An Impossible Enchantment
: The Grey Fairy Book
There once lived a king who was much loved by his people, and he,
too, loved them warmly. He led a very happy life, but he had the
greatest dislike to the idea of marrying, nor had he ever felt
the slightest wish to fall in love. His subjects begged him to
marry, and at last he promised to try to do so. But as, so far,
he had never cared for any woman he had seen, he made up his mind
to travel in hopes of meeting some
ady he could love.
So he arranged all the affairs of state in an orderly manner, and
set out, attended by only one equerry, who, though not very
clever, had most excellent good sense. These people indeed
generally make the best fellow travellers.
The king explored several countries, doing all he could to fall
in love, but in vain; and at the end of two years' journeys he
turned his face towards home, with as free a heart as when he set
As he was riding along through a forest he suddenly heard the
most awful miawing and shrieking of cats you can imagine. The
noise drew nearer, and nearer, and at last they saw a hundred
huge Spanish cats rush through the trees close to them. They were
so closely packed together that you could easily have covered
them with a large cloak, and all were following the same track.
They were closely pursued by two enormous apes, dressed in purple
suits, with the prettiest and best made boots you ever saw.
The apes were mounted on superb mastiffs, and spurred them on in
hot haste, blowing shrill blasts on little toy trumpets all the
The king and his equerry stood still to watch this strange hunt,
which was followed by twenty or more little dwarfs, some mounted
on wolves, and leading relays, and others with cats in leash. The
dwarfs were all dressed in purple silk liveries like the apes.
A moment later a beautiful young woman mounted on a tiger came in
sight. She passed close to the king, riding at full speed,
without taking any notice of him; but he was at once enchanted by
her, and his heart was gone in a moment.
To his great joy he saw that one of the dwarfs had fallen behind
the rest, and at once began to question him.
The dwarf told him that the lady he had just seen was the
Princess Mutinosa, the daughter of the king in whose country they
were at that moment. He added that the princess was very fond of
hunting, and that she was now in pursuit of rabbits.
The king then asked the way to the court, and having been told
it, hurried off, and reached the capital in a couple of hours.
As soon as he arrived, he presented himself to the king and
queen, and on mentioning his own name and that of his country,
was received with open arms. Not long after, the princess
returned, and hearing that the hunt had been very successful, the
king complimented her on it, but she would not answer a word.
Her silence rather surprised him, but he was still more
astonished when he found that she never spoke once all through
supper-time. Sometimes she seemed about to speak, but whenever
this was the case her father or mother at once took up the
conversation. However, this silence did not cool the king's
affection, and when he retired to his rooms at night he confided
his feelings to his faithful equerry. But the equerry was by no
means delighted at his king's love affair, and took no pains to
hide his disappointment.
‘But why are you vexed?' asked the king. ‘Surely the princess is
beautiful enough to please anyone?'
‘She is certainly very handsome,' replied the equerry, ‘but to be
really happy in love something more than beauty is required. To
tell the truth, sire,' he added, ‘her expression seems to me
‘That is pride and dignity,' said the king, ‘and nothing can be
‘Pride or hardness, as you will,' said the equerry; ‘but to my
mind the choice of so many fierce creatures for her amusements
seems to tell of a fierce nature, and I also think there is
something suspicious in the care taken to prevent her speaking.'
The equerry's remarks were full of good sense; but as opposition
is only apt to increase love in the hearts of men, and especially
of kings who hate being contradicted, this king begged, the very
next day, for the hand of the Princess Mutinosa. It was granted
him on two conditions.
The first was that the wedding should take place the very next
day; and the second, that he should not speak to the princess
till she was his wife; to all of which the king agreed, in spite
of his equerry's objections, so that the first word he heard his
bride utter was the ‘Yes' she spoke at their marriage.
Once married, however, she no longer placed any check on herself,
and her ladies-in-waiting came in for plenty of rude speeches----
even the king did not escape scolding; but as he was a good-
tempered man, and very much in love, he bore it patiently. A few
days after the wedding the newly married pair set out for their
kingdom without leaving many regrets behind.
