Story Saturday: The Princess of the Golden Roof

Instead of using my card game, I decided to do something similar to what I did with "The Princess and the Shadow" in which I took a fairy tale that I wasn't very fond of with a princess who had no agency (unlike many false Disney criticisms) and attempt to rewrite it from the princess's perspective with a better ending. This week, I will try to tackle "Faithful Johannes" (also known as "Trusty John"), a story that I consider the most disturbing Brothers Grimm fairy tale of all time, to make it more appealing to female audiences.

"The Princess of the Golden Roof"

Once upon a time, a beautiful princess named Orla was always surrounded by gold. She lived in a golden castle, dressed in golden gowns, and wore all sorts of golden jewelry and tiaras. She was not particularly fond of gold, but her great uncle, King Midas, had suffered a curse that turned his entire estate and everything in it to gold. When he gave his daughter a hug and turned her to gold as well, his estate was inherited by Orla's family, so what could she do? She was stuck with all the gold.

Since Orla was too polite to say otherwise, her father assumed that she was obsessed with the gold that surrounded her day in and day out. He had the finest artist in the kingdom send her portrait to wealthy suitors around the world telling them that the Princess of the Golden Roof would only marry someone who could fill her life with as much gold as the estate her great-uncle left behind. Unfortunately, that was impossible since no one else suffered the same curse as King Midas. It was unfortunate for Orla that no one deemed themselves wealthy enough to propose to her because she dreamed of traveling the world and seeing places that contained colors and materials besides gold.

One day, a traveling merchant arrived bringing beautiful golden sculptures. The princess's chambermaid asked her to come to see the treasures, but she had little interest in them. Then she learned that the merchant had arrived on a ship that was filled with even more gold and that she was invited onboard to see it. This was her chance to escape her golden prison! Orla feigned interest and allowed the merchant to guide her onto the ship. Her feet had barely touched the deck when she felt it rock back and forth and was confident that they were sailing out to sea. To satisfy the foolish merchant, she pretended not to notice and proceeded to "ooh" and "ah" at his endless collection of shimmering wares that bored her to tears for she had seen so many similar things in her castle with the golden roof.

The princess was growing weary of her game of pretend when at last the ship jerked to a halt as it arrived at the merchant's port. She braced herself against a wall to keep from falling as it came to a rough stop against the edge of the dock. When the silly merchant gave her a sheepish grin, she knew she was supposed to feign shock.

She swooned dramatically and cried "Oh! I've been betrayed. I have been kidnapped and fallen into the power of a greedy merchant! I would rather die!" 

She wondered if she had been laying it on a little too thick, but her worries were put to rest when the merchant took her hand comfortingly and said "I am not a merchant. I am a king of no lower birth than you are. If I have tricked you into coming with me, it is only because of my great love for you. The first time I saw your portrait, I fell to the ground unconscious."

This man was an even bigger fool than Orla had realized. Not only did he think she would not notice a moving ship, but now he admitted that he had kidnapped her and lied to her about his identity. Yet, for some crazy reason, he expected her to marry him after doing all that.  What sort of lunatic fainted from seeing a portrait of someone they've never met?

"I shall consider your proposal," Orla said, swallowing her pride, "if you agree to give me a tour of your kingdom."

"Oh, my lady," said the liar king, gently kissing her hand, "you have made me the happiest man in the world!" The fool didn't even realize she hadn't accepted yet.

When they left the dock, the princess was pleased to see that not everything here was gold. The water and sky were a lovely shade of azure, and there were market stalls set selling fruits in the brightest of reds, purples, and greens. She became more and more pleased with her decision to humor the liar king even if she would need to come up with a way out of his proposal

As they forged ahead, a beautiful chestnut horse strolled up out of nowhere, and the false king decided to ride it to the castle for his wedding. The princess thought it odd that he would not have his own royal horse prepared to ride. Then, something shocking happened. The liar king's servant, John, who had tended to the ship while the princess was pretending to be interested in the golden statues, pulled out a shotgun and shot the horse dead. Everyone was shocked, but none more so than Orla, who had never seen such a weapon. As the liar king tried to defend John's actions and told everyone he was his most trusted servant, he failed to notice Orla slipping away into the lush green foliage nearby to get away from this mad group of heathens.

The princess expected the liar king to come after her, but instead, she found John, thankfully no longer armed, searching for her in the woods. 

"Do not come near me!" she cried. "You are mad to slay an innocent creature who had done you no harm!"

John walked up to her and spoke in a soothing voice. As he got closer, she noticed for the first time how calming his bright blue eyes were, like the sea.

"I understand why you might think that, my princess, but all is not as it appears. You see, I live only to serve my master. While he was distracting you on the ship, three spirits came to me in the form of ravens and told me of three dangers that would prevent your happy marriage with him. The horse was the first of them. No one must tell him of these dangers or half his body will turn to stone."

