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Liberating the Enchanted Princess

About Kathakali Mukherjee

Kathakali Mukherjee, born 1971, was a student of Sanskrit – Epigraphy and ancient Indian history. But her interest in language and literary studies led her learning another couple of European languages as well.
She worked for media libraries in Kolkata; also spent several years as technical translator, process and team manager with German and Indian software companies in Bangalore. Currently staying in Gurugram or Kolkata, she is engaged with reading and writing.
Apart from experimenting with short stories, she works on literary translation of fable and fairy tales as well as historical fictions. She is exploring the treasure trove left by esteemed Bengali and German authors between 18th-19th centuries these days.
She writes poems during her busy days when time does not permit her to sit at the writing desk.
Her blog: https://medium.com/@KathakaliM and https://www.indiblogger.in/kathakalim
Her self-published works:
"You and me" is a collection of poems https://www.amazon.in/dp/B01NCSMHK9/
And her effort of translating a selection of articles from Lokrahasya “Secrets of the Humankind – Satiric Articles by Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay,”: https://pothi.com/pothi/book/ebook-kathakali-mukherjee-secrets-humankind

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Prologue :

A poor craftsman had two sons – the good one was Hans and the bad one Helmerich. As it usually happens in the world, the father loved the bad boy more than the good boy.

It was a year of crisis. Price of everything shot up and thick wallets of people became thinner. The craftsman understood the importance of learning how to live in difficult situations. The customers came to his shop to purchase products so many times when market was good; it should be time for him to reach out to them showing some politeness – so that he could collect what he owed. Once said it’s done! He got up early in the next morning, left home to reach the nearest city early and started knocking at the doors of the affluent in the city.

The outcome was not what he expected. The wealthy did not turn out to be best payers. None was ready to pay even if they had purchased his products long back.

The craftsman returned to village, worn-out at the end of day. He took a seat near the door of the tavern, avoiding the crowd inside. He neither had the mood to engage in conversation with other guests, nor had reason to be optimistic with the possibility of seeing his wife’s long face. He wanted to sink in his own weary thoughts, but still could not help overhearing a conversation that was going inside.

A stranger who had just returned from state’s capital was telling that the beautiful princess of the country was imprisoned by a sorcerer. She would stay in the prison till the time someone solves three riddles set by the wicked man. If a contender could solve those, he would win the princess along with her magnificent castle and all her treasures. But failure to solve the riddles would push the aspirant to death. Defeated by the magician, the king had to leave the castle accepting his conditions.

The master craftsman heard it first absent minded, then half awake and finally with complete attention. A sudden idea sparked in his mind – “my son Helmerich has a sharp brain. He may like to bell the cat which would serve him forever. Why not get this one for him? He will be able to solve the puzzles effortlessly. Marrying the beautiful princess, he will be the king of the land and its people!”

He had to reveal his plan as soon as possible – so hurried home without wasting time. Bewitched by this new fantasy, he forgot his debts and customers. Reaching home, he immediately elaborated the story to his wife. He spoke to Helmerich next morning. “I want to give you a good mere and all accessories for a speedy and comfortable journey to the capital. I want you to marry the princess and become the ruler of this land.” – He clarified.

 

Part I

Helmerich didn’t want to waste time. Before setting out, he promised his parents that after ascending the throne he would send a carriage driven by six horses to carry them along with his stupid brother Hans, to the castle. He already became the king in his dream. The boisterous boy started acting like a king in power. He smashed everything that came on his way. There were birds on roadside trees who were singing in delight. He whipped all of them away from the branches and kicked all the poor creatures off the road. He was in a mood to play pranks with all – drove his horse to trample on the first anthill he saw. It was no wonder that the enraged ants started biting his horse and him. He crushed all of them mercilessly.

After going a little far he found a clean pond, on which twelve ducks were swimming. The sly boy lured them close to the shore, and started killing them one by one. He slaughtered eleven of them; only one could escape swimming very fast. He also spotted a beehive on the way. He did same to the bees, what he had done with the ants. He enjoyed slaughtering innocent creatures throughout entire way to the castle. His malicious act was never driven by any good intention but by evil excitement.

The sun had almost gone down by the time Helmerich reached the entrance of the grand castle. He was in a haste to reach where the princess was captivated; hence started knocking on the castle gate in the darkness of the evening. Everything was quiet around. The confident rider went on banging the gate intensely breaking that eerie stillness. After long, a small window, which was no bigger than a hole, opened silently. A very old lady peeped through the hole. The dense wrinkles on her face looked like a cobweb. The visibly irritated lady asked in a cracking voice, “What do you want here?”

