In keeping with my current policy of recycling old material rather than thinking of something new to write about, I humbly submit the following fractured fairy tale script, suitable for all ages. But first, a note on the genesis of this irreverent tale. When I was very young, we had a large book of fairy tales which had been very beautifully illustrated. I remember particularly the picture from ‘The Princess & the Pea,’ which depicted the princess’ bedchamber with its richly-woven mattresses piled high to the sky. But I didn’t much like the story; or, rather, I read it as a cautionary tale. I concluded that any girl who couldn’t sleep because of a pea under so many mattresses, and who had the ill-breeding to complain about such otherwise luxurious accommodations the next morning, was far too high-maintenance for the likes of me, and that I would do my best to avoid any romantic doings with princesses.
The Prince & the Peabrain
Narrator: Once upon a time there lived a prince with an over-protective mother. All his life, she had made all of his decisions for him, and, on the occasion of his eighteenth birthday, she decided it was time for him to marry. Not only that, but she also announced that she had found a wonderful princess for him to marry, and had sent for her. The prince, however, who was feeling very proud and grown-up because he had just finished blowing out all of his birthday candles all by himself, decided it was finally time for him to put his foot down.
Prince: Mother, it pains me to say this, but I am finally going to have to put my foot down.
Queen: Oh, I do wish you would, my dear boy. It must be terribly uncomfortable, keeping it up in the air like that.
Prince: Mother, that’s not what I meant, and you know it. All my life, you have made all of my decisions for me. You’ve never let me do anything by myself. You even used to help me blow out my birthday candles. Well, today I have blown them out all by myself, and I hereby announce that I will choose my own wife.
Queen: But, my dear boy, you don’t know the first thing about choosing a princess.
Prince: Mother, if by ‘princess’ you mean some beautiful creature of such rare pedigree that a single pea, hidden under twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds, would keep her awake at night; well, that’s not the sort of person I’m looking for. Frankly, I think a princess would be hard to live with. I want to marry a girl who has some really fine qualities; someone I can love and respect for her own sake.
Queen: My dear child, I’ve never heard you talk like this before. I guess you really are a big boy now. But remember, a prince is not like normal people. There are certain rules he has to follow.
Prince: Mother, I don’t need another lecture on the rules. I can recite them forwards and backwards. Now, please stand aside; I am off to seek my bride.
Narrator: Now, actually, the prince already had a bride in mind. He had met her several months earlier in the marketplace, where she sold persimmons, and had been smitten by her honesty. As a prince, he was used to merchants trying to cheat him out of small amounts of money. He didn’t mind, as he had more than he needed, anyway. But this girl refused to cheat him. Once he even dropped a gold coin into the pile of persimmons while her back was turned, but the next day she handed it back to him, and apologized for not having returned it sooner. It was to this most honest of young women that he now made his princely way.
Prince: Persimmon girl!
Persimmon Girl: Yes, my lord? Tuppence worth of persimmons, as usual? I’m afraid they’re not as good as last week’s, so I’ve had to lower the price.
Prince: No persimmons today, my darling, for I love you, and want to make you my bride.
Persimmon Girl: My lord! Of course, I love you as well, but I am afraid it is not a pure love. After all, you are a prince, and every girl fancies herself in love with a prince.
Prince: Say no more. You are honest even in love, and it is your very honesty that has smitten me.
Narrator: The prince then filled her in on the ordeal she would have to undergo, slung her up behind him on his horse, and rode with her, triumphantly, to the palace. The queen was very polite about the whole thing, and asked her to stay the night. For breakfast there was orange marmalade and crumpets.
Queen: Now, tell me, my dear sweet honest persimmon girl, how did you sleep last night?
Persimmon Girl: To be perfectly frank, Your Highness, I hardly slept a wink. All night long, all I could think about was how I had agreed to make up a story about feeling a pea under the mattresses, but the fact is, I’ve never been in such a comfortable bed in my life.
Narrator: Well, the rules being the rules, the prince had to give up on the honest little persimmon girl. He was heartbroken. But he forgot his grief by going to lots of parties, and telling stupid jokes, and at one of these parties he met a girl who did not laugh when he told his worst joke. Then he told his best joke, and she giggled slightly. He fell in love with her at once. See, usually, when princes tell jokes, people laugh. The prince was entranced to meet a girl with such a great sense of humor that she only laughed when things were really funny. He threw her across his saddle, and dashed to the palace. On the way, he explained about the trial with the mattresses and the pea. She laughed and laughed. For breakfast there were broiled tomatoes and plovers on toast.
Queen: Now, tell me, girl with great sense of humor, how did you sleep last night?
Girl WGSOH: To be perfectly frank, Your Highness, I hardly slept a wink. All night long, I was laughing my head off about this cockamamie pea under the mattresses business, but the fact is, I’ve never been in such a comfortable bed in my life.
Narrator: Well, the rules being the rules, the prince had to give up on the girl with the great sense of humor. Again, he was heartbroken. This falling in and out of love was hard work. He went for a walk. There had to be a less strenuous way to go about this. At the inn, the post coach had just arrived. A beautiful young woman stepped out of it. The prince introduced himself, and, more and more taken with her beauty, impulsively asked her to come with him to the palace. He did not tell her about the mattresses, nor about the pea. He could tell her later, after dinner, if he decided that he liked her. He didn’t like her. Her only interests seemed to be clothes and jewelry, she was hard to talk to, and she wasn’t happy with the servants. For breakfast, there was quail eggs benedict with caviar, smoked salmon with melon slices, and peaches with cream.
Queen: Now, tell me, my dear girl, how did you sleep last night?
Prince: Mother, I’m sure the beautiful girl slept just fine. Let’s just finish up this lovely breakfast, and I’ll take her back into town.
Agnes: To be perfectly frank, Your Highness, my name is not ‘beautiful girl,’ but Agnes. And to answer your mother’s question, I didn’t sleep a wink. That bed was horrible. It was like trying to sleep on a rock.
Prince: Mother, don’t listen to her. She slept wonderfully.
Queen: My dear boy, I’m so pleased that you’ve met Princess Agnes. She’s the beautiful princess I was telling you about, that I had sent for.
Prince: But . . .
Agnes: And do you call this breakfast? Take this mess away and bring me Belgian Waffles with whortleberries immediately. And what lazy servant let the fire go out in here last night? I’m freezing. Somebody get me some furs, and see to it that the guilty servant is flogged. What a way to run a palace! My bath was at least half a degree warmer than I’d asked for this morning. When is the wedding?
Prince: But . . .
Queen: No ‘buts’ now, my dear boy. You know the rules. The wedding will be this afternoon, my dear.
Prince: But . . .
Agnes: Not a moment too soon, although I must say the prince isn’t much at conversation. We’ll have to get him a good tailor. If he were dressed better, maybe it wouldn’t be so obvious. And the tapestries? So last century, not to mention the furniture, and I’m assuming this is your picnic china? Because I couldn’t possibly serve real people on plates like these. What we’ll have to do, until the new palace is finished, is . . .
Narrator: And that afternoon the Prince and Agnes were married, and lived . . . ever after.