Dec 9, 2016
Our main story in this episode is The Curse of the Royal Soil: A Marvellous Tale of the Sleeping Princess, the Watcher of Flowers and the Unfortunate Messenger and the Hardships that Befell and how things came to Pass in the End. Preceded by a couple of shorts: first, Mr McGregor gets his comeuppance, and then we meet the King and the Golden Pig.
Music: Creepy – Bensound.com.
James: Here are some Totally Made Up Tales brought to you by the magic of the internet.
Andrew: "Have you seen my cup? It's full of coffee and I want it." Mr. McGregor was a bastard. Everyone hated him, particularly the morning when he fired half his staff. Subsequently, the remaining staff plotted to kill him in a devious fashion.
"We could booby trap his car."
"Too risky. What if it caught fire and blew up on us?"
"We could tamper with his swivel chair."
"Too fraught. We've no way to ensure he sits on it."
"We could knife him."
"Yes! That's the simplest solution."
So, one day, Mr. McGregor was reading the newspaper while someone fetched his coffee, and Mavis from Accounts snuck up behind him and knifed him where it hurt. The police determined the cause of death was accidental consumption of a knife, and no one was punished.
James: Once upon a time, back when things like this happened, a golden pig was due to be sold at market.
Andrew: The king heard of it and immediately went to buy it as a gift for his wife.
James: He was opportunistic and wily, far more cunning than your everyday royal.
Andrew: The previous king was a fool, and had died a poor man's death and thus he was cunning but had no money. How was he to obtain the pig?
James: First, he took a sandwich from the royal table and traded it for a cockerel.
Andrew: The cockerel, in turn, he traded for an abacus.
James: The abacus he swapped for a cart.
Andrew: For the cart, he removed both wheels and swapped the parts for a barrel of ale and two goats.
James: Two weeks later, he had enough finally for the golden pig.
Andrew: But alas, it had been sold to a merchant.
James: Who should it belong to? The king, who as king, naturally felt he had some claim over the nicer things in the land, even though he was so poor, or the merchant who had bought it fairly at market?
Andrew: There was only one way to decided the dispute: through a traditional fiddle contest.
James: The day of the fiddle day dawned bright and crisp, and the common folks started running around, excited by the prospects of the contest ahead.
Andrew: The merchant rose early and tuned his fiddle.
James: The king, meanwhile, slept in 'til noon, trusting in his luck.
Andrew: The referee declared that they would begin with shanties and both played vigorously. Victory fell to the merchant.
James: The second round was jigs and one after another, both men played with gusto, but once more, the merchant was victorious.
Andrew: Finally came waltzes, and here the king had the edge for he was naturally in three parts, as many monarchs are.
James: With the waltz going on in the background, the populous was swept up in dance and the pig danced away too.
Andrew: The king was declared the loser, but having learned the waltz, he couldn't complain.
And now: The Curse of the Royal Soil: A Marvellous Tale of the Sleeping Princess, the Watcher of Flowers and the Unfortunate Messenger and the Hardships that Befell and how things came to Pass in the End.
Once upon a
time, in a faraway land, there lived a woman in a cottage.
James: She had lived there all of her life and before her, her mother and before her and before her, back as far as the villagers around her could remember.
Andrew: She was renowned, far and wide, for her wonderful talent of growing flowers.
James: She did not grow flowers in the way that you or I would. There was never a hint of pruning or grooming or watering or feeding.
Andrew: She was an exponent of the now-forgotten and no longer taught art of flower watching.
James: She would gather herself, sitting on the ground and with an intense look of concentration upon her face, will forth flowers to erupt from the ground in front of her.
Andrew: The flowers that she grew were beautifully fragrant, colourful, attractive, alluring, bewitching.
James: All through the kingdom, she was known for this, and much sought after, for her flowers could bring couples together, could enable them to conceive and could, in some cases, heal even the most ghastly sickness.
Andrew: Anybody experiencing drama, passion, confusion or loss in their life would surely want her flowers in their time of need to comfort them and to bring them through to safety.
James: In times long past, the flower watchers had been a redoubtable sect, many of whom went into battle for their kings and queens, but these days, there is only her left.
Andrew: One day, while hard at work in her garden raising flowers, a man came down the lane leading to her house, riding a fast horse.
James: She could tell from the way that the horse was panting and blowing air through its nostrils that this man had ridden long, far and indeed hard to get here to her.
