Text und Sketches: Hanna Vock
Once upon a time there lived a princess. She was cheerful and lively and never did anybody any harm. She was loving and friendly to all people.
She had a governess who wanted to teach her children‘s songs.
Unfortunately she could never remember the words. She was always wondering why the words and melodies were so silly and childish.
The governess thought to herself:
“What is it with the princess? I haven’t seen such a dumb child. She can’t remember a thing.”
But she still wanted to be a good governess and therefore she kept singing the songs to the princess again and again and again – only the easiest ones – thinking:
“Well, sometime even the princess will remember some of it. There is just no way she could be that stupid!”
And one day she thought to herself:
“She is always singing the same old songs, and they are really only the very easiest ones … even the stablemen sing better songs to the horses. The governess can’t be very smart!”
The little princess liked spending time at the stable which she wasn’t really allowed to do. Whenever she got caught there, there was great outrage about it:
„A princess must not play in the stable, in the stable her nice dresses get dirty, and then she looks nasty and ugly.”
That is why she could only go to the stable secretly.
And she did so often, since the stableman Casimir had many interesting stories to tell, and above all he knew how to come up with all kinds of riddles. The princess loved riddles very much!
So, one day Casimir said:
“Princess, please help me get some fresh oat for the horses, but I don’t know exactly how much is needed. We have 4 ponies on the range, each gets 1 sack of oat, each of the 6 big horses gets 2 sacks. How many sacks do I have to get now, so they all get enough oat?”
The little princess didn’t have to think long:
„You need 16 sacks.“
The stableman was amazed, he was good at arithmetic himself. He had been practicing for a long time – but the princess, where did she learn it, after she hadn’t been taught at all?
„How do you know this?“
And the princess answered:
„I just know.“
And then Casimir entrusted her with his big secret:
He had a book, and he could read in it. He understood the letters and so the book told him his stories.
„Princess, there are many more books. They are in the library of the palace. I’m not allowed there, but I can’t tell you how much I would like another book. I want to see, what other stories are hidden in it.”
When he was finished reading, the princess would secretly put them back. After all she knew – and so did Casimir – that the king would never have allowed the royal books to be handed to the stableman.
Out of gratitude he explained the letters to the princess, and before he knew it, she could read better and faster than he himself.
That’s how they became best friends.
One evening the princess was once again sitting silently at the supper table with her parents, the royal couple. When everybody was finished the queen said to the king:
„Our princess doesn’t talk much, neither does she play with the other children. She doesn’t seem to enjoy jumping off the little wall in the palace garden hundreds of times like they do.
She is quite peculiar.
What do you make of it, after all, you’re the father?”
The king replied:
„Yes, yes, a little peculiar, indeed. I hear, she won’t speak the rhymes after the governess, but instead cuts a defiant face.
Maybe we ought to send for an instructor soon, who will teach her so she doesn’t stay too dumb. Who wants to marry a dumb princess?”
And so a famous tutor was sent for. He was to teach the princess everything that was important. And this is how he tried:
„Well, honoured princess, at first we shall begin with something easy. Look here, this is one chair. If I were to put another chair next to it, how many chairs would that make? Take your time and think about it thoroughly, then tell me your answer tomorrow.”
She was then allowed to leave. On her way out she could overhear him telling the queen:
„I have given her a difficult problem. It is important that she first learn some arithmetic before we begin with the letters.”
replied the queen, since she trusted the tutor’s expertise.
And the princess understood that the teacher couldn’t become her friend.
After this unpleasant experience with the teacher the princess ran off to her bed-chamber, in order to read a little. She had found a book in the library which she was terribly curious about. She kept it hidden under her mattress.
But there was a problem when she got to her bed-chamber:
The governess was sitting there stitching a doily. So the princess decided to tell a little lie:
„I would like to rest, please leave me alone.”
Fortunately the governess got up and prepared to leave:
„O dear, princess, has the lesson been so hard? You are still young and you already have to learn so much. Sleep well, my little angel.”
Finally all by herself, she started reading her book.
The book was about doctors and how they were able to cure really bad illnesses, and also about all the things that had not been explored yet.
The princess thought:
>Why aren’t the other children interested in this?
Everybody could fall sick really badly, and then you would want to know what can be done. I can never talk to the other children about these things…
Other than Casimir, I really don’t have a friend.<
That was when the princess all of a sudden got really sad and had to cry for a while.
When she was through crying, she thought to herself:
>But one is better than none<, and she decided to show Casimir this interesting book about the illnesses. After all, he could fall ill some time, too.
Every Monday, at 12 o’clock sharp, the king had ministers and scholars report to the throne. And now it was Monday. The princess kept very quiet so she could hear the grown-ups talking.
Today there was a man, whose name was Alexander. He had travelled the world and was telling the most exciting stories from far away countries.
The princess would have loved to listen longer, but the king got hungry and wanted to have lunch, so he sent the man away.
At the table the princess dared to ask:
„Will the widely travelled man come back?“
The queen frowned in astonishment and told the princess she better finish her purée – but the princess defied her. She thought: >Now or never!< Courageously she kept inquiring:
„Couldn’t this man be my tutor? He knows so much!“
Now the king, too, was astonished, he hadn’t noticed that the princess had been in the throne room listening.
„You already have the best tutor, so don’t be getting any funny ideas!”
The princess continued eating and tried to figure out whether her ideas were really all that ‘funny’. And the longer she was thinking about it, the more it upset her.
