Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived a king. He was a very kind, very wise king. His kingdom had thrived and prospered during his reign. Now the king was growing old, and he knew that soon he would need to provide his people a new king. The king had one child, a daughter. She was a fair and lovely princess. The time had come for the princess to wed. It was up to him to choose her a husband, for whoever wed the princess would one day reign at her side as king. The princess’ father needed to find a wise and clever young man.
The king strolled in the royal rose garden as he pondered the problem. He considered the kingdom to the North. The Northern king had two sons. One was aged 4 years, and the other was merely 7. The king sighed. That would not do. He considered the kingdom to the South. The Southern king had five daughters. The king sighed again. The Western kingdom lay a long way away over a mountain range. He had heard rumors of the Western kingdom and of the Western king. His reputation was one of a sour, bitter man who had one son. The Western prince was said to be wild, foolish, and given to behavior very unbecoming to a prince. No, that wouldn’t do at all. The princess was generous, fair, lovely, and loved to laugh. The king shook his head in puzzlement, and continued his walking and thinking in the royal rose garden.
In another part of the kingdom there was a young man who was also doing a lot of thinking. He was his mother’s only remaining son, now that his brothers had left home to begin homes and families of their own. It was up to him to tend all the fields and the animals for his mother. His father had died when the young man was born, so he had grown up working alongside his brothers tending the family farm. The old hired man still worked the fields as well, but he was not as quick as he once had been.
The young farmer was a handsome lad, with a keen, intelligent gaze that pierced right to one’s very soul. His smile was slow to warm, but seemed to always linger around his mouth as if it really enjoyed being there. This day the young farm lad was working in the field and thinking. Before long, he caught a distant glimpse of what it was he was thinking about. His eye fell on the princess’ royal carriage, and his breath caught in his throat. It was said that the princess was so very beautiful that people tended to stop right where they were, awestruck by her radiance whenever she passed by. Her skin was as smooth as a petal. Her eyes bright as the stars in the evening sky. Her smile as cheerful as summer sunshine. Her hair as silky and soft and shiny as the water that that flowed over the millrace when the evening sun turned it to burnished gold. The young man watched the carriage as it careened along in the distance. The sun glinted off the shining buckles of the harness that hitched the six horse team to the beautiful coach. There! Just for a moment he had caught a glimpse of the princess’ silky hair flowing from one of the windows of the coach. Quick as a firefly, one dainty hand could be seen reaching for the stray lock and bringing it back inside the coach. For a moment, he thought he heard the echo of the princess’ laughter on the breeze.
Oh how his heart thumped in his chest. He loved the princess. But, of course, he realized that his love was in vain, since it was simply not possible for a commoner like himself to marry royalty like the princess. Nevertheless, he paused in his work and watched the carriage until it was completely out of sight.
The next day there was much commotion in the square. The king’s emissary was busily nailing a proclamation to the door of the church. As soon as it was up, everyone crowded around to see what it said.
All clever, able-bodied young men of Sound Mind
Who would wish to wed the Princess are directed
To come to the throne room of the Castle at daybreak tomorrow!
The young man was overjoyed! Here was his chance! He had no idea what would be required of him other than he be young, able-bodied, and of sound mind, but he decided then and there that he would do whatever it took to win the hand of the princess.
He hurried home to tell his mother, and arranged with the old hired man to take care of things until his return. Then he hurried as fast as he could to the castle.
When the young man arrived at the castle, his heart sank. There was a line of men that stretched from the castle gates all the way down the street. The men appeared to be all ages, in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and, truthfully, many of them did not look at all clever.
With a sigh, the young man joined the line. He filled his mind with thoughts of the princess. Her lovely skin, smooth as a petal. . . her fair, flowing hair. . . those dainty hands. Mind you, the young man had not a single thought of what it would actually mean to marry the princess. It had never occurred to him that, if he wed the princess, he would then be prince, and, upon the death of the king, he himself would rule the kingdom. No. He had but one thought. He loved the princess, and it was his love for her that drove him to be here in the line. Eventually it was his turn, and he found himself being escorted before the king.
Without preamble, the king spoke to the nervous young man.
“If you would wed my daughter, the royal princess, there is a task you must do to prove your worthiness.” The king smiled a broad smile and sipped from his golden goblet. “Bring me an orchard. And place it here, in the palm of my hand, by breakfast time tomorrow. Off with you!” The king summoned his guards, and the young man found himself being escorted out of the throne room and shoved out the side door.
He stood there a moment collecting himself.
“Hmmm. . . an orchard. How in the world can I place an entire orchard in the palm of the king’s hand?” the young man asked himself. Thinking thoughts of the fair princess, he began walking. As he walked, he pondered the puzzle. He had no idea how in the world he was going to accomplish this impossible task. He only knew that he loved the princess, and that, somehow, he would find a way.
Suddenly, the air in front of him began to shimmer strangely. A pale, blue light began to glow. He stopped and looked at what appeared before him. Thinking something was wrong with his sight, he blinked, rubbed his eyes, and looked again. What he saw was a fairy.
