When I was little, my teacher told me that a girl deer is called a doe, and after that I thought that our farm was called Doe Run because that is what the deer did each morning when my father went to work in the fields. I told my father that; he laughed. He told me that our last name was Doe and a run was a small stream or river like the one that ran by Mom??™s vegetable patch; then he told me I was the smartest girl in the entire kingdom.
In truth, I was just a normal girl. I got up early to do my chores on our family??™s farm before leaving for school each day. I worked hard for my grades, and I struggled to get my parents to listen to me. I had a little brother, James, who was a complete pain, but I loved him. It was my job to protect him. My mother worked on the farm with my father and also part time at the school cafeteria. My father was the only thing that made my family less than ordinary.
My story began when I came home from school for the last time; I was happy with the thought that summer vacation was finally here. I had plans for my summer ??“ swims in the lake with my friends, catching the local theatre troupe play some overacted thing, like Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet, by some pompous guy, like Billy Shakespeare, and just in general doing anything that didn??™t involve homework, but this was not meant to be. Of course, my father was the one who went and screwed the whole thing up.
My father??¦ What can I say about him I loved him. He was fiercely proud of me; which, I guess is good. He was always bragging to his friends about me. ???My daughter??™s beauty surpasses all the other girls in the kingdom.??? In truth, I was average in looks, grades ??“ really everything. ???My daughter is the most intelligent child in the known world!??? he boasted to his buddies at the pub. My best friend told me she heard her parents talking about it one night. I was mortified. I told my father to stop lying ??“ that it was embarrassing. In truth, it was also ruining my reputation at school. ???These are harmless indiscretions???, he told me, but there was one ???harmless indiscretion??? that nearly got us both killed.
My father went to the Tip ???Ze Ale Bar and Grill, where he, according to witnesses, ???had a little too much to drink.??? (By the way, that translates as he was so drunk they had to scoop him off the floor and shovel him out the door like garbage.) While he was indulging, he mentioned that his daughter could spin straw into gold. Now, normally I would have just laughed this off as ???Dad being Dad???, but some fool actually believed him.
To make matters worse, this same fool went and repeated it to the king. Well, of course, my father was hauled in to the court to explain himself. ???Sir, you will either admit your error and spend time in jail for ???drunk and disorderly conduct in a public place??™, or admit to the truth what you said.???
My father is NOT a fool, but he was terrified. He said, ???Yes, Your Great and Marvelous Majesty, I did indeed admit that my daughter has a rather unusual gift. She can spin ordinary straw into gold.???
Now the king was also not a fool, but he could sense a ???once in a lifetime??? opportunity. ???Really. If that??™s so, why are you not living in a palace Why do you not dress in richly adorned clothing Why are you not part of my court???
My father, once again found himself verbally trapped in a bad position, said, ???Well, YourRegal and Imperial Royalty, I am a humble and practical man who adores his family. Once I discovered my daughter??™s unique talent, I was terrified. My wife and I would die without her. I didn??™t want the government to take her away from me and have her spend her life like a lab rat. I, at once, forbid her to ever touch a spinning wheel again. (Now here??™s the horrible part??¦) I swear on my life and that of my family; it??™s the truth!???
???Hmmmm. You may or may not be telling the truth.??? There was quiet chuckling coming from some of the nobles off to the king??™s right. A maniacal glare in their direction quashed their outburst. ???I met a man just last week who had a hat mysteriously appear on his head every time he took one off. I watched him for an hour, and it never stopped; isn??™t that right, Mr. Capp I also heard from young Lord Jack B. Stalk that he became rich after fighting a giant who lived in the clouds. That seems much more far-fetched than this, so I??™m willing to put this man to the test.
Mr. Doe, you are required to bring your daughter forthwith to the court for examination. If she was able to demonstrate this ???talent??™ as you call it, you and she shall be released on your own recognizance. If she was unable to produce the spun gold, then you shall both be incarcerated until you are too old to make any more trouble.???
I??™ll never forget the evening that he told my mother and I what he had done. It was one of the few times I ever remember seeing my father so??¦ sober. It was rather frightening. ?????¦so you and I must leave in the morning at dawn,??? he explained. ???You??™ll have to??¦???
