An adapted folktale from China
First read this story from Rose Owen, the Storylady’s web page - http://www.civprod.com/storylady/
There is a version of this story in Marie Shedlock’s classic book – The Art of the Story Teller. Richard Martin http://www.talesandmusic.de has the bones of the story on his web page (click on Tales in the toolbar).
Once, long ago there lived a king. He had but only one daughter who was his pride and joy. But now that the king was aging he feared that when he died she would have no one to care for her and protect her as befitting a princess. He set forth a proclamation to summon the young men to court. Many came, but all were turned away. One day the princess said to her father, “Let me stay with you and care for you. I have no desire to marry and leave you.” Her father remained steadfast. But, finally, he did agree to allow her to name one qualification that her chosen husband must meet – wealth, looks, strength, intelligence or ability, whatever. The princess said she would name that qualification on the morrow.
That evening the princess went for a walk in the royal garden with the gardener’s son – her childhood friend. “If I say my husband must be fair of face, he may be handsome, but have a hardened soul. If I say he must be wealthy, he may be rich, but stingy in the ways of the heart. Oh, what qualification should I make?”
“Perhaps, you should make it some sort of test,” mused the gardener’s son. “Difficult, but not impossible. Make it ambiguous enough that it will up to you to determine whether the man qualifies.” Far into the night they discussed what that test should be.
The next morning the princess met with her father. “Father, I will marry the man who can bring me a blue rose.”
As you can imagine the line of suitors came to an abrupt halt – for none could find a blue rose.
Several months passed before a wealthy merchant decided he wanted to marry princess. Afterall the added wealth of the king’s ransom would make him the richest man in the whole kingdom. He did not want to waste any of his precious time looking for a blue rose. Time was money! So he went to a flower vendor. He placed a bag of gold on the vendor’s cart and said, “If you can acquire a blue rose, this bag of gold is yours.” The vendor took a strong blue dye and added it to a vase. He cut the end of the stem of a white rose and let it sit. Soon the petals of the rose turned pale blue. As the vendor gladly accepted the gold he said, “Keep the rose in the vase until you are ready to present it to the princess or it may wither and die.”
The merchant brought the rose to the princess. When she reached out to take the rose, a drop of blue dye puddled in her hand. She looked not only at the blue rose, but the bluish-green leaves and then into the eyes of the merchant. He could not look at her. “You have tried to deceive me. What you have given me is false. I would have a husband that is true.” And the merchant went away in disgrace.
Several more weeks passed when a handsome young warrior decided he wanted the hand of the beautiful princess. Afterall, she would look lovely on his arm as he came home from war. He was strong and powerful and no one dared to stand against him. Since there were no blue roses to be had in this kingdom, he went to see the king of a neighboring kingdom and said, “Bring me a blue rose or I will kill you and half the people in your village.” The king, who valued peace and did not wish to fight, called for an artisan who carved an exquisite rose from a blue sapphire.
When he presented it to the princess she looked into his eyes and could see they were as cold and hard as the rose made of stone. “This is not a rose. I cannot marry you. I must have a rose that is soft and gentle not cold and hard.”
Now the youngest of the king's advisors also sought the hand of the princess. He was very smart. He knew how to play all the angles. He knew if he married the princess he would be the most powerful man in the kingdom. So he went to see the wizard. “Fashion me a blue rose,” he commanded. “It must fool all who look but most especially the princess.” The wizard was able to capture the essence of a blue rose in a hologram that appeared inside a glass box.
When he presented it to the princess, the court was astounded. Surely, the princess would recognize this as a blue rose. It was magnificent. And indeed the princess was fascinated. However, when she reached out to touch it, the image slipped through her fingers. “This is not a blue rose, but merely smoke and mirrors. I will not marry someone who twists and turns things around to his advantage. I will not marry you.”
Later that night the princess sat in the garden with the gardener’s son. “None of them could bring me a blue rose. I must marry someone who is honest and true – as you have been. He cannot be hard and cruel, but someone kind and patient – as you have been. I do not want a husband who seeks only the power of one day becoming king, but someone who will value me for who and what I am – as you have.”
“Princess,” said the young man, “Tomorrow, I will bring you the blue rose. Wait for me in the blue room just before sundown.”
The next day the sun was almost gone when the Princess and the royal court met in the blue room. The gardener’s son appeared in the doorway carrying an ordinary white rose.
“Look! Its the gardener’s son. What is he doing here?”
“Is that a common white rose he is carrying?”
“Surely someone will send him away.”
The young man knelt before the princess. Through the blue stained glass the rays of the setting sun lit upon the petals of the white rose. The princess reached out and put her hand upon his. And through the murmurings of the court she said, “My people, let me tell you what I see. I see a young man who has always been honest and true. I see a man who has the courage to be patient and kind enough to wait until I knew what was in my heart. I see a man who values me for myself. In his hand he holds the gift of love. It is a blue rose, because I say it is a blue rose
Need I tell you that the princess and the gardener’s son were married, and that they lived happily ever after – not because this storyteller said it should be so nor that all good fairy tales say that it should be so. But because the princess and the young man knew their happiness was in their own hands and that each was responsible for making sure the other was happy.