Story Saturday: "The Princess Contest"

"The Princess Contest"

Once upon a time, Jacob and Elnora were two young people in love. There was only one thing preventing them from living in perfect bliss. Jacob's parents, the king and queen, were determined to grow their kingdom. To do that, he would need to marry a princess. Elnora was not a princess. Though that meant she could never meet Jacob's parents, their minor differences were still not enough to keep them apart. They would regularly sneak off to a small glen that was accessible through a secret passage just outside the palace to play hide and seek and discuss whether or not they could have future together. To avoid suspicion, Elnora would wait until every craft she had made for her family was sold at the market, and Jacob would wait until after he finished his lessons in royal protocol for the day. Would these two star-crossed lovers ever find happiness together?

One day, Prince Jacob's parents decided to hold a contest so that they could find the perfect princess to marry their son and one day rule their kingdom. Princesses from all over the realm were invited to be tested in grace, diplomacy, and knowledge. Though Jacob did not want to marry a princess, he saw this as the perfect opportunity to prove to his parents that Elnora would be a fine ruler. He set the royal dressmakers to work in crafting a gown that would be fitting of Elnora's loveliness. The dressmaker assumed he had already selected a princess he wished to marry in secret and wanted to present her with the dress as a gift, so they got to work in draping the finest silk over a delicate petticoat and embroidering it with glittering gemstones. Jacob then added Elnora's name to the list of contestants, using a kingdom that he knew for certain had no princess. He made sure to teach Elnora everything he knew about royal customs during their secret rendezvous until she knew everything she needed for the contest.

When the day of the contest arrived, princesses rode in from all over. Many were dressed in outlandish displays of wealth, with piles of jewels all over their heads, necks, and arms. No one saw Elnora's coach arrive, for she entered through the secret passage that only she and Jacob knew about. Since her name was on the list, her presence was never questioned. Everyone was awed by the beauty and grace of this mysterious princess who hailed from a kingdom they had only occasionally heard of in passing. She curtsied gracefully to the courtiers and greeted the king and queen using the proper royal protocol that Jacob had taught her. Occasionally, she shot coquettish glances in Jacob's direction, drawing suspicion from many of the other princesses. The dressmakers smiled, knowing that this was the princess that Jacob had chosen.

Elnora proceeded to dominate the competition. In the dancing contest, the princesses tripped over their large gowns, for they were not used to such grand movements. Elnora was nimble on her feet, thanks to her weekly treks over hills and rock to visit Jacob in their secret place. The other princesses had rudimentary embroidery skills, but Elnora made the finest stitches the king and queen had ever seen, thanks to the arts and crafts she had been making for years for her family to sell at market. When the princesses were tested on the customs of the realm, they knew a great deal about their own kingdoms but very little about Jacob's. Elnora shocked the king and queen with her endless knowledge of the kingdom's currency, trade, taxation system, and famous landmarks.

"Princess Elnora," inquired the queen, "how is it that you have come to know so much about our fair land when we know so little about you?"

This was the moment they had planned for. Jacob walked to Elnora's side, taking her hand in his. Elnora smiled and revealed to everyone that she was not a princess, but a peasant who wished to marry Prince Jacob with all her heart. Instead of accepting her with open arms as the two lovebirds had expected, everything next happened in a blur. The guests watching the contest started pointing toward Elnora and laughing, asking the king and queen how they could make such a foolish mistake as letting a commoner into their palace. The other princesses clawed at Elnora, ripping her finely crafted dress to shreds. She and Jacob barely managed to escape through their secret passage into their favorite glen. Prince Jacob wiped Elnora's tears with his sleeve and told her that he wished to be with her no matter what, even if it meant they must run away together and never see their families again.

Just then, the couple realized that they were not alone in the glen. The queen had discovered their hiding place. Jacob stood protectively in front of Elnora, but his mother told him he had nothing to fear. She revealed her story that she had once been a peasant as well, and this glen was where she would have her own secret meetings with the king before they were married. All she really wanted was for Jacob to be happy, after all. She thought he would be alone forever without interference, for she did not know about his secret meetings with Elnora. Now that she and the king had seen what Elnora was capable of, they had decided she would make a fine ruler. The jealous princesses who had destroyed Elnora's dress were sent home humiliated and empty-handed. Prince Jacob and Princess Elnora were married with the king and queen's blessing. Elnora's family never went hungry again, and the two lived happily ever after.


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