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

​a poetic rendition of

                                    Day 5, Tale 9 

The Lemon Fay

The king had built all of his hopes and his dreams
on his son who was born to be stubborn, it seems.
He wanted the prince to be wed. Choose a fair 
nubile princess, then marry and give me an heir.
He longed to be grandsire. The prince was averse.
When the talk turned to marriage he shuddered, and worse,
he would stare out the window as if he would say,
I wish I were hundreds of kingdoms away.

His father, foreseeing his race at an end,
was first sad and then angry. No pleading could bend
the boy’s will. He just mulishly dug in his heels.
I will never get married, despite what he feels.
But there can be one instant, which when it appears
can make more of a change than in one hundred years.
Though one does not choose to take this road or that,
it happens.The prince was at ease where he sat

when his moment occurred, and it altered his life.
While cutting a newly made cheese with a knife
the blade nicked his finger. His blood on the rind
formed a mixture of colors which dazzled his mind.
He must find a woman as white and as red!
Sire, give me your blessing to travel, he said.
I will find this woman, no matter the cost,
or all will be over. My life will be lost.

Overwhelmed and amazed, the king felt his house shake.
Life of my soul, do not make this mistake.
Where will you travel, and where waste your days?
Don’t you know of the dangers that lurk on your ways?
First deny me an heir? then deprive me of son?
His words were not heard. When his ranting was done
he reluctantly gave him a bagful of gold
and two or three servants to whom it was told,

Take good care of him.  Yes, sire.   And then they were gone.
Through fields, over mountains the troupe traveled on,
but when, four months later, they came to the shore
the servants were left, as their feet had grown sore.
He boarded a ship and he sailed far and wide
till he came to an island where ghulas reside.
There he met an old hag with a hideous face.
Son, tell me what trouble brings you to this place?

He told of the cheese, of the girl, of his plight.
So, it’s you. Now hear this. You are traveling right,
but my daughters are ghulas. If they see you here
they will roast you. An oven will serve as your bier.
Run as fast as a hare and within one more week
you’ll be closer than this to the prize that you seek.
Without a goodbye he ran off at great speed
and met up with another, far uglier indeed.

She too, told him, Hasten, unless you’ve a wish
to be served to my daughters, pan fried, on a dish.
But run. You will find what you want very soon.
He met a third ghula the next afternoon.
She treated him kindly and fed him quite well
whereupon he unburdened what he had to tell.  
Go home now. You’ve found her but listen to me.
This blade and these lemons are your destiny.

She gave him three lemons. When your home is near
you must stop at a well where the water is clear.
Cut one of the lemons. A fay will emerge.
She will ask for a drink. Do not yield to your urge
to admire her. She’ll have but an instant to stay.
If you don’t quench her thirst she will vanish away.
The second one, too, will be gone in a wink
unless you are quick to supply her with drink.

Make sure that you’re ready when you cut the last,
and she’ll be your wife if your actions are fast.
Although it was hairy, the prince kissed her hand
and made off with the lemons for his native land.
One day from his home he sat down in a glen
and pulled from his pocket the dagger and then
the three lemons. A fountain was burbling nearby.
He cut the first lemon, and there stood, oh my!

a maiden as fine as a rare cameo.
She begged for a drink, but the prince was too slow.
She was gone. And the second one, though he’d been warned, 
disappeared into air. Oh, misfortune! he mourned
They’ve escaped while my hands hung as if they were tied.
But courage. There’s one final lemon, he cried.
I’ll give her some water before she draws breath.
If not, then this dagger will bring my own death.

So saying, he cut the third lemon. And he,
when she asked, put a cup to her lips instantly.  
Her lips were like rubies. Her skin was like cream.
He gazed at her loveliness as in a dream.
You are here! he exclaimed. And it really is true.
I have searched all the world for a maiden like you.
They embraced and they kissed, and their hearts were on fire.
You wait here, he informed her, while I fetch attire.

