The Princess and the Crow

A Tale from the Black Sea Retold by Laura Simms ©2001.

Once upon a time there were three princesses who were sisters. They set out on a journey to see their entire kingdom. They enjoyed the beautiful cities and rich mountain villages of their country. Everywhere they went they feasted and slept on silken sheets.

But, one day they came upon a ruined palace surrounded by a wild rose garden. The three sisters each walked in a different direction to discover how they could enter the palace. A crow hopped out from behind a bush right in front of the youngest princess. His wings were torn and bleeding. He leaned to one side. The bird could not fly. The youngest princess felt sorry for the bird and said out loud, “If only I could heal your wings so you could fly again.”

To her surprise, the crow spoke, “I am really a prince who has been enchanted by monsters. In the palace is a room with a golden bed. If someone could sleep in that room without making a sound no matter what they saw or felt or heard for an entire year I would be saved. I would be a prince again.”

The princess agreed. When she told her sisters what she planned to do, they become angry. “You are a fool to help a bird,” said one. The other said, “A bird can not talk and if it was to talk it would be because it was evil.”

But the youngest sister did not change her mind. The two older girls went away as quickly as they could before it grew dark.

The very first night, the princess awoke. She heard the sound of the door opening. The room filled with monsters. Their mouths were almost as large as their heads and their bellies were so big she could hardly see their feet. They darted back and forth and made a terrible noise as they lit the fire in the hearth. Then they set down a huge cauldron filled with water on the flames. They hopped up and down and ran back and forth.

At first, the princess was terrified. But the monsters were so funny looking that she laughed to herself in silence. She thought about running away, but then she thought of the black crow and his torn wings and she did not move.

Toward morning, the monsters lifted her up and carried her toward the fireplace. Now she was truly frightened, but she bit her lips and made not a sound. Just as they were about to throw her in the pot, the sun rose and the monsters disappeared. Exhausted, the princess rushed back to the golden bed and fell asleep.

In the afternoon, when she awoke and went outside, the crow returned. The tips of his wings were healed. “Thank you,” he said. “If you had made a single sound my sufferings would have doubled.”

Each night it was the same. The monsters leaped and danced and boiled water in the cauldron. And each morning they were about to throw her in the pot, when the sun rose and they disappeared. And each day the crow’s wings became stronger and stronger. At the end of a year, the crow’s wings were completely healed and the monsters no longer returned.

However, the crow did not turn back into a prince and the princess asked him what else she could do to restore him to his true form. “If you work as a servant for one year, then the enchantment will be broken,” said the bird.

The princess sought work as a servant. All day she cleaned and tended pigs and in the evening she spun flax. She slept in a tiny cottage with barely a blanket to keep her warm. She worked until her back ached, and her soft hands were weary.

The year passed slowly and many times she thought of returning to her sisters, wondering if what they had said was true. But still, she kept her promise.

On the very last day of the year, the princess heard the rustling of wings. The door of her house opened and in walked a noble young man. “I am the prince,” he said and knelt down and kissed her hands. “Your strength and your goodness have saved me.”

Together they returned to the prince’s palace. It was as new as the sun when it rises in the morning and the rose bushes bloomed in every color. The rooms were filled with people, and the garden was alive with birds and beasts. Everyone bowed before the princess and thanked her for never forgetting her promise.

In time, the youngest princess married the prince. They ruled together equally on two thrones. They ruled with great kindness and everyone, even the two older sisters, lived happily ever after.

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