The good equerry's fears proved only too true, as the king found
out to his cost. The young queen made her self most disagreeable
to all her court, her spite and bad temper knew no bounds, and
before the end of a month she was known far and wide as a regular
One day, when riding out, she met a poor old woman walking along
the road, who made a curtsy and was going on, when the queen had
her stopped, and cried: ‘You are a very impertinent person; don't
you know that I am the queen? And how dare you not make me a
‘Madam,' said the old woman, ‘I have never learnt how to measure
curtsies; but I had no wish to fail in proper respect.'
‘What!' screamed the queen; ‘she dares to answer! Tie her to my
horse's tail and I'll just carry her at once to the best dancing-
master in the town to learn how to curtsy.'
The old woman shrieked for mercy, but the queen would not listen,
and only mocked when she said she was protected by the fairies.
At last the poor old thing submitted to be tied up, but when the
queen urged her horse on he never stirred. In vain she spurred
him, he seemed turned to bronze. At the same moment the cord with
which the old woman was tied changed into wreaths of flowers, and
she herself into a tall and stately lady.
Looking disdainfully at the queen, she said, ‘Bad woman, unworthy
of your crown; I wished to judge for myself whether all I heard
of you was true. I have now no doubt of it, and you shall see
whether the fairies are to be laughed at.'
So saying the fairy Placida (that was her name) blew a little
gold whistle, and a chariot appeared drawn by six splendid
ostriches. In it was seated the fairy queen, escorted by a dozen
other fairies mounted on dragons.
All having dismounted, Placida told her adventures, and the fairy
queen approved all she had done, and proposed turning Mutinosa
into bronze like her horse.
Placida, however, who was very kind and gentle, begged for a
milder sentence, and at last it was settled that Mutinosa should
become her slave for life unless she should have a child to take
The king was told of his wife's fate and submitted to it, which,
as he could do nothing to help it, was the only course open to
The fairies then all dispersed, Placida taking her slave with
her, and on reaching her palace she said: ‘You ought by rights to
be scullion, but as you have been delicately brought up the
change might be too great for you. I shall therefore only order
you to sweep my rooms carefully, and to wash and comb my little
Mutinosa felt there was no use in disobeying, so she did as she
was bid and said nothing.
After some time she gave birth to a most lovely little girl, and
when she was well again the fairy gave her a good lecture on her
past life, made her promise to behave better in future, and sent
her back to the king, her husband.
Placida now gave herself up entirely to the little princess who
was left in her charge. She anxiously thought over which of the
fairies she would invite to be godmothers, so as to secure the
best gift, for her adopted child.
At last she decided on two very kindly and cheerful fairies, and
asked them to the christening feast. Directly it was over the
baby was brought to them in a lovely crystal cradle hung with red
silk curtains embroidered with gold.
The little thing smiled so sweetly at the fairies that they
decided to do all they could for her. They began by naming her
Graziella, and then Placida said: ‘You know, dear sisters, that
the commonest form of spite or punishment amongst us consists of
changing beauty to ugliness, cleverness to stupidity, and oftener
still to change a person's form altogether. Now, as we can only
each bestow one gift, I think the best plan will be for one of
you to give her beauty, the other good understanding, whilst I
will undertake that she shall never be changed into any other
The two godmothers quite agreed, and as soon as the little
princess had received their gifts, they went home, and Placida
gave herself up to the child's education. She succeeded so well
with it, and little Graziella grew so lovely, that when she was
still quite a child her fame was spread abroad only too much, and
one day Placida was surprised by a visit from the Fairy Queen,
who was attended by a very grave and severe- looking fairy.
The queen began at once: ‘I have been much surprised by your
behaviour to Mutinosa; she had insulted our whole race, and
deserved punishment. You might forgive your own wrongs if you
chose, but not those of others. You treated her very gently
whilst she was with you, and I come now to avenge our wrongs on
her daughter. You have ensured her being lovely and clever, and
not subject to change of form, but I shall place her in an
enchanted prison, which she shall never leave till she finds
herself in the arms of a lover whom she herself loves. It will be
my care to prevent anything of the kind happening.'
