King Gregor the Mighty was a very powerful man. He ruled the faraway land of Felicity, where all men and women are happy. But King Gregor the Mighty was not very happy these days. It was not war or famine or death that troubled him. It was his only daughter, the lovely Princess Rose. Her mother had not survived giving birth to her, so it fell to King Gregor the Mighty to take care of the little girl. He fell in love with her at first sight, and with the great and powerful love that only a father knows, he swore to protect his daughter.
Princess Rose grew up in peace and harmony. She was loved throughout the country. When they rode through the villages on horseback, the people greeted her and gave her flowers and invited her into their homes. The Princess was a quiet girl, but her smile could light up even the darkest night.
One night, a storm hit Felicity and all people hid in their houses. King Gregor the Mighty and Princess Rose sat in the Grand Hall by the fire place. Several blankets and pillows ensured comfort and a snugly warmth. King Gregor the Mighty read to his daughter. She loved folk stories, and he loved reading them to her. He had charged his writers to travel through the land and collect all folk stories, only for the pleasure of the Princess. So when the storm hit Felicity, he got out the book of collected folk stories again and he and the Princess stayed up all night enjoying the adventurous folk tales.
But the thunder was so loud that King Gregor the Mighty had to stop reading. Princess Rose got up and walked over to the window. King Gregor the Mighty told her not to go to the window. He feared for his daughter´s safety, and maybe he was a tad overprotective, but the Princess did not always listen and so it happened that she stood at the window and watched the fierce thunder storm outside, when lightning hit right in front of the castle and the screaming light of the lightning blinded the Princess instantly.
She stumbled back and put her hands to her face, but she couldn´t see a thing anymore. King Gregor the Mighty sent out for the best doctors in the country, but no one seemed to be able to cure her blindness. Princess Rose did not lose her faith in quick recovery, but once all doctors had examined her and all had come to the same conclusion, Princess Rose´s smile froze on her face. Her blindness was permanent.
Ever since then, Princess Rose forgot how to smile. No court jester, no traveling circus, no show, no play, not even her folk tales could bring a smile to her face. Her features seemed frozen. And after a while, her appearance changed. Her fair hair turned brown and her once smooth skin seemed pale and unhealthy. She seemed to leave behind sorrow wherever she went and sorrow lingered in every room of the castle now, and soon King Gregor the Mighty felt its cold fingers reaching out for him as well. So he decided that they should leave the castle for a few days. He had his and the Princess´s horse saddled and soon they were on their way through Felicity´s villages, accompanied only by a handful of soldiers. The people came to greet them and they gave the Princess flowers, but she declined them and said that she couldn´t enjoy flowers anymore since she couldn´t see them. The people stepped away from her and King Gregor the Mighty knew that they, too, had felt sorrow´s icy fingers reaching out for them.
An old man walked up to King Gregor the Mighty and advised him to travel further north. There, up in the mountains, lived an old woman. She might know how to cure the Princess. King Gregor the Mighty thanked the man. So they traveled further north and as they reached the mountains, King Gregor the Mighty continued on his own, while Princess Rose stayed behind at the foot of the mountain. The soldiers set up a tent for her and she soon retired and went to bed, while King Gregor the Mighty set on with his journey.
As darkness approached, King Gregor the Mighty saw a little, flickering light in the distance. He knew it was the old woman´s house, so he told his horse to go faster, but the impassable way rendered it impossible to ride on. So he dismounted the horse and continued on foot.
It was very dark when he reached the house, but he saw the flickering light of a burning fire place through the window, so he knocked on the door of the house. His heart was beating fiercely, when the door opened with a loud creaking sound. An old woman stood in the doorway and she beckoned him inside as if she had been waiting for him.
King Gregor the Mighty sat down at the table and the old woman asked him why he had traveled all the way to meet her in the middle of the night. King Gregor the Mighty apologized profusely and then told the old woman about Princess Rose´s blindness. She nodded and walked up and down in her little house. She told King Gregor the Mighty that there was no instant cure. King Gregor the Mighty nodded sadly.
However, the old woman told him that there was indeed a cure to the Princess´s blindness, but that it would ask a lot of the king. King Gregor the Mighty told her that he would pay any price. The old woman smiled and informed him that it was not money that was asked of him. ‘Name the price’, King Gregor the Mighty said, but the old woman shook her head. She told him that there was a rare and old magic that might cure his daughter. She said that the king had to follow her instructions, not knowing what she would ask of him in return.
