We all know the story of Cinderella in every variation – or do we? This story by Mahira P. makes a commentary on the fairy tale genre by changing up the evil stepmother narrative we all expect. Enjoy!
The Princess and the Water Lily
In the country of Mondovia, there once was a king with a beautiful and noble queen. The whole country was thrown into mourning when the queen died while giving birth to a daughter. Over the years, this daughter who was christened Elora grew up to be just as humble and wise as her mother before her.
The king loved his daughter dearly. Because of this, he worried about his daughter’s up bringing. He couldn’t afford to spend all his time with her, and he knew young girls should have someone to guide them through life.
One day, he discussed this with his daughter.
“My dear,” he said, “you have no mother.”
“That is true, father,” she said.
“Girls need someone to look up to, do they not?”
“I would not know, father,” she said. “I’m only a young girl and do not know what I need for my future.”
Thus, the king traveled the country to find his daughter a suitable mother. Alas, against his knowledge he brought home a cruel stepmother for his daughter who was extremely pretentious. Together, they had another daughter who was just like her mother. They would treat the princess well when the king would be around.
One day, the wicked stepmother sent Elora to the lake to fetch water. As her stepsister had nothing else to do, she followed along. Now, this young lady was not kind and humble. She drew pleasure by troubling Elora. She loved to push her into the lake, chase her around, and tease her endlessly.
“Princess Elora is so humble. She is a counterpart of her mother.”
“She is so pretty.”
The villagers would speak of Elora, and her stepsister would seethe with anger.
The kings and princes of many neighbouring kingdoms had asked for Elora’s hand in marriage due to her beauty and intelligence.The queen was jealous of the little girl’s beauty, the way her talent and kindness were glorified in the entire kingdom and the king’s love for her. She was angry at the way Princess Elora would bear her taunts with grace, seeing that there was still love in her heart somewhere.
Envy and evil can worm their way into vulnerable hearts, and the new queen had not even resisted. One day with one more proposal to the princess was her breaking point. She hatched a conspiracy to get Elora killed while the king was away.
The queen convinced a man to make a fake confession that he was Elora’s lover in front of the king. She fools the king by telling him that his daughter was a thief.
“No, not my dear daughter,” the king exclaimed in disbelief. But what other explanation could there be? She hadn’t accepted any proposals, so perhaps it was true.
“Elora was eloping with her lover and died while she was running away with their money and jewels by falling off a cliff.” the Queen explained to him.
Elora was bound and thrown into the river by the Queen’s henchmen. The goddess of the river saw all this. She blessed Elora and changed her into a water lily, granting her a boon that she could attain her human form once the sun sets to the time it rises in the morning.
“My dear Elora, I can’t give you life, but I can give you a boon. You can attain human form once the sun sets,” the river goddess proclaimed.
“But mother, I want to live normally, with my father and my people.” Elora cried.
“You will, my dear. But only when your stepmother confesses her crime in front of your father and the kingdom and begs pardon, you’ll be able to get back to your human form.”
Months after Princess Elora’s death, a young prince came to Mondovia for a tour. He found a donkey while walking by the river.
“What an ugly donkey!” he laughed, pointing it out to his companions.
The donkey looked at the prince with an air of knowingness. As soon as the prince came near the river the donkey kicked his horse. The horse jumped. and the prince falls into the river.
The prince looked at his sopping clothes and grimaced. “That awful donkey. I can’t believe-”
Suddenly, he noticed the water lily. “Oh, what a beautiful water lily that is!” He stared atthe beauty of the flower and tried to pluck it, but jumped at a sound.
“Don’t pluck me, O young man! I have done no harm to anyone. Please spare me,” Elora shouted from her petaled form.
The prince felt perplexed on hearing this and asked, “Who are you, young lady? Where are you? I can’t see you!”
At that moment, the sun sank behind the clouds and Elora transformed into her human form.
The prince was immediately smitten with her.
“It’s just like the fairy tales of old,” he marveled, and helped her out of the lake.
As soon as they came close, birds woke and started chirping and flowers bloomed to give out sweet aroma. It was as if the very land had awoken from its sleep and sang for joy.
“I am Prince Adrian of Aquiris. Whence do you come, young lady? Why don’t you live as a normal human… why as a water lily?”
“I can’t live as a human, Prince. I am Princess Elora of the kingdom of Mondovia. I was attacked by my evil stepmothers’s henchmen while my father was away.” The princess narrated her story to him.
The prince was deeply distressed upon hearing this. “Is there no way we can be together? I already love you, Elora. The very birds and flowers have proclaimed your grace and kindness. I wish to spend my life with you.”
