King Thrushbeard: A Poetic Interpretation

In a time now a memory a fair kingdom stood
That was ruled by a monarch who sought for the good
Throughout his dominion, both human and beast
And one night, in ecstasy, brought them to feast.

Time passed, and the sun returned to his dwelling
While the party continued in complete revelling:
The laughter, the dancing, the candlelight glow
Were as wild and alluring as the wines that did flow.

As the subjects returned to a state not so wild,
The evening was ruined by His Majesty’s child;
Who had come from her chambers annoyed and irate
That her father would send her on another date.

She was honestly furious, and she stood alone,
Unabashed, unrepentant, before the jewelled throne.
“Daughter,” the king said, in voice oh so kind,
“Have you come here to tell me that you’ve changed your mind?”

(Before the brat speaks, you must understand
That only her title was what made her “grand.”
Her nature was horrid, her parents so grieved
That when Death reached her mother, it found her relieved.

There were no other siblings, for royal decree
Had the other buds nipped off the old family tree.
I don’t fault the parents, and neither should you
If you dealt with that beast, you’d make harsh choices, too.

To pour salt in the wound, if we use that old line,
She thought she was perfect. She thought she was fine,
And a prize that all throne-heirs would want to make queen
And enjoy her for ages. She was just seventeen.

So you see where we’re headed: the awful behavior
Of the rich, royal louse whose mind would not waver
Was outwardly displayed in form and in fashion
As a trendy young girl who is brimming with passion.)

“Daddy,” she sneered, “I thought you didst know
That a woman of my kind doth not need a beau.
I’m young, independent, I think on my feet,
And for you to control me, that just isn’t meet.”

The old man sighed from his perch on the throne,
“I try to control so you won’t die alone.
There are twenty young men in the great hall tonight
And you are going out there to find Mister Right.”

“You chauvinist pig!” shrieked the scandalized dame,
“I’ll not be a pawn in your masculine game.
But if you insist, Daddy, I’ll show them that I
Can torment and abuse them, and then they’ll all fly.”

So father and offspring proceed down the stairs
While the gentlemen start to line up unawares
Of the turbulent happenings that are arising
And the slander that they will find rather surprising.

Cecilia walked to the front of the line
And with each further step she emitted a whine.
The first she encountered was built thick, and yet
She squealed, “Wow! He’s so fat he should buy a corset!”

The following insults were like shooting arrows
If she were an archer, her victims young sparrows.
Words flew off her tongue at so rapid a rate
That had she had a mind to, she could outfox Fate.

“This one is too tiny. That one is too tall.
Sir, you smell horrendous. You stink up the hall!
Yes, the troll in the scarlet, though quite well arrayed
You prove to us beauty is born, and not made.”

With never a break and without hesitation
She cast down the glory of many a nation.
Nineteen grown men, their resistance now dying
Their rank unimportant, felt rather like crying.

When she reached the last man of the downtrodden pack
For once in her life she was taken aback.
A countenance royal stood near by the door
And was set at the masculine height of 6’ 4’’.

Standing alone to face that kind of man
Threw a wrench in the works of Cecilia’s plan,
Because there in those features as mild as a dove
Was a person she thought she could actually love.

Her mind raced like lightning. “I must find a fault
In this stunning enigma that I can assault.
He doesn’t seem that bad. Perhaps I would wish
For him if I became half princess, half fish;

Or he might bring me a life full of bliss
If he woke me from sleep with a true love’s first kiss.
But Daddy brought him here, and that just won’t work.
Get your white girl on, Ceci, and go be a jerk!”

The elegant figure was searched by her eyes
And one distinct element gave her surprise.
Whether in battle or some deadly brush
His chin now appeared like the beak of a thrush!

She strutted up to him in haughtiest glamor
And got up in his space and started to clamor:
“Hey there, Big Boy, do you really want me?
A hot babe on your arm for the whole world to see?

Are you going to take me away to your castle
And put up with all of my stress and my hassle?
You’ll need a glass case I can live in for life
‘Cause when you get me, Honey, you get a trophy wife.

