A Folk Tale from Poland
The Three Princesses
It happened a long, long time ago, so long that no one knows whether it is true or not, but we believe that it is.
In a large castle with thousands of towers, windows and doors lived three princesses. They were very beautiful and dressed only in the best dresses, covered in ribbons and lace. And on their feet they wore golden shoes. Their affection for clothing was so great, the dressmakers and the shoemakers could not keep up with their demands.
All day long in the castle, music played and the three princesses did their favorite thing of all. They danced. They did not want to study, they did not want to work, or even go outside to play or for a walk.
The King and Queen were getting worried because, although the three princesses were beautiful, no princes would stay long enough to absorb their loveliness. The princesses were to become Queens one day and every Queen must know much more than how to dance. Being a wife of a King was a very difficult thing.
One day, the King got some news about a fortune teller that lived in his kingdom. After a long search for her, the King finally found the fortune teller and invited her to his castle. When she arrived at the castle, the King was very shocked to see a very tired and old looking woman, holding a broom. He did not picture her this way.
” I was brought here to sweep,” said the old lady, and before the King had a chance to think, the old lady began to wave her broom stick. With one wave of her broomstick, everyone in the castle disappeared, including the King and Queen, the servants and the musicians. A strange silence fell over the castle and the three princesses were left alone.
“We can sing and dance by ourselves,” said the first princess.
“Yes, yes.” agreed the second princess.
” Yes, now we have more room to dance and no one will tell us what to do,” exclaimed the third princess.
So the princesses continued to dance and sing. They sang and danced until the evening, when it started to get dark and the girls were beginning to get hungry. So they decided to have supper. The oldest princess, called for the servants to bring their dinner to the table, but all she heard in response was an echo. The girls decided to go to the kitchen, but when they looked inside and there was no one there, and nothing was ready for them to eat, they began to cry.
The oldest princess realized that she must take charge and said, ” Don’t be scared, this is only a dream and we’ll wake up soon.”
The princesses were so tired and hungry that they didn’t have the strength to go to their own beds to sleep. So they sat down at the kitchen table to rest their heads, and fell asleep. They stayed there until the sun’s rays started to shine through the kitchen window.
But unfortunately, when the girls awoke, the kitchen was still empty and they were now even more hungry.
“If there is no one here inside the castle, maybe everyone is hiding outside” said the middle princess. So the three of them ran outside to see if anyone was there. They ran into the garden but they only saw flowers and trees. Underneath one of the trees, they saw a little squirrel holding a nut in its paws. The girls approached the squirrel:
“Can we have that nut you have in your paws?” They asked the squirrel in unison.
“Well why haven’t you been gathering nuts?” asked the squirrel.
“I am collecting nuts for the winter and have been for a long time now. Look at all of the nuts laying underneath the tree,” proclaimed the squirrel.
The princesses looked at each other and then looked under the tree and saw lots and lots of nuts.
“We have to get a basket and start gathering the nuts,” said the oldest princess.
So the three princesses began to gather the nuts. When they were done, they sat down to eat and they noticed that the nuts they collected themselves tasted so much better than any other nuts they have tasted.
“We were lazy, and forgot how to do anything for ourselves,” said the middle princess with lowered head.
“I want our mother to return,” said the youngest princess.
And then the old fortune teller, carrying her broom, approached the princesses. She handed her broom to the oldest princess and said, “I see that each of you has proven yourself to be very smart and if you clean up the castle, everything will be back to normal, and you’ll be able to dance again when the time is right.”
The fortune teller disappeared and the girls knew that there was a lot of work to be done, because the castle was big and they wanted to see their parents so much. When the night came, the girls were so tired that they fell asleep right away. But when they awoke, they saw their parents, the King and Queen, standing by their bedsides. Everything was as it was before that nightmare had begun. Everything except for one detail: from that day on, the princesses studied and worked hard and afterwards, when they had time remaining, they danced and sang. And everybody in the castle was happy.
Only the King once in a while scratches his head and wonders if what happened was real, or was it simply all a dream.
Submitted by Karolina Palka, a Polish au pair living in Massachusetts in 2004