The Flower Palace

Once upon a time there was a princess named Rose who lived in a glorious palace of flowers. A thick tangle of rose vines, all abloom, made up its walls. It’s roof was of interwoven lilies. The castle door was one enormous daisy with a teeny tiny tulip as a door handle. Princess Rose slept in a bed of petunias with a lovely geranium canopy. She drank her tea at a daffodil table with the cleverest little foxglove cups on zinnia saucers.

For generations, Princess Rose’s family had been tending the flower palace, planting and watering, pruning and shaping. Princess Rose was no exception. She was happy to spend her days caring for the living treasure that was her home. But in one way, her life was nothing like her mother’s or her grandmother’s. In her day, the palace was under a curse.

In the year that Princess Rose was born, a nefarious wizard came to live next door to the flower palace. He had a black heart and despised all things that grew and were beautiful, so naturally he hated the flower palace with all of his being. He searched all of his evil books and tried with all of his wicked power to destroy the palace, but he couldn’t do it. The palace had a power of its own, not the power of enchantments and spells, but the power that all things share that live and grow and feed on the earth, made even stronger by the love and wisdom of generations of caretakers. The wizard’s evil spells were no match for that kind of power. But not for nothing was he called nefarious. In his wickedness, he came up with a plan to erase the flower palace from his sight. In the dead of night, he cast his spell, a spell that hid the beauty of the flower palace. Whenever anyone looked at the palace, all they would see was a dismal castle of ordinary gray stone.

Princess Rose was only three years old when this spell was cast, and her father and mother did not live long after that dreadful day. So it was that life as she knew it was both beautiful and incredibly sad. She lived with loveliness from morning until night, but she could never share it with anyone. Once she was old enough to have visitors for dinner, she began to invite people she knew from the nearby town. She knew the power of the spell, but every time she still hoped. She would look around at the rose covered walls and think how much her friends would enjoy their fragrance. But then the friends would come, and all they would see were rough stone walls with no scent at all. Or Princess Rose would open her daisy door and picture the look on her friend’s face when she saw the exquisite tulip handle. But then the friend would come and see nothing but a thick wooden door with a dull brass handle, and Princess Rose would be disappointed again. None of Princess Rose’s friends could understand why she kept living all alone in such a cold and gloomy place. She had long since given up trying to explain it to them. If she talked of flowers, they only thought she was crazy, and no matter how many times she tried to show them the beauties of her home, they could never see what she saw. It was a lonely life and full of hard work. The flower palace was enormous, and there was enough work for a whole family of people, but Princess Rose was all alone.

On Princess Rose’s 18th birthday, she made a decision. Now that she was no longer a child, she wanted to do something to lift the curse that the wizard had placed on her home. She began to read her own kinds of books and talk to the gypsy people who passed through the town in order to learn what they knew of spells and counter spells. After much hard work, she discovered what she had been looking for. It was a special potion which was meant to open the eyes of anyone who drank it so that they could see the truth. It took many weeks to create the potion exactly as it was meant to be. Princess Rose gave up sleeping and eating until it was finished. At last, when it was ready, she invited her dearest friend to tea, and served her the potion in a charming foxglove teacup. Her friend drank it down and there was a pause. She looked around for a moment blinking rapidly, and Princess Rose held her breath. The her friend shrugged and went on chatting as usual. For just a moment she had thought she could distinctly smell the fragrance of a thousand roses, but then the sensation had gone away. The wizard’s curse was just too strong. Princess Rose was crushed. She knew that she had no hope of ever making anyone see how beautiful her palace was, and she felt so lonely she wanted to cry.

Then one day a young man in the clothes of a plain farmer came riding up to the castle. He got off his horse and walked slowly to the door, where he stopped. Princess Rose, who was watering the roof, saw him and thought how strange it was that he didn’t knock. Instead he very carefully reached out his hand and touched the door with one finger. Princess Rose put down her watering can. The young man was carefully brushing each petal of the daisy door. Princess Rose sat down hard among the lilies. He could see that the door was a flower. He could see it!

Princess Rose went slowly down the morning glory staircase. She could hardly believe what she had seen. With a deep breath, she opened the front door.

The young man stepped back. “You…you live here in this place?” he asked very softly.

“Yes,” said Princess Rose. “Do you like it?”

“Like it? Like it? It’s the most…wonderful…beautiful… I don’t have any words.”

“You can see the flowers?” breathed Princess Rose.

“I can’t see anything else,” said the young man. “How did such a place come to be?”

So Princess Rose invited the young man inside and told him the story of the flower palace and of the curse that was on it. The young man told her his story, too. His name was James, and he was the youngest son of a wealthy farmer who had seven sons. His brothers were taking over the farm, and so James’ father sent him off to make his own way in the world. He had traveled far and tried many jobs, but none that seemed to suit him. No matter where he went, he always eventually found a reason to move on. Not until he had seen the flower palace did he ever think he there could be one place worth staying forever.

So he stayed, first as a gardener and friend and then much, much later as Princess Rose’s husband. They never discovered a way to lift the curse and they never knew why James was able to see the flowers, but they did eventually have children, and the flower palace was filled with the laughter of a happy family. Soon friends gathered there who could not see the glorious beauty of the palace but who could feel the love that filled it.

And they all lived happily ever after.

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