Once upon a time, there lived a princess, who, in a moment of
weakness, allowed a prized possession to be taken from her. Upon
hearing this, her father, the King, was very upset. As punishment,
he ordered her to travel throughout the land to restore her lost
possession and learn how to prevent this from ever happening again.
Being scornful of arduous tasks, she decided not to stray far
from the palace. In fact, she decided that, as dungeons are renowned
for holding great treasures, the palace dungeon would be the best
place to begin her search.
The dungeon keeper, a spindly and somewhat greasy old coot,
greeted her at the dungeon gate. "How may I help you?" he
"I seek to learn how to retain one's valuables," she
"You've lost something of importance to you?" he
scoffed. "And yet you seem to be without any remorse. To hold
on to a treasure means to appreciate its worth."
"How might I gain that understanding?"
"You need to learn discipline. You've done wrong and
need to be punished."
This confused the princess greatly. She'd always had servant
girls there to take her punishments. "Can you show me how this
is done?" she asked.
He led her over to the wall, which had arm and leg irons
attached. "You shall be bound here until morning. As you stand
there, think about what you've lost."
She complied with his wishes and spent that night chained to
the dungeon wall. After a while, though, she began thinking the
entire thing was silly and extremely dull. She soon found that if
she leaned up against the wall at just the right angle, she could
fall asleep. So when she was released that morning, she'd awakened
reasonably well rested.
Next, despite it being an hour's walk, she considered the
convent. The nuns were known to have some precious artifacts in
their possession. Perhaps advice given there might be of help.
The Mother Superior, along with several other nuns, listened
to her story with greater interest. This was particularly true
concerning the details of how she lost the treasure. "You
remember nothing after that fifth glass of wine?" the Mother
"I'm sorry, but no." Then she reconsidered.
"Well, maybe traces of some parts. But no," she said,
Several of the younger nuns giggled. This was met with a
scornful glance from the Mother Superior, who continued, "It
would seem your problem is due to your lack of understanding the
world and its ways."
"I'll have you know I'm fluent in both Greek and Latin,"
the Princess protested.
"Are you now?" the Mother Superior asked. "In
our library we have several books of ancient Greek poetry written by
the students of an academy for adolescent women. Sadly no one here
knows enough Greek to translate them. Do you think you could?"
"Why yes," the princess said. "I'm quite good
at poetry myself, so I'm sure I can do a good job of showing the
meanings of the poems."
This made the nuns smile. They took her to the scriptorium
and sat her down with the ancient texts, along with the pens, ink,
and parchment on which to write her translations. They all watched
as she turned the oddly shaped Greek letters, first into words, and
then whole sentences they could understand. Sometimes the princess
would come across a passage that made her sit back and ponder
dreamily which words would work best. Sometimes the nuns would be so
overwhelmed by the beauty of her translation that they'd stroke her
shoulder or softly kiss her forehead.
Upon finishing the translations, she felt both thrilled and
fatigued by the experience. The nuns who'd been watching her shared
in her rush of exaltation. They all congratulated her, hugging her
most warmly. Yet she left the convent feeling tired and that she'd
yet to accomplish anything that would satisfy her father.
On her way back to the palace, she met an old and renowned
warrior --a man who'd led her father's army to countless victories.
She remembered even as a little girl being in awe of him.
"'Tis a long walk," he said. "I'd gladly
dismount and let you ride. If you wouldn't mind a ride in an old
man's saddle, that is."
"I'm sure my father would disapprove. I'm hardly
attired to straddle such a manly piece of leather."
"Aye, that is true. Yet there are times we must act for
the moment, unafraid of consequence."
"I am terribly tired."
The warrior dismounted his horse and helped the Princess into
the saddle. She briefly considered feigning modesty at her exposed
legs, but it seemed pointless -- the old man obviously enjoyed the
sight and she was not offended by his pleasure.
She dismounted the horse just outside the palace gate. She
thanked the warrior and then went inside. As she walked inside, she
thought about her experiences and suddenly remembered the whole of
the night she lost her treasure.
"So," her father said, upon her arrival, "have
you regained any of your lost treasure?"
"No," she replied, "for once taken, some
treasures cannot be regained."
"That may be true," he said. "Then have you
learned how to retain possession of any new treasures you might
"Again no. However I have learned something of even
"And what is that?"
"There are things we consider valuable -- even
precious -- which are in truth trifles. I now realize that the
treasure I'd guarded for so long had been such a trifle. I also
realize that when one loses such a thing, it is best to just lay back
and enjoy it."
The King slumped back in his seat, realizing he'd made a
mistake by sending the princess off on her quest. He was still a bit
disappointed that she'd lost her treasure so carelessly. But if the
truth be known, he was surprised she'd held on to it for so long.
Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-03-28
Image(s) are public domain.