I hear feet treading in the hallway. Let me guess. Thalia coming to visit her poor old grandfather laid up with a twisted ankle. The door opens and Thalia walks in backwards towing some else’s hand with both of hers.
“Melissa.” I start to rise to greet her, but pain sets me back down in my comfy chair.
Thalia pulls Melissa to me, who with a bemused smile, hands me the copy of The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales that I ordered.
“Oh,” I say, “You needn’t have taken all the trouble.”
“No trouble, really.” Her smile turns kindly. I gesture for her to take a seat. “Just for a minute,” she says.
“Read.” Thalia flopped into my lap, sending a lightning bolt of pain up my leg.
I open the book. The first story—same as the book’s title—I have already read to Thalia from an extract, and I move on to the second story, The Enchanted Quill.
A man falls asleep on horseback, and after three years a crow wakes him up, requesting one of the man’s three sisters as a wife. The crow gives the man a small picture of itself and flies away.
Two of the sisters are disgusted by the bird’s image, but the third blushes and keeps the picture. The next day a grand carriage appears and it is the youngest that invites the crow into their home.
Soon, all three sisters and the crow are in the carriage traveling to his castle. The way is dark and gloomy, and the sisters are afraid they are on the road to hell until the way opens up into a forest of lemon trees.
Once inside the castle, the crow tells the two older sisters not to be too curious, then takes the youngest off into another room. Nonetheless curious, the two sisters peek through a keyhole to see the crow is a handsome young man.
In the next moment, all three sisters are standing under a fig tree, the crow up in the branches scolding them.
In order to save the crow, the youngest, following his instructions, travels to the nearest town, dressed in rags, to take the first job offered her. She ends up as the local prince’s cook for which she has no talent and is mocked by her fellow servants.
The crow reappears, giving her one of his feathers to use as a quill. Whatever she writes down will happen. She writes the names of fine dishes and they appear. Her reputation as the cook of the castle rises, and because she is beautiful, the caretaker decides he wants her for his own.
When he comes into her room, she tells him to shut the door, and writes down that he should shut the door all night long, which he does repeatedly.
A huntsman and another servant are also suitors, but the huntsman takes his boots off and on, and the servant closes up the dovecote all night long.
Angered, the three suitors go after the cook with whips. She grabs her quill and the suitors end by lashing each other.
The crow returns, transformed into a prince, and takes the youngest sister off to his castle.
“That’s it?” Thalia’s face turns up to mine.
“Yup, that’s it. What did you think?”
“Sort of like it. I like crows, but weird.”
A good summation, I think.