Volume 24, Number 142, December 2021/January 2022 The King Who Still Enjoyed Fairy Tales by Les Johnson
“I SIMPLY REFUSE to believe it!” These were the words of King Nathan on this cool summer night as he stood next to the wishing well in the courtyard and gazed skyward once again. “Flow majestically it glows! It is a ball of beauty that lightens the sky and brightens my heart.”
King Nathan, the handsome, fairhaired, blue-eyed ruler of the Kingdom of Lansdowne, would never admit that the shiny moon above was made of green cheese as was so commonly rumoured throughout the land.
“How I wish I could tread upon its surface and discover the secret of its beauty! Nothing so glorious in appearance could possibly be a mass of green cheese. Perhaps, it is even a big ball of solid gold,” he thought, as he tossed three coins into the wishing-well.
Another fond desire of the king was to marry a beautiful maiden. He had inherited the throne of the kingdom at a tender age and had not yet wed. Then there was his lifelong dream of meeting a real fairy.
Ever since he had been a young prince, Nathan had relished the world of fairy tales. He had read countless books and stories of fairies and elves, of dwarfs and giants, of handsome princes and beautiful princesses, of kings and castles with draw-bridges spanning moats, of queens and palaces with ballrooms for dancing and feasting. Though a king now, his favourite stories were still those that began with the familiar phrase “once upon a time” and ended with the equally well known words “and they all lived happily ever after”. Indeed, he had never lost his child-like interest in the literary world of adventure and fantasy.
Having deposited the coins into the well, he began striding along the quaint little cobblestone path back to the castle to retire for the night, though not without another bedtime story to send him off to dreamland. Before he reached the castle doors, however, he heard a friendly sound - the thundering hoofs of those black and white steeds galloping toward the castle. His heart leaped for joy. He knew that his favourite companions were coming to spend the night there. They were the knights who sat round the square table. They were always welcome and the king would gladly delay his bedtime that he might sit around the table and visit with them for a spell.
This loyal band of noble knights consisted of: Sir Rob, Sir Dan, Sir Jeffrey, Sir Daniel, Sir Matthew and Sir Joshua who was the minstrel of the group. Like all valiant knights they rescued damsels in distress, performed other chivalrous deeds and engaged in brave and courageous combat against the foes of justice while roaming the land - up hills and down valleys, through woodlands, forest glades and wide open spaces, seeking adventures wherever they could find them in fair weather or foul.
The king spent a goodly hour sitting round the square table in the largest room of the castle engrossed in the reports of their latest ventures which they so graphically shared. Eventually, he bid Sir Joshua sing him a soft lullaby by which he could retire for the evening.
King Nathan enjoyed sweet dreams that night, and though he arose quite early, he found that his faithful knights had awakened even sooner, had put on their armour, had retrieved their trusty steeds from the royal stables and had already ridden off to participate in more exciting exploits.
Before he set to work in running the affairs of the kingdom that morning.he walked over to the largest window of the castle. It overlooked much of the western part of the kingdom and offered a good view of the Eagleridge Mountains in the distance. Looking out, he observed that the skies displayed some unfriendly, dark clouds, threatening to burst into showers.
By the time he had wound up the business of the morning and was about to have his noon meal, the rain was indeed falling with fury upon the castle and the surrounding territory. He wondered at that moment how his hearty knights were making out.
After dining, he made his way into the castle library to select a book for his afternoon reading. Upon his arrival he beheld the most astounding sight he had ever witnessed. He wondered if he was dreaming again. Standing amidst all the books of fairy stories was a very real fairy. She was small and beautiful, arrayed in shiny white.
She spoke, “I am Aiko, the Fairy of Good Fortune.” The king was speechless. She continued, “Do not fear, for I have come to grant your wishes three. You have been highly favoured in the realm of fairies, for your heart has always remained like that of a little child whose imagination has never allowed him to doubt that his fondest wishes would come to pass. For you, King Nathan, ruler of Lansdowne, the time has come. When I have departed you must go to the gates of the courtyard, open them and look toward the mountains.” With those words she vanished.
Though still overwhelmed by this encounter, the king did as the visiting fairy had instructed him. He realized that this was the first step to the fulfillment of his two remaining wishes.
The king rejoiced in his good fortune, and it appeared that the skies were rejoicing with him too. No sooner had he stepped outside when he observed that the rain storm had ceased and that the sun was once again shedding its friendly beams upon the castle and the beauteous land surrounding it. Apretty rainbow too enhanced the splendour of everything.
The king strode through the courtyard to the huge, black iron gates. Opening them and looking towards the Eagleridge Mountains, he spotted a stately white horse upon whose back there was a traveler heading his way. As the horse and rider drew near, the king became enraptured by the sight of the most beautiful maiden on whom he had ever laid eyes. She had dark hair and brown eyes, though a very fair complexion and a radiant countenance. The king welcomed her upon her arrival at the gates and helped her dismount.
“What is your name and from whence have you come, fair maiden?” asked the king.
“I am Stephanie, and have ridden from the tiny village of Nancyville hard by the Eagleridge Mountains,” she answered. “I was bidden by Anna, the Fairy of Dreams, to travel to your castle so that my sweetest dreams might be fulfilled.”
It was love at first sight. After the king had seen to it concerning the proper care of her horse, he escorted her into the castle and offered her one of the finest rooms. Once she had refreshed herself from her long journey, she and the king sat comfortably together on one of the softest and most luxurious couches in the castle. There they conversed pleasantly. They realized that they shared much in common, including their wish to walk upon the surface of the moon someday. She too refused to acknowledge that it could possibly be made of green cheese. With excitement in their hearts they both rejoiced, knowing that soon even this wish would someday, in some way, come to pass. After all, had not the good fairies promised it?