When we ride to our home, I want you to be seen
in the raiment befitting your role as a queen.
Climb this oak wherein nature has fashioned a room
and be patient and wait for your amorous groom.
Now a slave, who’d been sent to the well, was amazed
when she saw not her face in the well, as she gazed,
but the face of the maiden. What is this I see?
That isn’t a slave looking upward at me.

I’m too pretty to slave for my mistress, I say.  
She smashed up the pitcher and threw it away.
Her mistress was angry. A beating you’ll earn
if you don’t take this cask to the well and return.
Bring the water I want. Now be gone. Once again
the slave saw the maiden’s reflection, and then, 
having smashed up the cask, she said with a sigh. 
Could such beauty be merely a slave? No. Not I!

This time she was beaten. For days she was sore.
And then she was sent to the well as before.
She carried a goatskin. When it was half filled
she again saw the image. And now she was thrilled.
How pretty! I’m more than a slave, without doubt.
She poked at the skin till the water ran out.
This tickled the maiden who laughed with delight.
The slave then looked up and was riddled with spite.

That girl is the cause of my feeling the whips.
But she feigned not to care, put a smile on her lips
and asked, Why are you sitting up there in that tree?
And the fay said, My husband is coming for me.
He’s a prince and he’s bringing me clothing to wear.
The slave said, You must let me comb out your hair.
With pleasure. The slave, once she’d reached the domain,
took a hairpin and pierced the young fay in the brain.

Feeling the wound, the fay cried out, Dove! Dove!
changed herself to a bird and then flew off above.
The slave doffed her rags and remained there up high.
Imagine the shock to the prince, by and by.
.I thought you were white. Now I see you are black.
I’m under a spell. But I soon will turn back.
Take me home. And the prince, though bewildered, did so
He clothed her and led her, though cast down with woe,

to his father, who blanched at the ludicrous sight
but remembered his vows and with manners polite
put a crown on her head and prepared for a feast.
The water was boiling the skillets were greased
when in through the window a dove flew. It spoke.
The cook thought that someone was playing a joke,
but three times it returned, and he heard the dove say,
Tell me, cook, what the prince and the slave do today.

Off he ran to the hall to report what he’d heard.
The slave said, I want you to capture that bird.
Pluck off all its feathers and turn it to hash,
then throw all its feathers outside with the trash.
The sad deed was done, but the next day there grew
a tree in the garden. The prince said, That’s new.
Tell me, cook, who has planted it? How has it grown?
Said the cook, It must be where the feathers were thrown.

And he told of the dove. Said the prince, Tend it well.
He began to suspect there were matters to tell.
Sure enough. Three large lemons soon grew on the tree.
They are very like those that the ghula gave me!
He plucked them and, once in his room, locked the door.
A basin of water was placed on the floor.
Now we’ll see, said the prince, as he cut the first two.
As before, they escaped him. But he was not through.

He gave water at once to the third who appeared.
It was she. You’ve been tricked. It was just as I feared.
She told of the slave, of her treacherous deed.
They went to the hall. Stop the feast, he decreed.
I want each of you courtiers now to decide
as you look at this maiden who stands by my side,
how to punish the person who wishes her harm.
By hanging! By stoning! they said in alarm.

She’s a beauty. By poison, perhaps would be best.
The prince nodded gravely. When he’d heard the rest
he turned to the slave. What do you think, my dear?
A sentence of death, said the slave. That is clear.
Throw the brute on the coals till he’s burned up alive.
For no one so mean should be left to survive.
You have named your own fate, roared the prince. This is she 
whom you pricked with a hairpin when up in the tree.

And this is the dove whom you ordered be slain
and her feathers thrown out so that naught should remain.
Who throws about thorns should not walk in bare feet.
You’ve made your own path to the doom you shall meet.
She was dragged from the hall and was burned in the fire,
and her ashes were thrown from the uppermost spire.
The prince and his fay produced babies galore.
And that, sighed the king, is what marriage is for.