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The Twelve Dancing Princesses

Rachel Kessler, Illustrated by Liz Haywood

The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Liz Haywood and Rachel Kessler published by Jackson Fish Market Once upon a time, there was a king and queen. The queen had a green thumb. She loved to grow things so much she raised 12 daughters. She named each of the princesses after a flower. Their names were Angelica, Bryony, Cosmos, Daisy, Enola, Fern Ginger, Hazel Iris, Jasmine, Kalei, and Lily. In the midst of all this beauty and joy the queen fell ill and died. The kingdom grew quiet and somber. The birds refused to sing. The princesses kept mostly to their room, sleeping in, lying around or staring at walls. The warm open-hearted princesses became proud and snobbish in their seclusion. After several months the king discovered a great mystery. Although the princesses never left the castle, every morning their shoes were in tatters. The king locked them in their room every night. Yet every morning it was the same. In desperation the king announced that he who solved the mystery would be rewarded with a princesses’ hand in marriage. But no prince or earl, no knight or duke could discover where the princesses went. You can imagine how busy Michael, the royal cobbler, was during this time. He bowed low every evening as he presented new shoes to the distant young women. Michael was intrigued. He vowed to unearth the truth about the princesses. On the road to the castle, Michael came across a gnarled old woman and told her of his quest. she croaked, wrapping a cape around her shoulders. The space where she stood was suddenly empty. Just as suddenly she reappeared holding the cloak out to Michael. When he looked up to thank her she was gone. With the charmed cloak and 12 new pairs of dancing shoes in his satchel, Michael entered the castle. The King invited Michael in. When dinner was served the 12 princesses sat through the meal in contemptuous silence. As the key clicked in the lock, Angelica came to Michael and offered him a cup of tea. He thanked her, but only pretended to drink the drugged tea, and only pretended to fall asleep. fter dinner, the king led Michael to a couch guarding the door of the princess’ chamber and bade him good night. . Michael heard a heavy door drag open and threw on the cloak. Following the sound of rustling petticoats, Michael stepped through a trapdoor into an underground world. Michael trod on Lilly’s gown as he rushed to keep up. They entered a forest of golden trees with leaves that chimed in the wind. Michael reached out to touch a branch and felt cold metal. With a snap the branch broke off in his hand. “Something caught my gown!” she cried. What was that?” Lily asked with a start. The trees gradually changed from silver to gold. Michael noisily plucked a finely etched gold leaf. “Did you hear that?” called Lily. As they walk under the trees, the branches began to droop heavy with sparkling diamonds. Michael picked one and tuck it away with the silver branch and gold leaf. Lily spun around. But seeing nothing, she began to doubt her ears. Before them was a lake with 12 boats. In each boat a fine gentleman waited with oars. Michael leapt upon Lily’s boat, rocking it slightly. Michael continued to spy as the party whirled about the dance floor. The following night, Michael returned to the couch guarding the bedroom’s locked door. Again the princesses offered him refreshments, and again he accepted, but did not swallow a single bite. In the ballroom of the underground castle Michael watched the princesses faces. They twittered merrily, as dancing princesses do, but never smiled. he boats pulled ashore and the princesses and their escorts walked trancelike toward the night palace. Inside the ballroom, crystal chandeliers glistened like false stars. Michael dashed ahead of the 12 princesses up the stairs to their room. The princesses hardly noticed him sprawled on the couch. Michael raced back to his shop to craft 12 new pairs of dancing slippers. Carefully, he tied the twig to the toe of Lily’s. As usual, the princesses ignored him as he presented their 12 pairs of shoes. Except Lily, who gasped in surprise. She ran her fingers over the silver twig, sending a shiver from her head to her toes. She looked sharply at Michael, but he kept his eyes humbly downcast. The next day Michael embellished Lily’s slippers with the gold leaf. “You know our secret,” Lilly accused, her cheeks warming in spite of the fall chill “keep it.” “I intend to,” Michael reassured her. Lily’s sisters gasped as they recognized the diamond from the enchanted forest glittering blindingly on Lily’s shoes. The princesses were alarmed. They were offended at the idea of being offered as a prize to anyone who could discover their secret. They plotted to give Michael the enchanted potion they had given the other nobleman. A stronger concoction than the sleeping draught, it froze the heart and left nothing but a love of dancing. They formally invited Michael to the underground ball. Lily reached out for his hand when they arrived. “Come join us in some refreshments,” the sister’s cooed. Michael smiled sadly at Lily and put the goblet to his lips. Lily cried out. With that act of true love the spell was broken. As the enchantment that bound their feet to dance fell away, so did the spell that held together the underground palace. A deep rumble shook the marble beneath their feet. Bits of ceiling crashed to the floor. Michael and Lily emerged holding tightly to each other and immediately sought out the king. The 12 princesses. the nobleman, and Michael all ran, and paddled, and ran again. The alabaster castle crumbled behind them. In the forest, diamonds hailed down on their heads. The king was pleased to learn the mystery and have his daughters restored to daylight hours. He granted Princess Lily’s request to marry Michael. The kingdom celebrated with 12 days of feasting and 12 nights of music above ground.