With that he broke down and cried. I was so surprised and frightened by that, I just got up and left the room. I truly wanted to yell at him ??“ to: tell him what a fool I thought he was, how he??™d messed up not just his life this time, to tell him I hated him. I couldn??™t. I love my father very much, and he looked so helpless??¦ defeated??¦ broken. I went upstairs.
Dawn was fast approaching. I could feel it in my bones. I truly wanted to barf, or disappear, or better yet??¦ wake up to discover that this was some bad, beef stew induced nightmare. Instead I found myself walking next to my dejected father up this enormous hill towards the very ominous looking palace and adjoining courts.
???Court Three, Sir.???
The guard looked down his itinerary sheet. ???Ah, yes??¦ the ???Golden??™ family,??? he smirked. I wanted to slap him so hard. ???Enter.???
I took a deep breath, which helped to settle my stomach a bit. We walked down long, seemingly endless, echoing, marble halls filled with the statues of previous kings. At least I thought they were kings. They could have been current nobles; how would I have known. It was rather fascinating. I found myself wanting to just ramble around and see what was around the next corner, but I didn??™t have that opportunity. At the moment I felt most likely to run, we arrived.
The entrance to Court Three was delineated by two huge, maybe 15 feet high, doors with carvings all over them. The carvings were of people in various states of torture. Great. I rolled my eyes, and a second glace at the carvings reduced me to a nervous, nauseous state all over again.
The doors squealed open on hinges that look like they must have weighed a ton each. Grim faced guards lined a path directly to the foot of the throne. I??™d never seen the king in real life, just pictures in our textbook and the one that hung on the wall of every classroom. He was immense ??“ and old ??“ and fat. Ewww.
???Now appearing before His Majesty – King of Romuland, Remuland and all the surrounding provinces, Duke of Earl and Ellington, is Farmer Doe and his daughter, Jane,??? announced some guy in a truly heinous outfit.
The king leaned forward rather leeringly. ???Is this the girl, Doe???
???Yes, Sir, Your Most Indulgent and Thoughtful Majesty,??? my father cooed.
???Take them away,??? ordered the king.
???What!??? Before my outburst could be properly addressed, my father was jerked from his bow and was escorted under guard, screaming, out some side door. At the same moment, I was flanked by two of the aforementioned ???Grim Reaper??? guards. The king hefted his immense bulk from his throne, and glided to a position in front of me. I was vaguely aware of that the same stupidly dressed oaf was announcing court was in recess. Somehow I don??™t think that means I??™m going to get to go play.
I was escorted out an average looking off-white door to my right, through some elaborately decorated antechamber and out into the marble hallway. I have no idea if it was the same hall or if they just all looked alike. I felt so shaky, lost??¦ If I dwelt on it, I??™d start to cry. I couldn??™t cry. Not now.
We finally came to a dead end and turned right. We descended some grey stone stairway. It quickly became dank and damp. I nearly succumbed to the smell ??“ mold, iron and earth. Screams and whip cracks lashed the air. A guard grabbed my arm when my legs gave way beneath me.
Up ahead, in the dreary, pale light was an open wooden door. I was unceremoniously dumped in the room. It was piled nearly to the ceiling with straw on three sides of the room. A small spinning wheel sat directly in front of me.
???Spin, or in the morning, you and your father will die!??? ordered the king. His guards slammed the door shut. Clank! went the keys in the door.
I was alone in this abysmal hole ??“ left alone with two days of unshed emotions. I began to cry.
I don??™t know how long I??™d cried for before I realized, quite suddenly, that I was no longer alone. I gasped and gaped.
Before me stood the most handsome guy imaginable. His kind eyes looked down on me concerned. ???Why are you crying??? he asked.
???The king ordered me to spin all this straw into gold by morning, or he??™ll have my father and I killed,??? I responded.
Was this guy joking! ???Spinning straw into gold is impossible! It can??™t be done!???
???My, you are certainly sure of yourself.??? He grinned. I felt like he was having a silent laugh at my expense. Since I found no humor in my situation, I found that truly irritating. ???What if I told you that I could spin straw into gold???
???I??™d laugh. Spinning is something girls do.???
