The Prince and the Dog Bride
Lanin D. Thómasma
There was a prince who was vain and selfish, as princes sometimes become. He was a young and well-kept boy, of no great distinction in either looks or intelligence. Still, it’s a courtier’s job to shower royalty with compliments, and the Prince had plenty of courtiers. Thus, surrounded by companions who constantly praised his handsome face and sharp wit, he had come to believe he was quite the most attractive and intelligent man in the kingdom.
Too late did the King and the Queen come to realize that their son had become entirely unsuited to the delicate task of ruling the kingdom, so self-centered had he become. They sent for the finest tutors, and consulted with the top educators and philosophers in the nation, for ways to teach the Prince the value of humility. They lectured and they taught, but nothing they tried could break through the young man’s deeply layered vanity.
The Prince was an avid hunter, but he considered himself far too important to ride into the forest himself. Instead, led by a seasoned Royal Huntsman, he had himself carried to the choicest hunting spots in a curtained palanquin borne by two strong men. Naturally, it was slow work for the men to pick through the forest while carrying such a burden, and the Prince would constantly berate his bearers for their slow progress, and the Huntsman for choosing such remote places to hunt. The only respite from this steady criticism came when the Prince chose to nap the trip away.
One day, arriving at the day’s hunting site with the Prince still asleep in his palanquin, the Prince’s servants did a curious thing. The Huntsman waited while the bearers gently placed the Prince’s palanquin on the ground. Then with a nod, the Huntsman spurred his horse and rode off. The two bearers watched the Huntsman disappear, then without even a parting glance towards their erstwhile burden, ran off in a different direction.
So it was that when the Prince awoke, he found himself alone and lost in the forest. He shouted long and hard for his servants, but heard only the echoes of his own voice mingling among the calls of the birds and the creatures of the forest. Losing his temper, he shouted all the louder, heaping abuse on the uncaring ears of the trees and frightening off any creatures curious enough to stop and stare at the scene he was making. Finally, his anger spent, he sat down in tears on the steps of his palanquin.
“What could have happened to them?” the Prince thought to himself. “They couldn’t have abandoned me. Surely they love me more then life itself. Perhaps they wandered off and were killed by some wild beast. But why would they leave me? Were they lured away, or were they set upon by bandits? Perhaps they sacrificed themselves out of love for me, and were carried off. That would be the logical thing for them to do. Foolish men. They might have left one of them to carry me to safety.”
He looked around, his mind churning. “Perhaps, though,” he thought, “that’s not what happened at all. Father and Mother have been badgering me for months about such nonsense as pride and humility. Perhaps this is their doing. Some sort of lesson they expect me to learn.” He drew himself up. “Well, I’ll show them. It’s foolish to think anyone can lose me in the forest. I’m easily as clever as that useless Huntsman. I’ll find my way home and show them all.”
And so he set off, depending on his wits and whatever woodcraft he still remembered from his boyhood days. Needless to say, by the end of the day, he was more hopelessly lost than ever, and hungry to boot. He had found a few eggs in an abandoned nest, but having no fire, nor any idea how to cook, he was stumped as to how he was to eat them. The light waning in the trees, he filled his waterskin in a small creek and sat dejectedly under a gnarled old tree.