The Magician’s Daughter, Part 3

” Is the country pretty well ruled now ?” asked Filamina, after considering the matter a moment.

” Oh, yes,” answered the high-born boy; ” there are persons, appointed by my father, who govern everything all right It’s only the name of the thing that makes some of the people discontented. All the principalities in our neighborhood have regular princes, and they want one, too.”

” I ‘ll tell you what I would do,” said Filamina. ” I would just keep on going to school, and being taught things, until I was grown up, and knew everything that a prince ought to know. Then you could just manage your principality in your own way. Look at me! Here am I with a great castle, and a whole lot of strange creatures for servants, and people coming to know things, and I can do hardly anything myself, and have to get a wizard and a witch to come and manage my business for me. I ‘m sure I would n’t get into the same kind of a fix if I were you.”

“I don’t believe,” said the high-born boy, “that I could have had any better advice than that from the very oldest magician in the world. I will do just what you have said.”

Filamina now took her young visitor around the castle to show him the curious things, and when he heard of the people who were coming the next day, to know what had been done for them, he agreed to stay and see how matters would turn out. Filamina’s accounts had made him very much interested in the various cases.

At the appointed time, all the persons who had applied for magical assistance and information assembled in the Dim-lit Vault. Filamina sat at the end of the table, the high-born boy had a seat at her right, while the witch and the wizard were at her left. The applicants stood at the other end of the table, while the giants, afrits, and the rest of the strange household grouped themselves around the room.

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” Is the country pretty well ruled now ?” asked Filamina, after considering the matter a moment.

” Oh, yes,” answered the high-born boy; ” there are persons, appointed by my father, who govern everything all right It’s only the name of the thing that makes some of the people discontented. All the principalities in our neighborhood have regular princes, and they want one, too.”

” I ‘ll tell you what I would do,” said Filamina. ” I would just keep on going to school, and being taught things, until I was grown up, and knew everything that a prince ought to know. Then you could just manage your principality in your own way. Look at me! Here am I with a great castle, and a whole lot of strange creatures for servants, and people coming to know things, and I can do hardly anything myself, and have to get a wizard and a witch to come and manage my business for me. I ‘m sure I would n’t get into the same kind of a fix if I were you.”

“I don’t believe,” said the high-born boy, “that I could have had any better advice than that from the very oldest magician in the world. I will do just what you have said.”

Filamina now took her young visitor around the castle to show him the curious things, and when he heard of the people who were coming the next day, to know what had been done for them, he agreed to stay and see how matters would turn out. Filamina’s accounts had made him very much interested in the various cases.

At the appointed time, all the persons who had applied for magical assistance and information assembled in the Dim-lit Vault. Filamina sat at the end of the table, the high-born boy had a seat at her right, while the witch and the wizard were at her left. The applicants stood at the other end of the table, while the giants, afrits, and the rest of the strange household grouped themselves around the room.

” Some of these cases,” said Filamina, ” I have settled myself, and the others I have handed over to these wise persons, who are a wizard and a witch. They can attend to their patients first.” The high-born boy thought that she ought to have said “clients,” or “patrons,” but he was too polite to speak of it.

The wizard now addressed the merchant who had lost the rubies.

“How do you know that you lost two quarts of rubies?” said he.
” I know it,” replied the merchant, ” because I measured them in two quart pots.”
” Did you ever use those pots for anything else ?” asked the wizard.
“Yes,” said the merchant; “I afterward measured six quarts of sapphires with them.”
” Where did you put your sapphires when you had measured them?”
“I poured them into a peck jar,” said the merchant.
“Did they fill it?” asked the wizard.
” Yes; I remember thinking that I might as well tie a cloth over the top of the jar, for it would hold no more.”

” Well, then,” said the wizard, ” as six quarts of sapphires will not fill a peck jar, I think you will find your rubies at the bottom of the jar, where you probably poured them when you wished to use the quart pots for the sapphires.”

