Story Saturday: The Dancing Prince

I was inspired to write this story after reading the version of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" in The Red Fairy Book. It was one of my favorite stories as a child. In this version, the princes that the princesses dance with in their underground world were other candidates who tried to learn their secret and were brainwashed by a magic potion to forget everything but the love of dancing. As soon as I saw that, I knew there was another story in there. This is that story.

"The Dancing Prince"

Prince Justin loved Princess Calliope with all his heart, but no matter how he tried to convince his parents to break off his alliance to Princess Jessamine, they simply would not listen to reason. Even after Calliope's father issued a contest to learn the secret that she shared with her eleven sisters with the prize of marrying one of the princesses, Justin's parents still would not relent.

"You may enter the contest if you wish," they told him, "but you may not accept one of those princesses as your wife. You will marry Princess Jessamine."

In truth, Justin already knew the secret of where Calliope and her sisters disappeared to every night that caused their dancing shoes to become worn and tattered each day. His beloved Calliope had confided her secret to him about how they discovered a hidden underground world beneath the castle with endless wonders, feasts, and music. It was the only thing that gave the girls happiness in their otherwise restrictive lives. As such, he would never betray their secret without permission.

As Justin's inevitable marriage to the vain Jessamine drew closer, Calliope decided to help him escape.

"Run away with me to our secret world. No one will ever find you there," she said.

Justin didn't love the idea of running away from everything he knew, but it seemed like the only way to get out of his marriage and be with his beloved. So, on the night before his wedding, he slipped off to Calliope's kingdom, where he proclaimed to the king that he wished to take the challenge, unbeknownst to his parents. By the time they found out where he had gone, it was too late.

Celia, the eldest of Calliope's sisters, suggested that they give Justin the magic tonic so he would forget his troubles and live happily amongst the other princes who had failed to guess where they went at night. However, Calliope would hear nothing of the sort.

"He may forget his troubles, but what if he forgets his love for me?" she cried.

So it was agreed that Prince Justin would join the others in their hidden world, but he would be the only one to keep his wits about him. The other princesses knew him well enough to trust he wouldn't try to escape and betray their secret.

Prince Justin followed his beloved down a hidden staircase in the princesses' room that led to an enchanted river, escorted her onto a glittering boat, and traveled through forests of silver, gold, and diamonds, where they came to a massive banquet that was even grander than the wedding that had been planned for him and Jessamine. Justin danced the night away with Calliope, forgetting his troubles until she and her sisters had to return to their rooms so they would not be caught by the castle staff.

Over the next few months. Justin began to feel some guilt, not only for running away, but also for the other princes who were trapped in the enchanted fairyland. At first, they seemed like friendly sorts who kept him occupied as he awaited his beloved Calliope each night, but the more he spoke to them, the more he began to understand how the tonic affected their minds. They could speak of nothing other than dancing and how beautiful and graceful the princesses were who came to visit them each night. While Justin could not disagree, he found that their faces went blank when he mentioned anything else that he enjoyed in the world above, like horseback riding, foreign affairs, or fencing. None of the princes seemed to have any memories of their lives before they entered the enchanted woods, and that made him sad.

"What you've done to them isn't right," he said one night when the princesses arrived for their nightly ball. "They've been taken from their homes and forgot everything they once loved except for dancing."

"They're happy enough," argued Celia, the eldest. "Look how much fun they're having dancing with all my sisters."

"They chose to be here, just like you did," argued Calliope.

"No, my love," said Justin. "They thought they could solve the mystery and marry one of your sisters, not become trapped in an endless cycle of dancing."

"I suppose you're right," she said, "but if you were to tell my parents now, this would all be taken away from us, and you'd have to go back and marry Jessamine."

"You're right, I suppose. Perhaps we should wait and see if a solution appears," said Justin.

Indeed, a short time later, Justin began to hear the princesses tease the youngest, Lina, about her affections for the new gardener. After that, strange things happened. Lina's boat got inexplicably heavier, and Justin noticed the branches on the enchanted trees snap one by one as they passed them. During their daily banquet, he saw a golden chalice float in midair. The princesses were too busy dancing to notice these things, so Justin decided to take matters into his own hands. He grabbed the chalice and the invisible attached to it.

"Are you a ghost?" Justin asked. "Are you hear to harm the princesses?"

"Nothing of the sort," replied the invisible stranger. "It looks like you've found me out," he said. With that, he removed his invisibility cloak, and Lina gave a shriek.

"Michael?" she asked. "What are you doing here?"

It turned out that the invisible stranger was the very gardener that Lina's sisters had been teasing her about.

"I am here to solve the princesses' mystery, but it looks like this prince has outsmarted me. It's strange how he isn't as obsessed with dancing as the others."

"It isn't so strange," said Justin, "for you see, I am the only one here who did not drink the magic tonic that erases the princes' minds."

"Well," said Celia, "It looks like now you can both get what you want. Since our secret has been discovered by an outsider, Father will know the truth by morning, and all of our fun will go away. Let's celebrate your victory with a toast."

She handed both Michael and Justin glittering goblets. They exchanged a look and pretended to hold them to their lips.

"No!" shouted both Lina and Calliope at the same time, knocking the cups out of their beloveds' hands. "Don't drink it!"

"I'd rather be a gardener's wife," said Lina while Calliope said to Justin "Your happiness is the most important thing to me, even if it means I have to live without you."

But as fortune would have it, the vain Princess Jessamine had decided she was too good for a prince would abandon her on her wedding night and ran off with a lord who had attended the ceremony. That left Justin free to marry Calliope. Michael revealed the secret of the princesses to their father, freeing all of the princes who had been trapped in the enchanted forest. Many of them stormed off in anger back to their kingdoms, but a few had fallen in love with the princesses and forgave them. Now that they had dancing partners for the rest of their lives, they were pleased despite losing their enchanted world beneath the castle, and they all lived happily ever after.


Sugar said…
Beautiful pictures! in fact the one with the dancing couple reminded me of some old manga like princess knight or Honey honey.
It was a good idea to give another of the sisters a crush! So far I've only seen him in Heather Dixon's book "Entwined".
The older sister seems somewhat unsympathetic but maybe it's not for nothing, maybe she just has a low image of marriage and wants to save her sisters from such a fate.
Lisa Dawn said…
Thanks! I googled public domain illustrations of the original fairy tale. Yeah, the eldest sister was more or less the villain in that version of the story. I really enjoyed the Faerie Tale Theatre adaptation, which made her a lot more likable, although they changed the number of princesses from 12 to 6.

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