On the few nights I was able to get off of work early, I would sit my daughter down and read to her. To my surprise, she knew most of the stories I was reading, by heart. My mother, in her diligence to be a good grandmother, had found plenty of time to read and tell my daughter the stories I would have loved to have heard from her lips as a child.
What was amazing about the retelling of the stories, was that my baby repeated them, word for word, with a Russian accent! I didn't have to guess who had been her teacher...
If you have a few minutes, please share this ancient and delightful New Year's story with me....
As told to me by my mother, many years ago.
There once was a Kingdom that grew up by a large ocean. The people who lived there were very proud of their King. It was said he was the wisest of men. Other Kings would travel great distances to confer with him. On the other side of the ocean was another kingdom with a proud King. He wanted to meet the King who was so wise and confer with him on an important subject. One day, he set sail for the Kingdom on the other side of the ocean to do just that.
The two noblemen greeted each other and a feast was called. The Kings ate and drank all night long until almost dawn. Finally it was time to talk. The King who had traveled so far to meet with the wise King began, “I have an argument that I wish for you to settle. It has plagued my wisest advisers for some time now. The question is this, if a person were to become stranded on a deserted island alone for twenty years or so, how many people would one find upon rescuing them?”
The wise King thought the situation through for a long moment and the he boasted, “Three” .
“How is this possible?” the first King retorted. He had been adamant in his own palace with his wise men. One person on a deserted island can only remain one person to his way of thinking. Here was this King, known to be so wise making a fool of him. “If you are so sure,” challenged the King, “then let’s make an experiment right here and now.”
The wise King was infuriated that the second King was challenging him on this issue. He would have to prove his wisdom in quite a big way or the local peasants might begin to question his good judgment. To that end, he proclaimed, “I will take my first born child as the test. When the baby is born, I will assign my large Chicken the duty of caring for the baby. It will be his duty to fly to the island each day and bring food for the child.”
When the Queen was informed of the proclamation, she fainted. There was no going against the King but she did trust the Big Chicken in all ways and was sure no harm would come to her child in it’s care.
A baby girl was born within a half year. There was a great celebration in the land of the wise King as he wanted to send his little princess off in style. The big Chicken took the swaddling of the child in her mouth and rose up into the air. The crowds cheered as they took flight. They cheered and cheered until they could no longer see the huge Chicken in the sky.
When the Chicken saw a suitable island, she dropped her bundle on the beach and covered the baby with a blanket to protect it from the elements. From that day forward, the faithful Chicken arose each morning and flew to the island where the princess was held, with food for the baby. In time, the devoted Chicken would also bring clothing for the child. It was a common sight in the skies over the kingdom to see the large Chicken in flight each morning. Fathers went to work by the flight of the Chicken, so exact was it’s timing everyday.
The story of the Chicken and the princess soon moved over for other interesting events in the land. They were forgotten completely. People remarked on the flight of the great bird, but it was without much comment after a time.
The faithful Chicken never once forgot to collect the bundle of food from the kitchen every morning and fly the package to the princess.
The princess grew, she toddled along the beach until she learned to walk and then she ran on the beach to greet her friend, the Chicken as it arrived each day. She would caress it’s great feathers sometimes playfully hiding inside them for warmth till it was time for the Chicken’s return.
With time, the poor Chicken began to age. It was not as easy for him now as it had been 10 years before to fly such great distances twice a day. It was now only able to carry food for the little princess. As there were no others on the island, it didn’t seem to cause any harm that she had nothing to wear.
The princess did not talk to the bird when it arrived. She had never been able to talk as there had been no one to teach her. If she appeared a bit unkempt of hair or nails, the Chicken overlooked this as it was the only it’s eyes that looked upon her.
Five more years passed. The Chicken was older still. It would arise in the morning now and gather the food bundle from the kitchen for the princess and take almost half a day to fly to the island as it had to rest many times along the way. The return trip, without bundle was a bit easier, but still difficult.
The faithful Chicken missed not one day. It could not forget the beautiful princess alone on the island. No one else seemed to remember that she was alive except the kitchen cook who always prepared the bundle.
In her 16th year of isolation, the little princess awoke to see tremendous waves of water crashing along her beach. There had been a great storm that night and it had tossed and turned the waters of the ocean threatening to engulf her little island into itself.
She ran to the beach to see the damage caused by the storm and found trees that had been broken by the force of the waters. As the waters receded, they revealed a large package on the shore. Worried that her Chicken had been harmed, she ran to look closer at the broken mound on the beach. To her surprise, it was not the great Chicken but something else. It looked something like her, yet it wasn’t, it was bigger with longer limbs. It moaned just then and frightened her. She ran off a bit but realizing that there was no harm in the wounded body, she began to move it slowly to the higher ground.