King Gregor the Mighty did not hesitate. He had sworn to do anything to see his daughter smile again, even if it would cost him his own life, so he agreed to follow the old woman´s instructions and did not ask another question. The old woman started to pack a little bag. She would accompany King Gregor the Mighty and Princess Rose back to their castle. There, she would tell the king what to do.
All the way back to the castle, tense silence lingered on the little caravan. King Gregor the Mighty had grasped that little spark of hope and held on to it with all his might. His daughter still wore a sad look on her once so beautiful face and King Gregor the Mighty was certain that he would pay any price the old woman named, even if it was giving up the throne or having to move out of Felicity and never to return again.
They reached the castle during sunset and King Gregor the Mighty looked up the North Tower. How often had he been up there, admiring his kingdom and the beauty of the land? How often had the Princess been with him, telling him about the magnificent places she had discovered, about the fantastic stories she had heard? He wished for that time back and he hoped that the old woman´s rare and old magic would help.
The Princess retired to her room. She walked alongside the walls so she always knew where she was, but as King Gregor the Mighty watched her walk away, he thought that she looked lost. So he turned to the old woman and asked for instructions. She told him to prepare dinner, because she was very hungry from the ride, and then she would tell him what to do.
King Gregor the Mighty ordered his cook to prepare tasty dishes and while they ate, the old woman told him that he must invite all men with a pure heart to come to the castle. King Gregor the Mighty wondered about how to find out if the men had pure hearts, but the old woman told him not to worry, because she was certain he would know.
King Gregor the Mighty trusted the old woman, so he sent out his heralds to announce that all men with pure hearts were to come to the castle immediately. Over the following days, men arrived at the castle and King Gregor the Mighty now understood what the old woman had meant when she said that he would know which of the arriving men had a pure heart and which not. Some, he sensed immediately, had only come to see the castle or the king or the Princess or to enrich themselves on the king´s treasures. He had many men arrested and banned from the castle grounds. But after a week, only three men remained.
King Gregor the Mighty asked the old woman for further instructions and the old woman said that it was time to introduce the remaining three men to Princess Rose. She told him to hold a banquet, so King Gregor the Mighty ordered his cook and the maids and everyone in the castle to wipe away the dust and the cobwebs and to prepare the finest dishes for a dazzling banquet. For four days, all were busy decorating and beautifying the castle. The Princess, however, remained in her room. She sat at the window and though she felt the warm summer breeze on her face, she did not see the beauty of the land outside her window.
Only reluctantly did Princess Rose agree to join the festivities. She was sad, because she could smell the great food and hear the laughter of the people, but she could not see the food or the people, and she feared that her blindness would offend their guests. The three men, however, were not offended. They enjoyed the festivities and to be in the presence of King Gregor the Mighty.
The three men were very different and King Gregor the Mighty watched them carefully, but soon he realized that he didn´t know what he was looking for in the men. One was from a noble family and had traveled through Felicity. He seemed well-mannered, well-versed and well-read, but he also had a bit of a blasé attitude and he sat next to Princess Rose as if he belonged there. The second man was from a rich family. As a merchant´s son, he knew all about market and price and products and he told the Princess about the very different prices for various products throughout the land of Felicity. The third man was humble and quiet and only spoke when spoken to, but he was as well-mannered as the noble man and had as many experience as the rich merchant´s son.
The old woman addressed the king again and said that the men´s task was to make the Princess smile. King Gregor the Mighty frowned, because he had tried for years to make her smile again. He had failed, how could these three men succeed? But the old woman only smirked and said that one of them would succeed. King Gregor the Mighty was not too sure about that, but he had learned to trust the old woman.
So the three men were informed of their task and they willingly accepted. The noble man was the first to give it a try. He took the Princess to see the king´s gardens, where wild flowers blossomed and butterflies mingled with bees. The sight was spectacular and the noble man stood and watched in awe, but Princess Rose frowned, because she heard the buzzing of the bees and the warm summer breeze wafting through the trees and flowers, but she could not see the beauty that lay in front of her, so she broke in tears and King Gregor the Mighty took her back to the castle. The noble man, however, stayed in the royal garden and succumbed to the incomparable sight of the colors, flowers, trees and animals.
