A couple of weeks ago, Anja in her Fairy Tale Prompt # 11 asked us to write a story keeping this in mind:
In fairy tales we tend to focus on the ladies. Whether it’s a girl who needs to be rescued or one longing to find a prince. I think we should switch that up. Let us put some male characters to the front.
Commenting with a fellow reader, Phylor of Phylor’s Blog we thought it would be nice to come up with a story where both a girl and a boy were heroes in their own way (if you go to the Phylor’s link you can read her great story and then our conversation).
On thing led to another and then we decided to write a story in collaboration – this is the result!
The Prince and the Fireflies
“You believe in fairies, don’t you?” the story-teller then asked.
The semi-circle of children solemnly nodded their heads and shouted in a chorus yeses.
“Would you like to hear a story?”
Again all the children were in agreement. Each child called out the title of their favorite story.
They were sitting on the back porch with the garden spilling out behind them. Tiny flashes of light floated on a warm summer evening breeze.
“Oh, no, I don’t want to hear any old fairy tale. I want to catch fireflies and put them in a glass jar !!” Joseph piped up.
“Ah, then my story is just the right story for you. This isn’t just any old fairy tale ,this is a firefly tale and there’s a prince too !”
The story-teller settled comfortably into her rocking chair and began –
Young Prince Michael decided to go out and play in the royal gardens one summer evening.
The day had been hot and muggy. Unlike other boys his age, he couldn’t spend his days running and playing in the fields, or going swimming, nor any of the other things that all children love to do. His mother, the Queen, insisted he daily did his princely duties by sitting at her side, watching as people bowed, curtseyed and kowtowed to her.
“Oh! That sounds just so boring!” one little girl said and the others shushed her.
He took off his crown and velvet robes, which court protocol required him to wear during the day and put on a white linen shirt with light weight trousers. Now he looked just like any other boy and not at all like a prince! Since it was summer he decided to grab a glass jar from the kitchen, thinking it would be fun to catch fireflies. Then he snuck out the kitchen door without telling his mother. He hated to ask permission for everything!
The crickets were chirping their merry melodies and there were literally hundreds of fireflies flitting in the garden that night. The air seemed to be filled with magic and perfume. The sky was full of stars but there was no moon, so it seemed that some stars had come down to earth to visit. A slight breeze whispered through the trees and shrubs.
He sat for a moment and then he began to run around the garden trying to capture the little creatures. At last he was able to get a couple in his jar. He clamped the jar shut at once and closed them inside using the lid he’d poked holes into before he began his game. Then he heard a tiny imperious voice.
“Who’s there? Show yourself at once! What are you doing in the royal gardens?” he said just as imperiously as he looked around trying to find the intruder.
“Oh no!” shouted one of the children. “This is just a story about a prince that catches fireflies!”
“Ah no, Mary …This is just the beginning!” said the story-teller. “Now we get to meet someone else important to the story.”
Brilliant didn’t feel brilliant at all. She was miserable. She had ruined yet another practice performance by crisscrossing in the wrong direction. She could never get it just right. It wasn’t that Brilliant didn’t try; she practiced in her head every day and did the steps every night.
Brilliant was just different from the other fireflies. She was somber and shy, whereas the others were quick and easygoing. They could learn new dances in a single try. They’d flash from dusk to dawn without ever getting tired. Brilliant was always a little awkward, as if her wings and flasher didn’t quite fit her body. She was off the team now for sure, reduced to a tent lighter, for the Fairy Flash Dance next week.
She drifted towards royal gardens. Her sanctuary was in the farthest back corner where a bit of wild nature had snuck in. Here, among wild flowers and berry bushes, she felt at home. She’d dance as wildly as she wanted and flashed long, short, long, short, or just short if she felt like it!
The main problem would be slipping by as the Queen of Fireflies who might be holding court in the royal gardens. She had a rather high opinion of herself and very few dared to question her pronouncements or interrupt one of her very long speeches.
“Ah, just my luck,” she thought. Brilliant had no desire to attend the Queen’s court. The speeches, the fawning, the sickly compliments all made her feel sick and dizzy.
But what was worse now she need permission to visit her special place. And that’s where she needed to be before the tears spill over her cheeks.
Brilliant had just about made her way it past the Queens court, when the she heard the warning cry:
The Queen shrieked and rushed to escape. Just as his shadow darkened the world, the Queen bounced off Brilliant, sending them both into the wide mouth of the Big-one’s catching machine.
The Queen didn’t look so imperious now, with her crown tipped half-way off her head and her spotless wings covered in dust. Brilliant held back a giggle.