“I should n’t wonder,” said the merchant. “I’ll go right home and see.”
He went home, and sure enough, under the six quarts of sapphires, he found his rubies.

“As for you,” said the wizard to the general who always lost his battles, “your case is very simple: your army is too weak. What you want is about twelve giants, and this good young lady says she is willing to furnish them. Twelve giants, well armed with iron clubs, tremendous swords and long spears, with which they could reach over moats and walls, and poke the enemy, would make your army almost irresistible.”

“Oh, yes,” said the general, looking very much troubled, “that is all true; but think how much it would cost to keep a dozen enormous giants! They would eat more than all the rest of the army. My king is poor; he is not able to support twelve giants.”

“In that case,” said the wizard, “war is a luxury which he cannot afford. If he cannot provide the means to do his fighting in the proper way, he ought to give it up, and you and he should employ your army in some other way. Set the soldiers at some profitable work, and then the kingdom will not be so poor.”

The general could not help thinking that this was very good advice, and when he went home and told his story, his king agreed with him. The kingdom lay between two seas, and the soldiers were set to work to cut a canal right through the middle of the country, from one sea to the other.

Then the ships belonging to the neighboring kingdoms were allowed to sail through this canal, and charged a heavy toll. In this way the kingdom became very prosperous, and everybody agreed that it was a great deal better than carrying on wars and always being beaten.

The wizard next spoke to the young man who wanted to know how to make gold out of horseshoes.

” I think you will have to give up your idea,” he declared. “The best metal-workers here have failed in the undertaking, and I myself have tried, for many years, to turn old iron into gold, but never could do it. Indeed, it is one of the things which magicians. cannot do. Are you so poor that you are much in need of gold?”

” Oh, no,” said the young man. ” I am not poor at all. But I would like very much to be able to make gold whenever I please.”

“The best thing you can do,” said the wizard, “if you really wish to work in metals, is to make horseshoes out of gold. This will be easier than the other plan, and will not worry your mind so much.”

The young man stood aside. He did not say anything, but he looked very much disappointed.

This ended the wizard’s cases, and Filamina now began to do her part. She first called up the greedy king who wanted the adjoining kingdom.

” Here is a bottle,” she said, ” which contains a very bad disease for an old person and a very bad one for a child. Whenever you feel that you would like the old king and the young heir, who stand between you and the kingdom you want, to be sick, take a good drink from the bottle.”

The greedy king snatched the bottle, and, as soon as he reached home, he took a good drink, and he had the rheumatism and the colic so bad that he never again wished to make anybody sick.

” As for you,” said Filamina to the beautiful damsel who had lost her lover, ” my fairy messengers have not been able to find any person, such as you describe, who is not married and settled. So your lover must have married some one else. And, as you cannot get him, I think the best thing you can do is to marry this young man, who wanted to make horseshoes into gold. Of course, neither of you will get exactly what you came for, but it will be better than going away without anything.”

The beautiful damsel and the young man stepped aside and talked the matter over, and they soon agreed to Filamina’s plan, and went away quite happy.

” I am dreadfully sorry,” said Filamina to the old woman who wanted to know how to make good root-beer, and who sat in the sedan-chair which had been sent for her, “but we have tried our best to find out how to make good root-beer, and the stuff we brewed was awful. I have asked this learned witch about it, and she says she does not now possess the secret. I have also offered a reward to any one who can tell me how to do it, but no one seems to want to try for it.”

At this moment, the penitent hippogriff came forward from a dark corner where he had been sitting, and said: “I know what you must use to make good root-beer.”
“What is it?” asked Filamina.
“Roots,” said the hippogriff.
“That’s perfectly correct,” said the witch. ” If a person will use roots, instead of all sorts of drugs and strange decoctions, they will make root-beer that is really good.”
A great joy crept over the face of the old woman, and again and again she thanked Filamina for this precious secret.