Andrew: Her keen eyesight detected that he was in the livery of a royal footman, someone coming to see her from the palace. Something must be afoot with the royal family.
James: The messenger arrived at her door, swung down from his horse and prostrated himself in front of her.
"His majesty, the king, requests that you come at once to assist his daughter, the princess."
Andrew: "But what is wrong with the princess?" she asked, "I must know the sickness that I am being asked to cure."
James: "Nobody can tell," said the messenger, and indeed, it was true. For the princess had fallen into a deep coma and although many curatives had been tried, many people had been consulted and even the greatest magic had been attempted, nothing had been able to rouse her from her slumber.
Andrew: "Very well," said the flower-watcher, gathering herself together. And, mounting the horse behind the messenger, they rode back to the palace.
James: As their horse approached the capital city, the woman could see far and wide the signs of grieving within the kingdom.
Andrew: The princess was a popular figure and people were beside themselves with sadness and worry that she should have been taken sick so close to the eve of her 18th birthday.
James: Flags were flown at half mast, many people wandered through the streets weeping openly, and when they reached the palace gates, they were received at once by the king.
Andrew: "Ah, I have a great sorrow in my heart," said the king, "my daughter, my beloved daughter lies sick and surely you can bring her to life again."
James: The plant-watcher was shown to the chambers of the princess where already all around her bed had been placed planters full of soil, ready for her to do her work.
Andrew: "Leave me in peace," she said, "I must have peace to concentrate. I shall raise a bed of fine roses and the scent will surely wake your daughter from her slumber as we pass it under her beautiful nose."
James: And so, as the rest of them excused themselves, she sat on the floor at the foot of the princess's bed and started to concentrate.
Andrew: The minutes passed, the hours passed, the days passed, and when one full week had gone by, the first red rose begun to open its bud and the petals spread wide, releasing their scent into the air.
James: The plant-watcher opened her eyes and smiled and looked at the princess lying on the bed.
Andrew: She took the red rose and passed it gently across the princess's face, taking great care not to scratch the royal brow with any of the thorns.
James: The princess twitched in her sleep, but did not rouse.
Andrew: The wise flower-watcher immediately knew that all was not as it seemed. She returned to the anxiously waiting king and queen and said to them, "your majesties, I fear that there is something that you are not telling me.
James: It is clear to me that the princess is held back within her childhood and so a beautiful rose in the soil of the place that she grew up should indeed have roused her."
Andrew: At that, the king turned to his wife and receiving a barely perceptible nod from her, said, "ah, there is a sad tale that few people know but that you can be entrusted with in our hour of need.
James: The princess did not grow up within these walls, but in a faraway castle owned by her father, my brother.
Andrew: He died tragically in the civil war and after that, I adopted her and since then, the castle has lain empty on the edge of a desolate marsh on a windswept coast looked after only by an elderly caretaker."
James: "Very well," said the flower-watcher, "you must send at once a messenger to this castle, for the only way to bring the princess back to you is using flowers grown in the soil of her childhood."
Andrew: And so it was that the same messenger, the fastest rider in the king's forces, was sent out to ride to the very farthest edge of the kingdom across the desolate marsh to the windswept coast where the abandoned castle stood.
James: As he crested the last hill before the marsh, he saw the castle just peeking over the edge of the horizon.
Andrew: And, as the miles of marshland passed under the hooves of his horse and the castle grew larger and closer, it seemed to him to be a place of great desolation.
James: Dismounting, he was met at the castle walls by an old man.
Andrew: "Ah, you'll be the messenger then," said the old man.
James: "I am here on an urgent mission from the king," said the messenger, "I must have —"
Andrew: "Yes, yes, you must have, you must have. Come, come first. There is no hurry here, young man. You must be hungry and your horse needs water."
James: So saying, the messenger followed the old man inside and as he did, he could not help but notice that the beds that normally should be teeming with flowers were barren and empty.
Andrew: And the vegetable garden too was terribly overgrown, the orchard, in fact, everywhere that plants grew was a mess.
James: After stabling and watering his horse, the old man led the messenger into the great hall where he put down in front of him a strange meal of berries and fruit.
Andrew: "Let me tell you a tale, young man," he said as the messenger tucked hungrily into the strange dishes in front of him. "Let me tell you a tale of this castle and how it came to be abandoned.
James: I was a much younger man when I first saw this castle. I was carrying the sad news of the death of its lord and master.
