Four and Twenty Fairy Tales: Selected from Those of Perrault, and Other Popular Writers | Annotated Tale

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Princess Minute and King Floridor

THERE was, once upon a time, a King and Queen who died young, and left a very fine empire to the Princess, their only daughter, who was then but thirteen years of age. She imagined that she knew how to reign, and all her good subjects persuaded themselves into the same idea, without well knowing why: however, it is a profession which is not without its difficulties.

                The King and Queen had at least the consolation, when dying, of leaving the Princess, their daughter, under the protection of a friendly fairy. She was called Mirdandenne, and was a very good woman, but she added to the defect of allowing herself to be prejudiced that of obstinacy in continuing so. As for the little Princess, she was so very diminutive, that they called her Minute.

                Thus was this fine kingdom governed by prejudice and frivolity; for the Princess had never been corrected in the taste which she showed for trifles; and it was for her that all those little knickknacks were invented, with which we have since been overwhelmed.

                This Princess exhibited the grandeur of her ideas by an act which I will select from a thousand such. She would not retain as General of her forces, nay, even exiled from her Court, a veteran distinguished for the services which he had rendered the State. And why? Because he had appeared in her presence with a hat bound with silver when his coat was laced with gold. She thought that a man who could be guilty of such negligence at Court would be also, for the same reason, very capable of allowing himself to be surprised by the enemy. The discernment which she flattered herself as having shown in this instance, and the sound judgment which the Fairy distinguished in her most frivolous ideas, prove the existence of a delusion which would have been enough to turn a stronger head.

                There was near this great country a little kingdom, so very small that I hardly know what to compare it to. A Queen Mother had for a long time reigned over it, in the name of Prince Floridor; but this good Queen died. Floridor, who was the most affectionate son possible, felt this loss acutely, and always retained a feeling of gratitude for the obligations he was under to her. One of the greatest was a perfect education--the most perfect, the most rigid, as far as concerned the body, which had rendered him as robust as active; and the mildest with regard to his mind, to which she had given both accomplishments and solidity. This young Prince was handsome and well formed. He governed wisely, without abusing his despotic power. His desires were well regulated--in a word, he would have been an amiable person in private life. His subjects adored him, and the strangers who visited at the Court agreed that he would have conferred happiness on the greatest empire. But one thing they were not aware of was, that he owed to a charming Ant a great number of his advantages. She had been attached to him from his infancy.

                At the death of the Queen the good Ant was his sole consolation. He took no single step without going previously to consult this Ant, in a wood in the palace gardens, which she had chosen as her residence. He often abandoned the Court and its pleasures to go and converse with her. No weather prevented his presenting himself to her, and however severe might be the winter, she always came out of her anthill, which was the best regulated for an hundred miles round, and gave him advice full of prudence and wisdom.

                You may easily have guessed that the pretty Ant of whom we speak was a fairy. Her history, which dates back seven thousand years, will be found brought down to the twenty-two thousandth year of the world at the four hundred and sixtieth page of the volume for that year. It would therefore have been easy for this Ant to give the King, whom she loved so well, several kingdoms--for Fairies dispose of them at their own pleasure,--but the Ant was prudent, and prudence is always guided by justice. It was not that she did not heartily desire the advancement of Floridor, but she wished him to employ no means to obtain it but those that might increase the true glory with the love of which she had inspired his heart.

                The Ant was naturally patient: she waited for an opportunity to bring to light the virtues of her pupil. The conduct of Minute, and the prejudice of Mirdandenne, soon furnished her with one. They were informed that the flame of revolt was kindled in the mighty kingdom of Minute. When this news had been confirmed by all the newspapers, the good fairy Ant desired King Floridor to set out, attended by a simple groom, to assist the Queen, his neighbour. She gave him, at parting, nothing but a common sparrow, a little knife, which is usually called a _jambette_, [1] and a walnut-shell. "My gifts," said she, "appear mean; but make yourself easy respecting them. They will be of service in your need, and I hope you will be satisfied with them." He readily assured her of that confidence which her former favours had rendered it but just that he should place in her, and having bidden her tenderly farewell, he set out on his journey; every inhabitant of his little kingdom regretting his departure as much as if he had been a brother, a son, or a bosom friend.

                He arrived in the capital of Queen Minute's dominions; he found it in a state of commotion, as they had heard that a neighbouring king was advancing rapidly, followed by a terrible army. He was coming with the design of seizing the kingdom. Floridor learnt that the Queen had retired to a delightful residence she possessed near the capital, and in which she had collected all sorts of brilliant gewgaws. She had, however, a motive for this retirement: she wished to consider seriously and decide, without being interrupted, whether the troops which the Fairy had ordered to be levied to oppose the usurper should wear blue or white cockades. The Queen was, notwithstanding, at this time twenty years of age. King Floridor having ascertained the road which led to this country-house, proceeded there with all speed. His handsome face prejudiced Mirdandenne in his favour. The compliments which he paid to the Queen and her only increased the good opinion which his first appearance had inspired her with, and the offer of his services was all the better received as the state was in a very embarrassed situation. Minute appeared to Floridor to be charming.