The two giants raised her in her sedan-chair, and bore her away to her home, where she immediately set to work to brew root-beer from roots. Her beer soon became so popular that she was enabled to support her sons and daughters in luxury, and to give each of her grandchildren an excellent education.

When all the business was finished, and the penitent hippogriff had been given his reward, Filamina said to the high-born boy: “Now it is all over, and everybody has had something done for him or for her.”

” No,” said the other, ” I do not think so. Nothing has been done for you. You ought not to be left here alone with all these creatures. You may be used to them, but I think they’re horrible. You gave me some advice which was very good, and now I am going to give you some, which perhaps you may like. I think you ought to allow this wizard and this witch, who seem like very honest people, to stay here and carry on the business. Then you could leave this place, and go to school, and learn all the things that girls know who don’t live in old magical castles. After a while, when you are grown up, and I am grown up, we could be married, and we could both rule over my principality. What do you think of that plan?”

“I think it would be very nice,” said Filamina, “and I really believe I will do it.”

It was exactly what she did do. The next morning, her white horse was brought from the castle stables, and side by side, and amid the cheers and farewells of the giants, the dwarfs, the gnomes, the fairies, the afrits, the genii, the p:gwidgeons, the witch, the wizard, the ghosts, the penitent hippogriff, and the faithful hob-goblin, Filamina and the high-born boy rode away to school.

Back to the Beginning

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Note: This story was taken from “The Floating Prince: And Other Fairy Tales” By Frank Richard Stockton.
Published by Scribner, 1881. The copyright has lapsed, so this is super lawyer-happy.
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Commentary

I think you will agree that this tale is absolutely positively charming. Why, you ask, haven’t I heard of this lovely story before? Well, Frank Stockton is a rather obscure dude. He was very popular during his time, though (d. 1902). The only reason I can think of that he remains obscure is this: L. Frank Baum. Baum came along and basically wiped everyone not-Baum off the map in America, which is a shame. I mean, Baum’s great, but Stockton is pretty awesome, too.

One thing I love about Stockton is his cheerful, natural anachronisms. I mean, really! The story takes place in a castle, with mystical beings, witches and wizards. Yet we’re discussing the ingredients to root beer, and at the end of the story, the children go off to school. When you’re reading the fairy tale, you hardly notice the inconsistency, except to laugh. This sort of modern mini-imposition into fairy tale time was one of Stockton’s trademarks. He said: “I caused the fanciful creatures who inhabited the world of fairy-land to act . . . as if they were inhabitants of the real world.”

Another thing that distinguishes Stockton’s narratives are their lack of conflict. They’re pure story from beginning to end, pure fun. There’s no antagonist, no one defeated in the end (though the greedy King does get what he deserves). There’s no real moral either (except perhaps that little children belong in school). I’m not saying that Stockton’s tales are all story and no moral (stores like “The Sprig of Holly” are very moralistic), just that Stockton is very concerned with having fun, whereas many other fairy tale authors are concerned with religion, or morals, or getting their ideology across. In fact, Stockton’s upbringing basically assured that he’d never go down that religion/morality/ideology road; his father was a preacher who tried to stifle his son’s writing talent.

This particular tale is notable for how benign everything is. Fairy tale figures that would usually be antagonists (witches, giants, afrits, hobgoblins, etc) are all friendly and helpful (even if the witch is mysterious). On the one hand, this is great. It means that no social groups get unintentionally (or intentionally) demonized (exmaple: witch portrayals often demonize strong women), and it also makes for a story that’ really sweet and lovely. On the other hand, imagine raising a child reading nothing but Stockton and Stockton-fare. I know its my old axe grinding away, but if the light and joy of good fairy tale lit. is to be appreciated, there has to be a little darkness along the way.

But hey, don’t listen to me. At the end of the day, Stockton is just a terrific read. True, his lightweight material doesn’t make him anyone’s intellectual treat, but he’s still a terrific read.

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