The enchanted prison was a large high tower in the midst of the
sea, built of shells of all shapes and colours. The lower floor
was like a great bathroom, where the water was let in or off at
will. The first floor contained the princess's apartments,
beautifully furnished. On the second was a library, a large
wardrobe-room filled with beautiful clothes and every kind of
linen, a music-room, a pantry with bins full of the best wines,
and a store-room with all manner of preserves, bonbons, pastry
and cakes, all of which remained as fresh as if just out of the
The top of the tower was laid out like a garden, with beds of the
loveliest flowers, fine fruit trees, and shady arbours and
shrubs, where many birds sang amongst the branches.
The fairies escorted Graziella and her governess, Bonnetta, to
the tower, and then mounted a dolphin which was waiting for them.
At a little distance from the tower the queen waved her wand and
summoned two thousand great fierce sharks, whom she ordered to
keep close guard, and not to let a soul enter the tower
The good governess took such pains with Graziella's education
that when she was nearly grown up she was not only most
accomplished, but a very sweet, good girl.
One day, as the princess was standing on a balcony, she saw the
most extraordinary figure rise out of the sea. She quickly called
Bonnetta to ask her what it could be. It looked like some kind of
man, with a bluish face and long sea-green hair. He was swimming
towards the tower, but the sharks took no notice of him.
‘It must be a merman,' said Bonnetta.
‘A man, do you say?' cried Graziella; ‘let us hurry down to the
door and see him nearer.'
When they stood in the doorway the merman stopped to look at the
princess and made many signs of admiration. His voice was very
hoarse and husky, but when he found that he was not understood he
took to signs. He carried a little basket made of osiers and
filled with rare shells, which he presented to the princess.
She took it with signs of thanks; but as it was getting dusk she
retired, and the merman plunged back into the sea.
When they were alone, Graziella said to her governess: ‘What a
dreadful-looking creature that was! Why do those odious sharks
let him come near the tower? I suppose all men are not like him?'
‘No, indeed,' replied Bonnetta. ‘I suppose the sharks look on him
as a sort of relation, and so did not attack him.'
A few days later the two ladies heard a strange sort of music,
and looking out of the window, there was the merman, his head
crowned with water plants, and blowing a great sea-shell with all
They went down to the tower door, and Graziella politely accepted
some coral and other marine curiosities he had brought her. After
this he used to come every evening, and blow his shell, or dive
and play antics under tile princess's window. She contented
herself with bowing to him from the balcony, but she would not go
down to the door in spite of all his signs.
Some days later he came with a person of his own kind, but of
another sex. Her hair was dressed with great taste, and she had a
lovely voice. This new arrival induced the ladies to go down to
the door. They were surprised to find that, after trying various
languages, she at last spoke to them in their own, and paid
Graziella a very pretty compliment on her beauty.
The mermaid noticed that the lower floor was full of water.
‘Why,' cried she, ‘ that is just the place for us, for we can't
live quite out of water.' So saying, she and her brother swam in
and took up a position in the bathroom, the princess and her
governess seating themselves on the steps which ran round the
‘No doubt, madam,' said the mermaid, ‘you have given up living on
land so as to escape from crowds of lovers; but I fear that even
here you cannot avoid them, for my brother is already dying of
love for you, and I am sure that once you are seen in our city he
will have many rivals.'
She then went on to explain how grieved her brother was not to be
able to make himself understood, adding: ‘I interpret for him,
having been taught several languages by a fairy.'
‘Oh, then, you have fairies, too?' asked Graziella, with a sigh.
‘Yes, we have,' replied the mermaid; ‘but if I am not mistaken
you have suffered from the fairies on earth.'
The princess, on this, told her entire history to the mermaid,
who assured her how sorry she felt for her, but begged her not to
lose courage; adding, as she took her leave: Perhaps, some day,
you may find a way out of your difficulties.'
