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Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Tale of Tales Day Five

  a poetic rendition of
                                            Day 5, Tale 7

​The Rescued Princess

Each man for himself, said a father
to his five good-for-nothing young sons.
I love you, God knows, 
but as each of you grows  
I can feed you no more, precious ones.

Go forth now and learn to do something.
Find a master who’ll teach you a trade.
Stay no more than a year. 
Then return to me here
and reveal what good progress you’ve made.

They gathered again a year later.
While feasting they heard a bird sing.
The youngest said, I’d 
better go back outside.
That bird has a message to bring.

When the table was cleared each reported.
The eldest said, I am a thief.
None have my skill 
in purloining a till.  
Of your treasures I’ll give you relief.

Good boy, said has father, though rather
you’d learned how to spin at a wheel,
for I’ll end up a wreck 
if you hang by the neck
for performing your trade with much zeal.

And you? he inquired of the second.
My trade is that I can build boats.
That is better, by far. 
It’s a wise son you are
with a craft that will earn you your oats.

The third said that he was a marksman.
I can shoot out a chicken’s left eye.
Then you and your bow 
won’t go hungry I know,
for with hunting you’re sure to get by.

Of the fourth he asked, What have you mastered?
With an herb I can bring back the dead.
Now that is an art 
that goes straight to my heart.
You’ll be rich as a baron, he said.  

By this time the fifth son re-entered.
What have you learned while you were away?
I can understand birds. 
To me chirps are like words.
If that’s so, what did yonder bird say?

It was saying an ogre has kidnapped
a princess, whose father allows
that whoever can bring 
her back home to the king
will be given the girl’s nuptial vows.

Then, let’s go, said the first, I can steal her.
I can loosen the heaviest chain.
Son two built a boat 
which soon put them afloat
on their way to the troubled domain.

Once arrived the king honored his promise.  
If you can retrieve her, she’s yours.
On top of a reef 
lay the girl and her thief.
The heavens were rocked with his snores.

They could see that the ogre’s head rested
on top of the princess’s lap.
And they told her, Be still, 
darling princess, until
we have managed to flummox this chap.

They slipped out the princess from under
and put a big stone in her place.
Then they boarded again 
and were just away when
he awoke with a scowl on his face.

He looked to the shore and he spied them.
You’ll not have her! he bellowed out loud.
He uttered a spell 
which all ogres know well,
and he changed himself into a cloud.

They rowed and the black cloud raced after.
The princess, aware of his trick,
had time to say, There! T
hat’s the fiend in the air!
Then she fainted away, very sick.

The son who was marksman got ready
and let go an arrow which flew
straight and true to its mark. 
First the cloud grew more dark
then collapsed, and the ogre was through.

But when they looked back at the princess
they saw that she clearly had died.
Oh no, they said, now 
we’ll be punished, and how.
What an imprudent thing to have tried.

When we bring her corpse back to the kingdom
we’ll be greeted with fire and with ropes.
But the fifth son said, Wait. 
It may not be too late.
I’ve a talent, so keep up your hopes.

In a short space of time the boat landed.
The son went to search for a leaf
which, brought back to the ship, 
he applied to her lip
and she lived, to their massive relief.

The king stood embracing his daughter.
But which one will she get to wed?
Let us say what we’ve done 
and then you choose the one
who has earned her, the eldest son said.

So each son then related his exploits.
The king heard what each had to say.
But we must not forget. 
There is one person yet
who’s not spoken. What part did you play?

This last he addressed to the father,
who blushingly said, A great deal.
It was I who made men 
out of foot-draggers when
I compelled them to work for a meal.

Had I not sent them out, they’d be nothing.
I think, said the king, you speak true.
For your sons, here is gold 
they can spend till they’re old.
But I’m giving my daughter to you.

And so it was done in that kingdom
where there ruled a wise king. In a whirl,
with his heart filled with joy, 
and as spry as a boy,
the good father was wed to the girl.