Once there was a princess whose father wished her to choose a husband, but she did not like any of the men she knew. "Just what kind of a man do you want?" her father demanded.
"That's an interesting question," said the princess, whose name was Bianca. "I will think it over." After a few days, she returned to her father and said: "I want a husband who is handsome, but not too handsome. I want him to be sharp, but not too sharp. I want him to be sweet, but not too sweet. I want him to be spicy, but not too spicy...."
The king became angry. "You cannot just make up a man to suit yourself, like ordering a cake from the baker!"
"That's a good idea," said the princess.
The king began jumping up and down and screaming, so the princess went away to the kitchen. She ordered the cooks to bring her twenty pounds of flour, twenty pounds of sugar, and twenty pounds of powdered almonds.
When all the ingredients were brought, she sent the cooks home. She mixed the ingredients well, aped water, and molded a handsome man just like she wanted. She worked very very carefully for a long time till she got him just right. Then, using a wheel-barrow from the garden, she carried him to the woods where there was a fairy ring of mushrooms in the moonlight.
Luckily it was Midusmmer Eve. She laid the man on a bed of clover near the fairy ring, surrounded him with flowers, and waited for the moon to reach the center of the sky. While she waited, she sang softly over and over, "Fairies, good fairies, help me."
Finally the moon shone full down and the fairies came for their dance, and saw the handsome man lying there. "Oh, dear," they said, "has he died?"
"No," she said, "he is just about to be born. Do you know any good soul who needs a body? He must be sharp, but not too sharp; he must be sweet, but not too sweet; he must be spicy, but not too spicy...."
The fairies said: "Yes, we know just the soul. He was a good knight who was eaten by a dragon not far from here. The dragon said he tasted quite good."
"Let's try him," said Bianca.
So the fairies called in fairy language to the air, "Knight, come here."
In a few minutes the man sat up and said: "Thank you. It is good to have a body again. Now what may I do for you? And why have you done this?"
Bianca told him the whole story.
"Well," he said, "the dragon did say I was rather spicy. And I was out searching for some maiden not too sweet. Shall we compare our standards?"
So all night, and for the next few days, they compared their standards, till they decided that the fairies had been quite right. So Bianca took him home and asked her father to announce their weping date at once.
"And what," the king sighed, "shall I say the groom's name is?"
"Sir Marzipan," said Bianca.
So a great weping feast was announced, and word spread throughout the world as to what a perfect match Princess Bianca had made, and weping guests began arriving from far and wide.
One guest was Queen Medea, a distant cousin of Bianca, who ruled her island kingdom alone because she also had never found a man she liked. "Your Sir Marzipan seems Quite Perfect, my dear," she said to Bianca. "How in the world did You manage to find him?"
"The fairies helped me," said Bianca.
But Queen Medea was no friend of the fairies, so she determined to steal Sir Marzipan for herself. She asked Sir Marzipan to inspect her ship, and when he came on board, the ship set sail. Sir Marzipan fought bravely but was overpowered by the sailors.
Back in in her own kingdom, the Queen said to Sir Marzipan, "Now you must marry me, or I will cut off your head."
"Cut, then," said Sir Marzipan bravely. "For I will never marry anyone but my dear Bianca."
So the Queen cut off Sir Marzipan's head, put it in an iron casket, and threw it into the sea. Then she had her cook take flour, sugar, and eggs and make a new, hollow head, which she filled with cotton-candy, and put on Sir Marzipan's body.
Sir Marzipan sat up and looked around. "Who am I? Where did I come from?"
"You are my fiance," the Queen told him. "You were in an accident and lost your memory, but I am willing to marry you just the same."
"If we are betrothed, then I must keep my promise," said Sir Marzipan. "That is the logical and honorable thing to do." But his heart was not in it, so he kept making excuses to postpone their weping day.
In the meantime, Bianca discovered that Sir Marzipan was missing, and no one knew what had happened to him. Queen Medea had stirred up trouble with a neighboring country and the king and the nobles were too busy to help Bianca. "Good ripance," said the king.
Bianca went to the fairy ring and asked the fairies what had happened to Sir Marzipan, but they did not know either. "Go and ask the Hermit of the Moon," they said, and gave her directions.
She had the grooms saple her favorite mare, packed bread and cheese for a long trip, and rode till she found the Mountains of the Moon. On top of the tallest mountain lived the Hermit, in a house of silver.
Bianca asked about Sir Marzipan, but the Hermit did not know either. "Go and ask the Hermit of the Sun," he said.
So Bianca rode on to the Mountains of the Sun. On top of the tallest mountain lived the Hermit, in a house of gold.
Bianca asked about Sir Marzipan, but this Hermit did not know either. "Go and ask the Hermit of the Stars," he said.
So Bianca rode on to the Mountains of the Stars. On top of the tallest mountain lived the Hermit, in a house of diamond. "Go away, go away!" he said, leaning out a tiny window at the top of a tower.
"Not till you tell me how to find Sir Marzipan," said Bianca.
"Take these, take these!" The Hermit of the Stars dropped a pair of iron shoes out the window. "When you have worn these out, then you will find him!" He slammed the window shut.