???Well, I am a Jack of all trades. Do you want the help or not???
???What will you give me to help you??? he winked.
???As if! Ewww!??? I looked around. ???How about my necklace??? I took it off and handed it to him. He looked at it for a long moment. I held my breath.
???Okay.??? He sat down and commenced to spinning. I was agape??¦ again. He hummed a funny tune as he worked. He seemed so happy and content. It was so weird.
Existing in the dark with only torchlight to guide me around the cell, made time seem to stand still. I only knew the passage of time as short trips to get more handfuls of straw for the brawny stranger.
At some point, I must have dozed off. In such a filthy place I don??™t know how that happened, but it did.
Clank! The door opened. ???Oh no! They can??™t see you! Quick; hide!??? I hissed. I looked around. The stranger was gone. How did he do that
???Splendid!??? cooed the king. He strode off muttering, ???You know what to do!???
I was suddenly and violently jerked to my feet and summarily shoved down the passageway, up a flight of stairs and into a huge room. It might have been a banquet hall or ballroom from the size, but I couldn??™t tell for sure for it was filled floor to ceiling with straw. The hated spinning wheel was placed in front of me.
???Spin or your entire family will rot in the dungeon!??? As the guard placed his evil order, I could hear the terrified screams of my little brother.
???Jane! Help! Please!???
???Shut up, Kid!??? I could hear a smacking sound and then more crying.
???You tell your king that if he hurts one hair on my brother??™s head that I??™ll??¦ I??™ll??¦???
???Just spin. Hey, rumor has it that if you do this, that the king will offer to marry you.??? The guard shut and locked the door. I could hear his feet retreating into the distance.
This was ridiculous. Spin and I might be forced to marry a greedy, fat, old man. If I didn??™t spin this straw, my family would die. I sighed. There was nothing for it but to spin and worry with the stupid king later.
I sat down on the spinning wheel with a handful of straw. I was used to spinning. After sheep shearing, my mother and I spent many cold winter nights by a crackling, roaring fire spinning wool into yarn and later weaving the yarn into material for our spring clothes. I considered myself a fair hand at spinning, and I figured that if some dumb boy could spin straw into gold, so could I.
I tried to spin the straw as rough stalks. Nothing. I beat and combed the stalks, and I got spun straw ??“ no gold. The room seemed to be somewhat darker than before. That??™s not good. I was feeling angry, frustrated, and tired. And??¦ anticipatory ???There is no way??¦???
???No way, what???
I spun around. There stood my previous night??™s visitor. I had so many questions zipping around in my head, but before I could formulate one into a coherent thought, he said, ???There??™s no time to waste. What will you give me???
???You??™ve got to be??¦ never mind??¦??? I looked around. All I had was myself and my grandmother??™s wedding ring. She??™d given it to me before she died. She said it was her hoped that it would bring me many years of happiness some time in the future, but honestly, there were not ???happily ever after??? scenarios that I could see. There was nothing for it. ???Here??™s my grandmother??™s wedding ring. She left it to me. It??™s priceless. Don??™t lose it.???
He grinned, snatched the ring, and it disappeared into his pocket. ???Hand me some straw, quick!???
I felt a rage at his callousness. I don??™t know why, but I did it. I handed him straw??¦ endlessly, forever!
Voila! Gold. I didn??™t know if I should thank him or what. He sat there on the spinning wheel with a contented, self-satisfied look on his face. I heard footsteps. I turned towards them, but by the time I??™d turned to say something to him about hiding or blending in with the servants or something, he??™d disappeared.
Once again, the fat, greedy king appeared like an avenging angel. He pursed his lips and steepled his fingers together. He took a short circuit around the glistening ballroom, for now I could see that??™s what it was. ???Hmmm. Hmmm! Yes. Yes! Ok.??? Then he turned smartly and commanded ??“ to whom I couldn??™t tell, ???Do it!??? He strode purposefully through the door, attendants in tow. I was left alone for a long time. Occasionally a servant came in, gathered some gold, and left.
