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

more becoming.'

‘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

deeper curtsy?'

‘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

her place.

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

his might.

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

dreadfully lonely.'

‘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

far handsomer.

‘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.