Once she stepped out of her daughter’s room, the Queen experienced a strong tension inside her between her concern for the Princess and her hate for the girl’s shadow. She had a compulsion to find the shadowy boy to kill him, but she knew of the sorrow her daughter would suffer if she went through with her idea of eliminating the boy. The Queen didn’t know what to do with her stressful dilemma. All night, her moods rivalled the erratic movements of the stock markets of today’s world. She remained awake, immersed in her own thoughts on what to do with the little Prince.
Before the dawn broke, the Queen had a sudden insight. At last I know how to make the boy inaccessible to my daughter, she thought. In no time, she left her chambers guarded by two soldiers on either side of the doors, walked down the meandering stairs of the castle to a room in the basement where, with the help of her resourceful chief attendant, she disguised herself in gypsy attire with colourful rags. With an old shawl wrapped around her shoulders, a torch in her hand, the disguised Queen ran to the forest looking for the little dark boy. She searched for the hated Prince for a long while, to no avail. As the sun rose like a globe of burning gold from behind the trees, she reached the clearing, where she spotted the dark boy. The little prince, faint, fretful, a ghost of a thing, lying on the smooth rock under the lime-tree by the lake. The Queen in rags stuck the torch in the leafy litter upside down to extinguish the flame, half-circled the lake she couldn’t remember seeing before, shouted at the boy as she approached him.
“Wake. Time to move away, far away from here.”
The boy opened his puffy eyes, sprung to his feet, mumbled. “Where is Nisha? I want to talk to Nisha.”
“You’re not going to talk to Nisha, ugly boy. Start walking.”
“I … I don’t know where to go. I need Nisha. I want to be with her.”
“Out of here, you devilish little nuisance. Stop whining,” said the Queen, slapping the boy in the face, cursing him more.
Silent tears rolled down the boy’s cheeks.
“Listen,” the Queen lowered her voice, “all I want you to do sum up in one word: Go! Alright? Go! Go anywhere! I’m disgusted with all filthy shadows. You cannot see a girl like Nisha. That is final. Do you understand?”
The little prince rushed to the Queen, threw his arms around her leg, screamed from the top of his lungs, “I want to see Nisha…Why can’t I play with her?”
“Let go of my leg!” Queen Opal pushed the boy. “You dirty, little rascal. I don’t want you to see Nisha anymore!”
The Queen’s weathered brow became dour. Gasping from the hateful depths, she grasped the boy, picked him up, held him in her arms, assessing the pertinence of the boy’s body touching the rags she was wearing. As the boy did not seem willing to disappear into the city, she opted for another plan triggered in her mind upon glancing at the blue lake: transforming the little orphan into a frog for the lake instead of forcing him to vanish by himself.
Having stared at the woman’s face with sullen eyes for a while, the boy shouted in shock,” You’re not a gypsy!” He continued his howl as he beat his balled angry little hand against the Queen’s arm. “I know you, I know you … you… you’re the Queen!”
Ignoring the boy, the shrewd woman cast a spell on the forgotten Prince, turning him into a red-eyed, smoky frog that jumped down on the ground. The Frog-Prince opened his eyes to his new condition with great sorrow. The Queen lifted the defenceless creature, put him on the sludgy grass close to the water before wiping her moist fingers with her rags in disgust. The cries of wolves echoed in the forest. Smelling the wet of the air, the Smoky Frog croaked over and over again with unleashed fury against the Queen before diving into the deep water, where he began confronting his confinement.
On her return, the Queen waited for six days before giving her perturbed daughter deceitful news of the Smoky Prince’s condition. Over breakfast, she relayed to the Princess how she had heard from reliable State officials that the little Prince had been neither lost nor dead, but seen by the Hyrcanian citizens leaving the gates of the City-State to settle in another land for good. In an ensuing silence as of the dead, Nisha’s eyes deepened, her face grew dismal, her spoon fell out of her hand. She swallowed a sudden pain that saturated her body and threatened to swallow her.
Over the following seven years, Nisha forgot more and more about her shadow. She even learnt to dislike all shadows to please her mother in the hope of receiving love from her. Her nanny’s set of worried eyes always watched over her wellness. Mother Simorq knew the Princess could no more experience joy. The Queen dreaded all things reminding her daughter of the little Prince. At the same time, the Smoky Frog became darker, denser, more sinister in the depth of the lake, while the Princess turned into a lazy, lethargic girl, as if life had left her. While the Frog-Prince yearned more and more for a life with the Princess, the shadowless girl became vainer, shallower, a dejecting company. She learnt poetry by heart without understanding, suspected all the Castle workers as traitors, imagined people of other lands as thieves. She also developed a habit of hitting her friends for no reason. She had violent temper tantrums, and became the culprit for foot stomping, door slamming, high decibel howling. She threatened her playmates not to tell on her, which allowed her cruelty while getting away with it due to her high status. At the same time, she cried in her bed every night because of her severe headaches and her conviction that she had messed-up her life. At times she did not care to speak to her friends nor anyone in the castle. She looked on others as malevolent beings seeking to harm her. Everyone barely tolerated her. With the exception of Mother Simorq who persisted in treating the troubled girl with kindness, providing her with home-schooling, accompanying her in daily horseback-riding for the purpose of relaxation, meditation, maintaining an enduring connection to nature.
By the time Nisha reached the age of fourteen, her urges for wild behaviors had diminished. To everyone’s relief, she had cooled a good deal. Under the guidance of her nanny-teacher, she had learnt to manage her urges, which had not lost their intensity. She tended to no longer act on impulse. Instead, knowing herself and all else had become a daily obsession of hers. As the summer arrived, some of Nisha’s friends followed their families to the rice paddy fields on the shore of the Caspian Sea to work. For the Princess, summer meant a time of complete relaxation after three seasons of studies with Mother Simorq.
One beautiful morning Nisha grabbed her copper manuscript of stories, placed it in a wooden basket with a small lunch beside a bottle-gourd of water, and headed to the Castle stable to bring out her horse, Atash, a four year-old chestnut stallion. By now, the Princess had become a skilful horseback-rider. Patting her steed and making sure he stayed munching grass, she meditated upon most women’s amazing ability to relate to horses. “Unlike men,” she mused, “we are not preoccupied by the need to dominate a horse. We find fulfillment in achieving a harmonious relationship, which empowers both horse and rider.” No wonder today’s princesses too opt for horseback-riding to relax, bypassing machines >>> Part 4
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