“I want to release the princes whom you have imprisoned.” – He announced. He ordered like a king, “Open the gate now!”

“Don’t hurry, my son,” – said the granny calmly, “There is no harm if you come back tomorrow. I will wait for you at nine in the morning.” Telling this, she shut the door so swiftly that the boy did not find chance to ask anything else.

Helmerich appeared again before the gate following morning at nine o’clock. The old lady stood well-prepared with a basket full of flax seeds. As soon as he entered though the open gate, she scattered the seeds on the grassland.

“Collect the grains again in this basket.” – She ordered the rider, “I will come back in an hour. You have to be done by then.”

Her words sounded a stupid fun to Helmerich. He did not bother bending enough to find all the grains from the grass. After sometime he felt tired and went for a walk. As the old lady came back, she found the basket almost empty.

“This is not good!” She sounded unhappy. She brought a small pouch and took out twelve small golden keys from it. She threw those one by one in the deep dark pond inside the castle. “Go get the keys for me.” – She said again, “I will come back in an hour, and you have to finish your task in the meantime.” She left.

Helmerich was having fun as before. He was never serious about work. Hence when the old lady came back, his work remained unfinished as usual. The lady uttered twice in sheer dismay, “Not good, not good at all!” However, she took him with the hand while leading him to the big hall through the stairs of the castle. She showed them three veiled ladies there, seated still like statues.

“Select yours, my son! I will come back in one hour. You should be done with your selection by then.” – said the lady before quitting. Helmerich didn’t, however, pay any attention to her words. He slept for an hour sitting there and as the lady came back, he screamed confidently, “I selected! It’s the right one.” All the statues threw their veils instantly. The beautiful princess was sitting in the middle and in her right and left sat two violent dragons. The right one got up, picked Helmerich like an apple and threw him in the deep abyss below through the castle window.

 

Part II

One year passed after Helmerich had departed to liberate the princess. His parents kept on waiting in their home, but no six-stallion carriage came to their door. His father started blaming his own fate once in a while. He sighed and lamented, “Oh! If the stupid Hans left instead of our gifted son, we would have been less unfortunate.”

Hans listened without a word. One day he said, “Father, please let me go there. I want to try once.” His father was not ready to let him go. How would his dumb son do what the clever one could not? He denied Hans’ request to provide a horse and accessories. The not-so-privileged boy left home in secret and walked for three days following the same road down which his brother rode his horse to the castle. Hans was brave. He slept under the green branches of the large trees, on the hard ground covered by soft moss – as peacefully as he did in the safety of his parent’s home. The birds in the wild were not afraid of him – they sang melodious lullaby for him.

On his way, as he saw the ants busy constructing their new home, he did not disturb them. Carefully he crossed the bushy areas so that none of the small insects would crush under his feet. He too lured the ducks in the pond like his brother but not to kill them. He fed the ducks breadcrumbs and kept fresh flowers for the bees near the beehive without disturbing their sleep.

The cheerful boy reached the castle gate on a sunny morning. As soon as he knocked on the gate, the small window opened. Like before, the old granny having intensely wrinkled face peeped her head through that. “What do you want here, boy?” – She said in a broken voice.

“I know I am too humble for the task, still I would try to release the beautiful princess from captivity.”

“You have to take some tests right now, my son!” – The old lady did not take time to allow him inside, though she mentioned at the same time, “but you are going to lose your life if you fail any of those tests.” Hans agreed anyway, “Its fine, little granny. Tell me what I need to do.”

The lady scattered the basketful of flax seeds like before without delay. Hans didn’t mind picking up those one by one but couldn’t fill even half of the basket with all his efforts. Only a quarter of an hour was left before the lady’s return and he was in despair. But within moments, hundreds of black ants from the forest came forward to help him. His basket filled well before the granny came to check it. Gladly she called him for second test with the golden keys. The hard-working Hans dived and dived in the deep pool; but did not find any key. He felt like crying as time for him almost ended. That was time for twelve swans to help him. With their efficient beaks, they picked all twelve golden keys for him from the deepest corner of the black pond long before the old lady’s arrival. Seeing that he passed the second test, the lady led him to the hall.

