The Lost Princess
by Adrienne Foster Potter
Copyright @ Dec. 2002
All rights reserved
May be copied for Classroom Use
Visitors To This Fairy Tale:
Long ago and far away a pretty little princess named Genevieve (pronounced GEN-eh-veev) lived with her parents in the happiest kingdom on earth. The King and Queen were good-hearted and kind to everyone. They were fair and just to all the people of the Kingdom and even assisted those in the neighboring kingdoms when there was a famine. Princess Genevieve spent her days playing in the palace with the children of the courtiers or being tutored by her Uncle. He was a kind and gentle man who introduced her to the finest literature and the most interesting sciences. Her favorite book was one he gave her called Illumea, (pronounced Ill-ooh-MAY-ah) which was a pocket-sized diary of a King who longed for a Kingdom where everyone was free. The evenings were spent dining with her parents and being entertained by minstrels, jesters, and dancers.
One dark day a horrible Duke came from the other side of the Kingdom with 5,000 foreign soldiers he had hired with money stolen from a wealthy but crippled old Lord. He ransacked the town and did battle with the King's soldiers and those men of the town who could find weapons. The Kingdom had been at peace for so long the people hardly knew how to fight.
Even the King was forced to take up arms but sadly, he was defeated and he and his family were thrown into a filthy, cold, and cruel dungeon. Months later the King and Queen died there, having given up more than a little of their food to the little princess for too long. The Uncle, who was also imprisoned, pleaded with the Jail Keeper to take the little girl home with him, promising riches if ever he was released from prison.
The Jail Keeper saw an opportunity for a free errand girl and so he complied. Genevieve was not treated kindly by either the Jail Keeper or his wife. She was forced to scrub and clean and do the most menial tasks and was beaten if she failed to satisfy them. She was never allowed to play with the other children, but she always kept her little book Illumea in her pocket and at night she used a small candle to read it. Sometimes her tears fell onto the pages as she remembered kinder days.
As she grew older the Jail Keeper's son took a fancy to her and began to make advances, which she tried to ignore. One day he found her alone in the barn and rudely grabbed her arms. She broke away and ran from him, out of the house and down the street. She kept on running until she was in the woods outside the town. She knew she could never go back there. All she had was the clothing on her back, a shawl, a small crust of bread, a small candle, and her beloved book.
She sat beneath a tree and wept again, then ate the crust of bread, crawled under some bushes and fell asleep. Luckily it wasn't winter, but she awoke cold and stiff in the morning, and very hungry. She wandered through the forest for days on end, eating berries and drinking from a brook. One day she heard voices, which made her hide quickly in the thick shrubs. She watched as three men chopped down a tree and began to drag it through the woods. Quietly, she followed them to a cottage where smoke curled from the chimney. Soon a woman emerged with a bucket, went to the nearby creek and filled it with water.
Genevieve's stomach hurt from hunger and she emerged from the bushes. The woman jumped at first but relaxed when she saw it was a small young woman. Genevieve asked her for some bread and water, but this kind woodcutter's wife took her in and fed her a meal, a kindness that touched the little Princess's heart. She was allowed to stay in exchange for helping with the chores. Work took on a different meaning when it was by choice instead of force and she put her whole soul into any task at hand. She never told anyone who she was out of fear that she would be killed, as the Jail Keeper's Wife had threatened many times, although she sensed that in this little cottage she was safe no matter what.
One day the woodcutter's family made a journey into a nearby city to sell wood. Genevieve went with them and was enthralled by the scenery she passed. She was allowed to wander through the market place
The cruelty of the Duke who now ruled the Kingdom proved to be his undoing, for he was soon given a poison drink by his own soldiers and another leader was put in his place, who was also cruel and power-driven. Soon afterwards the new evil King was "accidentally" pushed from a tall tower and the soldiers began to fight among themselves. All the servants fled in terror and left the knights without food or care. Their civil war continued for days as they drank and destroyed the castle. Soon there were only a few left alive and they quickly fled the ruined palace for some other place to destroy.
The servants of the former good King went to the dungeon and overpowered the Jail Keeper, taking his keys and freeing the King's brother, Genevieve's Uncle. He was restored to the throne, which was now rightfully his. At once he began a search throughout the Kingdom for the Little Princess, having banished the Jail Keeper and his family after learning how they had treated the princess.
Not long after, the new King, named Johnathan, learned from his servants of a young orphan girl who lived in the woods in a village miles away. Instantly he dispatched soldiers to the cottage but they saw no one was home. They camped nearby and waited.
Meanwhile Genevieve was enjoying herself at the market. She wandered through hundreds of shops and bought a few pretty trinkets with money she earned from selling eggs and twig bundles she had gathered. A band of thieves was also wandering the marketplace and their leader happened to notice Genevieve. He and his men followed her for awhile and then laid a trap for the unsuspecting girl. Several of them went ahead of her and as she passed a doorway her mouth was covered and she was pulled inside. They gagged her, covered her with a hood and carried her to their wagon, and set off for their lair in the woods. There she was allowed to see her surroundings. The leader was amazed when he saw how beautiful she was for she had grown into a young woman and was rosy-cheeked and bright-eyed from the home-grown food of the woodcutter's family and the outdoor air. He and his men gloated about how much money she would fetch in the slave market.