The princess looked into his deep eyes, and replied, “If the queen confesses her crime in front of the entire kingdom and the king and begs pardon, I can attain my human form once again.” She shook her head. Knowing her wicked stepmother, this was unlikely to ever occur.
The Prince and Princess sat on the bank of the river through the not, thinking through all their options. As they sat, despite the evening hours, the stars were bright and the flowers stayed in bloom. The animals chirped as if it were the light of day. At long last, the sun peaked over the horizon and the princess sank back into the lake as a water lily.
The prince headed to the palace the same evening. He was eagerly received by the evil step-sister due to his fine form and great riches. He charmed the girl by dancing, riding around the palace, and complimenting anything good he could find. He also impresseed the king and queen and asks for their daughter’s hand in marriage, to which they readily agree.
Later that night Princess Elora sneaks into the Queen’s room and using a stone, writes on the wall,”No one has ever lived happily by snatching someone’s rights. You must change your ways, O Queen. You can’t lie to yourself. Be true to yourself, to the king and to your people.”
When the queen awoke, she was horrified as she had no idea who knew of her treachery. Her servants cleaned it up before the king arrived.
That morning, one of the prince’s guardsmen disguised as the his royal fortune-teller comes to the king’s court. The prince asks him to tell the fortune of the cruel Queen’s daughter.
“Oh king! The girl has got a dark fortune… The day she is 22, she will elope with her lover taking all your money. But she will pay for her misdeeds. She’ll fall off a cliff and die.” He looked up at them innocently. “For some reason, this fortune sounds familiar.”
The king and queen were both shocked at this claim. The fortune teller should have had no way to learn of the past daughter’s story. Intrigued and a bit afraid, they asked him if there was a way to prevent this, to which he replies by saying,
“The king and queen will have to confess all the crimes they have committed, in front of the whole kingdom. If they don’t, their younger daughter will pay the price of their misdeeds. Make sure you don’t conceal anything.”
The queen froze on hearing the fortune-teller’s words. After thinking for a long time, she finally agrees to do it. Despite her wicked jealousy, there was still love in her heart. She did love the king, her daughter, and even the kingdom. Her envy had clouded this love from her heart for years.
Finally, the day of confession arrived. The king confessed all his small crimes or errors and asked or forgiveness whole-heartedly. It was then the Queen’s turn to do the same.
The queen said, “O people of Mondovia! I ask your forgiveness, for all the injustice that has been done to you under my reign.”
Saying this she started coming down the stage, when the visiting prince asked her, “Is that all you want to say, Your Highness? Have you committed no other crime in your life? You must confess every single crime, to save the princess.”
The queen had no answer and stood pinned to her place. The words of the fortune-teller keep revolving in her mind. Tears welled up in her eyes. Finally, she went back to the stage.
“My dear people of Mondovia, today I would confess the biggest crime I have committed. The death of Princess Elora was a part of a conspiracy hatched by me. I got her killed and lied to you and the king. She was as honest and humble as her mother. I ask the almighty’s and your forgiveness for my deeds.” She broke down in sobs.
All at once, the walls of envy around her heart broke. Perhaps the prince’s love for the princess, though she knew not of it, had softened her heart.
As soon as she confessed her crime, Princess Elora came to her human form and ran up to the palace. The people stood in shock.
The queen fell at her feet in tears, full of remorse. The princess holds out her hands, as kind as the legends said.
The queen joined her hands and begged for her forgiveness.
“Dear Elora, I have hurt you, your father and the people of Mondovia. I am sorry for all that I did to you and to everyone present here. I am ready for the punishment you might want to give me for all my crimes.”
The princess wiped her tears with her hands and pulled the woman up into an embrace.
“No mother. I am not upset with any one of you. I am immensely happy that I can now live as a human and with all of you. I am happy that I have a mother who loves me. I am extremely grateful that I am no longer a motherless child. I now have a mother, a sister and my entire family to look after me and love me.”
The queen’s daughter too asks for forgiveness, on seeing her mother confess her crime.
The prince and princess marry and live happily ever after. Their love set an example for the entire kingdom. For all the days of their reign, the water lily was the official flower of the kingdom.
About the Author
Mahira P. loves writing poetry and stories based on nature, personal experiences, and her own opinions. She loves reading, singing, and dancing. She loves meeting new people and learning their stories. She’s also quite passionate about science.
What did you think of this story? What twist would you add to a well-known fairy tale? Let us know in the comments, or write your own fairy tale and send it in for the winter issue.