At one point, a sweet-faced child of about five appeared. She made me think of my brother, and I felt sick to my stomach. She blushed violently when she tripped over her curtsey and ended up splayed out on the floor at my feet. ???M??¦Ma??¦Maa??¦Miss I??™m to take you to the b??¦bu??¦bu??¦baths. P??¦Pa??¦Pla??¦Please, come with me.??? I couldn??™t be certain if her stutter was the result of disability, fear, or embarrassment, but I suddenly didn??™t care. A bath! Yes! It??™s about time!
I followed her down several of my favorite, a.k.a. statued, marble hallways and up a flight of long, low marble stairs. The stairway was so wide, I could have walked side by side with my entire family. Once again, a wave of sadness and nausea washed over me. At the top of the stair, I was escorted by the girl into a room filled entirely with a pool-sized, golden bathtub. The sweet aroma of woodsy flowers wrapped me in blissful, relaxing ecstasy. I luxuriated so long in the soothing warm bath that I must have dozed off.
Suddenly, an elegantly dressed lady came in with a gown that looked like it was covered in pearls. It glistened like the sun. ???Mademoiselle, His Gracious, Imperial Majesty requests your presence at luncheon.???
Thoughts whizzed through my exhausted brain. I should tell him off! I want my family. I need to get them released. Wow! What a pretty dress! Is that for me I hope someone kills off this greedy cuss!
The dress was indeed for me to wear, and it was indeed made of pearls and gold! I had woven golden slippers to cover my feet, and pearl combs held back my hair. I passed a mirror and nearly curtseyed to myself. I didn??™t recognize the young woman looking back at me. I saw someone older, self-assured; my usually frizzy hair, curled in ringlets halfway down my back. Had I changed that much in two days
The door to which I was led appeared to be made of silver. I wondered silently who had to make that out of straw. I chuckled. The door groaned open on four-foot hinges. There stood the longest table I??™d ever seen. It was longer than my house, and it was filled with food. No more than a speck, at the other end of the long trestle, sat the king. He saluted me, once I was seated. ???Enjoy,??? was all he said. Dish after dish was placed before me. I ate until I was full, but still the food came. When I tried to shoo the servants away, some antiquated, old geezer whispered that it was rude to refuse a gift from His Majesty, so I ate until I was well beyond nauseous. I prayed I could barf soon.
After what seemed like a delicious, sickening eternity, the king rose from his chair and departed without a word. I was led to a room adjacent to the dining room. My heart sank.
It was covered floor to ceiling with straw. I started to protest. I started to??¦ to??¦ feel very alone, angry, frustrated, sad, confused??¦ ???You will spin this straw into gold by morning. Accomplish this tiny task, and on the ???morrow, you shall marry the king. Fail, and your family will die.??? The door banged shut behind me. The lock clicked in place.
???You??™ve got to be kidding!??? They weren??™t. Behind me sat that darn spinning wheel. I began to pray for my handsome helper. Before I could finish, I knew he was there.
???Well, this will certainly take a team effort if we??™re to get THIS done by morning,??? he glibly remarked.
???What do you have to trade???
I thought about that. I looked around. ???How about my shoes???
???Mmmm. I don??™t need gold, if you hadn??™t guessed.???
???Well I??™m NOT taking off my dress!???
???Trust me. That??™s not what I??™m after!???
???NO. Not that either.???
???Well, what, then???
???I want your first born child.???
???WHAT! Are you some sort of perve???
???No. I??™m practical. I want to??¦,??? he choked and then recovered, ???I must pass my skill on to someone else ??“ my heir.???
???Oh. Well??¦??? I thought about it. I didn??™t like the king. I hadn??™t planned on getting married anytime soon. I thought about what my kid might look like, be like??¦???
???We haven??™t got all??¦ well, we only have tonight!???
I sighed. ???I can??™t. I??™m sorry. I can??™t sacrifice my family??™s lives, but I can??™t get rid of my child, either.???
???You already have one???
???No. I was just thinking how my kid would feel if they found out I??™d bargained them away before they were born. I can??™t do it. I??™m just going to have to hope the king will kill me and not my family. Maybe he??™ll drop dead before morning. I mean, you should have seen what he ate for lunch!???
