The Princess with the Wooden Spoon
I care nothing for kings and crowns, and even less for those whose opinions of me change in the blink of an eye
Written by: Celeste Kallio (@CelesteKallio) using SudoWrite
Illustrations by: Andrey Kurenkov (@andrey_kurenkov) using MidJourney, DALL-E 2, and DreamStudio
Narration by: Andrey Kurenkov (@andrey_kurenkov) using BeyondWords
Text Formatting: Human-written text is italic, AI-generated text is normal
A queen gave birth to two daughters. The oldest girl was born with a wooden spoon in her hand and a ratty old hood covering her foul little face. The youngest girl, Esme, was beautiful and won the praises of everyone who saw her.
The oldest girl might have been envious of her younger’s sister’s beauty, but Tatterhood (as she styled herself) loved Esme. One day, trolls attacked the castle, beheaded Esme, and replaced her head with that of a calf’s. The king and queen were beside themselves, for now both of their daughters were ugly.
Tatterhood didn’t give up hope, however, and set off with Esme on a ship. The sisters sailed on and on, until they arrived at the Isle of Trolls.
The trolls were huge and ugly, and they had hairy arms and legs and sharp claws. They smelled terrible, too, like rotting meat.
The sisters fought bravely, but the trolls were too numerous for them. If Tatterhood couldn’t get Esme back, she would be all alone. She began to cry, and then she grew mad. Mad at the trolls. Mad at the world.
"Give me back my sister's head!" She shouted as she stormed toward the trolls. "Or I'll chop you up!"
"You can't chop us up!" The trolls laughed. They were not afraid of Tatterhood. Not while they still had the younger sister's head.
"I'll take your heads off!" Tatterhood shouted, waving her wooden spoon.
"You can't take our heads off!" the trolls laughed again. "We're trolls!"
But Tatterhood kept screaming and screaming until her throat was sore. Then she threw her wooden spoon at the trolls and ran toward them, punching and kicking and biting. She pulled at their hairy arms and legs and ripped at them with her teeth.
She fought bravely until every last troll was bested. She retrieved her sister's head and set it back on her body, and the girls sailed off.
A storm swept their ship onto sharp rocks. It was bashed to splinters, but the girls held on to one another, keeping their heads above the waves until they were swept onto an empty beach.
The beach belonged to a kingdom ruled by a widower who had been lonely for many years. A few days after Tatterhood and Esme arrived on his shores, the king went for a walk in the forest. He entered to a clearing, and there he came upon Esme picking flowers. The king fell in love with her at once.
He hid behind a tree and watched her. He saw her lay her flowers on a grave in the clearing. He saw her wipe tears from her eyes.
"That girl is as good as she is beautiful," he thought. "I will make her my queen."
He stepped out from behind the tree and went to her.
"I have never seen a girl as beautiful or as good as you," he said. "Will you marry me?"
"I will," she said, "but only if your son marries Tatterhood."
"Tatterhood?" said the king. "Who is Tatterhood?"
"She is my sister," said the fair sister. "She is deformed and ugly, and that is why I am picking flowers for her grave. She had no one else to mourn for her."
"Very well," he said. "My son will marry your sister, even if she is deformed and in a grave."
Tatterhood rode into the clearing on her ragged donkey. "Are you telling lies about me again, sister? I am not dead! And I don't want to marry your stupid prince." She thrust her chin at the king.
The king began to have second thoughts about the whole affair. He grew irritated that the girls were trespassing on his land. In rags and bearing spoons, no less.
"Why do you ride that ragged donkey?" he asked Tatterhood.
"I ride no donkey--I ride the grandest warhorse in all the land."
As soon as she spoke, the donkey transformed into the type of horse that rivaled the pride of the king's stables.
"But why do you carry a wooden spoon?" he asked, and before the woman before him could respond, the spoon became a shining sword.
"Why do you have so many patches on your cloak?" he asked.
"These are not patches," she said. "They are the finest silks and brocades, woven together by the queen of the fairies."
And so they became.
"But why do you wear that ugly hood on your head?"
Tatterhood reached up, and the hood transformed into a golden crown, and her face itself transformed into that of a great beauty's.
The king fell on his knees and held out his arms in supplication. "I am the king," he told her. "And I will marry no one who is not as beautiful as you. Will you marry me, instead?"
"I will not," she said. "I care nothing for kings and crowns, and even less for those whose opinions of me change in the blink of an eye."
"Then what do you care for?" he asked.
"I care for only three things," she said. "I care for my family. I care for the woods and for the creatures that live in the woods. And I care for my sister." She brandished her sword. "If you care to keep your head, Majesty, you will give me a ship so that I can leave your land."
With great sadness, the king gave up a small ship. Tatterhood and Esme sailed back to the Isle of Trolls. All the corpses had been washed away by the same storm that had bashed their ship into rocks, and the island was clean and new again.
Tatterhood changed her sword into a wooden spoon and her cloak back into rags, for though she could be beautiful, she shouldn't have to be. Her sister and the woods and the creatures that lived in the woods didn't mind one bit.
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