Story Saturday: The Bluebird

"The Bluebird"

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess whose parents loved her so much that they gave her everything her little heart desired. Yet, material things did not seem to satisfy her. The only thing the princess truly wanted was a companion. She had the palace staff to converse with from time to time, but they would never have a real conversation with her for fear of taking the child's innocence about the world and angering the queen and king. So, the princess went out into the village in search of a friend. She saw no need for a disguise, as she was given a royal escort. Thus, everyone in the village knew that she was the princess and acted accordingly.

As the princess wandered the streets in her glittering gown, she noticed one girl who appeared to be around the same age as her, who did not curtsy or seek out her attention. The girl admired the princess's fine clothes and jewels from a distance. When the princess asked her why she acted so differently from the other peasants, the girl told her that the princess was no different from herself except that she had more things. The princess liked this response.

"You will be my friend and accompany me back to the castle. You will share my jewels and fine clothes, and we will be friends forever," decreed the princess.

As it was given by royal command, the girl soon became the princess's lady-in-waiting. She was indeed given fine clothes, but the seamstresses always made sure that the princess's gowns were finer. The lady-in-waiting never regarded the princess's higher status and told her horrifying stories of life growing up in the village as a peasant with no family. The princess was glad to have rescued her lady from such a terrible life and did everything she could to make her happy.

One day, while the king and queen were away to sign a treaty in a foreign kingdom, the lady-in-waiting asked the princess if she wanted to know a secret. Secrets seemed like something that only friends would share with each other, so the princess was only too happy to accept. The lady opened a locked drawer in her chamber and pulled out the most beautiful sapphire necklace the princess had ever seen. It glittered bluer than the sky and had intricate silver wing-shaped carvings around the gems.

"This necklace was a gift from my mother before she passed away," said the lady. "It has magical properties. I could have sold it and made a better life for myself before I met you, but its powers are far more valuable than a bed or a warm meal. When you wear it, it allows you to see through the eyes of anyone in the world. No one could ever hide anything from you again."

This sounded wonderful to the princess. Ever since she was born, everyone had always tried to protect her from the outside world so she could never see what life was like. Until she had met her lady, she never knew how the peasants had lived. How could she be a great king if she didn't know anything about her people?

"Can I use it to see where my parents are right now?" she asked. "I would imagine they're having a splendid time. I've never seen what life is like in other lands."

"Try it," said the lady.

With that, she placed the necklace around the princess's neck and secured the clasp. The princess tried to picture their parents and say their names, but no sound came out from her mouth. Instead, she found herself shrieking in high-pitched tones. The world seemed to grow larger around her. She felt sharp tingles all over her body when she realized that feathers were growing out from her in every direction. The princess lept into the air to be at eye level with her lady by flapping her wings so she could ask what had gone wrong with the magic. Since when did she have wings? She flew to the lady's vanity but could not find her own reflection in the mirror. All she saw was that of a bluebird. The heavy necklace was now much larger than her and felt to the ground with a clang.

The lady-in-waiting picked up the necklace with a sly grin on her face. When she put it on, she grew more slender and her face got rounder. Suddenly, she looked exactly like the princess. The bluebird tried to scream, but only a flute-like whistle came out. The lady tried to grab her out of the air, most likely to try to trap her in a cage, but she flew away as quickly as she could.

"Foolish princess," said the lady-in-waiting, "did you really think I would want to be friends with you? You are the most beloved person in the kingdom. No one could ever compete with that. Now, everything you have will be mine, and you will no longer have to share it with me out of pity."

The servants were completely fooled by the lady's disguise. They gave her everything she desired. She slept in finery, feasted on hearty meals, and bedazzled herself in stunning tiaras. The one request they could never grant, though, was to capture the bluebird that plagued her so. Try as they may, the bluebird always flew away, singing a haunting song.

Soon, the king and queen returned from their travels. The king was surprised to find that their daughter was not waiting for them at the drawbridge as she always had when they were away. The queen was surprised to find that her daughter did not initiate a hug to welcome upon their return. Over dinner, they found her conversation topics of jewels and crowns to be very unusual indeed. When they asked the princess about her lady-in-waiting who she loved so, she had very little to tell them. They puzzled over their daughter's behavior when a bluebird flew around their heads.

"How did a bird get inside the palace?" asked the queen.

"That's the bird that's been plaguing me ever since you left," said the disguised princess. "None of our servants have been able to capture it. I believe they are incompetent. Perhaps we should get new servants."

In that moment, the queen and king knew that the girl before them was not their daughter. The true princess would never say a cruel word about the palace staff, for she knew how hard they worked. The bluebird saw their doubt on their faces and used her whistle-like voice to sing a lullaby that her mother once sang to her at night to help her fall asleep. Upon recognizing the melody, the queen spoke her daughter's name, which instantly broke the curse. Now, there were two identical princesses standing in the dining room.

"What sorcery is this?" asked the king.

Before the lady-in-waiting had a chance to run away, the princess ripped the sapphire necklace from around her neck. Instead of returning to the visage of her former friend, though, the false princess became a bluebird herself. She tried to scream, but she could only whistle. As the necklace hit the ground this time, the sapphire turned black and shattered, drained of all its power. The bluebird fled the castle and never had another friend again.

"That was once my lady-in-waiting," said the princess. "It would seem that friendship is far more complex than I once thought."

From that day forth, the princess was more cautious about whom she granted her trust upon.


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