Each day after, as the beloved Chicken brought her food, she shared it with the wounded thing. She bathed it and caressed it and took great care of it. In time, the beast awoke. The fever had broken and the beast stood on two legs as she did.
Imagine the surprise on the almost drowned sailor’s face when he awoke to find himself being ministered to by a wild, naked intoxicating creature. He tried to explain his plight, how his ship had been bowed and broken in the terrible waves and how each of his mates had clung to the broken bits of their boat as it sank. What happened next, he wasn’t sure but he must have been washed ashore and this creature had nursed him back to health.
She did not understand a word. Maybe she spoke a different language he thought and he tried to speak to her in the many languages he had learned as a sailor in different ports. Still no contact.
Out of respect to her pride, he took off his torn shirt and wrapped her in it. It was warm and she was grateful. He had managed to always keep a small pair of scissors and a comb in his pocket so he used them now to cut her nails and to comb her untamed trestles. With no way off the island, he marked their existence by the huge bird that brought them food each day.
The Chicken had seen the man’s arrival on the island and knew that the meager food it brought each day would not sustain them both. In the mornings now as the bird entered the kitchen in the palace it would peck at something nearby and place that food in the bundle as well. The packages that it carried were heavier than before and the bird was older and older.
It took all it’s strength to bring the parcels to the young couple, but it’s devotion was without end. Sometimes it would bring a book instead of food or some piece of cloth as the man seemed more capable of augmenting their supplies with his own wit.
So it went, time, as the sailor grew to love the little princess more each day. He taught her to speak and they carried on great conversation. She began to learn to read with his coaching. The day came when the young couple could not hold back their feelings for each other, so they made a union beneath the stars and the full moon to love, honor and cherish each other. They felt married and they lay down together.
In good time, the little princess became pregnant. The loving Chicken soon realized that there would be three mouths to feed. It brought everything it could carry for the young family. Faithful always, the Chicken arrived each day and clucked over it’s charges. They doted on it as well. The arrival was a happy moment that all looked forward to.
As time had passed for the Chicken and his charge, so had it passed in the kingdom of the King. Another baby was born the year after the princess. She was as pretty as her sister but pampered and doted upon. Many noblemen soon traveled to the shores of the King’s palace to ask for her hand in marriage. Finally the King agreed upon a match. It was to be a prince, the son of the very King from the other side of the ocean who had come to visit him so many years before.
As nothing had ever been said about the first princess, the second King assumed she must have perished long ago on the island and he had been right in his thinking. He too kept silent. The wise King had lost a daughter, why bring up a bad memory. It was enough to know he had been the more correct of the two.
The day of the wedding , New Year’s Day, the palace was busy with preparation. The excited cook had baked a cake, the likes of, no one had ever seen before and placing it on the shelf of the kitchen where she always placed the bundles for the princess, she rushed off to accomplish another urgent task.
When the great Chicken entered the kitchen that morning, it saw the lovely cake in it’s usual place. Thinking that the princess had not been forgotten and this was a gift for and her new family, it wrapped the cake in a large cloth and once more took to the skies to deliver the splendid sweet.
As the party started for the wedding dinner, the cook furiously searched the kitchen for the cake she had set there in the morning. She remembered placing it on the shelf, but then she chided herself, she must have moved it as this was the spot she usually left food for the princess on the island. It hit her, flat in the face, what must have happened and she ran hurriedly to tell the King.
When she had his attention, she reminded the King of the first little princess and her banishment to the island alone. She reminded him how he had directed his dedicated Chicken to bring food to the babe always and how she had made sure there was a bundle for the Chicken to take. The memory came back to the King and he looked at the second King and called out, “Now we shall see who is right. Before we complete the wedding supper, we shall travel to the island where my little princess has been living all these years and see just how many people are on the island.”
And they did, and they found the little princess rocking her baby with her sailor beside her. As a reward for his devotion, the Chicken was granted a cottage on the ground of the Palace where he would not have to fly so far to see his favored princess. The sailor was made a Captain and given his own fleet of ships as was befitting a husband of a princess. The marriage was annulled for the second princess as it was not befitting to have such a stupid King as a father-in-law while a much better husband was found for her. And they all lived well from that day forward.
May you prosper, as the Princess did, in this new year....
May you prosper, as the Princess did, in this new year....