A Toy Princess

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“A Toy Princess” by Mary De Morgan, published in her collection titled “The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde and Other Stories” (1880), is a unique fairy tale that stands out for its depth and the themes it explores. Here is a short retelling. It’s not intended to be a copy of the original story. Enjoy.

In a kingdom ruled by wealth and ceremony, a young princess lived, known for her unmatched beauty and grace. Yet, beneath her golden crown and silk gowns, she harbored a spirit too wild for the marble halls of her castle.

From the smallest of ages, the princess found herself suffocated by the weight of her royal duties and the hollow pomp that filled her days. She longed not for the adoration of courtiers but for the freedom that seemed just beyond the palace gates.

Her father, the king, and her mother, the queen, watched their daughter’s light dim with each passing day, mistaking her quiet rebellion for youthful whimsy. “Our darling child,” the queen would often say, “will soon find joy in her duties. The weight of the crown becomes lighter with time.”

To which the king added, “It is the way of royalty. She will learn to bear it, as have all who came before.”

Yet, the princess’s dreams were not of thrones and scepters, but of laughter that wasn’t laced with obligation and smiles that weren’t masked in politeness. “Why must my laughter be a melody composed for others? Why can my smile not be my own?” she lamented in the solitude of her chamber.

It was on a night when the stars whispered to the dreams of those brave enough to listen, that the princess’s fairy godmother appeared. “Dear child,” she spoke, her voice a soothing balm to the restless spirit, “your heart cries for freedom, a song I can no longer bear to mute.”

Seeing the princess’s true heart, she offered a gift—a small, unassuming toy that held magic potent enough to grant the princess her deepest desire. “With this, you may walk among your people, not as a princess but as one of them. But remember, the magic lasts only with the setting sun.”

With a heart beating the wild rhythms of newfound freedom, the princess embraced the magic. Each day, she ventured beyond the castle, living amongst her people, her royal blood cloaked in the guise of common flesh.

“Is this what joy feels like?” she marveled, her laughter genuine, her smiles untamed by decorum. She toiled and laughed, cried and danced, her soul weaving itself into the fabric of ordinary life.

Friendships blossomed, untainted by the specter of royalty, each moment a treasure chest of simple, unguarded truths.

“True wealth,” she realized, “is found not in gold or jewels, but in the unscripted moments shared with another.”

Yet, as the sun dips below the horizon, so too does the magic wane, drawing the princess back to her gilded cage. With each transformation, the walls of the palace grew taller, its splendor more suffocating. “Freedom is a cruel gift,” she confided to the moon, “for it has shown me a world to which I cannot belong.”

The princess realized the cruel jest of her freedom; it was but a temporary escape, a fleeting glimpse into a life that could never truly be hers.

Her heart, now a patchwork of palace silks and commoner’s cloth, struggled to beat in harmony.

Also Read: Old Mother Frost

Follow Up Questions

How did living with regular people change what the princess thinks about being a princess?

What kind of adventures did the princess have when no one knew she was a princess?

If the princess could teach her family one thing she learned, what would it be?

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