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The Wizard King

from The Yellow Fairy Book





From Les fees illustres.

In very ancient times there lived a King, whose power lay not
only in the vast extent of his dominions, but also in the magic
secrets of which he was master. After spending the greater part
of his early youth in pleasure, he met a Princess of such
remarkable beauty that he at once asked her hand in marriage,
and, having obtained it, considered himself the happiest of men.

After a year's time a son was born, worthy in every way of such
distinguished parents, and much admired by the whole Court. As
soon as the Queen thought him strong enough for a journey she set
out with him secretly to visit her Fairy godmother. I said
secretly, because the Fairy had warned the Queen that the King
was a magician; and as from time immemorial there had been a
standing feud between the Fairies and the Wizards, he might not
have approved of his wife's visit.

The Fairy godmother, who took the deepest interest in all the
Queen's concerns, and who was much pleased with the little
Prince, endowed him with the power of pleasing everybody from his
cradle, as well as with a wonderful ease in learning everything
which could help to make him a perfectly accomplished Prince.
Accordingly, to the delight of his teachers, he made the most
rapid progress in his education, constantly surpassing everyone's
expectations. Before he was many years old, however, he had the
great sorrow of losing his mother, whose last words were to
advise him never to undertake anything of importance without
consulting the Fairy under whose protection she had placed him.

The Prince's grief at the death of his mother was great, but it
was nothing compared to that of the King, his father, who was
quite inconsolable for the loss of his dear wife. Neither time
nor reason seemed to lighten his sorrow, and the sight of all the
familiar faces and things about him only served to remind him of
his loss. He therefore resolved to travel for change, and by
means of his magic art was able to visit every country he came to
see under different shapes, returning every few weeks to the
place where he had left a few followers.

Having travelled from land to land in this fashion without
finding anything to rivet his attention, it occurred to him to
take the form of an eagle, and in this shape he flew across many
countries and arrived at length in a new and lovely spot, where
the air seemed filled with the scent of jessamine and orange
flowers with which the ground was thickly planted. Attracted by
the sweet perfume he flew lower, and perceived some large and
beautiful gardens filled with the rarest flowers, and with
fountains throwing up their clear waters into the air in a
hundred different shapes. A wide stream flowed through the
garden, and on it floated richly ornamented barges and gondolas
filled with people dressed in the most elegant manner and covered
with jewels.

In one of these barges sat the Queen of that country with her
only daughter, a maiden more beautiful than the Day Star, and
attended by the ladies of the Court. No more exquisitely lovely
mortal was ever seen than this Princess, and it needed all an
eagle's strength of sight to prevent the King being hopelessly
dazzled. He perched on the top of a large orange tree, whence he
was able to survey the scene and to gaze at pleasure on the
Princess's charms.

Now, an eagle with a King's heart in his breast is apt to be
bold, and accordingly he instantly made up his mind to carry off
the lovely damsel, feeling sure that having once seen her he
could not live without her.

He waited till he saw her in the act of stepping ashore, when,
suddenly swooping down, he carried her off before her equerry in
attendance had advanced to offer her his hand. The Princess, on
finding herself in an eagle's talons, uttered the most
heart-breaking shrieks and cries; but her captor, though touched
by her distress, would not abandon his lovely prey, and continued
to fly through the air too fast to allow of his saying anything
to comfort her.

At length, when he thought they had reached a safe distance, he
began to lower his flight, and gradually descending to earth,
deposited his burden in a flowery meadow. He then entreated her
pardon for his violence, and told her that he was about to carry
her to a great kingdom over which he ruled, and where he desired
she should rule with him, adding many tender and consoling
expressions.

For some time the Princess remained speechless; but recovering
herself a little, she burst into a flood of tears. The King,
much moved, said, 'Adorable Princess, dry your tears. I implore
you. My only wish is to make you the happiest person in the
world.'

