These are not new fairy-tales, the ones in this book that has been newly made for you and placed in your hands. They are old fairy-tales gathered together, some from one country, and some from another. They are old, old, old. As old as the hills or the human race, — as old as truth itself. Long ago, even so long ago as when your grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother was a little rosy-cheeked girl, and your grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather was a noisy shouting little boy, these stories were old.
No one knows who first told them, nor where nor when. Perhaps none of them was told by any one particular person. Perhaps they just grew upon the Tree of Wisdom when the world was young, like shining fruit, and our wise and simple first parents plucked them, and gave them to their children to play with, and to taste. They could not harm the children, these fruits from the tree of wisdom, for each one was a lovely globe of truth, rich and wholesome to the taste. Magic fruit, for one could eat and eat, and still the fruit was there as perfect as ever to be handed down through generations, until at last it comes to you, as beautiful as in those days of long ago.
Perhaps you did not know that fairy tales were ever truths, but they are — the best and oldest of them. That does not mean they are facts like the things you see around you or learn from history books. Facts and truths are as different as the body and the spirit. Facts are like the body that we can see and touch and measure; we cannot see or measure the Spirit, but it is there.
We can think of these truths as of different shapes and colors, like pears and apples, and plums and other fruits, each with a different taste and color. But there is one great truth that flows through them all, and you know very well what it is: — evil in the end must always defeat itself, and in the end good always triumphs. The bad magician is tripped up by his own tricks, and the true prince marries the princess and inherits the kingdom. If any one of these stories had told it otherwise, that story would have died and withered away.
So take this book and read, being very sure that only good will come to you however often you read them over and over and over again.
There were once a King and Queen who had no children, though they had been married for many years. At last, however, a little daughter was born to them, and this was a matter of great rejoicing through all the kingdom.
When the time came for the little Princess to be christened, a grand feast was prepared, and six powerful fairies were asked to stand as her godmothers. Unfortunately the Queen forgot to invite the seventh fairy, who was the most powerful of them all, and was also very wicked and malicious.
On the day of the christening the six good fairies came early, in chariots drawn by butterflies, or by doves or wrens or other birds. They were made welcome by the King and Queen, and after some talk they were led to the hall where the feast had been set out. Everything there was very magnificent. There were delicious fruits and meats and pastries and game and everything that could be thought of. The dishes were all of gold, and for each fairy there was a goblet cut from a single precious stone. One was a diamond, one a sapphire, one a ruby, one an emerald, one an amethyst, and one a topaz. The fairies were delighted with the beauty of everything. Even in their own fairy palaces they had no such goblets as those the King had had made for them.
They were just about to take their places at the table when a great noise was heard outside on the terrace. The Queen looked from the window and almost fainted at the sight she saw. The bad fairy had arrived. She had come uninvited, and the Queen guessed that it was for no good that she came. Her chariot was of black iron, and was drawn by four dragons with flaming eyes and brass scales. The fairy sprang from her chariot in haste, and came tapping into the hall with her staff in her hand.
“How is this? How is this?” she cried to the Queen. “Here all my sisters have been invited to come and bring their gifts to the Princess, and I alone have been forgotten.”
The Queen did not know what to answer. She was frightened. However, she tried to hide her fear, and made the seventh fairy as welcome as the others. A place was set for her at the King’s right hand, and he and the Queen tried to pretend they had expected her to come. But for her there was no precious goblet, and when she saw the ones that had been given to the six other fairies her face grew green with envy, and her eyes flashed fire. She ate and drank, but she said never a word.
After the feast the little Princess was brought into the room, and she smiled so sweetly and looked so innocent that only a wicked heart could have planned evil against her.
The first fairy took the child in her arms and said, “My gift to the Princess shall be that of contentment, for contentment is better than gold.”