Two Short Fairy Tales for Children or Adults

Caren Beilin

The Cursed Prince

Prince Carpinon lived in a troubled wood, troubled by a witch, and her spell was such that the trees, while still fully existing, had been turned invisible, so that a person, in walking about, had to hold his or her arms out in order to feel a way through towards the river for water or any other place. The leaves growing on these invisible trees, however, were still green and showing, seemingly supportless in the air above all who lived in this wood.

The spell had been in place since Carpinon's birth so our prince had not ever known a world, or a wood, where trees appear, brown and strong, full of animals, and clearly not clear, not a thing to walk right through. Overhead and mid-overhead, the leaves twinkled stiffly, as if perched upon the air alone, the sun lavishing them in laminates. Carpinon had spent his life feeling the trees without seeing them, climbed walking along high-up branches, his feet guessing the way the branches bent, so that our prince deeply became the kind who could intuit the way of trees and did not have to walk about the wood with arms outstretched, stumbling to find his path, but felt where they were with his heart as if it were the outstretched arm.

His old father, a widower who'd been alive much longer than this curse, could hardly leave the house, so used to seeable trees was he. Birds, too, alive since the beginning of the history of all woods, found it quite hard to adapt to this curse. They often clumped injured or even dead at the invisible bottoms of many trees, having flown smack into the trunks. Carpinon had a habit of taking these birds to his old father, and his old father, grateful to be able to see their condition before him, mended them as he would a shoe, bending them back into place with thread and tender fingers.

Take note, if this was a condition you've always seen and known, the condition of injured birds, you really could go about the work of helping them without an excess of shock. You worked without shock, and so you worked well, and the birds, indeed, needed that.

It was one such day—Carpinon coming home gaily with an armful of injured birds—when our prince's old father finally decided to tell his son the very truth.

"Carpinon, dear son, growing so good," his father began—and as he talked, he spread the birds upon an invisible, flat old stump to assess their breasts and bones, wings, beaks and starburst feet for what needed, in each of them, to be mended. "Your mother, who died, as you know, as you were born, is the witch who cast this curse on all our very wood."

Carpinon, for the first time in his life, felt a shock. He held a trembling, injured bird in his hand, but he himself was trembling, and injured by this. "Father, why would my mother wish all trees to be invisible? Did she ever think about the birds! The birds are who have received this fine curse!" he shouted, and in his anger, he almost threw the bird he held. But instead he set it gently onto the invisible stump to be mended.

His father spoke, polishing a chipped beak of a blue jay, its tulipy coat of finely draping feather: "Carpinon, oh Carp, I don't think she thought of birds in that moment, but thought she was giving you a gift, in her own witchy way! Haven't you noticed how you can feel the way of trees? That is your dear mother's gift to you!"

"A gift from a witch is called a curse." Carpinon sighed. Still in much shock, he said to his old father, "You should not have married a witch," and with that he left, running with hopeless ease through the nothingness of the thousand trees of their wood until his arms caught a branch he liked. He swung to sleep on its bough, vowing never to return.

Through the visible leaves he stared at our moon, feeling sure his mother the witch was watching—for what is death but an invisibility watching you still?

In the morning, our prince's old father rose from his invisible stump bed, a bed covered in the cloth of felt twined from feathers of the unluckiest of birds, whose beaks upon a tree exploded or who died by some other terrible means. It was not so rotten or wrong that he used the stuff of dead birds to make up his bed, for as you use yourself to a curse, you learn to use its extract, which is death. They had used the death of birds in their life: in their soups, when mending had not been possible—as shoes can be so worn out that you must use them for something else now, perhaps as lanterns, and so with some birds, with their laces ripped, tongues stretched, soles impacted too often.

You learn to use the excess of a curse, in order to exist.

Carpinon's old father loved his son very much, as he did love the witch, the wonderful witch, and so this morning he left his birdwork on the invisible stump and left the house looking for his son. He held his arms out and stumbled about, banging his way through the trunks and branches hitting him on the shoulders, sometimes right in the face. Oh, that clever witch, he thought of his wife, and he loved her more for the trouble of her curse, which is what love is: loving the strange trouble of what could only come from the trouble of an other. With every smack of a branch to his face, he felt her humor, and her love, and he saw only a tender finger—through all this very troublesome invisibility, he saw her.

But he could not see anywhere his dear son, Carpinon, though you could look for miles in a wood such as this and see so much, the trees not in the way of any beast or being, but where was he? Ah! There! And then he saw our dear Carpinon perched upon an invisible branch, looking up where the moon was still staining the leaves, silvering their shivering spines. In his excitement, he walked about without his arms in front and, like the most unlucky bird of all, his nose exploded against a tree.

As the old widower died, the trees flushed with visibility. The witch, his clever and wonderful wife, had set the spell as such. And so Carpinon, who had looked down to see his father's nose and then his heart explode, could not see his father at all but only everything else. Our prince spent the rest of his long life at an arm's distance, unsure of how to walk among trees you can see, and unsure what to do with his time among them now that the birds were restored to their good world.


Princess Songleen and Her Bird

A bird did not know a princess admired her and so did not change her behavior, as she would have if she knew that young motivated eyes were watching. The princess had even named the bird, calling her Ploo, to herself, in her head, as she watched from a bush she liked to sit in.

A bush makes the coziest of rooms! There, you are enclosed in green and thorn, protected from the world while also within the world, within a clutch and synch of it, a green-feathered land-cloud! How Princess Songleen, for that was her name, loved to sit inside of a green-feathered land-cloud and watch her beautiful bird, Ploo.

Ploo, whose true name among birds was Airoot, had had many children and much flight and was now an old and fragile creature, her once vividly purple feathers now a lovingly tattered pinkness. The sun and life had lovingly tattered color. Her beak, once hard and crisp, had softened and instead of confidently snapping back wormflesh, she softly licked the trees, where plenty of live nutrients waited, happy to go live inside a distinguished old bird's body. The world seemed to love Airoot and conspired to keep her alive. Her feathers were thinner and frailer, sure, her wings as if shaved from the first parts of a pearl, but had not turned into rags as with many old birds. She did not sing anymore, but carried in her breast a certain silence, which certainly did speak to our Songleen.

Songleen, from her bush, heard everything and saw all. She loved her Ploo, who she did not know.

One very new morning, the stars only so recently flocked back to the belly of their moon, Airoot tripped on a branch she meant to skitter across and so fell into Songleen's little watching place, the bush.

"Oh bird!" Songleen cried, and then, despite herself, "Oh my Ploo!"

It is amazing, Airoot thought, at the end of her life, that you could be named from afar—as far as the ground is or as far as the air, depending who you are—and never know it. Because to name a bird is to pin love into its unreachable breast.

Here, Songleen, our princess, could at last reach and touch her favorite bird. But she did not. "Ploo, Ploo!" she sang, and Airoot, in her silence, consented to die under this new name, and within a cloud unlike the ones of her youth, one that had thrown brown bone into the soil from its green plume. She hoped this lovely young princess, who sang so beautifully and who she only knew now, might in return and in a very long time die in a cloud above here, under a name that a bird yet unborn will have, out of love, given.