???Let??™s start spinning,??? was all he said. I stood stunned for a short moment, and then I realized that my ???handsome prince??? ??“ at least that??™s how I saw him ??“ was going to help me. I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, except I wasn??™t as aimless. I quickly gathered armfuls of straw, dumped them at ???cutie??™s??? feet, snatched up spun gold, and deposited it wherever I could find an open spot. For a while, I felt exhilarated. After a long while, I just felt tired. As the dark threatened dawn, I began to despair. I just knew we??™d never finish.
Dawn broke. I ran back and forth. I was dripping sweat; my once pretty dress was filthy and snagged in placed. My hands were red and raw from handling the straw. The sun began its daily westward crawl; so did I. We finished, as keys rumbled in the lock. I was sitting in a heap on the floor when the trumpets began to blare. In sauntered the king. He positively glowed, but I wasn??™t sure if it was that he was happy or just that the sun was making the entire room shimmer. Honestly, at that moment, I didn??™t really care.
???Your family is free and financially set for life, and you, you lucky girl, will be my wife.??? Before I could protest, or cuss him out, or faint, or??¦ He left. I sat there ??“ a stupid, exhausted bump-on-a-log.
???Come with me, M??¦MM??¦Miss,??? said the young girl from yesterday. I followed in a stupor. I got to bathe in the pool-tub. I was given a dress that seemed to be made of multi-colored gems and colorful silks. I got to wear a pretty thing on my head that was also covered in rainbow colored stones.
I walked into an enormous white and gold room. Some guy in white robes and a white and gold dunce cap rambled about duty and honor and… I can??™t really remember what all. I just remember being exhausted, and there was something in my brain that had briefly tried to scream, but I don??™t remember the words. I felt like I needed to do something, but I couldn??™t remember what.
The next thing I remembered was being escorted to a huge, blue bedroom. It had the softest bed. I slept. Someone in my dream was yelling. That doesn??™t seem right. There it is again. ???Your Majesty! You must wake up now; it??™s an emergency!???
Who on earth are they talking to Ewwwww! Not that fat, old guy. Why is he in here
???Ma??™am. Your Gracious and Most Beautiful Queen, please! Your country needs you to awaken immediately. We??™re in a state of emergency; the king has died in his sleep!???
Ewww. Huh My eyes sprung open. I looked at a rather frightened and harried old man.
???Apparently, His Imperious Majesty died last night in his sleep. You, O Queen, are our only hope. You must keep order in the kingdom.???
The next days, weeks, months, years were a blur. I met with nobles, dukes, counts, peasants, friends of my past??¦ I don??™t remember it all. One day I just woke up and there was no immediate crisis that needed my attention. I remember taking a huge, deep breath and sighing. The boulder that had been trying to crush me had vanished. The country was safe and ordered. People were happy and prosperous, and I was a widow (and only by a mere technicality) a wife.
I was a different person now, than I had been when I entered the palace. I was a??¦queen (true), but??¦ lonely (even though I was surrounded by servants, courtiers, and visiting dignitaries daily. Oh, well. Then, late one evening after dinner, it all changed; he walked in -my handsome ???prince??? from my ???spinning??? days.
???It??™s been awhile,??? he grinned.
???How??™s your husband???
Surprise, shock, and hope sprang across his face in a rush. ???Are you??¦Do you??¦ Would you??¦??? I??™d never seen him out of control or at a loss for words. I couldn??™t help but rescue him.
???Let??™s walk.??? We did. I invited him to stay in the guest quarters, so we could spend time getting to know one another, under less stressful circumstances than our previous encounters. To my surprise, he declined.
???I??™d love to, but I can??™t.???
???Why Don??™t you want to??? I felt confused and hurt. I looked in his eyes. He also looked hurt. ???I mean, I thought you came here to get to know me better.???
???I did, but I can only visit. I can??™t say why. I just can??™t stay.??? We talked until dawn, then he excused himself. This was our routine for months. I tried to figure out why he couldn??™t stay, but he??™d never tell me. I became frustrated and impatient. I felt like the girl I was when we first met. I had him followed.
Around noon, my stealthy hunter returned. ???Your Majesty. Your prince returns to a fairy ring in the dawn. I could not get close enough to see anything more before the dawn closed the door to the fairy world.??? I made plans; I spent a pleasant evening with my prince.