The princess heard them talking of news in the country and the new King Johnathan. Could it be? Was her beloved Uncle now the King? Fearfully she told the robbers that she was the Princess Genevieve and that her Uncle would pay a rich ransom for her safe return. They laughed her to scorn and mocked her claims for though she was beautiful she was dressed in the rough and sturdy clothing of the peasants.
The woodcutter's family spent days searching for Genevieve in the Marketplace but no one knew what had become of her. In great sorrow they returned to their cottage and were met by the soldiers of the King. In great consternation they told everything they knew but could not confirm if this was the Princess or not. When the soldiers learned her name was Genevieve they returned and told the King.
He was certain this was his niece and so he sent his wisest servants and soldiers to the Marketplace in search of her. One shopkeeper told them that some of his best pieces of jewelry had been stolen by thieves. The servants pieced together stories of thefts from other shopkeepers and learned that several of these same shopkeepers had also seen a girl matching Genevieve's description.
They began to search the forest for the robber's lair. One of the robber's had taken a fancy to Genevieve and resolved to keep her for himself. When all were sleeping he crept towards her in the night. "Shush!" he whispered. "I'm going to set you free," he lied. Quietly she went with him out into the woods where he had a pack hidden in the bushes. Also in the pack was several months worth of the combined profits of the thieves, a small fortune. They mounted horses and set off in the night, but it was not until morning that Genevieve saw that her horse was had been tied to his all night. She realized he had no intention of letting her go.
This same morning the soldiers of the new King discovered the robber's lair and lay siege to it. When the robber's discovered they were surrounded they gave up without a fight and were all herded to the castle, which had been restored to its former glory. They were interrogated by the King's advisers and even the King himself, then imprisoned for their crimes. Sadly, King Johnathan now knew as little as ever about his niece's whereabouts. He sent trackers into the forest and they followed the trail of the horses into a nearby town.
There they learned that the horses had been exchanged for a wagon which then departed for the sea. Hurriedly they summoned the King and then left for the seaport, fearing they wouldn't arrive in time. Their fears were confirmed, for the robber had purchased a ship with thieves for a crew and had already set sail for parts unknown.
King Jonathan posted a large reward for the safe return of his niece and put a price on the head of the thief. The captor of the Princess, who called himself Bondavi, treated her well and gave her fine clothes to wear, and when he saw the result he almost believed her story of being a princess. He allowed her to roam freely about the ship knowing there was no way for her to escape. After several days at sea she happened to pass the galley and gave a start as she saw who the cook was--her old friend the Jail Keeper. He was just as startled to see her and soon Bondavi knew that his captive was a real princess.
At the next port he also saw the notices of a price on his head and immediately left before he was discovered. After much discussion with his men and the cook they decided she was too hot a bounty to keep and so they set her off at a deserted island with a small supply of food and water. They hoped she would die there and no one would be left to tell their tale of kidnapping.
Several days later Bondavi's ship was boarded by the King's navy but no trace was found of the princess. They King's interrogators were not about to let Bondavi off the hook and so they put him through hours of questioning, threatening dire consequences if he did not reveal her whereabouts. At last he gave in and showed them the island on a map.
The princess had built herself a small shelter and had already eaten the food left by the thieves. She tried to catch a fish but was not quick enough. Next she set a trap for a bird but it also failed. She began to fashion a spear our of thread from her clothes and a stick she carved with a knife left for her use. She climbed a tall mountain to look for signs of game, and it was then that she the ship on the horizon. Fearing that the thieves were returning for her she hid in a cave deep inside a rocky reef.
The ship was King Jonathan's, and he himself was on it with his General. They came ashore and found small footprints and the camp the princess had left. The King called her name again and again but she could hear nothing because of the surf pounding against the rocks. The King refused to give in and set up camp with his men.
After several days of searching and calling the King had an inspiration and instructed the ship's seamster to create a flag, which was then hoisted high on the mast. The next morning Genevieve crept to the entrance of the cave, which was now sandy due to the tide having retreated. She finally had a clear view of the ship in the distant harbor and stopped, stunned. A flag was flying in the wind with the words Illumea on it. She stumbled closer, not believing her eyes.
Soon she heard her name being called again and realized it was the voice of her long-lost uncle. She began to run across the sand and when he saw her in the distance he too began to run. She threw herself into his arms and the gruffest old sailor had a tear in his eyes as he witnessed the happy reunion.
Genevieve and her Uncle set sail for home. The Princess could not believe her eyes upon seeing the castle restored and her old room exactly as she had left it. Her former servants and nanny were even waiting for her and what a joyous reunion it was. The King held the biggest celebration the Kingdom had ever seen and the woodcutter and his wife were invited as guests of honor and asked to stay on as royal keepers of the woodhouse.
Later Genevieve met the son of a Lord and fell in love. They married and had many happy children, and so the Kingdom was assured of having good Kings for a long time.
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