~A Fairy Tale Autobiography, by Valtinen Kari
Once upon a time there was a prince of a small insolvent kingdom. His mother, though a much beloved queen by her subjects, found the burden of motherhood onerous and unpleasant and the king, though proud to be a father, had little desire and time to spend with his son. Producing an heir had been, it seemed, merely an item on the list of Things to Do and beyond that, caring for a child was as foreign and repellent a concept to the royal couple as the suggestion that they themselves shovel the manure from the horses’ stable. To make it worse, he was not a particularly noticeable child as there was neither physical beauty nor ugliness to call attention, no genius intellect, no great gift beyond that of childhood imagination which went largely disregarded anyway. And because he had not demonstrated any early indication of being anything superlative, he often heard how much of a disappointment he was as an heir. His mother would often say that, if she had to do it over again, she would never have had a child at all, and the prince, though young, understood that this was a way of saying that, for all that he loved her and tried to please her, he was unwanted, insufficient, and even objectionable.
Still he tried. He was taught about familial duty, about glory, and about wealth, which sounded hollow to him but would, he hoped, find favor with his family – which it did not. But he also learned self-hatred, doubt in anything he thought or believed, and developed a deep-seated insecurity that, for no reason he could understand and thus incapable of correcting, he was too loathsome to be cared for by anyone. He applied himself with vigor to his studies and learned much, but it was an empty education since it neither brought approval nor the glory or wealth that might have earned it.
He tried to give others happiness since he felt bereft of it himself, but at even that, he failed. Those others of his rank with whom he attempted friendship found his conversation too strange and his ideas too eccentric. When he attempted association with those to whom his family objected on the grounds of being beneath him, they took his anxious reserve as arrogance and spurned him. Without siblings and no society beyond those of the occasional adult obliged to interact with him, he grew up isolated, lonely, and feeling the weight of his family’s dissatisfaction. Therefore, he took his chief delight in books, experiencing through words what he was certain he would never know: love, contentment, and companionship.
As the prince grew to adulthood, his baby fat gave way to a loveliness so soft and alluring, he was often mistaken for a princess instead. He despised it, not because of how he was perceived as for how it caused his family to take an even more critical eye to him. After all, an heir’s chief duty, he was often reminded, was to marry and have offspring of his own, and what mate would want him if he did not wear his hair a certain way, dress a certain way, or take a little pride in his appearance? And so he did, as always, as his family instructed, for by this time, all that they said was so easily believed since they had been correct all his life in that he was unwanted and unlovable.
He courted those his family told him to court also, their eye ever on the individual’s ability to increase the landholding of the kingdom or fill the coffers of the treasury. He found these matches shallow, for they never had imagination, preferring to speak of scandals and the weather, never of stars or of stories. Courtship, though it provided some level of company, was a chore. Those he courted endured him for the sake that he was a prince and for no other reason, though mercifully, he never felt attraction for them either… until one day when he was introduced to a new arrival at court.
The Woman was not nobility and so knowing that his family would be severe with him should they learn of his interest, he kept silent upon it. And indeed, at first it was easily done as he could not properly identify his own feelings which were not altogether pleasant. There was something so repellent about her that he could not pinpoint and yet she fascinated him, providing the company and conversation he had always sought but never had. She spoke of fantastic things, of dreams and of magick, of adventures past and adventures yet to come, of hopes, of fears, of a life beyond this one, and he was enthralled. And before he could call himself a fool for it, he realised he had left his heart unguarded and so easily had it been conquered.
And so he loved her in secret though she knew it without words. She had The Gift. She delighted in her knowledge, proud to have seduced a prince known for his reticence and indifference towards others, and mercilessly taunted him until he confessed his affections to her. She then wore his love like a jewel around her neck, to be flaunted and to gloat over. She played with him, to test the boundaries of his devotions, but he was true. She knew though, despite his quiet yet determined declarations of leaving his royal life behind for her, that he would be prevented somehow and so instead abandoned him, but not without leaving her mark. She had, after all, loved him in her own way though she was loathed to admit it and had never displayed it. It was a selfish, greedy love, one more about possession than about the sharing of dreams, and if she could not have him, then she was determined to ensure that no one else would.
And so the prince became a monster, with fang and claw, hoof and horn, repellent not due to ugliness but to the disturbing aspect of being both human and Other, for the human was retained both in form and faculties. With this final blow and no longer capable of attaining the lofty ambitions of his family, they forsook him entirely, ceding a small isolated property to him for his exile in order to appear magnanimous to their pitying subjects. And there he remained for years, enduring a physical isolation that at last matched his mental one.
Though quite alone and completely transfigured, the distress and despair soon gave way to the realization that he was at last free. Though the damage had been done years before and he called himself constantly into question, there was no one there to tear him down, to criticize and disparage, to issue orders and punish him when they were not fulfilled as thoroughly or as quickly as the one issuing them would have liked, to trod upon or mock his feelings, to toy with his heart, to remind him how much of a disappointment he had been to everyone his whole life.
His transformation gave him new perspective. Those who had truly loved him would not have given up on him. Although few, those who came around now, who associated with him, who called upon him, who inquired after him, were the ones who mattered, who made his heart swell to know that he was so kindly regarded, and perhaps loved, in spite of everything. While also few, his conversations were deep and meaningful now, full of theory and hypotheticals, building ideas and discovering new passions. Instead of stagnating by putting effort into hollow ambitions that produced only intangible semi-mollification to others, he set his claws to the creation of beautiful things, finally allowed to be good at something. He discovered his voice and his growl. He learned to bite back. He grew strong and independent.
He may never have felt entirely comfortable in the body he inhabited, but at least now, he felt powerful and in control of his own life, however odd that life may be. He was no longer a pretty pawn to be maneuvered or destroyed by political strategy. He was the king of his own unique game and his worthiness as an individual was no longer limited to and defined by his appearance, his rank, or his ability to be used in another’s agenda.
The prince was a beast and he liked it…