I had a passion for traveling and exploring, so when my daughter was only a few weeks old I went to visit a certain mountain about which I had heard many marvelous tales. I set out with a number of attendants, and on the way we passed by an old castle. It was said to belong to the fairies. Nobody had ever been into it, but I had heard it was full of the most wonderful things. My mother once told me that the fruit in that garden had never been seen or tasted by anyone in this world.
As we approached the castle, I developed a powerful desire to taste that fruit. I turned toward the garden and arrived at a door that blazed with gold and jewels. I ordered my servants to knock loudly. No answer. It seemed as if all the inhabitants of the castle were asleep or dead.
Now I was even more determined to taste that fruit, so I told my servants to bring ladders and climb over the garden wall.
Strange, though. The wall did not look very high, and my attendants tied the ladders together to make them very long, but still it remained impossible to get to the top.
When night came on, I despaired that I should ever get in. We camped outside the castle walls, and I went to bed feeling quite ill. In the middle of the night I was suddenly awakened by a tiny, ugly old woman who sat on my bed. She said, “‘I must say that we consider it somewhat troublesome of your Majesty to insist upon tasting our fruit. But to save you more annoyance, my sisters and I will consent to give you as much fruit as you can carry away, on one condition. And that is, that you shall give us your little daughter to bring up as our own.”
I sat up in bed and said, “‘Ah, dear madam, is there nothing else that you will take for the fruit?” I was prepared to give her my six kingdoms, but not my child.
“No,” said the old fairy. “We will have nothing but your little daughter. She will be as happy as the day is long, and we will give her everything that is worth having in fairyland, but you must not see her again until she is married.”
It was a hard condition, but I consented. I would certainly die if I did not taste that fruit, and I would lose my daughter either way!
The Star-Struck Queen in The White Cat, Blue Fairy Book. Painting by Abraham Brueghel.