Tell me a story granny


FLASH FICTION:“TELL ME A story granny.”

“Well, alright then, but it’ll have to be quick. Once upon a time there was a castle in the forest. No, not a castle, a tower, yes a tower, with a small arched window right at the top and no door.

“The lack of a door presents a few problems but nothing insurmountable. It could have been bricked in, or maybe there was a door but it was concealed by the ivy that twined around the tower. A secret door, that’s it, a secret door that hasn’t been opened for, say, seven years. Seven is a good number and suitably magical.

“Lovers, now they are essential; a princess and a wood-cutter, or a prince and a fisherman’s daughter. Names aren’t important, the thing is for them to be from different social groups, or even different species.

“The girl must be beautiful, albeit concealed by rags and dirt, but the boy can be ugly once he is brave and true. Younger sons are usual, as are only daughters who require a husband so they can rule the kingdom.

“So that’s what we’ll have; a beautiful princess, only child of the king, and the wood-cutter’s youngest son. Youngest of three, three is another good number.

“Now we need something to cross their stars. Let’s see, an enchantment by a spiteful witch, a curse from a jealous stepmother. The evil characters are always women of a certain age, maybe the menopause brings on their innate wickedness.

“So here’s our story. Once upon a time there was a princess, only child of the king. She was imprisoned in a tower by her evil stepmother who was jealous of her beauty. After seven years the woodcutter’s youngest son, who was on a quest to make his fortune, cut down some ivy around a tower and found a secret door.

“He opened the door, rescued the princess, with the aid of some magical agency which was probably dependent on his honesty or general all-round goodness, and, except for the stepmother, who got her comeuppance, they all lived happily ever after.”

“That’s boring Granny”.

“It is, isn’t it? But what if it all broke down? What if the stepmother was good and kind and loved her new daughter and delighted in her beauty? What if she told her not to spend her life waiting for someone brave to come and rescue her, but to become brave?

“What if the princess never married but ruled wisely on her own and banned quests on the grounds that they discriminated against older siblings and clogged up the forest? What if the woodcutter’s son was forced to stay at home and get a proper job due to economic necessity? What if he didn’t fall for the princess but instead for the newly widowed stepmother who was ugly but good-hearted and they all lived happily ever after? Now that would be an interesting story.”

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