The princess was delighted with this visit and with the hopes the
mermaid held out. It was something to meet someone fresh to talk
‘We will make acquaintance with several of these people,' she
said to her governess, ‘and I dare say they are not all as
hideous as the first one we saw. Anyhow, we shan't be so
‘Dear me,' said Bonnetta, ‘ how hopeful young people are to be
sure! As for me I feel afraid of these folk. But what do you
think of the lover you have captivated?'
‘Oh, I could never love him,' cried the princess; ‘I can't bear
him. But, perhaps, as his sister says they are related to the
fairy Marina, they may be of some use to us.'
The mermaid often returned, and each time she talked of her
brother's love, and each time Graziella talked of her longing to
escape from her prison, till at length the mermaid promised to
bring the fairy Marina to see her, in hopes she might suggest
Next day the fairy came with the mermaid, and the princess
received her with delight. After a little talk she begged
Graziella to show her the inside of the tower and let her see the
garden on the top, for with the help of crutches she could manage
to move about, and being a fairy could live out of water for a
long time, provided she wetted her forehead now and then.
Graziella gladly consented, and Bonnetta stayed below with the
When they were in the garden the fairy said: ‘Let us lose no
time, but tell me how I can be of use to you.' Graziella then
told all her story and Marina replied: ‘My dear princess, I can
do nothing for you as regards dry land, for my power does not
reach beyond my own element. I can only say that if you will
honour my cousin by accepting his hand, you could then come and
live amongst us. I could teach you in a moment to swim and dive
with the best of us. I can harden your skin without spoiling its
colour. My cousin is one of the best matches in the sea, and I
will bestow so many gifts on him that you will be quite happy.'
The fairy talked so well and so long that the princess was rather
impressed, and promised to think the matter over.
Just as they were going to leave the garden they saw a ship
sailing nearer the tower than any other had done before. On the
deck lay a young man under a splendid awning, gazing at the tower
through a spy-glass; but before they could see anything clearly
the ship moved away, and the two ladies parted, the fairy
promising to return shortly.
As soon as she was gone Graziella told her governess what she had
said. Bonnetta was not at all pleased at the turn matters were
taking, for she did not fancy being turned into a mermaid in her
old age. She thought the matter well over, and this was what she
did. She was a very clever artist, and next morning she began to
paint a picture of a handsome young man, with beautiful curly
hair, a fine complexion, and lovely blue eyes. When it was
finished she showed it to Graziella, hoping it would show her the
difference there was between a fine young man and her marine
The princess was much struck by the picture, and asked anxiously
whether there could be any man so good looking in the world.
Bonnetta assured her that there were plenty of them; indeed, many
‘I can hardly believe that,' cried the princess; ‘but, alas! If
there are, I don't suppose I shall ever see them or they me, so
what is the use? Oh, dear, how unhappy I am!'
She spent the rest of the day gazing at the picture, which
certainly had the effect of spoiling all the merman's hopes or
After some days, the fairy Marina came back to hear what was
decided; but Graziella hardly paid any attention to her, and
showed such dislike to the idea of the proposed marriage that the
fairy went off in a regular huff.
Without knowing it, the princess had made another conquest. On
board the ship which had sailed so near was the handsomest prince
in the world. He had heard of the enchanted tower, and determined
to get as near it as he could. He had strong glasses on board,
and whilst looking through them he saw the princess quite
clearly, and fell desperately in love with her at once. He wanted
to steer straight for the tower and to row off to it in a small
boat, but his entire crew fell at his feet and begged him not to
run such a risk. The captain, too, urged him not to attempt it.
‘You will only lead us all to certain death,' he said. ‘Pray
anchor nearer land, and I will then seek a kind fairy I know, who
has always been most obliging to me, and who will, I am sure, try
to help your Highness.'
The prince rather unwillingly listened to reason. He landed at
the nearest point, and sent off the captain in all haste to beg
the fairy's advice and help. Meantime he had a tent pitched on
the shore, and spent all his time gazing at the tower and looking
for the princess through his spyglass.
After a few days the captain came back, bringing the fairy with
him. The prince was delighted to see her, and paid her great
attention. ‘I have heard about this matter,' she said; ‘and, to
lose no time, I am going to send off a trusty pigeon to test the
enchantment. If there is any weak spot he is sure to find it out
and get in. I shall bid him bring a flower back as a sign of
success; and if he does so I quite hope to get you in too.'