'If you speak truth, my lord,' replied the Princess, 'restore to
me the liberty you have deprived me of. Otherwise I can only
look on you as my worst enemy.'

The King retorted that her opposition filled him with despair,
but that he hoped to carry her to a place where all around would
respect her, and where every pleasure would surround her. So
saying, he seized her once more, and in spite of all her cries he
rapidly bore her off to the neighbourhood of his capital. Here
he gently placed her on a lawn, and as he did so she saw a
magnificent palace spring up at her feet. The architecture was
imposing, and in the interior the rooms were handsome and
furnished in the best possible taste.

The Princess, who expected to be quite alone, was pleased at
finding herself surrounded by a number of pretty girls, all
anxious to wait on her, whilst a brilliantly-coloured parrot said
the most agreeable things in the world.

On arriving at this palace the King had resumed his own form, and
though no longer young, he might well have pleased any other than
this Princess, who had been so prejudiced against him by his
violence that she could only regard him with feelings of hatred,
which she was at no pains to conceal. The King hoped, however,
that time might not only soften her anger, but accustom her to
his sight. He took the precaution of surrounding the palace with
a dense cloud, and then hastened to his Court, where his
prolonged absence was causing much anxiety.

The Prince and all the courtiers were delighted to see their
beloved King again, but they had to submit themselves to more
frequent absences than ever on his part. He made business a
pretext for shutting himself up in his study, but it was really
in order to spend the time with the Princess, who remained
inflexible.

Not being able to imagine what could be the cause of so much
obstinacy the King began to fear, lest, in spite of all his
precautions, she might have heard of the charms of the Prince his
son, whose goodness, youth and beauty, made him adored at Court.
This idea made him horribly uneasy, and he resolved to remove the
cause of his fears by sending the Prince on his travels escorted
by a magnificent retinue.

The Prince, after visiting several Courts, arrived at the one
where the lost Princess was still deeply mourned. The King and
Queen received him most graciously, and some festivities were
revived to do him honour.

One day when the Prince was visiting the Queen in her own
apartments he was much struck by a most beautiful portrait. He
eagerly inquired whose it was, and the Queen, with many tears,
told him it was all that was left her of her beloved daughter,
who had suddenly been carried off, she knew neither where nor
how.

The Prince was deeply moved, and vowed that he would search the
world for the Princess, and take no rest till he had found and
restored her to her mother's arms. The Queen assured him of her
eternal gratitude, and promised, should he succeed, to give him
her daughter in marriage, together with all the estates she
herself owned.

The Prince, far more attracted by the thoughts of possessing the
Princess than her promised dower, set forth in his quest after
taking leave of the King and Queen, the latter giving him a
miniature of her daughter which she was in the habit of wearing.
His first act was to seek the Fairy under whose protection he had
been placed, and he implored her to give him all the assistance
of her art and counsel in this important matter.

After listening attentively to the whole adventure, the Fairy
asked for time to consult her books. After due consideration she
informed the Prince that the object of his search was not far
distant, but that it was too difficult for him to attempt to
enter the enchanted palace where she was, as the King his father
had surrounded it with a thick cloud, and that the only expedient
she could think of would be to gain possession of the Princess's
parrot. This, she added, did not appear impossible, as it often
flew about to some distance in the neighbourhood.

Having told the Prince all this, the Fairy went out in hopes of
seeing the parrot, and soon returned with the bird in her hand.
She promptly shut it up in a cage, and, touching the Prince with
her wand, transformed him into an exactly similar parrot; after
which, she instructed him how to reach the Princess.

The Prince reached the palace in safety, but was so dazzled at
first by the Princess's beauty, which far surpassed his
expectations, that he was quite dumb for a time. The Princess
was surprised and anxious, and fearing the parrot, who was her
greatest comfort, had fallen ill, she took him in her hand and
caressed him. This soon reassured the Prince, and encouraged him
to play his part well, and he began to say a thousand agreeable
things which charmed the Princess.