Admire! Look at me! I’m pretty. I’m thin.
The ultimate package.---Wait. What’s on your chin?
A deformity. Hm. I knew something was weird.
It looks like a bird. I’ll call you Thrushbeard!!!”

With a sigh and a sneer the princess departed
Unknowingly leaving that man brokenhearted
(Some men prefer a hard stubborn case
Primal instinct, I guess; it’s the thrill of the chase.)

The party was over. The laughter was gone.
The king said his farewells to all from the lawn,
And then he marched inside with a determined gaze
Like the Lord will soon wear in the famed End of Days.

Cecilia lounged in her four poster bed
Snacking on candies and resting her head
When her bedroom door slammed and startled, arising,
She saw him whom most of all she loved despising.

“Little Witch,” the king fumed, “your time is now come.
I’m weary of turning my head, acting dumb
To your own vile actions. I’m going to stand
And order your life like I order this land!”

The churlish girl twisted a strand of her hair.
“Oh, please don’t, Father!” she cried in mocking despair.
“Like, honestly, Daddy, what will you have done?
Send me off to the convent to become a nun?”

“‘Twould be better for you to be in a state
Of constant seclusion and remain celibate
Than to forge down the path I have crafted for you.
It’s wholehearted torment, a life you will rue.

You love to cause strife, and you live to breed woe;
Cecilia, it won’t continue. Oh, no.
Since you set those poor suitors to trembling and bawling,
You’ll be hitched with the tramp who comes next to us calling.”

With an air of finality the good king now rose
And left the girl’s room while the door he did close.
The little brat wondered in horror and awe
If this time the king’s word would truly be law.

Eleven days later while songbirds were singing,
A minstrel in patchwork the doorbell was ringing.
He told the king’s steward that he had arrived
To earn food and water with songs he’d contrived.

The old man had him brought close near to the throne
And he and his daughter watched him all alone.
When the end of the music let silence begin,
The grand monarch spoke with his face all a grin:

“Fantastic, good sir! Your songs are quite charming.
Now I have some news for you which might be disarming:
Since you did such a job at brightening my life,
I return now the favor. Here’s my daughter to wife.”

All aghast and astounded she fell on the ground
While she grew quite lightheaded and the room spun around.
She crawled to his throne, and grasped his right arm;
“Daddy, if you love me---” she said in alarm.

For an hour or so the scene was so frightful,
Though Cecilia’s actions were rather insightful.
She pleaded and begged, but her father demurred
For his promise was binding. He would not break his word.

The priest was then summoned, for his erudition
Would seal the union in Roman tradition.
When the wedding was through, the girl was evicted
Which her father explained in a manner conflicted.

“Daughter,” he said, “you are no longer royal
And even though personally I am still loyal
To you, I can do nothing but sit back and grieve
And, in line with protocol, ask you to leave.”

Her husband the minstrel now stood by her side
As they passed through the castle gates yawning and wide
Out into the world which she never had known
While a cold, biting wind from the Northlands was blown.

They came to a woodland so large and so grand
She wondered who owned all the forested land.
Her husband replied, “Oh, you simple, dumb thing,
This land all belongs to the good Thrushbeard King!”

The girl in amazement was struck dumb and still.
Then she wept in a tone that was loud, wild, and shrill:
“Oh my, I am such a miserable thing;
If only I’d taken the Thrushbeard King!”

A meadow appeared. After that a town.
Each time the girl, now in muddied, torn gown
Would ask who could own things so grand and so bold,
And her husband would say (though he now thought it old):

“This land all belongs to the good King Thrushbeard.”
And Cecilia knew it was just as she feared.
“Oh my, I am such a miserable thing;
If only I’d taken the Thrushbeard King!”

The man finally snapped in a fury of rage
“I’m all that you have ‘til you die of old age.
You could’ve had more, but you had not desired.
Of hearing your wishes, I now have grown tired.”

On a little dirt road on the outskirts of town
Stood a small, squalid hut that was dingy and brown.
The princess commented how sad it must be
To live there. Then she realized that it would be she

Who would live there, as the minstrel’s wife;
And grow old and bear children. The heartache, the strife
Of this shift in class strata, was too much for the bride
Who sat down in the midst of the pathway and cried.

