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The Princess and the Grain-cook

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess who was betrothed to a man from a distant land. Her evil stepmother had put a wicked spell on her father and forced him to give away his daughters hand, for her stepmother only desired the fortune the family would gain from the wedding. But our princess desired the attention of another man...

The man the princess' heart belonged to was but the local grain-cook, a man of simple upbringing who wooed the princess during her daily trips to the local market. He was entranced by her beauty from the fist time they met. Both the princess and the lowly grain-cook knew their stations would preclude any thought of marriage, so they kept their love a secret. They promised each other that, no matter what happened, they would always love and trust each other. But a year before the wedding the evil stepmother discovered the lovers and locked the princess away...

Furious, the grain-cook stormed the castle and confronted the stepmother. Knowing he had to be cordial, he pleaded with her to let him see his imprisoned love. After hours of listening the pleas of the depressed grain-cook, the stepmother agreed to allow them to meet. Under guarded watch the beautiful princess and the upset grain-cook were allowed to see each other one last time. At twenty paces, allowed neither to touch nor speak, they could only stare into each other's eyes wishing there was something they could do. The grain-cook was permitted to give the princess a bowl of his sumptuous food, in exchange for agreeing to never come again.

The princess began to starve herself, refusing all food unless it was cooked grain - like the kind her lover left. Knowing that the wedding fortune would be lost if the princess were to die, the stepmother begrudgingly agreed to the demands. To infuriate the grain-cook more, the stepmother decided that she herself would pick up the grain and deliver them to the princess. The stepmother ordered that no one be allowed to talk to the princess, save for her. Every day, she would descend to the dungeon where the princess waited, and said to her, "For the rest of your life may you think about what you have done."

After a year the wedding the princess had dreaded had finally arrived. Her betrothed waited anxiously at the altar for his first glimpse at his gorgeous princess that he had bought. The musicians began their songs, the guests rose to their feed and a shadow was seen at the back of the cathedral. The princess stepped into the room slowly. First only her little toes, followed by her leg, and then walked into the room to the sound of gasps. The once petite princes had quadrupled in size...

The princess, known for her subtle beauty had become lumpy and smelled of stale chaff. Her fiancé no longer had the desire to marry her. He raised his hand to quiet the bewildered congregation and sent both the stepmother and princess back to their kingdom. The stepmother furious that the princess had ruined the marriage, ordered all fields of grain to be burned and all stockpiled grain to be sold, regardless of cost.

Her heart swollen with the loss of such wealth, the stepmother began calculating new ways to earn her vaunted fortune. She eventually decreed that whomever could pay the price of one thousand gold bars could not only have the princess as his wife, but would their family's rank lifted to the level of royalty. With word of the princess' loss of beauty there was only one suitor that requested her hand - but he had sent a courier to deliver the news. He requested that neither the queen nor the bride must see him before the wedding. One hundred gold bars were to be delivered daily to the castle until the day of their marriage. A carriage arrived carrying the suitor for morning of the wedding and from it a familiar-looking man emerge. It was the grain-cook.

Due to the sudden loss of the grain fields, grain had skyrocketed to be worth its weight in gold. And no one has more grain than a grain cooker. "Do you still love me?" asked the princess, "Even with my misshapen figure?" "Of course" replied the savvy gran-cook. The princess, ecstatic to see her true love once more, tore the bottom of her dress. Out poured a mixture of old cook grain and the crumpled messages of longing the cook had hidden in each bag of grain sent to the princess. She was once again as beautiful as the day they first met. As they embraced for the first time in years her father realized the error of his ways. The sight of seeing his daughter truly happy had released him from the torturous spell. The angered king ordered the stepmother be sent to the guillotine. As they dragged her away the princess looked at her and said "For the rest of your life may you think about what you have done." That day the lovers were married and lived happily ever after... The End.

For M and J.