Posted by: Phil Anderson | March 10, 2013

The Ring – A Fairy Tale

This week I present another short story titled “The Ring”. The first was a cautionary tale set during the Great Depression; this one is a fairy tale. Although they are quite different in style, they also have much in common. Feel free to comment on the similarities you find, and as always please share with anyone who might be interested.

The Ring

by Philip Anderson

Once upon a time, there was a princess named Molly. She lived with her parents, the king and queen, in a large castle in the middle of a small kingdom. They were very wealthy, and Princess Molly always had nice new things. But she was not happy.

Princess Molly was lonely. The princes who had come to court her were only interested in her wealth. They were well dressed, self-centered, and dull. They liked to talk about themselves and their summer estates and their troops of servants.

The prince that Molly was looking for was romantic and brave. A man who liked to do things instead of talking about them. A heroic figure who would risk anything for her, even his own life. But Molly was beginning to worry that no man like that existed.

One day, Princess Molly was walking through the forest when she came upon a small clearing. The trees and bushes gave way to a patch of green grass with a ring in the center of it. A perfect circle of mushrooms and little white flowers.

“How strange,” said Princess Molly, stepping into the ring.

“You’ve never seen a fairy ring before, then, have you?”

Molly turned in surprise to see where the answering voice had come from. She saw that one of the trees at the edge of the clearing had a low hanging branch. A tiny man dressed in yellow was seated on that branch.

“Who are you?” Molly asked.

The little man laughed. “And you’ve never seen a fairy before, either.” He stood up and balanced along the branch like a tightrope walker.

“You’re a real fairy?”

“Yes, and that’s a real fairy ring.”

“What is?”

“That circle of mushrooms and flowers. The one you’re standing in. We fairies gather at night and dance in rings like this one.” The yellow elf on the branch smiled as cheerfully as ever, but his voice became very serious. “Mortals are not permitted to enter a fairy circle. You will have to be punished.”

“Punished? But I didn’t know—”

“Stupidity is no excuse,” replied the little man. “When you step out of that ring, you will be transformed into a little gray bunny with long ears, a cotton tail, and a little pink nose.”

Molly was horrified. “I’m sorry for trespassing. I never would have if I had known. Isn’t there anything I can do?”

“In order to break the spell,” explained the fairy, “you must bring someone back with you to this fairy ring. Then, you will regain your mortal form and that someone will be transformed in your place.”

“So in order to break my curse, I must curse someone else?” Molly asked. “That hardly seems fair.”

“We are not fair. We are fairies,” laughed the little yellow man. He hopped from the tree branch to the ground. “I must go now. Good luck.” And with that, he disappeared into the woods.

“Wait,” Molly shouted. She started to follow him, but the instant her foot touched the grass outside the fairy ring, she was transformed.

She looked down at her fuzzy gray paws. She shook her head and felt the long ears flop against her back. She tried to step forward, but found it much easier to hop.

“It’s true,” she said out loud. “What am I going to do? I don’t want to be a rabbit for the rest of my life. But I can’t bring myself to sentence anyone else to this fate in my place. Oh, what am I to do?”

Molly huddled there in the grass, crying and feeling sorry for herself for a long time. Finally, a handsome brown rabbit hopped into the clearing.

“Good afternoon,” he said cheerfully. Then he stopped and said, “Be careful. That’s a fairy ring behind you. You don’t want to accidentally hop into it.”

“I know,” Molly replied. She tried not sound as if she had been crying. She took a few hops away from the circle.

“My name is Peter,” said the other rabbit. “Is something wrong?”

Molly didn’t want him to know that she was really a human, so she said, “I’m just having a bad day.”

“And its about to get worse,” said another voice from the edge of the clearing.

A shadow fell over them. Molly and Peter turned. A tall, dirty looking fox with beady eyes stared at them. His ragged red fur was long and stringy, and he hadn’t washed in days. At his side slouched a shorter, darker fox who looked just as dirty and ragged.

Molly and Peter turned and bolted. The two foxes chased after them. Molly ducked between two bushes and Peter followed. They scrambled over some tree roots and ran toward another row of bushes. They could hear the foxes stumbling over each other as they tried to follow through the narrow space.

Molly ducked into a small hollow and Peter followed. There was just enough room for them both. They sat down to catch their breath.

“What do we do now?” panted Molly.

“Just keep running and hiding,” replied Peter. “Like we always do.” He rubbed his nose with his paw. “I hate being a rabbit, don’t you?”

Molly nodded in agreement. Then she had a thought. “I know how we can beat those foxes, but we need to get back to the clearing where the fairy ring is. Do you think we can do it?”

“Shh,” whispered Peter. He waved his ears and twitched his nose. “I think they’re getting closer. Stay here while I lead them away. We’ll meet back at the clearing to try your plan.”

Without waiting for her answer, Peter hopped out of the hollow. The two foxes saw him immediately and followed him into the woods.

Molly waited a few seconds and then headed for the clearing. “I hope he’ll be alright,” she said to herself as she hurried along. “He was very brave to lead those foxes away, risking his own life for me. And he didn’t hesitate about trying my plan, even without knowing what it is. Now I hope it works the way I think it will.”

The clearing was still empty when Molly arrived. She hopped over to the edge of the fairy ring. A moment later there was a rustling in the bushes and Peter came racing out, followed by the two foxes.

“Quick, into the fairy ring with me!” shouted Molly.

Peter looked surprised, but he did as she said. They hopped into the ring together. The foxes stopped at the edge.

Suddenly, Molly felt herself growing. Her ears shrank, she stood up on her hind legs, and her nose stopped twitching. She was herself, looking down on a frightened brown rabbit and two startled foxes.

“Excellent,” laughed the yellow fairy from his tree branch. He had appeared there when no one was looking and now smiled cheerfully at Molly. “I see that you’ve brought another victim and broken your own spell. You are free to go.”

The foxes backed slowly away as Molly stepped out of the fairy ring. This time she kept her human form.

The little man now spoke to Peter. “It is your turn to be punished. When you step out of that ring, you will be transformed into a tall human with tiny ears and no tail at all. In order to break the spell, you must—”

“Never mind,” said Peter, hopping out of the fairy ring. Before Molly’s eyes, Peter turned into a handsome young man with brown hair and dark eyes. The foxes turned and ran.

Princess Molly had found the prince she was looking for. He was romantic and brave. A man who liked to do things instead of talking about them. A heroic figure that would risk anything for her, even his own life. Soon they were married, and lived happily ever after.

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