“So it’s an orchard the king wants, is it?” the fairy asked with a chuckle. Her voice sounded like the most delicate of brass bells blowing gently in a breeze.
“Who. . .who. . . er, what. . . are you?” the young man stammered. He was rooted to the spot. He had never in his life beheld anything magical, and he felt that this must surely smack of magic. Feeling unsure of what to do next, he stood there poised on the balls of his feet, looking as if he might go charging off in any direction at any moment.
“Silly young man,” the fairy said with a fleeting smile. “I am the fairy queen. Where True Love reigns there may I be found. To help True Love’s path I am honor bound. Here. Take this to the king.” The fairy queen reached deep into the folds of her gossamer gown, and plucked out something so tiny the young man couldn’t see it at all at first. It was an apple seed. It felt very ordinary. Very ordinary, indeed, lying there in the palm of his hand where the fairy queen had dropped it.
“In the heart of every seed lies a tree waiting to be born. One tree bears more than enough apples to become an orchard. There is an entire orchard right there in the palm of your hand. Go now. You’ve wandered far, and you must hurry to return to the palace by breakfast time.” The fairy began to grow smaller and smaller, until there was nothing but a tiny spot of blue light dancing in front of the young man. Then the light winked out. Her tinkling laughter echoed all around him.
“Thank you!” called the young man. He realized he was not talking to thin air. The fairy queen was gone. Quickly, he tucked the apple seed safely into his pocket and hurried back in the direction of the castle. He smiled to himself. Soon he was whistling.
His majesty the king was just sitting down to his royal breakfast of scones and honey when the young man was escorted into a position before him. Mildly surprised, the king looked up.
“Well?” He held out his hand and closed his eyes. The young man carefully reached into his pocket and brought out the apple seed. Reverently he laid it in the palm of the king’s hand.
The king’s eyes popped open, and he gazed in astonishment. “What’s this? An apple seed? An ordinary apple seed?”
“Your majesty, inside the heart of every seed there lies a tree waiting to be born. Every tree has more than enough apples on it to become an orchard. You have there an orchard. In the palm of your hand. Just as you requested, sire.” The young man smiled a very hopeful smile.
The king held the seed up in his fingers for all the court to see. Then he burst out laughing. “You are a clever man. A clever man, indeed!” He laid the seed on the table next to his breakfast plate. Then he leaned back in his chair and stroked his beard.
“I’ve got it!” he exclaimed. “Another impossible task for this clever young man who claims to love my daughter. Bring me all the treasures of the deep blue sea. Put them into my wine goblet by lunchtime tomorrow. Off with you! Go!”
The king clapped his hands, and, once again, the young man found himself being escorted to the side door of the palace and being shoved outside.
“Hmmm. . . all the treasures of the deep blue sea?” he thought to himself. “I can’t even swim. I’m not even sure which direction the ocean is from here.” He sighed a deep, deep sigh. He looked around. Then he began to walk. He had no idea what the treasures of the deep blue sea might be. He did not know how to swim. He wasn’t even sure where the sea was exactly. But he did know one thing: that he loved the princess with all his heart. He would find a way to do whatever was necessary to marry her. Once again he began to smile. He picked up some speed. Whistling, he set out to find the deep blue sea.
The young man walked all that night, and early the next morning he found himself at the seashore. All he could see in any direction was the deep blue sea. “Hmmm. . . it’s a lot bigger than I thought,” he said to himself. “What is it the king could want? Salt? Gold? Fish?” He stood there, completely stymied.
The air in front of him began to shimmer once more as it had before while he was on the previous task. Sure enough, there was the fairy queen.
“All the treasures of the deep blue sea,” the fairy queen said in that lovely tinkling voice of hers. “You haven’t much time, my young friend. Here. This represents all the treasures of the deep blue sea.” The fairy queen waved her wand three times, and there, lying on the sand directly in front of the young man, was an oyster. He picked it up and began to examine it closely.
“You can eat the oyster and then sell the pearl. And oysters keep right on making more oysters, and, when something bothers them, they make it a pearl. Treasures. Every single one.” The fairy smiled. She began to grow smaller.
“Wait!” cried the young man. “How will I get back to the palace by lunchtime?”
Even as she continued to shrink, the fairy began waving her wand. The young man felt his feet begin to move. Soon he was walking in the air above the ground. Below him he could see the treetops! By the time he had blinked his eyes three times, he found himself standing at the king’s elbow just as the king’s lunch was being laid before him. When the royal wine steward placed the king’s wine goblet on the table, the young man reached over and “Ker-Plop!” dropped the oyster into it.
The king looked up. “What’s this?”
“All the treasures of the deep blue sea, your majesty.” Answered the young man with a smile.
The king fished the oyster out of his wine goblet and looked at it. “This? This is all the treasures of the deep blue sea?”