‘But,' asked the prince, ‘could I not send a line by the pigeon
to tell the princess of my love?'
‘Certainly,' replied the fairy, ‘it would be a very good plan.'
So the prince wrote as follows:---
‘Lovely Princess,---I adore you, and beg you to accept my heart,
and to believe there is nothing I will not do to end your
This note was tied round the pigeon's neck, and he flew off with
it at once. He flew fast till he got near the tower, when a
fierce wind blew so hard against him that he could not get on.
But he was not to be beaten, but flew carefully round the top of
the tower till he came to one spot which, by some mistake, had
not been enchanted like the rest. He quickly slipped into the
arbour and waited for the princess.
Before long Graziella appeared alone, and the pigeon at once
fluttered to meet her, and seemed so tame that she stopped to
caress the pretty creature. As she did so she saw it had a pink
ribbon round its neck, and tied to the ribbon was a letter. She
read it over several times and then wrote this answer :---
‘You say you love me; but I cannot promise to love you without
seeing you. Send me your portrait by this faithful messenger. If
I return it to you, you must give up hope; but if I keep it you
will know that to help me will be to help yourself.---GRAZIELA.
Before flying back the pigeon remembered about the flower, so,
seeing one in the princess's dress, he stole it and flew away.
The prince was wild with joy at the pigeon's return with the
note. After an hour's rest the trusty little bird was sent back
again, carrying a miniature of the prince, which by good luck he
had with him.
On reaching the tower the pigeon found the princess in the
garden. She hastened to untie the ribbon, and on opening the
miniature case what was her surprise and delight to find it very
like the picture her governess had painted for her. She hastened
to send the pigeon back, and you can fancy the prince's joy when
he found she had kept his portrait.
‘Now,' said the fairy, ‘let us lose no more time. I can only make
you happy by changing you into a bird, but I will take care to
give you back your proper shape at the right time.'
The prince was eager to start, so the fairy, touching him with
her wand, turned him into the loveliest humming-bird you ever
saw, at the same time letting him keep the power of speech. The
pigeon was told to show him the way.
Graziella was much surprised to see a perfectly strange bird, and
still more so when it flew to her saying, ‘Good-morning, sweet
She was delighted with the pretty creature, and let him perch on
her finger, when he said, ‘Kiss, kiss, little birdie,' which she
gladly did, petting and stroking him at the same time.
After a time the princess, who had been up very early, grew
tired, and as the sun was hot she went to lie down on a mossy
bank in the shade of the arbour. She held the pretty bird near
her breast, and was just falling asleep, when the fairy contrived
to restore the prince to his own shape, so that as Graziella
opened her eyes she found herself in the arms of a lover whom she
loved in return!
At the same moment her enchantment came to an end. The tower
began to rock and to split. Bonnetta hurried up to the top so
that she might at least perish with her dear princess. Just as
she reached the garden, the kind fairy who had helped the prince
arrived with the fairy Placida, in a car of Venetian glass drawn
by six eagles.
‘Come away quickly,' they cried, ‘the tower is about to sink!'
The prince, princess, and Bonnetta lost no time in stepping into
the car, which rose in the air just as, with a terrible crash,
the tower sank into the depths of the sea, for the fairy Marina
and the mermen had destroyed its foundations to avenge themselves
on Graziella. Luckily their wicked plans were defeated, and the
good fairies took their way to the kingdom of Graziella's
They found that Queen Mutinosa had died some years ago, but her
kind husband lived on peaceably, ruling his country well and
happily. He received his daughter with great delight, and there
were universal rejoicings at the return of the lovely princess.
The wedding took place the very next day, and, for many days
after, balls, dinners, tournaments, concerts and all sorts of
amusements went on all day and all night.
All the fairies were carefully invited, and they came in great
state, and promised the young couple their protection and all
sorts of good gifts. Prince Blondel and Princess Graziella lived
to a good old age, beloved by every one, and loving each other
more and more as time went on.