March 24, 2011

The Queen's Child Comes In, By Mae Underwood


Dear Rapunzel,

My Dad says you're someone who will understand me. Your father promised you away in a bargain. It must be hard living in a tower all the time. I can't leave our property, but at least I can go outside. But I can understand why it's necessary in your case, with your parents as neighbors like they are. They could snatch you back just like that -- ! --. (That was me snapping my fingers.)

Did your mother.. do you consider her your mother? I bet you do. The witch, though, did she tell you anything about me? She may not have heard the story correctly, so maybe I should tell you from the start anyway. I hope that doesn't sound egotistical, but I can't send you a letter full of nothing but questions, can I?

There. There's one question for you anyway.

So it all started with my grandfather. He wasn't too bad. Not the stupidest or cruelest person in the story. But it did all start with him.

See, he was in a tavern. I'm sure he'd had a few by this time. And the fellows he's with, they're boasting and everything. As drunken men do, so I'm given to understand.

So one of them, he says, "My wife can bake fifty pies in one day."

And the next one, he goes, "My son can lift two oxen. One in each hand."

And around and around. Until they get to my grandfather, and he ups and says, "My daughter can spin straw into gold."

They all get a good laugh out of that one. And I like to imagine he got an extra pint bought for him in appreciation.

Well, wouldn't you know it, one of the king's men is there, and he overhears this. I think he'd had three too many. I think he half-believed it at that point. So when he goes to tell the king, he must've been convincing. Because the king believed it! Yeah, the king my father. Well, my "real" father. What an idiot.

I mean, isn't it the most obvious question in the world to ask, "If this man's daughter can spin straw into gold, then why is he a modestly well-off miller and drinking in the tavern with the common folk?" Oh yeah, I forgot to say he was a miller. It's not that important to the story. But, anyway, no, the king doesn't think this at all. Just ... believes this straw into gold thing with no proof to back it up.

Well, so then he has this brilliant idea of calling the daughter ... this is my mother we're talking about at this point ... to the castle. And he locks her in a room full of straw and says he'll kill her if it's not gold by morning!

!!

What an a-- oh, I suppose princesses oughtn't use that word in correspondence. Well, in any case, you can see the sort of person my "real" father is.

This is the good part of the story though, as this is where my actual father comes in. He hears her crying and he comes to her rescue. The start of a romantic story, you'd think, wouldn't you? So he says, "I can spin it into gold for you. But I need something in return." He couldn't let her think he was a chump, right? You don't get nothing for something!

She hands him her necklace and he saves her a-- oh, there's that word again. Sorry, sorry.

Do you think the king is astonished and awed by this? Of course not! The next night, he locks her in a bigger room full of straw! (Who knew castles had so much straw?) My father comes to the rescue again. This time in exchange for a ring. And spin spin spin, he's done.

At least the next night, though he does lock her in a bigger room, the king tells her he'll marry her if she does it. Wow, what a prize! What a catch! You get to marry the village idiot if you do this thing!

But of course she's desperate. I don't think she actually wanted to marry him, but it's better than dying anyway. (Or is it?) So my father comes in and offers to help her out again. She's out of jewelry though. So this is where he asks for what he really wanted. Me. Her firstborn. A princess. He would've settled for a prince, I think.

She promises. You have to wonder about "real" parents who just up and promise their progeny to people they barely know. I mean, don't you?

Spin spin spin, gold, gold, gold. Man and wife. Ring the wedding bells. Ladeedeeda. And then about a year later, I pop out.

"Oh no, don't take my baby. You can have all the wealth of the kingdom." Woman, really. My father can spin straw into gold. You think he wants your lousy treasure?

My father has a soft spot in his heart though, and offers her a way out. If she can guess his name, he won't take me. She's got three nights to do it. That means he has three nights to plan.

She sent this messenger off to find names for her. Can you imagine being given that task? I mean, just go to the library, woman. Castles have libraries, from what I understand. Oh, but maybe she couldn't read. Well, anyway, the messenger gives her a bunch of silly names. But there's no way they're ever going to hit on the right one.

When my father's done planning, he lets it "slip" what his name is. The messenger tells her. She guesses. She keeps her baby. All is happy in the land.

Except that he totally switched me a few hours before that. Left a random baby in my place. I'm not sure where he got her from.

So that's the story of my birth and rescue. I've lived with my father ever since. (You're wondering right now what his name is, aren't you? Heehee!) He's taught me his magic and everything a princess ought to know. Just like I'm sure your mother the witch has taught you her magic and everything a young woman of intelligence ought to know.

I turn 18 in a few years. I'm not sure what's so magic about 18. It's not a nice number like 3, or 7, or 21. But laws are laws, I guess. I'm going to go to the castle and declare who I am. We have proof, my father and I. I'm going to take my rightful place on the throne.

Of course there's a king standing in my way, but we'll take care of that. Turns out there's also a few younger brothers. It's a shame I won't be able to get to know them. But that male heir thing ... well, again, laws are laws. They need to go too.

I hope the castle isn't cold and drafty. Do you think it is? I bet it smells all musty and like mildew.

It's a shame we can't meet in person, but it's so nice to be able to write to someone my age!

Write back soon and tell me all about yourself and your life.

And maaaaybe I'll tell you what my father's name is.


Wishes and kisses,

Your new friend (I hope?)

Princess Rumpana

Mae Underwood lives in the non-wilds of New Hampshire with absolutely no cats, dogs, or brine shrimp. She probably wouldn't spin straw into gold even if she could. It seems like too much work.

4 comments

  1. This is absolutely brilliant. I love it! I haven't read any of the others yet, but if they're all as good as this, then what a fabulous issue this is.

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  2. Having read a few of the others, I must declare-- this is definitely very creative! I love the letter format! Cheers!

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  3. This was a great little story and adaptation of Rapunzel. I enjoyed hearing the story from the perspective of someone who was not there during the events and how differently the story pays out. It gives the impression that the story we know is not the whole truth and it makes everything so much more interesting. I was caught off guard when I realized that the princess was the daughter of Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin and not that of the king. It really makes him out to be a sinister man how he switches the babies so he may have his own daughter. Another darker tone in this story is how the princess plans to take over the kingdom when she comes of age and expose the truth about what really happened. My favorite part of this was the humor and sarcasm that was included in this letter to her mother. She seemed very witty and hardly proper compared to what you would expect from a typical princess.

    Jake Crawford

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  4. This story was a breath of fresh air. Instead of a friendly letter, I think it’s funny how it is kind of a threat. Like she is coming for her, but really she’s coming for her rightful throne. Blackmail occurs in stories, and Rumpana’s father was using that on Rapunzel’s mother to get his “daughter” on the throne. The king has no idea that his wife traded their child, well, neither does she. But whatever is going to happen will happen because “laws are laws”. Underwood has a wonderful sense of humor. Her take on this story is refreshing. Though there really isn’t a moral because it’s a letter, I would have to say that karma is a big component. Rumple got hit with it when the queen paid him off because gold means nothing to him because he can spin gold. And the queen gets her dose of karma when she Rumple switches the babies. But she doesn’t know.

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