JAMES A TUCKER
In this case, it really was once, because whereas most fairy stories happen time after time, this only happened once that I am aware of.
As for why it was upon a time, rather than in a particular time, I have no idea. Tradition I suppose.
So let us go to a standard, mail-order fairy tale kingdom (suitable for pantomimes, kiddies books or Disney cartoons etc, a snip at only $10!) where things got slightly skewed...
The door blew open with a thunderous blast, admitting a squall of freezing wind and cold, wet rain. Along with these came a lithe figure in tight black clothes and a billowing cloak, holding a package and an ebony wand.
The moment this figure entered there was a change in the wind. It was suddenly full of booooo!s and hisses, and even a scrumpled crisp packet materialised out of nothing and hit her. She ignored it with immense dignity.
“Not inviting me again! Ha! They never learn!”
The mother thought this was a particularly horrible nightmare. Having an Evil Fairy come into her house was one thing, but those black tights! Euurrgh!
“If the nobs don’t want my gift, I’ll give it to a peasant instead!” The Evil Fairy stalked over to the bed.
“I give you… brains!” She unwrapped the package and the mother gasped in horror at the organ in her hand before it was stuffed quickly in through the child’s ears.
“But you’re supposed to curse children!” gasped the mother.
“I just have,” said the Fairy.
His parents called him Wurzel to begin with as they wanted him to become a farmer, but the baby cried so loudly when they suggested this that they eventually called him John instead.
Which shows that, even at this stage, the baby had brains. That was undeniable, especially as he grew up. By age 5 he already knew everything there was to know about cobbling from his father, although when he got older the shoes he made tended to have slightly too many buckles and come higher up the leg than they should, especially on the ladies.
School was hardly worth bothering with, but then it was only school for peasants after all, where they were taught how to touch their caps to nobility, say prayers and sing happy songs. And having more than one brain cell, John soon came to hate all of this very much. Luckily the teacher was very impressed and gave him extra lessons in how to read and write.
A lot of people thought this wasn’t quite healthy. He shouldn’t be wasting his time with paper when he should be out playing games with the other children. And so he came in for a lot of “stick”. Not bullying, because no-one in such a nice place would ever bully now, would they?
His parents then thought that their son was meant to be a clerk or a lawyer instead, and nearly changed his name to Percival to match. John was having none of it. He wanted to become an inventor or even a wizard… but his parents couldn’t send him to college.
In a rare fit of initiative, his Mum and Dad sent off to the tutor of the young Prince and asked him that, seeing as his charge never had any time for study anyway, would he teach their gifted son? But the tutor wasn’t going to waste time on a commoner.
Which brings us onto the Prince, born on the same day as John (check the start of the story if you don’t remember, in which case you have the attention span of a gnat and should go read something with more pictures and less words). As the more astute of you may have guessed, the story is going to set up a kind of rivalry between the two lads.
To start with, let us build up a sense of indignation by telling you about all the privileges and advantages this Prince had that John didn’t. To begin with he was Strong, Handsome and Brave but hadn’t had to work for any of those, as they were given magically by the Fairies1. Then he was spoilt rotten by his parents, who being Royalty were very rich. Other kids let him win at all their games, although this was difficult with intellectual ones – the Prince was thick as two short planks and kept forgetting how the Knight moved.
And when they reached the rather tricky time of adolescence in a fairy-story with no sex education, the Prince naturally had all the girls in the village after him, and they had no time at all for John, who was ugly even for a peasant. For as you should know from all good fairy stories, Royalty are nearly always the beautiful ones. And if you do get an attractive peasant, they’ll often turn out to be Royalty in disguise, or end up as Royalty by marriage soon enough.
So John got jealous. I’m sure most readers will be familiar with some bastard or bitch who has looks, money and sexual magnetism into the bargain. If not, I hope you aren’t that kind of person yourself, in which case I hate you and you can stop reading my story.
John was still working as a cobbler, his education was at a dead end and the only girl interested in him was as dull as a cowpat, and hence he decided to GO AND SEEK HIS FORTUNE.
But where? Well, there was one notable Fortune up for grabs together with a Kingdom and a beautiful Princess into the bargain, so it was only natural that he went for Sleeping Beauty.
Item: Princess, one. No previous owners, stored safely in Deep Sleep. Best Before 1 century.
Item: Castle, one, with 30 pointy turrets. Comes with staff, also in Sleep.
Item: Kingdom, one. Packaged in a thief-proof Thorn Barrier. Comes with population, all – you’ve guessed it – asleep.
Instructions: Kiss Princess to activate.
Caution: In event of a Dragon occurring, use a Big Sword.
So John made his preparations, climbed on his second-hand mule, and set off at the dead of night.
We’ll skip directly to him arriving at the Thorn Barrier. It was very high and very prickly. A number of people had tried to get through it in the past and were all asleep in the outer layers – and, as the locals had dubious morals, most of them had been robbed blind, even of their clothes.
There’s no point in having a brain if you don’t use it, and John had come up with a Plan. This was a very good Plan, because it even made the best of having been a cobbler’s son.
