Once upon a time (maybe days ago, maybe centuries), in a vast kingdom (maybe in the next town, maybe a thousand miles from here), there lived a princess. The princess was as beautiful as she was sensible (which was very), but the people of the kingdom never spoke of her beauty, because she had so many other qualities that were far more interesting. They spoke of how well she ruled over the kingdom, how kind and fair she was, and how the policies she enacted were kind and fair too. They also spoke of how good she was at cricket.
One bitterly cold day in the middle of winter, the princess was travelling through the woods. She was bringing food and firewood to the people and creatures who lived there who were not able to leave their homes in the icy conditions to get these things for themselves, through no fault of their own. As the princess made her way from the gingerbread cottage belonging to the elderly woman who had no children, to the home of the three blind mice, she met a wolf.
‘Hello, little girl’, snarled the wolf with a toothy grin, ‘Would you care to join me for some tea?’
‘No thank you, Mr Wolf,’ said the Princess.
‘Oh no, dear girl, you will hurt my feelings if you refuse,’ wheedled the wolf.
‘I’m sorry, Mr Wolf, thank you for your kind offer, but I am very busy today and won’t be able to join you for tea.’
‘Oh, but I insist,’ growled the wolf.
‘No, thank you,’ said the princess firmly, and set off on her way. Quick as a flash the wolf snatched the princess in his jaws and ran with her towards his home, a tall tower on the outskirts of the kingdom. The princess screamed and struggled, but the wolf tightened his jaws, hurting her with his sharp teeth. She was afraid that if she continued he would kill her, so she stopped. Once the wolf reached the tower he carried the princess to a room at the very top and locked her inside. The room was bare, except for a small pile of straw in the corner. The princess was very scared, and also angry that she had ended up in this situation, but she knew that it was not her fault that the wolf had done this to her. The princess cried for a while, which made her feel a little better. When she had finished crying she felt like going to sleep for a hundred years, but she realised that this would not be very productive, so she had a fifteen minute nap on the pile of straw instead. When she awoke, feeling much refreshed, she started thinking of ways to escape from the tower.
The first thing the princess did was to shout ‘Help! I’m stuck at the top of a tower on the outskirts of the kingdom!’ at the top of her voice out of the window. She thought that if someone happened to hear her, they may be able to help, but decided that just in case no one did she better think of some other ideas.
So the princess thought and thought and came up with many, many ideas – too many to recount here. Some of them were Very Bad Ideas That Would Never Work (such as trying to grow her hair long enough to use to climb down the tower), but the princess knew that it was better to have some Very Bad Ideas That Would Never Work than No Ideas At All, so she didn’t waste time worrying about how very bad they were and how they would never work.
As the princess had no idea what the wolf was going to do she came up with a few plans based on different scenarios. She also continued to shout out of the window every so often, just in case someone happened to be in earshot.
Just as the sun was beginning to set, the wolf turned up with some food for the princess. She thanked the wolf, even though he didn’t deserve it, and then asked him very sweetly ‘Mr Wolf, please could I have some sticks and matches to make a fire, and some extra clothes? It is so terribly cold in here.’
The wolf thought for a moment, then agreed, and went off to grant her request. The wolf didn’t really know what he was doing, and didn’t have any sort of a plan, so he was glad to have been given something to do that he didn’t have to think of himself. He had also vastly underestimated the princess, and had not considered for a moment that she might be planning her escape.
As soon as the wolf left, the princess tried the door of the room, in case he had foolishly forgotten to lock it. Unfortunately, even though the wolf was very foolish, he hadn’t forgotten this time, so she shouted out of the window again instead.
When the wolf returned with the sticks, the matches, and the clothes, the princess thanked him, even though he didn’t deserve it. The wolf said it was quite alright and wished her goodnight before leaving. As he closed the door the princess screamed. Startled, the wolf jumped and cried out ‘What’s the matter?’ The princess said that she had just seen a mouse, which was a lie, but she had hoped that if she distracted the wolf he might forget to lock the door. Unfortunately, he didn’t, but it was still worth a try, and she shouted out of the window again, because that was worth a try too.
The wolf trudged down the stairs of the tower, trying to think why he had decided to lock the princess in the tower in the first place and how he could get out of the situation without admitting it had been a foolish mistake. The wolf was too foolish to realise that doing so would, in fact, be the least foolish thing to do.
Meanwhile, the princess had used one stick to light a small fire, giving her just enough light to see, and had begun tearing the clothes into strips. When this task was complete she used the strips to tie the sticks together, creating a ladder. She worked swiftly and her ladder was finished well before the stroke of midnight. Conveniently, the wolf had given her just enough sticks and clothes to make a ladder exactly the right length to reach from the very top of the tower to the very bottom. Sometimes things just work out.
The princess attached the ladder to the window ledge securely, tying it as tightly as she could and testing it several times. She lowered the ladder out of the window and started to climb down. She knew she was taking a great risk, but she decided that, as the alternative was potentially spending the rest of her life locked in a tower alone, it was a risk worth taking.
As soon as the princess reached the ground she ran as fast as she could through the woods towards her castle. She almost ran straight into a carriage (which rather resembled a pumpkin) that crossed her path. The young lady travelling in the carriage kindly offered the princess a lift, which she gratefully accepted.
Once the princess was back at the castle, she went straight to her Chief Guard, who was delighted to see her, as she had been worried when the princess had not returned to the castle at her usual time. She had waited one hour before sending out search parties around the kingdom to look for the princess. This happened to be exactly when the princess had been busy making her ladder and hadn’t shouted out of the window. Sometimes things do not work out.
The princess took the Chief Guard and her staff back to the tower, where they arrested the wolf (who had just decided, having been unable to sleep at all thinking about his poor life decisions, that he would ‘accidentally’ leave the door unlocked the next time he went to see the princess).
Word had spread of the wolf’s treatment of the princess, and the kingdom was in uproar. Shortly after his arrest the people arrived at his tower with pitchforks and torches, calling for him to be slain. The princess expressed her gratitude to her people for caring so deeply for her, but reminded them that that was not how crime was managed in the kingdom, as there was no evidence to show that it acted as a deterrent. The people, feeling quite ashamed, took their pitchforks and torches back home and went back to bed.
Following a trial, the wolf was fined a large amount of gold, which was used to improve services in the kingdom. He was also given mandatory community service repairing the houses of the little pigs, which recently recovered forensic evidence from the wolf’s tower showed he had destroyed. Finally, he received therapy to help him work through his issues in relating to others, particularly women, so he wouldn’t treat anyone badly in the future.
Though the princess had been a little shaken by her ordeal, she soon returned to the woods to continue doing the good work she enjoyed so much. Sometimes she felt a little afraid, but she knew that whatever happened she would be able to handle it, very sensibly.
I fear, dear readers, that some of you may be disappointed with this tale, as the princess did not meet someone with whom she could live ‘happily ever after’. In fact, she did, in these very pages, but the story of how their love came to be is one for another time.