02 November 2006

A Ferry Tale

Since Ruth Anne asked for it, here it is . . .

The assignment was basically retell a fairy tale from the perspective of the 'bad guy'. I chose to retell the story "The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs" (I hadn't heard of it before, but the idea of telling it from the King's viewpoint intrigued me).

The Ferryman’s Tale

My name, I once went by a different name. Now I'm just the ferryman. Some call me the “silent” boatman. Anyone who had crossed my path for the first few decades or so that I had this task would not have named me thus. I complained bitterly to all that came to this river about my rotten fate. I have long since stopped complaining. I accept my fate. I break my silence not because I hate my obligation, but because I realize that the person who I was before has long been misperceived. It’s the fault of that grim twosome the Brothers Grimm. In their insipid collection of folklore they included the telling of my misfortune. I was the king from the story “The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs”.

Let’s start at the beginning, as all stories must. I liked to travel in my kingdom anonymously, some of my advisers found that to be foolish, but I learned many things on those sojourns that no peasant would say if they knew their king was listening. I knew when trouble was brewing, I complained like everyone else about the king and the court in taverns and bawdy houses. I only rarely had people executed based on their drunken boasts and threats to the crown.

Mine was the most orderly kingdom for miles around, and this makes me an evil man?, I think not. I stayed with a woman who bore me no sons, and I did not father any illegitimate heirs to muddle who might inherit my lands. If I was forced to execute a few wenches who found themselves in an unfortunate way, well let’s just say that it was always for the good of the state, and never brought me any joy.

My peasants, though miserable, as peasants should be, for the most part did not starve. The work that was expected of them did not cause most of them to die until well into their fourth decade. Does any of this that I have described to you sound like an evil man to you?

On one such trip I learned that a peasant couple had just birthed another child. Yet another burden on the state, but this one was different, this peasant baby was fated to have nothing but good fortune. Worse yet this one was fated to marry my own lovely daughter! I knew I had to act, no peasant could ever be worthy of inheriting my kingdom, even one who fate smiles upon.

My first mistake was not slitting that awful baby’s throat, it certainly would have been as easy as parting with the gold that I gave to it’s parents. It would have been so simple, no effort at all really. Instead I put that thing in a box and dumped it in a deep lake, where as often happens to babies in boxes or bundles in bodies of water, he was found by a childless couple.

Imagine my surprise when I happened upon this beastly youth fourteen years later, the same year that it was foretold that he would marry my daughter. I should have never trusted that my wife would get the instructions right. Somehow she managed to misconstrue everything. I should have known that a woman who bore me only a single daughter and no sons would be unworthy of trust, yet for whatever reason I couldn’t ever help but love her.

That should show you right there that I am not some evil monster as written by those grim gentlemen. Again surprise gripped me, but I did not panic, I was too good of a king to panic, the situation was still mine to control, or so I thought. I ordered this silly youth to fetch me three golden hairs from the devil, I wasn’t even sure what color the devil’s hair was, I thought the joke was on him, but soon enough the joke was on me.

I never learned the full details of how he managed to bring back these hairs, given his accomplishment, and being an honorable and just king, I gave him my daughter’s hand (though I should have removed it from her wrist first) and when he told me of the riches that could be found I knew I was compelled to follow his advice, if only for the good of the kingdom.

I did not find gold, instead I was duped into this job, ferrying people across this river as I have now done for more years than I care to recall. I am glad for it actually. I enjoy seeing all these people going to their fate. They leave me to tasks and tortures far worse than mine. If I was so evil, would my task be so light? If I was so evil, would I be given a task that allows me so much delight as I watch the sorrows of others. I think you know the answer.

You may wonder why I tell you all this. I'm letting you go, back to the world of the living. I'm sure death will catch up with you, and I will see you when that happens, unless you quickly fix whatever got you sent down here. Do that and maybe you won't see me again, but before then, tell my tale in the way I've told it to you.

Who are you going to trust? A king, or those lousy brothers and their stupid collection of folk tales?


Pastor_Jeff said...


XWL said...

Glad you liked it, I'm not sure that I like it myself, but somehow it seemed like something worth posting anyway.