Crone: an old woman who is thin and ugly.
Many years ago, the Crone lived a life of solitude in the enchanted forest.
In a faraway Kingdom lived a princess, who was so wildly misbehaved, the King and Queen needed to send her away. Often times, when children of nobleness, such as this Princess, misbehaved, they were sent to live in the enchanted forest in hopes they would change.
The Queen doubted her little Princess would ever behave but decided to give it a try.
The King and Queen packed the Princess up and loaded her Feathered Friend (her pet baby bird) in the carriage and sent her off to live with the Crone in the woods.
When the Princess arrived, the Crone was struck by her beauty. She was of only 8 years old but had features of a queen already. Her eyes were slightly too big for her face and her hair was untidy yet beautiful, almost enchanting, thought the Crone.
The Crone was slightly puzzled.
“Princess, sit down,” said the Crone.
The Princess did as she was told and the Crone wondered, “How misbehaved exactly is this child?”
They started talking and before they knew it the sun went to sleep and the night sky blanketed the woods. The forest buzzed with the snore of animals having happy dreams.
“Princess, I must tell you, you do not seem misbehaved, you and your Feathered Friend are quite lovely to be around.”
The Princess stared up at the Crone and a little giggle escaped her mouth.
Together they spent their days growing vegetables they would eat for dinner. They washed the Princess’s Feathered Friend in the well when he was dirty and they painted with watercolors during the bright days that transformed into magical dark nights.
They spent hours before the fire at night, cozy in the small cottage, eating desserts and sipping on teas they brewed themselves. It was not uncommon for the Crone, the Princess, and her Feathered Friend to wake up in a daze on top of pillows right by the fire. The Princess grew used to having warm red cheeks from the blaze. They laughed and played and the Princess learned more than she thought she could ever learn in the castle.
They would walk in the enchanted forest for hours with Feathered Friend flying above them. They camped out violent storms, inviting the forest creatures to take refuge in their cottage. They always made sure to cut enough wood and plan enough meals well in advance.
No one was ever cold and no one was ever hungry. Everyone was welcomed and everyone was loved.
After many years, the Princess was sent back home to the King and Queen.
Everyone seemed happy in the kingdom and all seemed well.
When the Princess turned 18, she asked her mother about the Crone. “Why did you send me to her?” she asked her mother.
“Did you not enjoy your time with her?”
“I did, very much so, but was I that bad that you had to send me away?”
“No, Princess you were not bad. I sent you to live with the Crone for her, not for you. You see, the Crone is my sister and something terrible happened to her when we were your age.”
The Princess’s big eyes grew bigger…
The Queen went on…
“She is my twin. When we were 18, we both married handsome princes. But her prince, while he seemed charming to everyone, was an evil man. And while she loved him so, she could not change him.
My sister was beautiful, she painted every day on the castle’s balcony, she fed the village children before she fed herself, and she planted the most beautiful gardens for all to enjoy. While they loved each other at one point, the prince became greedy. He would forbid my sister from leaving and would look down upon her gardens with scorn.
He would spatter poison on her paintings and tell her lies.
His ugly attitude showed on my sister, and she slowly started to turn into a Crone. She grew so ugly that the prince left her for another princess and took off to the 7th Kingdom.
My sister could not bear the thought of the man she loved with someone else. No matter how horrible he was, she was too nice to realize he would not be changed of his evil ways.
She went to see him each night and begged for them to start over. Everyone warned her that she deserved better and that the prince was evil. And if she did not stop, she would become the old crone of the enchanted forest.
By the time my sister stopped seeing the prince, it was too late. She had become the Crone and, as it had been warned, if she sought evil he would be exiled to the forest.”
The Princess’s heart broke and she told her mother of the feeling.
“But mother, she is not evil! My best memories are the memories I have with her. I need to make this better.”
The Queen warned the Princess she was of marrying age and that if she left now to be with the Crone in her time of need, there was no guarantee her prince would wait for her.
The Princess looked at her mother and said, “Any prince who does not wait for me is not the prince for me. Besides, I am hesitant to marry after hearing your sister’s story.”
The Princess headed back to the Crone’s cottage, but this time she packed herself up and gathered her Feathered Friend, who was no longer small, for the journey.
She arrived at the Crone’s door.
Surprised, the Crone opened it.
“What are you doing here, Princess? You are of age and this is an important time for you to be back at the castle awaiting your prince.”
“Crone, my mother told me you are my aunt and that your prince was horrible to you. He betrayed you, was unfaithful, and hurt you.”
“Yes, I am and yes he was. But it is over now. I do not love him anymore and by the time I realized I deserved better, it was too late. I had already turned into a crone.”
“I need you to watch Feathered Friend,” said the Princess. “I am going to go find that prince and make him apologize.”
Before the Crone could protest and insist she had moved on… before she could explain that her happiness lay not with the prince, but within herself… the Princess was already on her way to the 7th Kingdom to confront the prince.
When the Princess arrived at the 7th Kingdom, she was shocked by what she saw.
The castle was insanely beautiful and well kept. The Princess came from a remarkable castle, but this was a whole new level of extravagance. She snuck to the window of the master bedroom, climbed up, hoisted herself up onto the window, and slipped into the room.
The prince was asleep in his king bed. She looked around the room and saw a bird cage with several birds inside. “Perfect,” she thought. “I know exactly what to do.”
The Princess transformed herself into a bird and sat in the cage observing the prince who called himself a king.
She watched him for three days. She saw how miserable his queens was. How lifeless she appeared. The queen laid in bed most days. When the king entered the room she pretended to sleep. The Princess saw the king lie and treat the servants like animals (worse, the Princess thought, she would never treat animals that way). His true greed showed ugly in his face and actions. The Princess was shocked that someone who lived in such a beautiful castle with such a beautiful queen could be so ugly.
Right then the Princess felt something she had never felt before. She could not explain it but she knew she could not confront this prince who was now a king and she could not waste another minute in that bird cage.
That night, she waited for the prince and the queen to fall asleep. She transformed back into her human form, walked over to the queen, kissed the queen’s forehead while she slept, and silently prayed things would get better for her.
In the dark night, the Princess made her way through the enchanted forest effortlessly. This had become her second home. She whispered for the wolves to walk with her.
When they arrived, she told them what had happened and what she had seen. They agreed the prince was a horrible person and they too worried about his queen and the Crone.
The wolves watched as the princess drew weary from travel and the emotional journey. They let her rest on their backs and carried her back to the cottage. They arrived and the Princess woke to a bright sky, her Feathered Friend, and the Crone sitting by the fire eating biscuits and whispering kisses to each other.
Seeing the Princess had awoken, her Feathered Friend wobbled over to her on his little bird legs and planted a juicy kiss on her forehead with his beak. The Princess smiled and then started to cry. She walked over to the Crone and collapsed in her arms, sobbing for her loss of youth and love and trust.
As she cried, something magic happened.
With each tear that fell on the Crone’s face, her wrinkles began to disappear. The Crone’s body began to transform. The Princess looked up and saw that the crone was just as beautiful as her mother, the Queen. “Crone! Look, you are beautiful!”
The Crone had long ago rid the cottage of mirrors for fear of further heartbreak. So the Princess grabbed the Crone by the hand and they ran back to the castle of her parents, with Feathered Friend soaring in the sky above them.
As the Princess and the Crone raced through the village, people stopped and stared at the Crone, amazed by her beauty.
When they arrived at the castle, the Queen was already outside. Tears of joy were streaming down her face as she found her lost sister—as young, beautiful, and happy as she remembered her.
She opened her arms and welcomed her sister home.