But the Queen did not take to being held against her will and having recovered her composure, was now at the machine’s door, shrieking (she was known for her habit of shrieking) at the Big-one:
“Do you know who I am? No one, not even one as big as you dares, imprison the Queen of Fireflies! Let me go at once!”
But as you and I know, the big one was none other than Prince Michael and all he heard was a tiny imperious voice coming from somewhere within the palace gardens!
The Big one appeared not to notice the Queen. His voice roared. Brilliant had to cover her ears.
“Who’s there. Show yourself at once!” and his voice was booming!
The sound was too loud for Brilliant’s ears it was giving her a headache! Maybe it was because she was getting a headache, perhaps it was because her cloak of shyness had gotten lost in the rush or just because, Brilliant was never sure which, but she screamed at the Queen:
“Shut up! All that shrieking is getting us nowhere.”
The Queen, shocked at Brilliant’s impertinence, found herself without anything to say – a rare occurrence indeed.
Flying to the top of the machine, Brilliant elbowed the Queen aside.
The Big-one’s attention was finally on his captives. Yelling as loud as she could, Brilliant shouted:
“Put me up to your ear.”
The Big-one seemed to understand and Brilliant shifted her position.
“That’s better. I don’t have to yell and lose my voice. My name is Brilliant.”
The Big-one started to reply, “I’m . . .”
Brilliant interrupted him: “Please whisper. Your voice is really way too loud for me, it hurts my head!”
“. . . Prince Michael.” The Big-one finished in a whisper. “And I’m ever so sorry about shouting.”
“Oh that’s alright, you couldn’t have known. Do please let me apologize for the Queen’s behaviour. She’s overwrought and being a queen, she’s not used to being put into a glass prison!”
“I didn’t know that fireflies could shriek, I mean talk.” Brilliant sensed a blush in his voice.
“Oh don’t apologize by the way, I’m sure my mother might have shrieked as well. My mother, is the Queen of the land. Are you her lady in waiting? My mother has one.”
“No!” Brilliant exclaimed, perhaps a bit too vehemently.
Michael wished he had brought his magnifying glass. He wanted to see what a talking firefly named Brilliant looked like close up.
“Michael,” Brilliant, though usually shy and awkward, had become quite bold. “Now that we are on speaking terms, perhaps you would be so kind as to let us go.”
The Big-one, no Michael – it was still strange to think of them as having names and being able to talk too – didn’t reply.
She conspiratorially whispered, “I don’t think I could spend prison time with her highness.”
It wasn’t as though he wanted to keep them prisoner in a glass jar now that he knew that they were just like him. But he didn’t want to see Brilliant fly away and maybe never see her again.
“Brilliant, I like your name. And I know I should let you go and all, but I’ve just met you and I wouldn’t want you to flit off as soon as I open this jar.” He told her frankly “You see, I don’t have any friends being a prince and all …” his voice died out, he was almost in tears.
Brilliant who was very sensitive to tears, having known them so often herself, understood immediately what he was feeling. Hadn’t she too felt alone and sad only just a short time ago?
“Michael. I give you my solemn word of honor that I won’t flit away as soon as you open the glass prison, though I think the Queen will!”
The Queen was glowering down at the bottom of the jar, insulted and feeling herself abused by the rough handling she’d been meted by fate.
Prince Michael knew that he had to open the jar and he only hoped Brilliant would be good to her word. So, he put the jar carefully down on the ground and unscrewed the lid. Just as Brilliant had said, the Queen flitted out of the jar and was gone in a second! Brilliant kept her word though and didn’t fly off but landed gracefully on his hand.
“Brilliant, would you care to come to my rooms. I have my entrance and it’s not far from here. I would like to see you more closely and I have a magnifying glass … I mean, I’d really like to get to know you better and see you up close .. uhm, if you don’t mind that is.”
She said she’d love to visit with him and put herself onto his shoulder. She was surprised as he went to that part of the garden that she called her special place! She felt very comfortable and safe, glad she had met Prince Michael.
They became fast friends. Because of their friendship, neither felt quite as shy, awkward or lonely as they had before they met.
“Now Joseph, what do you think about putting fireflies into jars?” The story-teller smiled her question towards the firefly hunter.
“I think I don’t want to catch that old shrieky queen and that’s for sure! Did Brilliant and Prince Michael have any adventures?
“Oh yes, they had many together. But those stories are for another evening. Now it’s bed time!”
The children ahhed but got up smiling as they looked at the fireflies dancing in the garden they wondered if that was the Fairy Flash Dance.
I’d like to thank Phylor for this wonderful experience which I hope we will be able to try again in the future and I’m submitting this to Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie – Anja’s Fairy Tale Prompt # 13