story Finder

Voices in Fairy Tales

by Michelle Tocher

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Maid of Maleen

Themes: Captivity | Freedom

My mistress Maleen didn’t want to marry her father’s choice of a man. She loved a neighboring king’s son, and he loved her. His father was all for the marriage, but not Maleen’s father. He was a mighty king, and he had to have the last word.

Maleen refused to marry her father’s choice, and so the king ordered a tower to be built. No light would be able to enter it, neither from the sun nor the moon. He stored provisions for seven years with the promise that he would come back then to see if Maleen had changed her “perverse will.”

I went into the prison tower with my mistress. We were walled in together.

We sat in darkness, spoke in darkness, ate in darkness, and never knew day from night. When the provisions ran out, no one came. Maleen said, “We need to break through the wall.” All we had was a bread knife. After chipping away at the mortar for a long, long time, we were able to remove one stone. Then another. At last, light broke through. We were blinded by it for some time.

When our eyes adjusted, our vision broke our hearts. Maleen’s mighty father had gone to war, and he had been defeated. The castle was destroyed, the village burned, and the fields, ruined.

Maid of Maid Maleen in Maid Maleen, Grimms. Illustration by Arthur Rackham.

Maid of Maid Maleen