By evening, the knights who sat round the square table had returned from yet another day of venturing hither and yon. They were elated beyond words when the good king shared with them the happenings of the day and introduced them to the lovely newcomer in their midst.
Unwilling even to wait a fortnight, the king and the beautiful maiden had made plans to wed within a week, and if you are disappointed, reader, that the details of the proposal and acceptance are not recorded in this account, remember that matters like this are very personal and private, and sometimes should even be left off the pages of a storybook.
The noble knights eagerly offered to deliver invitations far and near to friends and kindred of the happy couple. Sir Rob, Sir Dan and Sir Jeffrey agreed to cover, riding their black steeds, the territory to the east and north, while Sir Daniel, Sir Matthew and Sir Joshua, on their white chargers, the land to the west and south. Meanwhile there was much ado at the castle in making preparations for the giant regal event.
The royal cavaliers discharged their duties faithfully. On the day of the wedding, a host of friends, loved ones and other citizens of the realm were assembled to witness the two lovers, standing front and centre in dazzling outfits, being united in the bonds of matrimony. The ceremony was performed with dignity and honour. Following this was grand ball where dancing, mirth and happiness abounded. Special fiddlers were present to strum a round of merry musical melodies. The king’s own favourite, Sir Joshua, the minstrel, also sang a selection of joyous ballads in honour of the newlyweds.
When this grand and glorious celebration came to a close, the king carried his lovely bride over the threshold into their bedchamber. He opened the window that they might be refreshed with a cool breeze only to behold the most unusual sight. There, firmly planted on the ground below, and reaching skyward was a golden ladder.
“Come, my love,” the king called to his bride, “and share with me a wonder to behold!”
Quickly she was by his side, and as they gazed upward they discovered that the ladder reached all the way to the moon. It was wide enough that two could easily ascend together.
They reckoned in an instant that this was the means by which the good fairies had chosen to grant their final wish. Even their weariness from the many activities of the evening mysteriously fled as they felt renewed by a sudden surge of energy. Together, they would climb the golden staircase to the moon on this their wedding night. How romantic!
Before beginning this skyward adventure, however, the king excused himself to have a word of counsel with his trusty knights who were again seated round the square table before calling it a night. The king informed them of the latest good fortune that had just befallen him and bid them be responsible for the care of the castle in his absence.
“We will be faithful to this charge,” they assured him. Then each of the knights embraced the king and wished him a pleasant trip.
So, mounting the golden ladder from the open window of their bedchamber, King Nathan and Queen Stephanie began their ascent to the moon.
The days passed, and the knights, who sat round the square table, often wondered how the royal rovers in high places were making out on their journey that far surpassed any of the adventures that they had ever undertaken. They also wondered when and if they would ever return. They continued to venture forth, in more down to earth fashions, but always left at least one representative at the castle. One night they even found amusement in discussing the topic of what the moon might really be like. None was certain what to believe; but each shared his own wild and wonderful theories of what it might possibly be, if indeed it was not an oversized lump of green cheese as had been rumoured for so many years. How interesting it would have been to have listened in! Rumours are that they were feasting on cheddar cheese as they sat round the square table making all these speculations.
There is a saying that what goes up must come down. So it was one night that the couple who ascended had now descended. When they stepped from the bottom rung of the golden ladder onto the solid ground outside the castle walls, a pair of shiny, white fairies greeted them. They were, to be certain, Aiko the Fairy of Good Fortune and Anna the Fairy of Dreams.
Their message was brief: “You will never again be visited from the realm of the fairies,” said Aiko.
Then Anna concluded, “From this time forward your wishes and dreams will be fulfilled solely through your mutual love.”
Then both fairies vanished, barely giving the king and queen an opportunity to thank them. Turning around, they observed that the ladder that had been a golden staircase to one of their wildest and sweetest dreams had also disappeared.
“The good fairies are right,” declared the queen with a rejoicing heart. “And now that they have finished their assignments our mutual love is all that we need or desire.”
The king smiled approvingly. Then before making their way to the entrance of the castle, the two embraced and performed a mutual act - one that the reader will undoubtedly understand.
What a time of rejoicing it was when they entered the castle. The knights were all present that evening and soon became aware of the return of the wandering sweethearts. Again each one embraced the king with kindly affection to welcome him home. In doing so they all acquired a rather sticky substance which had rubbed off from the attire of His Majesty. They wondered what it was, and observed that it was also on the garment of the queen. Yet greater than their curiosity about this was their anxiety to learn of the allimportant matter that had brought about this glorious quest. Finally Sir Joshua, the minstrel, in poetic mode did ask:
“Your journey is o’er now, so tell us all please, Were you really on a moon that is made of green cheese?”
“No,” answered the king with the sweetest smile upon his countenance. “We were on our honey moon.”
The Canadian connection to this story is that in Coquitlam, British Columbia, there was a Christian day-school, located on a street called Lansdowne in the Eagleridge community. One semester in the early 1990s, I had the privilege of visiting this school twice as a guest presenter. My friend Nancy Johanson was teacher of a class of ten first-graders: seven boys and three girls. The names of these children match those of the characters in the above story. I am aware that this fairy tale did not have an identifiable villain as is customary in most others. I trust it was entertaining regardless.