Presently the King appeared, and the parrot noticed with joy how
much he was disliked. As soon as the King left, the Princess
retired to her dressing-room, the parrot flew after her and
overheard her lamentations at the continued persecutions of the
King, who had pressed her to consent to their marriage. The
parrot said so many clever and tender things to comfort her that
she began to doubt whether this could indeed be her own parrot.

When he saw her well-disposed towards him, he exclaimed: 'Madam,
I have a most important secret to confide to you, and I beg you
not to be alarmed by what I am about to say. I am here on behalf
of the Queen your mother, with the object of delivering your
Highness; to prove which, behold this portrait which she gave me
herself.' So saying he drew forth the miniature from under his
wing. The Princess's surprise was great, but after what she had
seen and heard it was impossible not to indulge in hope, for she
had recognised the likeness of herself which her mother always
wore.

The parrot, finding she was not much alarmed, told her who he
was, all that her mother had promised him and the help he had
already received from a Fairy who had assured him that she would
give him means to transport the Princess to her mother's arms.

When he found her listening attentively to him, he implored the
Princess to allow him to resume his natural shape. She did not
speak, so he drew a feather from his wing, and she beheld before
her a Prince of such surpassing beauty that it was impossible not
to hope that she might owe her liberty to so charming a person.

Meantime the Fairy had prepared a chariot, to which she harnessed
two powerful eagles; then placing the cage, with the parrot in
it, she charged the bird to conduct it to the window of the
Princess's dressing-room. This was done in a few minutes, and
the Princess, stepping into the chariot with the Prince, was
delighted to find her parrot again.

As they rose through the air the Princess remarked a figure
mounted on an eagle's back flying in front of the chariot. She
was rather alarmed, but the Prince reassured her, telling her it
was the good Fairy to whom she owed so much, and who was now
conducting her in safety to her mother.

That same morning the King woke suddenly from a troubled sleep.
He had dreamt that the Princess was being carried off from him,
and, transforming himself into an eagle, he flew to the palace.
When he failed to find her he flew into a terrible rage, and
hastened home to consult his books, by which means he discovered
that it was his son who had deprived him of this precious
treasure. Immediately he took the shape of a harpy, and, filled
with rage, was determined to devour his son, and even the
Princess too, if only he could overtake them.

He set out at full speed; but he started too late, and was
further delayed by a strong wind which the Fairy raised behind
the young couple so as to baffle any pursuit.

You may imagine the rapture with which the Queen received the
daughter she had given up for lost, as well as the amiable Prince
who had rescued her. The Fairy entered with them, and warned the
Queen that the Wizard King would shortly arrive, infuriated by
his loss, and that nothing could preserve the Prince and Princess
from his rage and magic unless they were actually married.

The Queen hastened to inform the King her husband, and the
wedding took place on the spot.

As the ceremony was completed the Wizard King arrived. His
despair at being so late bewildered him so entirely that he
appeared in his natural form and attempted to sprinkle some black
liquid over the bride and bridegroom, which was intended to kill
them, but the Fairy stretched out her wand and the liquid dropped
on the Magician himself. He fell down senseless, and the
Princess's father, deeply offended at the cruel revenge which had
been attempted, ordered him to be removed and locked up in
prison.

Now as magicians lose all their power as soon as they are in
prison, the King felt himself much embarrassed at being thus at
the mercy of those he had so greatly offended. The Prince
implored and obtained his father's pardon, and the prison doors
were opened.

No sooner was this done than the Wizard King was seen in the air
under the form of some unknown bird, exclaiming as he flew off
that he would never forgive either his son or the Fairy the cruel
wrong they had done him.

Everyone entreated the Fairy to settle in the kingdom where she
now was, to which she consented. She built herself a magnificent
palace, to which she transported her books and fairy secrets, and
where she enjoyed the sight of the perfect happiness she had
helped to bestow on the entire royal family.





Next: The Nixy

Previous: How Six Men Travelled Through The Wide World



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