“That Old Tale” (Told Again) #1: The Prince and the Stairs

The Prince and the Stairs
Dennis Nguyen

This is a tale. A tale that has been told many a time, yet told differently each time, until the tale was so different, that it had completely changed. The title changed, the characters swapped, everything was different from the original plot. I am a firsthand witness of this tale, and the true story I shall tell. My part in the story however, is better left unknown. I shall give account of the story with the king’s thoughts in mind. I attained his majesty’s account of this story first hand. Any more information regarding my sources however, will reveal too much about myself, and is thus held back.

And so, let the true tale be told.

In a place on earth, not too long ago (I’m still alive to be writing this after all), there was a king. The king was a fair king, a just king. Many attributed the king’s wisdom and fairness to a blessing from God. The king ruled fairly, and the people did not feel oppressed. The king had a beautiful queen. The queen was beautiful in body, mind, and soul. Of course, their daughter, the princess was said to be the most beautiful princess to have been seen in the past few millennia. She was gentle and loving. She loved her parents, and her parents loved her in return. Her parents, being noble and wise as they were wanted to find her a man who would care for her and love her as she deserved. But how could they choose? Words couldn’t be trusted, and masks could be put on. They needed something that would test the man’s true character, they needed something that only few could possibly do. And so, the king and queen thought, and thought, and thought. Until the queen had an idea!

“Dear, why don’t we stack many mattresses on top of a pea. A man who can feel that pea even atop of the many mattresses must have a fine character!” The queen suggested the idea half jokingly. The couple both knew that often it was good to just throw ideas around when stuck on something. The king, who understood his beloved so well, replied in a upbeat and joking manner.

“Nonono. That doesn’t sound fitting to test a man’s character! I heard another kingdom used that one to find a princess. They told me about that one a while back, they called itThe Princess and the Pea! No, we need something more arduous.”

“Arduous? Like climbing stairs?” The queen said jokingly. She laughed slightly at her words, but her husband’s face stayed stern.

“That’s it!” He cried aloud.“Thank you so much!” He spoke the words in haste and kissed his queen quickly. He then dashed out from the room in search of his castle’s master carpenter. He wanted to create a staircase. A staircase that would reach the sky!

And so, days passed, then weeks, and then, a few months from that day, during the hottest period of summer, the staircase was complete. It was a standalone staircase without railings on the side. It was placed in the castle’s courtyard, leaving the climber open and vulnerable to the sun’s blazing hot rays. And it was in that period, in that season, that the king and queen made their announcement.

“Hear ye, hear ye. Whomever wishes to take my beautiful, gentle and fair daughter to be their beloved wife, must climb this staircase with about one thousand three hundred and thirty seven steps.” Instantly among the crowd that had gathered there was much talk. Many wanted to marry the king’s daughter, others wanted their children to marry the king’s daughter. However, the height of the staircase was very daunting. One thousand three hundred and thirty seven steps. Even saying that was becoming quite the mouthful. The king silenced the crowd and continued. “The challenge will be open to brave challengers tomorrow the staircase is very wide. Whoever wants to try may, but start early in the morning, or stumble and fall in the night and fall away. Only he who makes it to the top will marry my daughter!”

And so, with those words, the day continued until night fell. The night continued until the sun rose, and the challengers were on their way. On the first day, there were many challengers. The climb started early in the morning, some came even earlier than sunrise to get a quick start. They of course hoped to make it a good distance before the sun became too hot. The king watched from a window in his castle, waiting for the man who was to be his daughter’s husband to make it to the top. On the first day, he noted something odd. Early in the day, far before any had given up, one man was walking down the stairs. The man however did not look as though he had given up. The man looked strong, proud and confident. The man proceeded away from the stairs with his chest held high. The king thought that it was strange, but disregarded it and continued to watch as people made their way up his long staircase.

Once noon hit, the sun was shining very strongly. The temperature of the entire kingdom had gone up significantly, and many were giving up. Some persisted. Within that group, some others gave up, and the process continued, until it was late at night. Many were making their way down with downcast eyes and disappointed faces. He was sure that many were cursing, saying that the challenge was impossible. The king however, was sure that there would come someone who would climb, all the way to the top.

The next day, the number of people that came was significantly less. Some came earlier, some came later. There were still a lot of people however, and the stairway was crowded. The king kept watch and he saw the man that had left the challenge early the other day. The man looked happy and upbeat in contrast to the many others who looked as if they were in pain. The king kept his eye on that one man more than the others. The man went further than he had last time– much much further. However, once again, the man began walking down the steps far before the others had stopped going. The king could not help but be confused. Regardless, the day once again had come to an end, and no one had reached the top of the staircase.

And this continued, day after day, with less and less people each day. The man who had given up early on the other days came again and again each and every day. Each and every day the man climbed a little higher– a little further. The man however still stopped far before the majority of the participants stopped, but the trend continued, and the man went higher and higher each time. Eventually, the man was able to persist upon the staircase for longer than all of the remaining participants. And eventually, the man was the only remaining participant. Despite that, the man did not move in more haste or become slovenly. The man proceeded at a fair pace, going further and further each day. On days of sun, on days of rain, the man continued to persist anyway. And then, on one particular day, the man made it to the top of the ridiculously long staircase.

The king waited for the man at the bottom of the staircase and brought him into the castle. The next day, there was a wedding. After the ceremony, the king said to the man.

“I feel safe leaving my daughter to you. I am certain that no matter what hardships may come in the way in the future, you will work with my daughter to solve the problem. Progressing a little further, coming a little closer to solving the problem, day by day.”

FIN

I titled this “#1” but I don’t really know if I’ll actually have any more. We’ll see. In case you couldn’t tell, this was a “spin off” of “The Princess and the Pea”. Hope you enjoyed it!

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