Eventually she couldn’t hold it any longer and she burst out so loud, everybody had to hold their hands over their ears. She hollered and stamped her feet.
And when she finally caught some breath she said loud and clear:
„Mother and father, what good is it that I am a princess if I never get a wish fulfilled? I want this man as my teacher, and that’s my word! And if I don’t get him, I’ll…, I’ll…, I’ll never again eat purée!”
The parents were shocked. But they loved the princess dearly.
„Well then, he shall be sent for“,
ordered the king.
Now the princess started to think and was afraid what the man would say about having to be her teacher.
The governess had told her that this time he hadn’t come voluntarily. The palace guards had had to drag him to the palace by force. And so there he was now, standing there and secretly furious about the princess.
„I beg your pardon.”, said the princess, “I am very interested in your stories from far away countries and I would like to learn from you. If it isn’t suitable now, we could meet some other time.”
The princess had never before been heard speaking so well-mannered.
„I will be giving you difficult riddles to solve, though.”
And the princess replied:
„That’s alright, I’m sure I’ll solve them.”
This was the beginning of a wonderful time for the princess. Alexander didn’t treat her like a child, but spoke to her in his usual way. She learned without even noticing that she was learning things, because it was so much fun.
And indeed the princess solved even the most difficult problems which Alexander assigned to her. And everybody who heard about this was amazed.
The princess did have to think for a while, then she said:
„Piece of cake! That’s a horse that has closed its eyes.”
”Princess, you are not dumb, you are smart!”,
The princess’ mother was not very happy about all this. One evening she sorrowfully said to the king:
„Our daughter is much too smart. What shall become of this princess?
Which prince will want to marry her? Most princes don’t want an empty-headed princess for a wife, but she shouldn’t be all that smart either.”
„You are right, woman“,
said the king.
„What is a prince supposed to do with a princess who knows more and can think better than he himself?
He’ll have to fear that she won’t obey him and that the other men laugh at him.
We will send the tutor away. It’s all his fault.”
And so it was done. Alexander had to leave.
The princess cried and moaned and whined, but it was no good.
Alexander went on another journey. He was very sad about having to leave the princess.
And since in those days there was no mail, no phone, no emails, they never heard of each other again. Alexander often thought of the princess hoping she be well.
And the princess often thought of Alexander wishing he be happy.
After some time had passed, prince Henry came to the palace. He wanted to become king of the great kingdom and for that he first had to marry the princess.
The princess was horrified and at the supper table, when she heard him say many stupid things, she asked him a question to test him:
„Prince Henry, if I marry you and I bear two daughters and two sons, how many children do we have then?”
The prince put on a pitiful smile and replied:
„Five. But that’s not enough for me, I want 10 children!”
Turning toward the queen the princess said:
„Mother, this man is just too stupid, he couldn’t even count his own children.”
The queen sighed and prince Henry took leave.
Soon after prince Cuno showed up. He thought himself not only handsome and strong but also very smart.
The princess thought:
“He is not quite as stupid as Henry, so I’ll have to ask him a more difficult question to test him.”
„Tell me, prince Cuno, what do you wish: a wife who is more stupid than you, or a wife who is smarter than you, or a wife who is just as smart you are. Tell me your answer tomorrow.”
„There is no woman who is as smart as I, let alone smarter. Therefore I can only wish for a wife who is dumber than I. But that’s no problem, because I think for her and tell her what’s right or wrong.”
„Failed! You may go”,
said the princess, turned away from him and looked at Casimir. They had a good laugh at the conceited prince.
It didn’t take long and the next prince who was after the kingdom appeared. His name was Adalbert, he was a scholar and wanted to get married soon, he had fallen in love with the beautiful and smart princess at first sight.
The King gravely said to the princess:
„Prince Adalbert is coming. He is very learned and very much in love with you. You will marry him.”
„Take it easy”,
said the princess and posed her question:
„Imagine you had a wife whose ideas were oftentimes better than yours, could you take that?”
Adalbert wanted to make everything right, he really wanted the princess to marry him so bad. So he thought about it really hard and then some more …
>I am the man, naturally I want to be the smarter one.<
But at the same time he didn’t want to displease the princess. Eventually he had his answer laid out and went to see the princess.
„Princess, I don’t mind if my wife has good ideas… as long as she doesn’t speak up. If she doesn’t voice her good ideas, she can’t cause too much trouble.”
Sadly the princess shook her head.
„That’s not enough, Adalbert.”
Another prince she didn’t want to marry, but the king had no more patience with his daughter, he proclaimed:
„That’s it! Tomorrow is wedding-day!”
What was the princess to do now? Sad and sorry, she was sitting in her chamber
Then, all of a sudden, she got up and said to herself.
„No, I don’t want to keep my good ideas secret, I want to be allowed to say them. And no one should think I’m funny because I like reading and thinking. I shall go and search for friends who are just like me.”
And since the princess was no child anymore she took all the money from her treasure chest and packed all her favourite clothes in a big bag.
>Dear Mother, dear Father. I shall go and travel the world and seek my fortune. Please keep your fingers crossed for me so that I’ll be lucky on my quest.<
Then the princess ran to her old friend Casimir.
„Casimir, bring me the fastest horse. I want to travel the world and search my fortune.”
So the princess left, a little frightened, yet full of joy, and lived happily ever after.
Date of publication in German: January 26 th, 2009
Translation: Arno Zucknick
Copyright © Hanna Vock 2001, see Imprint
Konny and Karl-Heinrich Eppmann (Cologne).