I cannot give my husband a child, and now he has gone away. If I have a child by the time he returns, he said, he will love me “beyond measure,” but if I do not, he will part with me forever.
I won’t be having a child with him away, now, will I? Unless he wishes me to be unfaithful to him, and then I can expect some more dire consequence.
A wise woman has directed me to a little bush that grows beneath the oak in the garden. It has brown leaves with long spikes and has produced three little buds. I am to eat the middle one, and then, in six months, I will bring a daughter into the world. The wise woman says I must give her to a nurse immediately and put the child and her nurse in a secluded room in the castle. Neither I nor the king will be able to see our daughter until she is 14, unless we wish to be overcome by sorrow and misfortune.
I am reaching for the buds now. I can’t reach them without being pricked by the spikes. I can’t have a daughter without losing a daughter.
The Queen Who Eats a Plant to Conceive in The Princess in the Chest, Pink Fairy Book. Painting by Edward Okun.