“You can eat the oyster and sell the pearl. And the oysters keep right on making more oysters, and they all keep making pearls. Truly, this represents all the treasures of the deep blue sea, your majesty.” The young man bowed low.
The king laughed aloud. He tossed the oyster lightly into the air and caught it. “All the treasures of the deep blue sea. Right here in my wine goblet. By lunchtime.” He laughed again. “You are indeed a clever, clever young man.”
The king paused, and appeared deep in thought. He stood up and walked over to the window which was open to the fine spring breeze. The fragrance of the royal rose garden wafted up from the palace grounds below. Then he turned and faced the young man.
“I have it!” he thundered. “This shall be your last task. Complete this task, and you shall indeed wed my daughter. Then when I die, you shall become king, and you shall inherit this kingdom.” The entire court fell silent. Every ear in the room quivered with anticipation, wondering what impossible task the king should impose this time.
“Bring me a blue rose. By midnight tonight. Off with you! Go!” The king clapped his hands, and there the young man was, once again being escorted from the king’s presence and shoved outside the side door.
The young man found himself walking in the royal gardens. There every flowering plant was to be found. Slowly he walked among the roses. There were pink roses. There were peach colored roses. There were red roses. There
were white roses. There was every shade of every one of these hues, including yellow roses. But nowhere was there a blue rose.
The young man sank down on a bench in the garden and began to weep. Holding his head in his hands he said to himself, “A blue rose does not exist in all of nature! How can I bring the king that which does not even exist?”
He looked about him, hoping to see that familiar shimmer in the air that signaled the arrival of the fairy queen. All he saw were the usual insects one would see in any garden. There were bees, butterflies, even a few wasps and dragonflies. He saw the squirrels. But no fairies. He noticed the old gardener whose duty it was to tend the roses. He hurried over to him and said, “Good day to you, sir. I’m very much in love with the princess and would appreciate your help in completing my task. The king has commanded of me to bring him a blue rose. By midnight tonight. Do you know where I might find one?” He struggled vainly to hide his anguish.
The old gardener shook his head. “There is no such thing as a blue rose. I’m sorry. If you find a blue rose, you will indeed have accomplished the impossible.” He turned away and went back to pruning the bushes.
The young man stammered his thanks and turned away. Sadly, he walked down the path in the royal garden. He had tried so hard. He loved the princess with his whole heart, nay, his whole being. His shoulders shook as he wept silently while he walked.
“Fairy queen! Are you near? Please? Can you hear me? I need a blue rose. By midnight tonight!” There was no response. The sun was going down. The sky was ablaze with streaks of pink and orange and lavender and deep mauve. Wearily, the young man laid himself down on a stone bench to rest. He closed his eyes. In no time at all he was fast, fast asleep.
Time passed. The full moon rose.
Then. . . just as the castle clock began to strike the midnight hour, the young man felt someone shaking his shoulder.
“Awake! Awake, I say! There isn’t much time!”
It was the fairy queen! “Quickly now, you must go to the royal rose garden where bloom the white roses. Up with you! Come on! The clock is chiming.”
“But I looked here earlier. . . there are NO blue roses here. And I spoke to the old gardener. He assured me that such a flower does not exist in ALL of nature. It’s impossible.” The young man sighed in resignation.
“Ah, but you didn’t see them by the light of the full moon. Look there. Tell me what you see!” The fairy queen pointed in the direction of the white roses.
His breath catching in his throat, the young man rubbed his eyes in astonishment. Quickly he ran to the palace to fetch the king.
“Quickly, your majesty! Please come with me!” He led the monarch by the hand outside into the rose garden. Just as the castle clock struck the eleventh chime, he plucked a white rose from one of the many rose bushes. He handed it to the king just as the clock struck twelve.
“Behold, your majesty. In the light of the full moon. . . indeed, a blue rose.” The young man smiled his most winning smile.
The king turned the rose this way and that, looking at it in the moonlight. In the silvery glow of the moonlight, the white rose did indeed look blue. The king laughed.
“You are indeed worthy of the crown. Yes, indeed, you shall wed the princess. And, yes, indeed, you shall inherit this kingdom!” The king laid a hand on the young man’s shoulder, and together they walked back toward the palace.
The clever young man and the fair princess were wed one month later in a grand wedding.
It was held at midnight in the royal rose garden by the light of the full moon.
The bride, of course, carried a bouquet of blue roses.
In time, the old king died. The young man assumed the throne, and he ruled the kingdom wisely and well. It was said that his cleverness of finding solutions to impossible problems was exceeded only by his wisdom.
He had fulfilled his dream of marrying the princess, and they lived happily ever after.
The Legend of the Blue Rose exists today to remind us all of the Truth:
“Where True Love Reigns, All things Are Possible.”
The Legend of the Blue Rose exists today to remind us all of the Truth:
“Where True Love Reigns, All things Are Possible.”
“The Legend of the Blue Rose” copyright July 16th, 1999
By Vashti Matthias Ataya