The Clever Princess
collected and rewritten by Phillip Martin

Everyone, including the king, knew that the princess was beautiful.  And, everyone, including the king, knew about her quick wit and sharp tongue.  She could silence anyone who spoke to her, including the king.

Obviously, the king knew he had a problem on his hands. Nobody was going to marry his daughter unless that tongue of hers could be tamed.  So, the king did what all kings would do under those circumstances.  He made a proclamation.  In this proclamation, the king said he would give his daughter's hand in marriage to any man who could silence her in an argument.

It wasn't going to be easy, but young men flocked to the palace to take their chances.  In fact, so many suitors came to see the princess that it was overwhelming.  As soon as one shattered suitor left the palace, two more showed up to take his place.

With so many young men seeking her hand in marriage, neither the princess nor her handmaidens had time to brush her hair the way they used to.  Her beautiful locks were not as pretty as they were in the days before that proclamation.  And, since interviews, er ... arguments, went late into the night, the princess had dark circles under her eyes.  Still, in every case, the princess held her ground in every argument.  On every occasion, every young man left the palace defeated.

Daily life at the palace was completely disrupted.  There were just too many men flooding the palace gates.  The situation became so bad that, once again, the king made a declaration. "Any young man who comes to the palace, but cannot hold his own in an argument with the princess, will be very severely punished," announced the king.

The number of suitors dropped instantly.

For the first time in a long time, the princess smiled.  And, she brushed her hair.  However, the king didn't smile.  "If nobody can best her in an argument, my daughter will never get married," worried the king.

Now, it just so happened, that a young beggar heard about the proclamation.  "Hmmm," he wondered, "why shouldn't I be the one to get the better of the princess in an argument?  If I win, I'll have a home in the palace.  If I lose, well, I'll just have to see what kind of punishment the king has in mind.  It's worth a try!" So, the young beggar made his way to the palace.

Along the way, the young beggar saw a dead crow lying in the middle of the path.  "You never know when something like this could be useful," he mused.  So, he stuffed the crow in his pack.

The young beggar continued on his way to the palace when he came upon an old tub in the middle of the road.  "Mama taught me never to waste anything, even if it has a crack along the side," he thought.  "You never know when something like this could be useful."  So, he stuffed the old tub into his pack, crack and all, and continued on his journey.

Several other things found their way into the young beggar's pack as he made his way to the palace.  He found a stake, a hoop, and even an old ram's horn.  Each time, the young man thought, "You never know when something like this could be useful," before stuffing the item in his pack.

Obviously, the pack was very full by the time the young beggar made his way to the palace gates.  There he met one of the princess' servants who demanded, "What are you doing here?"

"I am here to meet, and then marry, the princess," replied the young beggar. "Will you still be rude to me when I am your prince?"

That thought made the servant laugh.

"Why would our beautiful princess want to marry you?"  the servant demanded.  "Get away from here before the soldiers see you."

However, the young beggar would not take no for an answer.  "At least, tell the princess that I am here," he pleaded.

Finally, the servant did as the young man asked.  And, since it had been a couple weeks since anyone else had requested a conversation, er . . . argument, with her, the princess accepted the request.

"Hello, my princess, with both heart and hands of ice," blurted the young beggar as soon as he entered her presence.

"There is nothing wrong with my heart," snapped the princess, "and, as for my hands, they are warm enough to roast a crow!"

The princess thought that would silence the young beggar.  But, she didn't know how clever he was or about his pack of goodies. "Warm enough to roast a crow?" he asked.  "Well, it just so happens that I have one here in my pack."

If the princess was surprised, she never showed it.  No, she didn't even bat an eye.  "We could do that right here and now if we only had some kind of tub to cook the bird in.  I wouldn't want the grease to drip on the floor."

"So, we need a tub?" asked the young beggar.  "Well, I just so happen to have a tub here in my pack.  I know it's somewhere."

As the young man searched through he pack, the princess still didn't bat an eye.  However, her left eye did flinch just ever so slightly.  Well, that is until she saw the crack.  "Ha!  However do you expect to cook anything in a pot with a crack in it.  Why, it would be a royal mess!"

The young beggar smiled.  "My princess, in my backpack, I just so happen to have a hoop and a stake to seal that crack."

And, this time, her left eye did flinch.  There was no stopping it.

The princess had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. "This beggar has an answer for everything!" she thought.  But, of course, she didn't want to admit that.  "You are a smooth one, young beggar," said the princess.  "You twist my words and nothing seems to trap you."

"Smooth, yet twisted," mused the young beggar.  "My princess, I think I have something like that in my pack.  Yes, here it is.  This old ram's horn is worn smooth, but yet beautifully twisted.  Don't you agree, Princess?"

The young man waited for a reply, but there was none.  The princess couldn't think of anything else to say.

Everyone, including the king, was shocked.  And then, everyone, including the king attended a royal wedding.  It was like none other that anyone could remember, including the king.  Before the guests left the wedding celebration, the king made one more proclamation.  "My guests, I have learned something very important from my new son-in-law.  Never say you can't attain your goals and reach your dreams.  Anything is possible if you use your wits."