For others, it may have been a difficult tale to believe, but Orla knew from experience that a curse like the one that had befallen her great-uncle Midas could cause living beings to turn to gold, why not stone as well? She listened carefully to John's story and saw the terror in his eyes at the thought of harm befalling his master. She wondered to herself if anyone would have such great fear of something bad happening to her and began to secretly wish that this kind man would care for her as much as he did for her master. She could never love a king who had tricked and deceived her, but John was the only one to notice her terror at what happened to the horse and had come to comfort her and bring her back to the liar king before he realized she was missing.

"You need not worry about me saying anything to the king. What are the other two dangers?" she asked.

"The second one involves burning my master's wedding shirt, and I fear I cannot tell you the third, for it would put you at risk as well, but know that if you remain close to me during your wedding, I will do everything in my power to ensure your safety."

The princess nodded. "Since you have been honest with me, I will be honest with you. I have no intention of marrying the liar king, so our marriage was cursed long before these spirits came to you. However, I have no ill will toward you, so I will help you with the other tasks. Just follow my lead when we arrive at the castle."

John wasn't sure what Orla had planned, but he decided to trust her because he knew it was what his master would want.

Orla was pleased that the false king's castle contained less gold than her home with the golden roof. There were red doors, ebony windowpanes, and white railings over green-carpeted staircases. After talking to John, she had come up with a plan to get out of her marriage, making her all the more confident in her decision. When she saw John don a pair of gloves and carry the liar king's wedding shirt to the fire, she made a show of pushing him as though she had forced him to drop it into the flames. Some of the servants who did not like John still claimed that he was the one who burned the shirt, but there were enough witnesses that Orla was able to convince the liar king that she had forced him to do it while John was mearly bringing it to the fire to dry.

"Why would you try to sabotage our wedding, my darling golden princess?" he asked.

Orla gave a shrill laugh. "You foolish king," she chided. "I could never marry someone who would kidnap and lie to me. I'd rather die! I have decided to run off with your servant, and since he is so loyal, he has agreed. Isn't that right, John?"

Knowing nothing of her plan, John was rightfully horrified. He begged Orla to reconsider, listing all of the traits he respected about his master, such as his confidence and strong will, but nothing he said would convince the princess to change her mind. Finally, she asked John if he wanted to marry her. He tried to relent for his master's sake, but it was impossible to turn down a princess so beautiful and charming. The liar king knew John's heart was in the right place, so he directed all of his blame toward Orla instead.

"Very well," he said. "I was willing to give my heart to you, and you have betrayed me. Be gone from here."

Before leaving with John, Orla couldn't help but remark "Now you know how it feels to be tricked by someone you thought you could trust."

When they were out of the palace, John whispered to Orla "Why did you force me to do that? Now my master will be miserable."

"I was only trying to help you with the third task," the princess responded. "You said I needed to remain close to you during the wedding. I can't get much closer than being your bride, now, can I?"

John begrudgingly admitted that she was right, though he felt awful that his master had to have his heart broken in the process. He sent for the artist who had been commissioned to paint Orla's portrait to send other portraits of beautiful princesses to his master so he would not have to be lonely.

Princess Orla was pleased to see the coarse fabrics and dull colors that John's servant friends wore to their wedding. It was such a change of pace from the glittering gowns she was used to. She said her vows with sincerity. When the dancing began, she turned pale and fell to the ground as though dead. The other attendees were horrified, but John knew what to do. He carried her gently to her bedchamber and performed the act the ravens had requested. When she opened her eyes and saw the man she loved, she had renewed energy and returned to the dance floor for the rest of the festivities.

"It's a good thing I married you instead of that awful king," she said as they shared the last dance of the night. "If he had seen you carry me away to my chamber like that, it may have cost you your life. Who knows what fate would have befallen our children since our marriage had been cursed from the start?"

"You no longer have to worry about such things, my darling," said John, "For I will faithfully tend to your every whim for the rest of our lives."

So he did, and they all lived happily ever after.


Sugar said…
Great story, I really liked how you justly pointed out that the king was a bit of a fool and the gaps in the prohibition of telling the king about the dangers, nowhere was it forbidden to tell another person!
I loved Orla's initiative hahaha "oh well I should be near you at the wedding...well let's get married" hahaha and being his wife was the perfect solution to the problem of...ahem...touching breasts.
Lisa Dawn said…
Thanks! :) I always assumed that his master was the only person he was close with in the original story, so not being allowed to tell him was akin to not being allowed to tell anyone. However, if the princess got close to him before the tasks were complete, that would change things. It's similar to the philosophy about how things could have worked out more easily in Aladdin if the princess had used the lamp to make some wishes as well.

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