The Story Finder

Voices in Fairy Tales

by Michelle Tocher

Story finder - Curly

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Warrior Princess Who Becomes a Man

I dressed like a man, and I went to serve the old Emperor who had been my father’s enemy. The Emperor sent me on one mission after another to prove his love for the beautiful Iliane. Finally, Iliane gave the Emperor one more test: to bring back the holy water of Jordan. The Emperor wasn’t going to go after it, of course. It fell on me to go, so I went to speak to my horse, Sunlight.

While I saddled him, he said, “The holy water stands on the altar of a little church, and is guarded by a troop of nuns. They never sleep, night or day, but every now and then a hermit comes to visit them, and he teaches them certain things. When this happens, only one of the nuns remains on guard, and if we are lucky enough to hit upon that moment, we may get hold of the vase.”

We rode a long way, and at last came in sight of the church beyond the Jordan. To our great joy, the hermit had just come to the door. We could hear him calling the nuns around him. They settled themselves under a tree, while one nun stayed back to guard the church. The hermit had a great deal to say, and the day was very hot, so the guard grew tired, stretched herself out across the threshold, and fell sound asleep.

With Sunlight’s guidance, I stepped softly over the sleeping nun, and crept like a cat along the dark aisle, feeling the wall with my fingers, and taking great care not to trip over something and make a noise. I reached the altar in safety and found the vase of holy water standing on it. I thrust into my pocket and went back with the same care as I came. With a bound I was back in the saddle and seizing the reins. Sunlight bore me home as fast as his legs could carry him.

The sound of the flying hoofs aroused the nun, who understood instantly that the precious treasure was stolen, and her shrieks were so loud and piercing that all the rest came flying to see what was the matter. The hermit followed at our heels, but seeing it was impossible to overtake us, he fell on his knees and called his most deadly curse down on my head. He prayed that if I were a man, I would become a woman; and if I were a woman, I would become a man.

Suddenly I felt changed. I was no longer pretending to be a man, I was that man! I was so delighted by the hermit’s “punishment” that if he were in reach, I would have thanked him with all my heart!

Warrior Princess Who Becomes a Man, The Girl Who Pretended to Be a Boy, Violet Fairy Book. Illustration by H.J. Ford.