                From that moment the King fell desperately in love. The zeal and alacrity always inseparable from that passion were displayed in his words and actions, and shone in his eyes; and it was with extreme care he investigated the existing position of affairs. He wished to have recourse to the powers of Fairyland; but the blind prejudice of Mirdandenne had induced her long before to give her wand to Minute, with the idea of amusing her, and that Princess had made such a prodigal use of it, that it was worn out, and had neither strength nor virtue, particularly for important things. Floridor returned to the capital, but found there neither fortifications nor munitions of war.

                Meanwhile the invader advanced nearer and nearer. Floridor saw only a rival in the person of the hostile king; and finding no other resource, he was obliged to propose to the Queen to take flight, offering her with pride an asylum in his dominions. Prudence suggested to him a line of conduct which his courage condemned; but it was necessary to save an unhappy sovereign, and he only made this proposition on condition of his being allowed to return and expose himself to every danger, and use every effort to restore to the Queen a throne which so legitimately belonged to her, the moment he had placed her person in safety in his little kingdom. Mirdandenne, convinced by all the King represented to her, accepted the proposition; but the Queen only consented to depart when they promised her that the horse she was to ride should have a rose-coloured harness, and Floridor had agreed to present her with the sparrow which the fairy Ant had given him on his leaving her. The bird was soon given, but though the departure was urgent, they had to wait till a harness such as the Queen wished for could be procured from the city. It came at length, and Floridor and Minute, with no other suite but Mirdandenne, took the road to the King's dominions. Floridor was enchanted at being allowed to conduct Minute to his own kingdom, and at believing himself to be useful to her he adored. To be in love and a traveller are two things which make people exceedingly talkative. Floridor, in announcing the limited extent of his states, at which he sometimes blushed, could not refrain from speaking of the obligations he owed to the good Ant. When he came, however, to the details of their parting, the walnut, the little knife, and the sparrow appeared to the Queen very singular presents. She was very anxious to see the walnut: the King gave it to her without any scruples. As soon as it was in her hand, she cried, "Heavens, what do I hear!" She put her ear to it with the utmost attention, and then said, with surprise mingled with curiosity, "I hear very distinctly little voices of men, neighing of horses, trumpets, in short, a singular murmur. This is the prettiest thing in the world!" she exclaimed. While the King was himself occupied by that which amused her whom he loved, he perceived the scouts of the revolted army close upon them, and consequently ready to take them prisoners. At this perilous moment, by an involuntary movement, he broke the walnut, and out of it he saw issue thirty thousand effective men, horse, foot, and dragoons, [2] with artillery and all the necessary munitions of war. He placed himself at their head, and showing a bold front to the enemy, he made, without ever striking a blow, the most beautiful retreat in the world; he took possession in this way of the mountains he found on his road, and saved the Queen from the hands of her rebellious subjects. After this fine military manœuvre, which was not accomplished without much fatigue, and alarm at the danger the Queen had incurred, they halted several days on the mountain; but as all the country was up in arms, they perceived, on recommencing their march, another army, much more numerous than that which they had escaped, and which it would have been the height of rashness to give battle to. In this cruel situation, the Queen asked for the little knife which the Ant had given to him, to use for some trifling purpose; but finding that it did not cut to her fancy, she threw it away, saying, "There's a pleasant knife!" The moment it touched the ground it made a considerable hole in it. The King was struck with the talent of his _jambette_, and immediately cut with it deep entrenchments all round the mountain, which rendered their position impregnable.

                When this operation was finished, which only occupied him the time necessary to make the circuit, the sparrow he had presented to Minute took wing, and flew to the summit of the mountain; then flapping its wings, it cried, in a terrible voice, "Leave me alone to deal with them; you are about to see a fine game. Let all descend the mountain, march upon the enemy, and fear nothing." He was instantly obeyed, and the sparrow raised the mountain as easily as if it had been a straw, and traversing the air with it, he let it fall upon the army of the enemy, crushing, no doubt, the greater part of them; the rest took flight and left the passage free. The King, who was solely occupied with the desire of seeing the Queen in safety, was anxious to put the horses to their speed; but as the march of an army is necessarily slow, he would have been glad if it had re-entered the walnut-shell. Hardly had he formed the wish when it actually did so. He put it in his pocket, and they arrived in the little kingdom, where the good Ant received them with every mark of sincere friendship.

