The Sleeping Prince

Disclaimer: The following is a revised version of a fairy tale entitled, “Werewolf,” which was published by the University of Pittsburgh as a story from the Brothers Grimm collection (although in my collection, Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales, it is absent). This revision changes the meaning of the story entirely. If I were more creative, I would make up my own fairy tales. But since I am not, I enjoy revising ones that already exist. Besides, every fairy tale has evolved to become what it presently is. It only stops evolving when print replaces voice and publisher replaces grandfather. We would do well to rediscover that lost tradition of telling old stories in new ways.

For readers unaccustomed to reading fairy tales, I would recommend reading an article or two that might help you to get oriented, or perhaps just read G.K. Chesterton’s masterful eisegesis of many well-known fairy tales whose hidden (potential) meanings have since been painted over with cinematic flare. Also, don’t read it unless you have time for reflection.

The Sleeping Prince

A soldier related the following story, which is said to have happened to his grandfather. The latter, his grandfather, had gone into the forest to cut wood with a kinsman and a third man, both much younger. People suspected that there was something not quite right about this third man, although no one could say exactly what it was.

The three finished their work and were tired, whereupon the third man suggested that they sleep a little. And that is what they did. They all laid down on the ground, but the grandfather only pretended to sleep, keeping his eyes open a crack. The third man looked around to see if the others were asleep, and when he believed this to be so, he took off his belt and turned into a wolf.

Then he ran to a nearby meadow where there was a wild horse, who during the day was a beautiful young princess, resting after running for hours. She saw the wolf and thought to run away but instead invited him to run with her toward the moon. But the wolf attacked her and ate her, from her mane to her bones. Afterward he returned, put his belt back on, and laid down, as before, in human form.

A little later they all got up together and made their way toward home. Just as they reached the village gate, the third man complained that he had a stomachache. The grandfather secretly whispered in his ear: “Perhaps you should consider a different diet…horses are not made for eating, you know.”

The third man replied: “If you had said that to me in the forest, you would not be saying it to me now.”

The grandfather replied, “Perhaps. But perhaps if I had said that to you in the forest, you now would be a prince…”

After the sun set the old man lay in his bed and wept through the night, for he was unable to sleep.

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