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The Prince and the Witch Queen

2006-07-14 00:11

  Once upon a time, there lived a king with his Queen and his son. The kingdom was a haven for peace and prosperity. The king was noble and just and all loved him but for a wicked witch who lived atop a tall tree overlooking the royal palace. She longed to eat the well fed horses and cows in the palace backyards but never got the chance.

  Now, it so happened that one day the wicked witch's sister came to visit her and told her a secret. That the Queen's life spirit was hidden within a mango. So the same night, the wicked witch took the mango and hid it on her tree. The Queen now became the witch's slave. The witch looked her in a trunk and then assuming the form of the royal lady, she lay down on the Queen's bed.

  The months rolled on but nobody noticed that the Queen was not the real Queen. In due time, gave birth to seven handsome Princes who also were ignorant of their mother's true nature.

  The Princes grew up and wanted to visit distant lands. They went to the king to ask for his permission. The king made a condition that the eldest Prince must accompany his seven younger brothers.

  The eight Princes set out with much fanfare, riding the choicest horses. They rode over hills and dales, rivers and plains, tirelessly day after day.

  Meanwhile the Queen, scheming as ever, was already thinking up ways of killing the eldest Prince. She knew that the Princes would come to a land of demonesses whose Queen demanded to see the hand of every stranger. If their palms did not bear the emblem of a demon, she would challenge them to a game of dice, which she would win by guile. Then their heads would be chopped off and bodies eaten up. The witch Queen knew that her sons did not have the emblem, as their father was human. So she created a snake and sent it to the demoness Queen with a message to spare the Princes, all except the eldest one.

  The snake wriggled and writhed across miles till it was too tired to move any more. So it entered an apple and rested. The Princess of the land picked the apple and ate it for breakfast. The snake remained inside the Princess's body.

  The eight Princes were riding across a desert when there arose a great sand storm. The eldest Prince was thrown off his horse against a cactus tree whose thorns blinded him. The horse stumbled, fell and turned into stone.

  The other Princes rode on not knowing what fate had befallen their eldest brother. Soon they reached the kingdom of demonesses.

  As a matter of routine, they were summoned by the Queen and asked to show their hands. Then they were challenged to a game of dice, which they lost. So the innocent Princes were devoured by the demonesses.

  Meanwhile, the snake inside the Princess was doing many evil things. It came out at night through the sleeping Princess's nostril and ate up her husband. A new king was married to the Princess and out on the throne but he too was eaten up. Innumerable kings were thus crowned king.

  Now, the blind eldest Prince stumbled along the countryside till he came to this kingdom. As he rested by a little stream, the royal elephant came charging by and garlanded him. The Prince was taken to the palace with great pomp and married to the princess. Late at night he lay down on the royal bed little knowing that this was probably going to be the last day of his life for no one had told him of the tragedy that had befallen this land.

  As the clock struck twelve, a screeching sound could be heard in the palace. Everyone was in a heavy sleep and so no one saw the snake emerge from the Princess's nostril. However the blind Prince was awake and he heard the fierce hissing and the clash of thunder. Unsheathing his fine sword, he swung it in a sharp arc and slashed off the snake's head. There was a clap of thunder and blood sprayed his eyes. To his great surprise, he found that he could see again!

  Soon it was day-break. The people rejoiced to see the Prince alive and the snake dead. When looking at the snake carcass, they found the message to the demoness Queen.

  Bidding goodbye to his bride and her countrymen, the Prince set off to find his brothers. His horse had also been restored to life with the death of the snake. Together the rider and the mount sped towards the kingdom of the demonesses.

  Reaching the kingdom, he struck a big gong at the entrance and demanded a game of dice with the demoness Queen. As they played, he observed a small mouse who quietly turned the dice in the Queen's favour. The Prince asked to go out for some water. He located the palace cat and brought it back with him.

  Now when that rat came out to play tricks, the cat pounced on him and broke his neck. The Queen lost the game and asked, “O skilled player, ask for anything you desire.”

  In reply the Prince said, “I want my youngest brother and his horse.”

  By magic the Queen brought back the youngest Prince with his steed. The Prince Played six more times and each time won back a brother and his horse. When all eight brothers were together, they started back.

  The witch Queen's heart had been in the snake, which the eldest Prince had killed. When the snake died, the Queen was reduced to ashes and the real Queen freed from her imprisonment. The king and Queen had been grieving for their children. The Princess whom the Prince had rescued from the snake was also grieving for her husband and was overjoyed to see him coming with his brothers. Together they made their way home. The old king and his wife welcomed them with open arms and they lived happily ever after.

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