Once upon a time there was a princess from a very poor kingdom. Her father, the king, wanted to marry her to a rich, handsome, intelligent and fine young prince but they all wanted a wealthy princess. Desperate, the king looked farther and farther away but couldn’t find anyone suitable.
During this time the princess was growing older, staying shut in her room, reading books day and night. As she read, she wished more and more to see the outside world. So one day with the help of her lady maid she put on traveller’s clothes and snuck out of the castle.
Finally she could breath the outside air and see the wonders of the world. Every day now she would sneak out, dressed as a man.
She met a poor blacksmith who offered to show her how to ride a horse and she learned from him. Thus she could travel even further away.
In her travels she breached the corners of her Kingdom but never left it. She learned how other people ruled their land and started to understand why her father’s kingdom was in ruins. She began advising him on how to change it, so wealth and prosperity would come back to their Kingdom
The king wondered about her new found wisdom but she explained, that she had read it in the old tombs she perused day and night. His worry for her happiness overweight any suspicion, as he was happy that she kept herself occupied.
One day on her travels she met one of the barriers that separated her kingdom from the next. She remembered that the ruler of that kingdom was a wise and rich man, who was childless. Thinking about their fate – her father who was blessed with children, but poor in comparison to these riches, but being without an heir – she didn’t take care of her footing and slipped.
Down she fell, several feet and had a hard landing. The princess gave a shrill cry of pain and soon realised she had hurt her leg. Slowly and carefully she came to stand, leaning heavily on a tree and looked around. Her horse was faithfully waiting for her above, but how to get there?
In that while a man burst through the bushes, wearing hunting gear and looking very rushed. His eyes fell on her and he assessed her appearance.
“I heard a cry!” He said gruffly
“I lost my footing and fell” the princess said, lowering her voice to sound like a man “can you help me to my horse?”
He nodded, came up to her and then slung one of her arms around his shoulders, holding her waist on the other side and pulling her close to his side to support her weight. For a moment he stopped and looked down at her, then he wordlessly helped her up the hill.
He assisted her in getting up on the horse and bade her farewell, looking after her long after she had left.
The princess reached home safely, but was under in the difficult position to explain how she had gotten hurt. At last the truth came out about her travels and her father strictly forbade her to leave the castle again.
Sad and alone, hurt and imprisoned , she looked out of the window longingly at hills and trees, the horizon that she would not be able to breach any longer.
One day on that horizon a dot appeared. It quickly grew in size and soon came close enough to be recognised: a pigeon with a letter!
Greedy for news of the outside world, she opened it and began reading. It was a mere note from the hunter who had helped her in the forest, inquiring after her health. The princess quickly replied and sent the pigeon back , already waiting for a response. And so a correspondence started between the two, growing from acquaintance to friendship to love. But the princess knew in her heart that there was no way for her to marry a hunter.
He was a mere peasant and she was a princess. He was not good looking, or rich or even close to her in age. But their hearts beat as one. Sadly she would look at the horizon now, wishing she could travel over the border and be with her lover.
During that time her father’s kingdom had gained wealth again and suitors from other kingdoms were coming to ask for her hand. The same ones who had rejected her earlier! She would refuse them all without an explanation.
One day her father grew angry with her and said “The next man to walk in that door shall have you!” And at that moment in walked the king of her lover’s kingdom.
And he was there to ask her hand! Father and daughter looked at each other surprised. At that moment the king held out his hand and the same pigeon flew unto his arm. So the princess recognised her lover, who looked so different in the clothes of a king compared to those of a hunter. He had been a king all along!
Now the princess was ready to marry him, but her father refused: there were many better options, he said. His daughter reminded him of what he had said earlier and he said
“If he can solve the following three tasks, he shall have you
1. Bring me the mirror erised, that shows your heart’s desire.
2. Give me your most prized possession.
3. Write with your blood an oath to make my daughter happy eternally.”
The lover thought for a moment and then had a servant bring him any mirror. He turned the mirror to show the princess and said “Any mirror with her face is my mirror of erised”
He then held out his empty hands to her father and said “Nothing I own is worth the one possession of mine that you already have. Nothing is worth more to me than your daughter.”
Finally he pulled a dagger from his cloak and started to cut into his own hand, when the princess cried out and ran to him. She stopped him from hurting himself, ripping her beautiful dress to stop his bleeding hand.
When her father saw that he nodded and said “You have proven yourself beyond doubt. No one deserves her more than you and I will give her away happily.”