John had been saving all the off-cuts of leather from the shop for ages, and sewing them carefully together in the dead of night. He’d constructed an entire, all-over body suit from leather, totally impenetrable2, complete with gloves, boots and a helmet. It was quite tight and hard to get into, but for some odd reason John didn’t mind...
Now he put the shiny black suit on again, checked the seams carefully, and started crawling through the thorns. He didn’t feel a prick doing this. This was fortunate, as if you did feel one of those thorns, it would be goodnight for years...
John was expecting to feel really hot and sweaty as he went through the bush, and in fact he did just a bit, but when he reached the far side he wasn’t all that eager to take the suit off. As everyone in the enchanted kingdom was asleep, he thought he’d just take off the helmet and keep wearing the rest. Only for the time being, of course.
A kingdom full of sleeping people is an odd place. The air is full of the tidal surges of a thousand people snoring at once. Even the spiders were asleep in their webs.
On a darker note, there were not a few corpses lying around. Some folk had fallen and struck their heads when they went to sleep, and now were just skeletons. In one place a fire had been left untended, and ended up burning a whole street to the ground.
So you see this isn’t just a U-certificate tale. People actually die in this, so we’re talking PG here at least. (Depending on whether the storyteller can contain his urges, of course…)
Then there was the Dragon, which had very keen senses and felt the vibrations of an awake person’s feet the moment John was through the barrier. It woke up from its bed of jewels in the castle, yawned a sulphurous yawn (morning breath after just a day is bad enough, let alone decades!) then took a run-up across the courtyard and lurched into the air.
Only John had planned for this as well. The solution to the Dragon problem was close at hand, so if you didn’t spot it, you’re thick.
Namely, the Sleep-Thorns. Being smart, John had smeared a set of arrows with poison from the barrier, and as the Dragon came close he hid behind a wagon and started shooting at it. The Dragon shrugged off the first few arrows as Dragons usually do, landed to barbecue and eat him, then decided it needed a nap. So it had one.
John took he liberty of painting a moustache and spectacles on the sleeping beastie, as he’d never had much reverence, I’m afraid.
Nor had someone else. There was a collar around the Dragon’s neck with “Rover” inscribed on it.
And so on to the castle. John set off the burglar alarm getting in, but as the guard were all asleep he just smashed it with a big axe and went on up to the sleeping beauty’s chamber.
And there she was, every bit as beautiful as only unrealistically proportioned cartoon women can be. (If you don’t know, just look at Esmerelda in the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Phwoarrr!) And of course she’d been arranged in a very nice pose on the bed in a clinging silk dressing gown.
John couldn’t help himself. He kissed her straight away.
Her eyelids fluttered (makeup still impeccable after 100 years, and no bad breath either). Her bosom heaved, she stretched, opened her eyes... and her mouth fell open in shock. John realised suddenly that he’d forgotten to take off the leather suit.
Awoken Beauty stared at him for a few moments in shock, then collapsed back onto the bed, unconscious again.
“Ooops,” said John.
Then it occurred to him that maybe mouth-to-mouth resuscitation might be needed. Of course, she seemed to be breathing fine, but then you never knew, and if his hands strayed accidentally...
He was just reaching for her again when there was a bang, a flash, and a chorus of Boo!s and hisses. The Evil Fairy appeared on the far side of the bed, brandishing her wand.
“You’ve invaded the enchanted castle!” she yelled. “I’m going to – hang on a minute…”
Her eyes travelled slowly over the leather.
“Well hello there,” she said. “This your first time here?”
“Um—” John’s eyes were travelling as well, largely across the black tights the Evil Fairy was wearing. They were in incredibly poor taste. Almost as bad as his suit. Disgusting.
“Yeah,” he said. “Feel like showing me around?”
“Anywhere you’d like to see in particular?”
John’s eyes managed to escape the tights and looked at the fairy’s magic wand. Mind you, this was out of the frying pan and into the fire, as her fingers were making some caressing motions along the shaft that he found oddly disturbing.
(See what I mean? The certificate has gone to 15 now!)
“You look very hot in that suit. How about I show you one of the guest bedrooms and you can slip into something more comfortable?”
John was worried. It was obvious that the fairy was casting some kind of evil mesmeric spell on him, clouding his senses and doing odd things to his body.
“Yes please!” he said.
At which point, they left the room rather hurriedly. The narrative won’t follow them or the certificate would rapidly jump to 18 (at least, given the author…).
A few minutes later, there was a whistling and a rather bored-looking prince wandered into the room. He’d used his magic sword to cut his way through the thorn barrier, but all the excitement of fighting dragons hadn’t materialised, so he was feeling a bit let down. The only odd thing was a noise somewhere between torture and wild animals fighting, but he’d just taken this to be spooky background music, and was too thick to realise it was coming from a bedroom.
Shrugging, he put aside his weapon (the sword, that is) and kissed Sleeping Beauty firmly on the lips. She stirred, sighed, reached up – then felt his armour. Her eyes flicked open and the smile vanished from her face.
“Put the leather back on or you can forget it!” she snapped, rolled over and went back to sleep.
So this, shocked reader, is the end. The morals of this story are: that no matter if you have a good brain it won’t always do the thinking; wearing tight leather can cause odd reactions; and never underestimate the kinkiness of the aristocracy.