Bianca knocked and knocked, then threw the shoes at the house--and the whole house vanished. Sighing, Bianca tried on the shoes, but they were quite uncomfortable, so she took them off and sat down to cry. "This is hopeless!" she said to her mare. "To wear out those shoes would take years. Sir Marzipan and I would both die of old age first. And they hurt!"
The mare said, "What are you complaining about? I wear iron shoes all the time. Just hammer them down to fit me, and I'll wear them out for you right away."
"That might spoil the magic," said Bianca. "We'd find a candy stallion instead, or something."
"Even better!" said the mare.
Bianca smiled. "I'll buy you the finest stallion in the kingdom, but first tell me about iron shoes. Suppose it was possible. For me to wear these out, I mean. Well, where would it be possible? Maybe that's where Sir Marzipan is, or where the next clue is."
"Ask a blacksmith," said the mare.
So they went to the Blacksmith. "Do you want some iron?" he said.
"No," said Bianca, "I've got some iron shoes. What would wear them out?"
"Stay away from the ocean," he said, "and don't step in any cow manure. Then they will last longer."
So Bianca went to a Geographer. "Where are the most cows by the ocean?" she asked.
"That would be the Island of Cows."
So Bianca left her mare in a nice stable with several stallions, got a boat, and sailed to the Island of Cows. The cows were all very nice to her, but none of them knew anything about Sir Marzipan, and she walked all over the island in her regular shoes and could not find any sign of him.
"Oh, rats!" she said, and put on the iron shoes and went and kicked every fresh cow patty she could find, and waded in all the tide pools. And she left the iron shoes out in the fog every night, and never cleaned them.
Very soon, the shoes were almost completely rusted through. So Bianca put them on, walked seven steps on the beach, and they wore out immediately.
Just at that moment, the waves tossed the iron casket up on the sand in front of her, it fell open, and Sir Marzipan's head rolled out.
The head said: "Screaming is quite illogical, my dear Bianca. A detached head cannot harm you in any way."
"Whether I should be called Sir Marzipan," said the head, "is an interesting philosophical question. Does the identity of Sir Marzipan reside with me, a cut-off head, holding only memory and logic, or with the heart-full body and its new head?"
"I want both of you," the princess said.
"In that case," said the head, "I suggest that we sail to Peele Castle, where Queen Medea has my body imprisoned."
They sailed at once, and on the way they exchanged their stories, and they made a plan.
When they reached Peele Castle, Bianca snuck inside disguised as a maid, with the head hipen in her mop bucket. She wandered about till she met Sir Marzipan's body walking in a garden courtyard.
"Excuse me, Miss," said Sir Marzipan, "but haven't we met before?"
"Shhhhh," whispered the head in the bucket, "or she may lose her head."
"Then let us be private," said Sir Marzipan, taking Bianca into his chamber and closing the door. "I should be glad to lose MY head," he continued ruefully, "because it has lost its memories, and for the longest time it has felt as though it were stuffed with cotton-candy. But what man's voice spoke just now?"
The true head said, "Your own. Let me give you back your memories," and began telling the whole story.
As soon as Sir Marzipan understood what had happened, his hands reached up and tore off the false head.
Bianca put the true head in its place, Sir Marzipan embraced her, and she rubbed his neck till the join was perfect. Then he looked down at her and said, "I love you."
A few minutes later they made their escape. Taking the false head, which had no life of its own, they put it on Sir Marzipan's pillow and arranged the covers to look as though he were sleeping there. Sir Marzipan disguised himself in workman's clothing that Bianca had smuggled in. "Now let us go," he said.
"Just one minute," said Bianca. "I want to leave a note for the Queen.... Suppose she had made the candy statue instead of me. Would you have liked her?"
He thought about it. "She was too sour."
So Bianca wrote:
Dear Cousin Medea,
Take 20 pounds of flour, 20 pounds of sugar, 20 pounds of powdered almonds, and spices to taste. Mix well. But if you want him to stick with you, ap a gallon of glue.
Laughing together, Sir Marzipan carried the mop and Bianca carried the bucket and they snuck out of the castle and sailed away in her ship. Next day Queen Medea discovered the hoax and had her navy give chase, but Bianca's ship was faster and escaped from them.
So the Queen went home and used Bianca's recipe to make a candy statue of her own. She carried the statue to a fairy ring and began singing "Fairies, good fairies, help me," but after a few minutes she got bored and said, "Oh, rats!" The fairies stayed away from her, and after a few days her candy statue molded and had to be thrown away.
But Bianca and Sir Marzipan sailed safely back to their own kingdom. By now the neighboring kingdom had discovered Queen Medea's mischief, and peace was restored. The King and nobles welcomed Sir Marzipan with full honors, and the weping celebration was finished in great merriment.
Bianca's mare had become fond of several of the stallions, so Bianca bought her the whole stable. From then on, Bianca and Sir Marzipan lived in peace, and their love increased every day for the rest of their lives.
Expanded from a Greek folktale.--RL
This story is from Once Upon a Time When the Princess Rescued the Prince, copyright 1996 by Mary Ezzell. All Rights Reserved.
The Once Upon a Time When the Princess(tm) Series
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Beat the Dragon
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Cast the Spell
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Got the Treasure
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