                When Floridor had made every arrangement for the accommodation of Minute, and was satisfied that she could want for nothing in the palace, he began to think of his departure, and he did so more cheerfully as the good Ant assured him of her attention to all that concerned the Queen. During the journey he had lately performed, and the short time he had passed in his own dominions, he had taken the opportunity of declaring his passion to Minute, which she had been kind enough to approve. At length he was obliged to leave her; their adieus were tender, and Floridor set out with no other assistance but that of a letter from Minute, addressed to her good and faithful subjects, in which she required them to obey the commands of King Floridor implicitly.

                The good Ant neither gave him the walnut nor the little knife which he had returned to her when he came back: the Queen only begged him to accept from her hand the sparrow which he had given her, praying that he would always carry it about with him, as well as a scarf of _nonpareille_ [3] which she had herself made for him. The King followed exactly the same road that he had taken in conducting the Queen, not only because lovers are gratified by seeing again the places which are associated in their memories with those whom they love, but because it was also the shortest cut.

                When he was near the transplanted mountain, the sparrow, rising in the air, took it up with the same facility as before, and carried it back to the spot which it had formerly occupied. The sparrow then in that terrible voice which he knew how to assume when he wished, said to those whom he found shut up under the mountain, "Be faithful to Minute, and do what King Floridor shall command you in her name." This singular sparrow then disappeared.

                The mountain, it seems, was hollow, so those who had found themselves enclosed in it were as if under a bell; they had wanted for nothing during the time of their imprisonment; all the soldiers and officers who saw the light of day again with the utmost pleasure, ran in crowds to Floridor, whose handsome countenance interested them, and looking upon him as a demi-god, they were ready to worship him. The King, moved by their obedience and the new vows of fidelity to the lawful Queen, which they took at his hands, received their respects but not their adoration, after having shown them the letter with which he was charged. He made the army pass in review, and chose from it fifty thousand of the finest men, and of those to whose devotion a general's success is mostly due. He established in his new army a very strict discipline, of which he was both the author and example; and it was with these troops that he became invincible--that he defied the countless forces of the usurper, whom he slew with his own hand in one of the last battles, and whose death restored to Minute a kingdom which she had entirely lost. Floridor marched through all the provinces of this great state, and re-established the authority of Minute, whom he then hastened to rejoin.

                But what a change did he find in the character and mind of this lovely Queen? The counsels of the good Ant, and, above all, Love, and the wish to please and be worthy of Floridor, had completely corrected her only fault. She was ashamed of having always done little things with great assistance, whilst her lover had done such great things with so little.

                They married, and lived happily ever after.


LA PRINCESSE MINUTIE ET LE ROI FLORIDOR is written in a spirit of playful satire, which reminds one of those sprightly caricatures of fairy tales which flowed so pleasantly from the pen of Count Hamilton; but, unlike Le Belier and Fleur d'Epine of that accomplished satirist, Princess Minute and King Floridor presents us with a sound and serious moral, which at this moment, when the sacrifice of important interests to routine and etiquette has caused so much animadversion, is singularly apropos. It also reads a pleasant lesson to those who neglect or misuse the great means and opportunities which it has pleased Providence to bestow upon them, and amidst all its whimsical extravagances, never ceases to whisper in the words of Solomon--

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.

                Floridor was the name of a celebrated French actor of the seventeenth century. In Le Temple du Destin, written by Le Sage, and acted at the Fair of St. Laurent in 1715, the High Priest of Destiny observes upon the vanity of an actor--

Tout ce qui reluit n'est pas or     
Ils out tous ce génie,     
Chacun se croit un Floridor     
La plaisante manie!


[1] A clasp or folding-knife.

[2] "Tant Cavalerie, infanterie que dragons" "Horse, foot, and dragoons," was, within my recollection, a familiar phrase expressive of any overpowering force or number. Dragoons were first raised in France by the Marshal de Brisac in 1600, and being trained to fight both on foot and horseback, were frequently in the seventeenth century thus distinguished from the general cavalry and infantry.

[3] Narrow ribbon used to embroider silk, satin, or velvet with, a favourite work of ladies in the last century; but, looking at the character of Minute, it is probable the author meant a scarf composed of nothing but the ribbon itself.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Princess Minute and King Floridor
Tale Author/Editor: Caylus, Anne Claude de (Comte de Caylus)
Book Title: Four and Twenty Fairy Tales: Selected from Those of Perrault, and Other Popular Writers
Book Author/Editor: Planché, J. R.
Publisher: G. Routledge & Co.
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1858
Country of Origin: France
Classification: unclassified

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