He left, so did I. I also saw him cross into the fairy world, but the door closed before I could reach the fairy ring. I made new plans.
That night, I did not wait for my love in the palace gardens. I waited by the ring. When the door opened, and he stepped out, I greeted him. ???What are you doing here??? I was surprised and taken aback. I thought he??™d be pleased with my ingenuity.
???Are you trapped What must I do to have you to be with me forever???
He said nothing. He took my hand, and we crossed over into his world. All the precious gems and metals of this world pale in comparison to that magical, unearthly land. We stood for just a moment on the threshold. ???If you come with me, you can free me, but I do not know what it may cost you. Can you accept these conditions???
???Yes,??? I responded without hesitation. We continued to walk through Fairyland for a very long time. The landscape changed many times over ??“ mountains, oceans, grasslands, and forests. It seemed to take no time at all and then??¦ the gloom. Dead, rotten remains of trees. Burned out logs and shriveled fruit lay on the ground. The ground was covered in swampy muck that clung to my dress and sucked off my dainty slippers. It seemed so unreal and terrifying. Something here was not right. This place felt ??“ evil. Something very insidious lived here. With halting steps, I continued by his side. I remembered his words, ???If you come with me, you can free me, but I do not know what it may cost you. Can you accept these conditions??? I hope so??¦
A tiny, brown, wrinkled creature appeared. He was gnawing on a bone that contained what appeared to be a dainty slipper. I want to barf! His teeth were sharpened into triangular points, and his hands ended in long, talon-like claws. Shriveled wings hung useless at his sides. ???What is thissssssss!??? he hissed. He slithered and oozed around me in a parody of a one-man waltz.
???To what ends??? he demanded.
???To find a way to free this man from his bondage here,??? I bravely responded.
He let out a cackle that sounded like flames eating a fresh pine log. He studied me for a long time. ???It is costly ??“ your request. Can you afford it???
I thought of the wealth of the kingdom. No. This crazed creature did not want money. He had magic, but somehow it was corrupt. I studied him. What kind of evil thing would he??¦ I remembered the last thing my ???prince??? had asked of me during our spinning days. This evil being would want a replacement. Could I offer him a child Could I offer him my child I thought back to when my brother was little. Could I offer an innocent child to THIS thing I sighed. ???No.???
He seemed delighted by my response. ???Good. I think we??™ve finally found a worthy opponent. I accept your challenge.???
Huh! I stood perplexed, waiting for the sky to fall or something.
???You have three days to discover my name.??? With that, he disappeared in a crack of thunder.
I ran from the gloomy swamp. Well, I ran as fast as I could, seeing as it seemed to want to swallow me in the mucky mud. I returned to my world. I spent two days and a night in my world asking for names of ???the evil brownie???. No one knew.
I returned to ???his??? world. I asked every fairy, leprechaun, unicorn, hag, ghoul, and specter ??“ every creature I could find. Here, I suspected that they knew, but wouldn??™t or couldn??™t tell me. My time was up. I returned to the swamp. My heart felt heavy. The creature appeared. ???You have three guesses. If you guess correctly, the young man is yours to do with as you please. If not, your life and his are forfeit to me. Go ahead.???
I blinked. Three guesses! ??“ out of all the possible names in the universe! ??“ I had no guesses. Why try Because you love ???him???, Stupid. ???Rasputin???
???Funny, but??¦ no.???
I was going to lose my love in one more guess??¦ That??™s it! I looked at my love standing forlorn behind ???Creature???. ???What??™s your name??? I queried him.
I turned to the creature. A sudden flash of pure rage crossed his already distorted features. He looked like he was going to explode. Just as quickly, he regained his composure and an evil, mocking grin. ???Your name is Rumplestilskin!??? I proclaimed.
He screamed, and then he exploded.
We walked hand in hand from the deadlands. We exited Fairyland and returned to our world through the fairy ring into a golden sunlit morning.
???I have something for you,??? he whispered. He opened his hand and there sat my necklace and grandmother??™s ring.
???Are you free, now???
???Then we are going to HAVE to do something about your name!???
???What??™s In a Name???
by Jennifer Mitchell