The Wake-Up Call
Some time after her awakening, the Sleeping Beauty princess sat in her drawing room, gazing at the setting sun. A tiny crease separated her eyebrows, determined, as they were, to draw together in the hopes of uniting a thought. Her lips pursed, ready to pounce on the words her tongue could not find. A shape rose up beyond the window and the tired sun outlined it in an orange-red glow.
“You sent for me, your majesty?” The tiny woman floated into the room, her dove’s wings whistling as she alit and curtseyed before the princess.
The princess looked confused at first, but recognition soon glowed in her eyes. She motioned the fairy to sit down. “Yes, yes. I did want to see you,” she said. Her voice had a musical lilt that brought birds to her window at the sound. She brushed them away and closed the shutters. As she spoke again, faint scratches and muffled chirps emanated from outside. “I’ve been talking to my parents,” she told the fairy, “Piecing together my life, you might say. They told me the most amazing story of my christening.”
The fairy shifted uneasily. The princess went on. “It seems that at the time of my christening, you and your sisters appeared and bestowed certain gifts upon my person. Let’s see,” she scratched her head prettily as she stared at her long, smooth fingers, ticking off each well-manicured nail as she struggled through her ill-remembered list. “There was grace, beauty, song, musical ability, dance ability,” she paused searchingly, “I think that was all, until—“
“Until the witch arrived,” the fairy added helpfully, “Yes, that’s right.”
“My father said she was angry,” the princess continued, “Angry because she had not been invited to the ceremony.”
The fairy nodded. “She was rather spoiled that way. Always expecting an invitation to this affair or that. Not that anyone would dare refuse her. After all, she was a witch.”
“But my father did,” countered the princess, “He never invited her, afraid she might ruin the party, and so she took it out on me, since the feast was being held in my honor.”
The fairy sighed. “Your father never did understand the danger of slighting beings with awesome dark power.”
“And then,” the princess continued, determined not to lose her train of thought, “the witch cursed me. She foretold my death. Death by pricking my finger on a spindle.”
“True, all true,” the fairy confirmed, shaking her head sadly.
“But you hadn’t given me a gift yet,” the princess reminded her, “you countered the spell, that I might not die, but sleep until true love awakened me.”
The fairy concurred. “It was all that I could do. Poor little baby. The witch’s power was awesome.”
“Which brings me to the reason I asked you here,” she finished, pleased to have remembered. “What was it supposed to be?”
“What was what supposed to be?”
“The gift! The gift!” she urged, her hands fluttering impatiently, “What were you really planning to give me?”
“Oh, that,” the fairy laughed, “I suppose I really shouldn’t say, but what’s done is done. I hadn’t quite decided yet, but I had narrowed it down to three choices. Actually, the curse was rather fortunate in removing me from an awkward situation. I might have had to stand up there, all alone in front of your cradle, and no idea which gift I was going to give you!”
“So what were the choices?” The princess smiled encouragingly.
“Well, there was common sense—“ began the fairy.
“Common sense? The ability to figure out things without actually experiencing them,” explained the fairy.
“Oh.” The princess bit her luscious, rose red lower lip as she muddled over the fairy’s words. “Such as, knowing something is sharp and will hurt without actually touching it?”
The fairy thought for a moment. “Yes,” she replied, “I never considered that before, but that is one way of explaining it.”
“I see,” smiled the princess, proud of her capacity for deep thinking.
“There was also the gift of diplomacy.” The princess stared blankly from under the ringlets of gold and brown that framed her angelic face. “Ah, um, being able to communicate with others and settle disputes without violence.”
“Huh!” the princess grunted in her soft, sing song way. She was genuinely interested. “You mean, I might have been able to show the witch that I, personally, had not slighted her and my father’s oversight was innocent enough considering his ignorance of the etiquette of magical beings.”
“Well, yes,” agreed the fairy, taken aback.
“Fascinating! Although, I can’t help wondering—“
“Wouldn’t either of those gifts have been of use to me? Had I common sense, couldn’t my parents have simply shown me a spindle and perhaps stab their own fingers with a cry of ‘Ouch! That hurts!’ in order to teach me? Then perhaps they wouldn’t have needed to burn all the spinning wheels in the land, causing a shortage of thread which, in turn, caused a shortage of fabric, which left the kingdom dependent on other countries for all manner of clothing and linens and draperies. Perhaps there would have been a greater number of survivors during the years of harsh winters, not to mention the five years of carnage during the Fabric Wars.
“And with diplomacy, couldn’t I have talked to the witch and made her see reason, possibly turning her into a powerful ally? Instead, my hapless suitor had to risk life and limb and the possibility of dying before my rescue in order to gut the witch and end her evil reign of terror!”
The fairy blushed and shifted uneasily. “After all, she was very powerful,” she said meekly, “Her magical tomes could easily fill every room of this palace and still spill out from every window. She had centuries of magical study under her belt.”
“Oh!” the princess’ face flushed a handsome shade of deep pink. “To think of my poor darling prince, fighting alone against such a creature. A witch so full of such infinite knowledge, and he with only a magic sword at his side!” She swooned into the deep plush of her chair, the back of her hand daintily poised against her forehead, her face the picture of Hellenic suffering. A moment passed. The shadow lifted from her, forgotten. She smiled brightly as she asked, “What was the third gift?”
The fairy, embarrassed, replied, “Infinite knowledge.”