The rich merchant´s son tried next. The following day, he and Princess Rose visited the market place. The merchant´s son loved crowded market places and he enjoyed to haggle over the prices. He was a fine haggler and while he perked up in the crowd and in his haggling business, the Princess felt more lost than ever. In the crowd, she was pushed and pulled, people ran into her, there were so many people she didn´t know, so many loud voices and so many strange smells that she lost her focus and didn’t know where she was anymore. So she told the rich merchant´s son that she wanted to go home, but he told her to wait a little while longer while he haggled over the price for potatoes. Princess Rose didn´t know where she was anymore and since she was blind, she couldn´t find her way back to the castle. The rich merchant´s son, who wanted to show her the great products and make her a fine meal, did not notice that Princess Rose was close to tears, but King Gregor the Mighty, who had watched them from a safe distance, noticed his daughter´s despair and came to her rescue. The rich merchant´s son was still very much engaged in a conversation with the other merchants so that he did not even notice that King Gregor the Mighty and Princess Rose returned to the castle.
Last to try and make Princess Rose smile was the poor man, who was humble and quiet, but as well-mannered as the noble man and as experienced in trade as the rich merchant´s son. The poor man took the Princess for a walk. When they passed the market place, he bought her an apple to taste, because he knew she couldn´t see the delicious red color of the fruit. As they passed the king´s garden, the poor man advised the Princess to take off her shoes so that she could feel the earth underneath her feet. And when they passed the beautiful flowers, the poor man took the Princess´s hands into his and showed her how to feel the structure of the flowers. Soon, the Princess learned that roses felt different than tulips and that lilies and orchids were really fragile flowers. And though she could not see the sun, the poor man knew that she could feel it. So he asked the Princess to sit down on a bank near the river that crossed the king´s garden. And she held her face up to the sun and listened to the summer breeze wafting through the nearby trees and the bubbling of sparkling water and the soft buzzing of the bees in the flower beds. So the poor man leaned back as well and started telling her a story she had never heard before.
The poor man had no riches, but a pure heart and the blind Princess fell for him, because she couldn´t see his old and ragged clothes or the dirt on his face, she could not see that he didn´t own shoes and she didn´t know that he was merely a farmer.
Princess Rose told King Gregor the Mighty that she had fallen in love with the poor man and she smiled tentatively. King Gregor the Mighty panicked. He had often thought about marrying the Princess to a fine man, but the poor man was so poor, he could never make the Princess happy. King Gregor the Mighty favored the man from the noble family above all others, because he knew about privileges, duties and responsibility.
But the old woman smiled as if she had read his thoughts and whispered to him: ‘The one man that makes Princess Rose smile, will be the one she has to marry.’ King Gregor the Mighty remembered the tentative smile he had seen on his daughter´s face and he knew that the price for his daughter´s happiness was to agree to her marriage with the poor man who had no idea about riches, privileges, or royal duties, but who knew a great deal about honesty, truthfulness and love.
King Gregor the Mighty sent out for a priest to marry the Princess and the poor man immediately. The priest came and many curious people joined the ceremony. When the poor man took her hand to accompany her up to the altar, she remembered how he had taken her hands into his to show her how to feel flowers and she smiled again. The people noticed her smile and a murmur went through the crowd. As they reached the altar, the priest began with the wedding ceremony. The poor man had made a ring out of flowers for the Princess and she wore it with pride. She had never worn jewelry that felt so good on her skin. The priest soon pronounced them husband and wife and the poor man leaned in to kiss the Princess.
When their lips touched, a bright light radiated from the two lovers and lit up the chapel. All people as well as King Gregor the Mighty were blinded for a moment, but when it died down to a warm flicker of golden light, they could see Princess Rose and the poor man. The Princess held her hand up to his face and she smiley brightly. With the kiss, the poor man had not cured her blindness, but he had taken the curse off her. She no longer felt sorrow. Love was now flowing through her body. Her eyes lit up, her hair turned fair again and her features seemed as young and vital as ever. She held her hand up to his face and even though he had washed his face and had exchanged his old and ragged clothes for new ones, he was still a poor man, though he looked as superb as the noble man and knew how to conduct himself as the rich merchant´s son. But in his heart, he was a poor farmer who had fallen in love with a Princess. ‘I can see you now’, Princess Rose whispered only for him to hear. And he understood that it was his heart that she saw and loved, and he closed his eyes in gratitude and then turned to meet King Gregor the Mighty´s glance. And the king rose from his chair and walked over to the young lovers. He kissed his daughter and hugged his new son and blessed their union.
And they did live happily ever after.