I was taught to be true-hearted and to speak the truth. Why is it that my father is so offended by me now?
He came home after years of fighting his neighbors and seemed to be looking for another fight. I couldn’t please him. I couldn’t give him the answers he wanted. My sisters said exactly what he wanted to hear. They made up songs to praise his victories.
We wore special dresses to celebrate his return, and when we sat down at the banquet table, he wanted to know why we had chosen our dress colors. He turned to my eldest sister, and said, “Tell me why you have chosen a green dress.”
“Sire, having heard of your victories I thought that green would signify my joy and the hope of your speedy return,” she said.
“A very good answer,” said the king. Then he turned to my older sister asked her why she wore a blue dress.
“To show that we constantly hoped for your success, and that the sight of you is as welcome to me as the sky with its most beautiful stars.”
The king said, “Your wise answers astonish me! And you, Miranda. What made you dress yourself all in white?”
“Because white suits me better than anything else, sire,” I said.
His face went red as the wine. “You vain child. Was that all you thought of?”
“I thought you would be pleased with me,” I said. Was I not enough?
Then he wanted to know what we had dreamed last night. My sisters made things up about what they had received from him or what they meant to give him. Their dreams were all about him. When he asked me what I dreamed, I told him that we were at a wedding feast and he held a chalice of water for me to dip my fingers into.
Now the king was furious. He made a very ugly face, got up and rushed off to bed.
In the morning, before daylight, the Captain of his Bodyguard came to my room. I was ordered to dress so that he could take me to the forest. Did the king mean to have me killed? Was I such a great threat? Oh yes, I was. And he wouldn’t rest until he held the very organs of my heart and my tongue!
The Princess Miranda in The Wonderful Sheep, Blue Fairy Book. Painting “Biondina” by Frederic Leighton (detail).
Miranda’s story gives us a visceral way of considering the expression, “to hold one’s tongue.” What are your feelings about the relationship between Miranda and her father? How have you experienced this kind of interaction in your own life?