To enter the hovel, a person must stoop
To proceed through the doorway, and then one might droop
In a stupor and slump to the floor
At the horrid aroma held inside the door.

The young girl commented how clean it should be
If her husband would rule o’er the servants like she.
“Excuse me?” he queried. “There’s no servant here.
Now go make me dinner. I’m hungry, I fear.”

In spite of the day and in spite of the shock
Those words set her off like the bell on a clock.
“That ain’t flying, Cowboy. I’m not someone’s slave.
You toss me an apron, I’ll dig you a grave.

No man is my master. You want ham on rye?
If you want me to make it, then you want to die.
Play your lute all you want; mess around with your fife,
But you boss me around, Son, and I’ll take your life.”

Behind all this bluster lay an ignorant dunce
She’d never stepped foot in a kitchen, not once.
(Just a week before this, Cecilia forgot
Which dish was a pan and which one was a pot.)

The stove remained cold and the plates remained bare
As the woman’s futility begat despair.
The minstrel stepped in at the very last minute
So that that night his stomach would have something in it.

At dawn the next morning the princess awoke
Thanks to her new husband who gave her poke
And told her to get up and clean up their dwelling
Her plush life was over, just like the revelling.

Four days into this torture the foodstuffs ran out.
The minstrel did ponder what could bring a bout
Of good fortune to both of them. Thus, he decided
That the work of his wife would make their needs provided.

He had her weave baskets, the reeds cut her hands.
This line of employment made too rough demands.
She tried to do spinning. Alas! The coarse thread
Dug straight to the bone, and her poor fingers bled.

“You sad, sorry creature, God help us now,” quoth
The minstrel, “Do something that supports us both.
I’ll start making earthenware jugs and clay pots
And it’s your job to sell them. You’d better sell lots!”

The princess disputed this change of career
For still underneath her impoverished veneer
Was a spirit not one less whit haughty and proud
Who would have to demean herself out in a crowd.

Alas for Cecilia! The only straight path
To avoid the torment of starvation’s great wrath
Was to set herself up near a wall on the street
And attempt to sell pots to the people she’d meet.

For a month (perhaps longer) the business went well
The girl found no lack of people to sell
All her wares to. Now, listen, for it is my duty
To say this success resulted from her beauty.

Whate’er price she named, the item was sold
To a townsman enraptured by features so bold.
In fact, it was noised through the towns and the woods
That many had paid and, awestruck, left their goods.

The lot of the couple was steadily rising
A fact which both of them found rather surprising.
Expecting more profits, the husband did buy
A set of new artisan jugs from Versailles.

Cecilia set up her wares all around
While she placed her fair form by the wall on the ground,
When all of a sudden, without time to warn
Her, a drunkard’s wild horse came flying forlorn!

With no master to guide him the beast stood upright
And Cecilia lay ‘neath his hoof-gleam in fright.
She dodged out of the way, not a second to spare
As the enraged equine smashed all her earthenware!

Now once in awhile occurrences come
That startle a person from acting so dumb.
Our acquaintance lay silent, not making a peep
Then all of a sudden she started to weep.

Her husband would surely not accept with grace
The misfortune that stymied their quick upward pace;
And if he got too angry, he’d easily dare
To send her to dreamland by quickly thrown chair.

When she got to the hut and told him of her woe
He explained to the palace she would have to go
Since she was devoid of all talent and skill
She would work for the royals, a toy of their will.

(You may see where this leads to, or you may be dense
And like poor Cecilia, lack all common sense.
Her own father’s kingdom they’d left far behind.
The Thrushbeards ruled this land. To that she was blind.)

Each morning she’d wake up before the cock crew
And walk to the castle immense in her view.
The princess was to the scullery assigned
And for once her pride failed her. To her work she resigned.

A very short time after Ceci’s arrival
News came that the king’s son defeated his rival
In a chivalrous joust, and now wouldn’t tarry
To return to his home and settle down to marry.

