“Why not enjoy the happiness and stability we have?” I asked my husband the king. “Can you not find a way to live in peace?”

He could not. He was restless. He wanted to try his strength in battle against some enemy and win honour and glory. He went out and called his army together and gave orders to ride against a tyrannical king in a distant country.

Now I have a letter from him. My darling husband has been taken prisoner. All night long he is chained up with the other prisoners, and in the morning they are yoked together like oxen and made to plow the land till sundown. For three years he has been imprisoned and now he appeals to me. “Sell all our castles and palaces and put all our treasures in pawn, and come and deliver me out of this horrible prison.”

How can I deliver my dearest? If I go as a woman, the heathen king will take me as one of his wives.

On the other hand, I could go as a boy. I could cut off my beautiful long brown hair and pick up my lute. As a lute player, I can enchant anyone, even a heathen king.

Queen Who Plays the Lute in The Lute Player, Violet Fairy Book. Painting by Edward Charles Halle.

lute queen