He was directed to identify the princess among those veiled statues. He couldn’t decide as they were all nicely covered. Still few minutes were left before the ladies arrival when the swarm of bees came to support him. They could not stand the smell of sulphur and bad luck near the left and right statues; they encircled the middle one smelling of honey and began humming, “Middleone, middleone!” Now Hans could pronounce confidently before the granny, “I choose the middle one.” All three had to throw their veils. This time the dragons flew out of the window and the beautiful princess happily came forward to greet her heroic groom.

Hans sent the quickest messenger of the castle to the King, the princess’s father, to give him the news of his success. He also sent a golden carriage driven by six horses to bring his parents there. All of them were so pleased seeing the success of the so-called foolish boy’s victory over the wicked magician that they never thought of leaving him again. All of them are staying blissfully in that castle even today.

A poor craftsman had two sons – the good one was Hans and the bad one Helmerich. As it usually happens in the world, the father loved the bad boy more than the good boy.

It was a year of crisis. Prices of everything shot up and thick wallets of people became thinner. The craftsman understood the importance of learning how to live in difficult situations. The customers came to his shop to purchase products so many times when market was good; it should be time for him to reach out to them showing some politeness – so that he could collect what he owed. Once said it’s done! He got up early in the next morning, left home to reach the nearest city early and started knocking at the doors of the affluent in the city.

The outcome was not what he expected. The wealthy did not turn out to be best payers. None was ready to pay even if they had purchased his products long back.

The craftsman returned to village, worn-out at the end of day. He took a seat near the door of the tavern, avoiding the crowd inside. He neither had the mood to engage in conversation with other guests, nor had reason to be optimistic with the possibility of seeing his wife’s long face. He wanted to sink in his own weary thoughts, but still could not help overhearing a conversation that was going inside.

A stranger who had just returned from state’s capital was telling that the beautiful princess of the country was imprisoned by a sorcerer. She would stay in the prison till the time someone solves three riddles set by the wicked man. If a contender could solve those, he would win the princess along with her magnificent castle and all her treasures. But failure to solve the riddles would push the aspirant to death. Defeated by the magician, the king had to leave the castle accepting his conditions.

The master craftsman heard it first absent minded, then half awake and finally with complete attention. A sudden idea sparked in his mind – “my son Helmerich has a sharp brain. He may like to bell the cat which would serve him forever. Why not get this one for him? He will be able to solve the puzzles effortlessly. Marrying the beautiful princess, he will be the king of the land and its people!”

He had to reveal his plan as soon as possible – so hurried home without wasting time. Bewitched by this new fantasy, he forgot his debts and customers. Reaching home, he immediately elaborated the story to his wife. He spoke to Helmerich next morning. “I want to give you a good mere and all accessories for a speedy and comfortable journey to the capital. I want you to marry the princess and become the ruler of this land.” – He clarified.

Helmerich didn’t want to waste time. Before setting out, he promised his parents that after ascending the throne he would send a carriage driven by six horses to carry them along with his stupid brother Hans, to the castle. He already became the king in his dream. The boisterous boy started acting like a king in power. He smashed everything that came on his way. There were birds on roadside trees who were singing in delight. He whipped all of them away from the branches and kicked all the poor creatures off the road. He was in a mood to play pranks with all – drove his horse to trample on the first anthill he saw. It was no wonder that the enraged ants started biting his horse and him. He crushed all of them mercilessly.

After going a little far he found a clean pond, on which twelve ducks were swimming. The sly boy lured them close to the shore, and started killing them one by one. He slaughtered eleven of them; only one could escape swimming very fast. He also spotted a beehive on the way. He did same to the bees, what he had done with the ants. He enjoyed slaughtering innocent creatures throughout entire way to the castle. His malicious act was never driven by any good intention but by evil excitement.

The sun had almost gone down by the time Helmerich reached the entrance of the grand castle. He was in a haste to reach where the princess was captivated; hence started knocking on the castle gate in the darkness of the evening. Everything was quiet around. The confident rider went on banging the gate intensely breaking that eerie stillness. After long, a small window, which was no bigger than a hole, opened silently. A very old lady peeped through the hole. The dense wrinkles on her face looked like a cobweb. The visibly irritated lady asked in a cracking voice, “What do you want here?”

“I want to release the princes whom you have imprisoned.” – He announced. He ordered like a king, “Open the gate now!”

“Don’t hurry, my son,” – said the granny calmly, “There is no harm if you come back tomorrow. I will wait for you at nine in the morning.” Telling this, she shut the door so swiftly that the boy did not find chance to ask anything else.

Helmerich appeared again before the gate following morning at nine o’clock. The old lady stood well-prepared with a basket full of flax seeds. As soon as he entered though the open gate, she scattered the seeds on the grassland.