The wedding night came, yet the bride was unknown.
Delegations from around the world had been blown
By the North Wind, it seemed. So quickly they came
To honor the young man and his gracious dame.

Our fallen heir stood near the door in the back
And struggled to peer o’er the cramped, crowded pack
For a glimpse at the couple, so supple, so deft
Like she had once been, but was now left bereft.

A peculiar anomaly happened right now.
Cecilia said to herself, “You fat cow,
So self-assured, arrogant, haughty, despising
No wonder you’ve sunk this low,” she was surmising.

Just at that moment, the king’s son appeared
And the lords and their ladies applauded and cheered
While he stepped down the aisle. Then, with remonstrance,
He walked up to Cecilia and asked her to dance.

The princess looked up to return salutation
But turned and recoiled in pure trepidation
Upon realizing that he whom the crowd genuflected
Was the same young King Thrushbeard she harshly rejected.

She attempted to run, but her try didn’t matter.
The king chortled gaily, “Oh, no you don’t!” at her.
All of a sudden a small string gave way
On her dress, and the spectacle brought her dismay

In each of her pockets she fastened a jar
To hold all the scraps on her journey to far-
Away home each evening when her work was done
To be eaten while watching the setting of sun.

The jars and were secured by a long piece of twine
That wrapped around fully the figure so fine.
It tied shut the pockets, and when the string broke
The foodstuffs fell onto the floor made of oak.

The nobles and denizens laughed until sore.
Poor Cecilia wished that her life was no more.
She broke from the king’s grasp, and ran down the stairs
‘Til an arm on her shoulder caught her unawares.

King Thrushbeard had chased her down to bring her back
To the hall where within she did dignity lack.
Cecilia cowered, fearing the malign
When the sovereign man spoke with this calming line:

“My dear, calm yourself. There is no need to fret
Since I have forgiven you, you must forget
All the pain and regret of the choices you’ve made.
So come now and join me on the balustrade.

Don’t you recognize me?” said Thrushbeard with a smile.
“I was all the beings who put you on trial
For your pride and scorn, which you long have been dreading
So that one day you would be my bride at my wedding.

I never stopped loving you, you silly child,
And pining for you I was drove nearly wild.
I went to your kingdom to sing as a bard,
Yet, though we were married, your heart was too hard.

If your mind was still vain, then it must be brought down.
We lived in a hovel outside of the town
For to come to your senses, to terms with your wrong.
The days that I waited were strenuous and long.

The drunkard whose horse smashed your jars all to pieces
Was myself in disguise, clad in ragged old fleeces.
Servants, come dress her in the very best.
She has suffered enough. She deserves a good rest.”

Cecilia cried with her heart newly thawed,
“Good king, you’re so perfect, and I am so flawed.
I do not deserve you, nor ever could I
Be worthy of standing to you so close by.”

Thrushbeard was determined to have his way now,
And with soft words of comfort unknit her stressed brow.
The maidens in action exchanged her apparel
To garments so cleanly instead of so feral.

From outside the gates came a riotous clamor
Of dozens of people in bright gilded glamor.
The girl saw her father in front of the line
As they marched their way into the palace divine.

The wedding was held in most joyful feeling
With an after-reception that left people reeling.
The newlywed couple moved into their home
After nine solid weeks of vacation in Rome.

Cecilia changed through the deeds of the king,
In word and in action did happiness bring
Both to subjects and husband, and so we are told
That she stood by his side until they both were old.

The stories that children have loved for long ages
In leather-bound books with worn, yellowed pages,
Of kings, queens, and dragons, of wrong versus right
Are with us because of the Thrushbeards’ foresight.

Cecilia and Thrushbeard wanted to see
If a moralized story helped their children be
Better people than their mother was at their age
One day summoned the old royal page.

Upon their command, the scribe started writing
About climbing beanstalks, and boys that were fighting
Ogres and giants and witches and dragons
And mighty old kings who drank out of flagons.

The queen’s one request that she gave to the man
Was that true love should feature throughout the whole plan.
So the power of love that the princess was shown
We now learn when we’re children, and cherish when grown.

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