Yes, she is a princess, only she’s not exactly pretty. She isn’t repulsive, but kind of, sure. The problem of course is that her parents want her to marry, and who can blame them? They really hate themselves for birthing such a rotten looking girl, and their feelings of guilt lead to behaviors of cruelty, first towards their daughter and then they tendril out and out and soon enough almost half of their subjects have moved away to other lands where there are nicer rulers etcetera. Out of desperation the King decides to re-distribute the land, such that those who remain now own twice what they had, but remember his foul temper: he tripled their taxes! Soon half of the remaining half leave too, which was actually quite difficult because the King set up guards who were instructed to kill anyone attempting to flee. The King now reigns over less than a quarter of the people he had since the princess was born, and every night he and the Queen scheme and they scheme on what to do next. Let’s just get rid of her, she says, and he says, But how?, and he says, I won’t kill her, and she says, Not by your own hand, absolutely not, and she says, Oh, but the people will know. The people will talk, and then everyone will go, and he says, You have a point, and he says, She’s such a nice girl. Smart and clever, and she says, As if that’s worth a penny!, and then they both laugh and then they both cry and it’s a tender moment, well, kind of.
Meanwhile, the princess is very sad and oh so lonely. She knows her parents despise her and even worse that she has ruined their kingdom. On the eve of her
eighteenth birthday she puts on the rags of a peasant and leaves the palace forever. In the morning everything is amuck because the princess is gone and where did she go? And what have they done? Oh, suddenly the King and the Queen feel love for this child that they never did love and they promise themselves they can never be forgiven if their precious darling cannot be found. The King sends out all the guards to go looking and after many years pass they bring forth a beautiful peasant girl who says she is the princess. During her absence the King and the Queen taught themselves kindness and their kingdom is once again thriving: and now the return of their daughter and look how gorgeous she has become! At first they are skeptical but this beautiful peasant girl holds all of the princess’s memories and so it must be true. There are many questions beginning with How and others beginning with Why and sentences beginning with But and answers beginning with And and apologies were spread with the ease of butter and then an engagement with the most handsome prince and after vows are spoken and kisses delight, the King and the Queen rush to embrace their daughter and when they touch her, they both fall down dead!
Now everyone is happy forever and we have reached the end of our tale. At night, the new King sleeps soundly and as for the Queen, she never feels regret.
Lily Hoang is the author of five books, including A Bestiary (PEN USA Award finalist and winner of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s Nonfiction Contest) and Changing (recipient of a PEN Open Books Award). She teaches in the MFA program at UC San Diego.