“Collect the grains again in this basket.” – She ordered the rider, “I will come back in an hour. You have to be done by then.”

Her words sounded a stupid fun to Helmerich. He did not bother bending enough to find all the grains from the grass. After sometime he felt tired and went for a walk. As the old lady came back, she found the basket almost empty.

“This is not good!” She sounded unhappy. She brought a small pouch and took out twelve small golden keys from it. She threw those one by one in the deep dark pond inside the castle. “Go get the keys for me.” – She said again, “I will come back in an hour, and you have to finish your task in the meantime.” She left.

Helmerich was having fun as before. He was never serious about work. Hence when the old lady came back, his work remained unfinished as usual. The lady uttered twice in sheer dismay, “Not good, not good at all!” However, she took him with the hand while leading him to the big hall through the stairs of the castle. She showed them three veiled ladies there, seated still like statues.

“Select yours, my son! I will come back in one hour. You should be done with your selection by then.” – said the lady before quitting. Helmerich didn’t, however, pay any attention to her words. He slept for an hour sitting there and as the lady came back, he screamed confidently, “I selected! It’s the right one.” All the statues threw their veils instantly. The beautiful princess was sitting in the middle and in her right and left sat two violent dragons. The right one got up, picked Helmerich like an apple and threw him in the deep abyss below through the castle window.

 

Continued in Part 2…

One year passed after Helmerich had departed to liberate the princess. His parents kept on waiting in their home, but no six-stallion carriage came to their door. His father started blaming his own fate once in a while. He sighed and lamented, “Oh! If the stupid Hans left instead of our gifted son, we would have been less unfortunate.”

Hans listened without a word. One day he said, “Father, please let me go there. I want to try once.” His father was not ready to let him go. How would his dumb son do what the clever one could not? He denied Hans’ request to provide a horse and accessories. The not-so-privileged boy left home in secret and walked for three days following the same road down which his brother rode his horse to the castle. Hans was brave. He slept under the green branches of the large trees, on the hard ground covered by soft moss – as peacefully as he did in the safety of his parent’s home. The birds in the wild were not afraid of him – they sang melodious lullaby for him.

On his way, as he saw the ants busy constructing their new home, he did not disturb them. Carefully he crossed the bushy areas so that none of the small insects would crush under his feet. He too lured the ducks in the pond like his brother but not to kill them. He fed the ducks breadcrumbs and kept fresh flowers for the bees near the beehive without disturbing their sleep.

The cheerful boy reached the castle gate on a sunny morning. As soon as he knocked on the gate, the small window opened. Like before, the old granny having intensely wrinkled face peeped her head through that. “What do you want here, boy?” – She said in a broken voice.

“I know I am too humble for the task, still I would try to release the beautiful princess from captivity.”

“You have to take some tests right now, my son!” – The old lady did not take time to allow him inside, though she mentioned at the same time, “but you are going to lose your life if you fail any of those tests.” Hans agreed anyway, “Its fine, little granny. Tell me what I need to do.”

The lady scattered the basketful of flax seeds like before without delay. Hans didn’t mind picking up those one by one but couldn’t fill even half of the basket with all his efforts. Only a quarter of an hour was left before the lady’s return and he was in despair. But within moments, hundreds of black ants from the forest came forward to help him. His basket filled well before the granny came to check it. Gladly she called him for second test with the golden keys. The hard-working Hans dived and dived in the deep pool; but did not find any key. He felt like crying as time for him almost ended. That was time for twelve swans to help him. With their efficient beaks, they picked all twelve golden keys for him from the deepest corner of the black pond long before the old lady’s arrival. Seeing that he passed the second test, the lady led him to the hall.

He was directed to identify the princess among those veiled statues. He couldn’t decide as they were all nicely covered. Still few minutes were left before the ladies arrival when the swarm of bees came to support him. They could not stand the smell of sulphur and bad luck near the left and right statues; they encircled the middle one smelling of honey and began humming, “Middleone, middleone!” Now Hans could pronounce confidently before the granny, “I choose the middle one.” All three had to throw their veils. This time the dragons flew out of the window and the beautiful princess happily came forward to greet her heroic groom.

Hans sent the quickest messenger of the castle to the King, the princess’s father, to give him the news of his success. He also sent a golden carriage driven by six horses to bring his parents there. All of them were so pleased seeing the success of the so-called foolish boy’s victory over the wicked magician that they never thought of leaving him again. All of them are staying blissfully in that castle even today.

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