Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Cat In The Bag: A Fairy Tale


A prince was held captive in a tower. His captor was an enchantress who wished to gaze on his beauty. The prince could never leave the tower, unless led by his captor on an enchanted sliver chain. To all the world, it looked as if the prince was leading his pet cat by a silver chain, but the cat was the enchantress's shape-shifting disguise, and in truth there was a manacle around the prince's wrist, that burned him if he pulled away.

One deep midwinter, a lady minstrel came to the village near to the prince's tower. From his window the prince heard the minstrel sing and play. He begged the enchantress to take him down to the village so he could see the minstrel. So the enchantress manacled the prince's wrist with the silver chain, and they descended the tower.

The prince became so rapt with the minstrel's song that he didn't feel the pain at his wrist when the enchantress tugged his silver chain. Blisters and burn marks covered his wrist before he reluctantly got up to leave. The enchantress saw this and was displeased.

The next morning, the prince watched the minstrel depart the village. She would not return until next midwinter. A twelvemonth went by, and the burns on the prince's wrist left a scar behind. The enchantress was angry that her captive's disobedience had marred his beauty.

Then one evening the prince heard the minstrel's song once more, and knew she had returned. He begged the enchantress to allow him to go down to the village to see her, but the enchantress refused. Instead, she shut the prince in his tower and went alone.

The minstrel saw a cat approaching, and did not know it was the enchantress in disguise. She moved to stroke the cat, and the cat clawed her face. The minstrel was furious, so she picked up the cat by its tail and swung it around her head. She let go, and the cat flew high into the air and straight through the window of the prince's tower.

All the villagers saw and reported all, and those they reported to reported it again, until all the land knew the story, and this was the origin of the name "cat fight" for a fight between women, and also of the saying "enough room to swing a cat."

Then the minstrel's anger left her, and she feared she had done a bad deed, for she had thrown the animal inside a tower from which it could not escape. So she resolved to go to the tower and release the cat.

The prince, meanwhile, acted swiftly when the enchantress, in cat form, came flying through his window. He leapt from his bed with his pillow case in his hand, and caught the cat inside. Then he bound the silver chain that had been his own leash around the top of the pillowcase, so the cat was trapped inside. If the cat tried to claw at the chain, the chain burned her.

The price carried his own captor down the stairs to the door, just as the minstrel picked the lock with a tool from her instrument case. The minstrel had this tool because all musicians must have at least one other trade if they are to survive from one midwinter to the next, and the minstrel's other trade was opening locked doors for people who wanted them opened. In this case, the prince wanted his door opened, but the minstrel didn't know that. She was only looking for the cat.

The prince and the minstrel met on the doorstep. "Thank you for letting me out of my prison," he said, "Will you play for me again? All year I have heard your songs inside my head."

"I will gladly play for a man so beautiful, if you will let me look upon you as I play," said the minstrel.

"So be it," said the prince, as he began to walk away from the tower where he had been imprisoned for seven years. The minstrel saw the bag he carried over his shoulder squirm and writhe, and she knew the cat was inside.

"Wait," said the minstrel, "Won't you release the cat from captivity first?"

"No," replied the prince, "I will never let the cat out of the bag."

The End