Andrew: It was during the time of the civil war, a sad chapter in our nation's history when two royal brothers fought for control of the land.
James: I was the last bearer of the sad tidings of the death of the prince and when I told his wife, she was sore stricken with grief.
Andrew: So badly did this news affect her, so deep was her grief that before my very eyes, she slit her own throat. The blood ran across the courtyard of the castle and seeped into its very soil.
James: She had been buried barely a day when the new king's men came to take the princess away to the capital, and I remained here along with the last of the old family's retainers.
Andrew: From that day onwards, the atmosphere of the place seemed to change. It was as if all the life had gone out of the very stones of the building, and one by one, the venerable plants, the ancient trees, the thriving vegetables in the gardens and orchards of the castle began to wither and die.
James: And more slowly but just as inexorably, the retainers, one by one, wasted away before my very eyes.
Andrew: It seems to strange to me that each of them in turn would from some inexplicable sickness waste into nothingness and I pondered long and hard what it could be that had caused their death.
James: Eventually, I realised that I'd been so horrified by the manner of the old queen's death that I had avoided anything to do with the courtyard ever since.
Andrew: Anybody who had gone through that courtyard or touched its soil tainted by the blood of her royal suicide was cursed."
James: The young messenger put his head in his hands.
Andrew: The blood drained from his face and the young man emitted a low moan. "Oh the tragedy, for it is that very soil which I have been sent here to collect on behalf of his royal majesty."
James: "You'd better use gloves," said the old man.
Andrew: Early next morning as the sun was peeping over the horizon, the messenger woke and went down to the courtyard with the gloves and trowel that the old retainer had given him.
James: He carefully filled a satchel with the royal soil and prepared to ride back to the capital.
Andrew: Pausing at the gate of the castle, he turned to wave farewell to the old man who had been so helpful, and in doing so noticed a tiny speck of the soil that had lodged on the edge of his wrist.
James: Dismissing the man's tale as mere superstition, he flicked the soil away with his gloved hand and rode off back to the capital.
Andrew: All day and all night, he rode and the next day, he arrived at the castle and was ushered immediately into the royal bed chamber by the king's steward.
James: There, the flower-watcher carefully took the soil and distributed it amongst the planters to provide the environment of the princess's childhood that was necessary to bring her back.
Andrew: And so it was, dear listener, that everything turned out as the flower-watcher said it would do. The rose was grown in the soil of the princess's childhood. The scent awoke her from her deep slumber. She was able to celebrate her 18th birthday and come of age and all was well. Except for one person.
James: In the days after the celebration, the messenger noticed nothing different, but as the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, he began to feel a hunger that he could not satiate.
Andrew: Since that one fateful day, the day on which first he touched the royal soil and then he saw the sleeping princess, there had been but one all-consuming thought in his mind at all times.
James: The image of her behind his eyelids as he slept at night, the vision of her in front of them as he wandered through the city during the day… he could not think of anything else.
Andrew: Ah, so deeply was he in love with the princess that he pined and pined and began slowly to waste away.
James: After a few months, he was unable to continue his job as a messenger and after a couple of years, he was unable to continue to afford living in the capital and wandered the country increasingly alone.
Andrew: A lonely nomad he was. He ended up, after years of wandering, in the farthest parts of the kingdom, and one day, he came over the crest of a hill, and saw before him a wide and bleak marsh.
James: On the road in front of him there lay a dying soldier who called out to him.
Andrew: "Young man," cried the soldier, "young man, please help me. I am on an urgent mission that I will not be able to complete for I am expiring."
James: And the soldier told the young man of the battle that he had come from and the prince who had fallen there.
Andrew: "Go — go convey this message to the queen in the castle that her lord and husband is dead. Take it to her personally. You are the last bearer of the news."
James: On the other side of the country, the flower-watcher sat on the dirt in the middle of her house and started to concentrate.
Andrew: First she imagined a tiny seed deep underground. Then she imagined the first tiny root and shoot, each reaching out boldly in opposite directions.
James: In her mind, she saw the root system develop and strengthen and the shoot gradually make its way to the surface.
Andrew: Meanwhile, in a far-off castle in barren soil, a solitary snow drop poked its head up through a long-neglected flowerbed and the process of renewal at last began.
James: I've been James and I'm here with Andrew. These stories were recorded without advanced planning and lightly edited for the discerning listener. Join us next time for more totally made-up tales.