It’s been a long time since I did a Princess of The Week; a series where I look beyond Snow White and Beauty, to the Awesome heroines who are just as strong and adventurous as their male counterparts Last time, we looked at a dragonslayer and a woman who used her wits to become the Sultan.
This week- as part of the prompt of the day challenge (inspired by the theme of magic)- we’re going to look at The Crystal Ship, a story where a young girl travels to the ends of the kingdom to rescue her Prince.
PART I. A MYSTERIOUS MARKETPLACE
Once upon a time in an ancient land, lived a merchant who traded his goods all over the Kingdom; before a particularly long journey, he called his three daughters over to him.
“I’m about to sail to a city where Merchants travel from every corner of the kingdom sell their goods. What would you like me to bring back as a gift?”
“A gown- a beautiful gown!” blurted out the middle daughter.
“A gown-an, even better one!” said the oldest.
“Now what can I get you, my youngest?”
The youngest smiled; she was a girl who spent a lot of time listening to her wise mother’s stories. She knew that foreign markets sold wonders beyond anything her wildest dreams- magical rings Djinns, apples that could heal any illness, and flying carpets.
So as soon as her father told her about his trip to the mysterious land along the great rivers, she had run to her mother to ask her what she should request. Her mother had whispered something in her ear, so the others wouldn’t hear. Now, the youngest repeated what her mother had tole her:
“I would like some Cluster of Pearl, please.” said the youngest (or Lulu Anaqidu in Arabic).
The father smiled.
“Cluster of Pearl? Sounds easy enough,” said the merchant, “No problem. I promise I’ll return as soon as possible with your gifts.”
The merchant turned away and prepared to go on his voyage, unaware what magic lay ahead for him…
II. THE SHIP WHICH WON’T LEAVE PORT
The Merchant boarded the vessel and sailed up the great rivers.He kept his promise to the two oldest girls and bought them gowns worthy of a Sultana. He couldn’t help but smile when he imagined the look of happiness on his three daughters’ faces when they saw their treasures…then his face dropped.
‘No!’ he cried out, ‘ My youngest! The Pearls!’
He ran to the Captain and begged him to let him off the ship.
“Go and do what ye need to do, and we’ll not leave this port until yer promise be fulfilled.”said the Captain with a gruff nod.
III. THE MYSTERIOUS PALACE
The father ran through the town; he asked every merchant, old and young, rich and poor, if they sold Clusters of Pearl. But no one knew what it was. No one knew where to find it. Even the merchants who specialized in jewels didn’t have a clue!
“Allah have mercy!” cried the Merchant, “How can it be so hard to find Cluster of Pearl?”
“What is it that’s making you look so unhappy?”
The Merchant turned around to see an, old beggar leaning against an alleyway.
“It’s my daughter,” said the Merchant, “I promised to bring her back Cluster of Pearl, but no matter where I ask, no one here knows who will sell it!”
The old man gave a quiet chuckle.
“Of course they don’t!” he said, “Cluster of Pearl is not something you buy. Go to the palace of the Sultan over there and tell him your request, and you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
The old man raised a crooked finger and pointed at something behind the merchant. The merchant turned around and looked where the old man was pointing. In the near distance was a beautiful palace, shimmering in the burning sunlight as if it was made out of gold and emerald. The Merchant blinked. He’d been in this city all day, how had he not noticed it was there? He turned round.
The old man had disappeared.All that remained was a strange whiff of smoke in the air. He scratched his head. What on earth was happening?
IV. THE PRINCE OF THE DJINN
The Merchant approached the palace. It was the most beautiful building he had ever seen. The gardens were lush and filled with exotic birds of every colour, singing together in greater harmony than he had ever heard birds sing Before. There was something almost too perfect about it…
The throne room was even stranger. The walls were painted with dazzling emeralds, rubies and lapis lazuli, showing dozens of strange scenes. In one picture there was a genie escaping a giant bottle, glowing red with rage as a man knelt before him begging for his life. Another showed a beautiful princess and a small, hideous man holding a bar of steel above his head.
Sitting on a bed of pillows in the center of the room was a young boy. He was so beautiful that the air seemed to stand still around him.
“Greetings,” said the beautiful youth, “I am the son of the Sultan of the Djinn. What is that brings a mortal like you to our castle?”
The merchant’s eyes widened. A Djinn, he thought. I’m in a Djinn’s kingdom? He’d heard his wife tell stories about these mysterious creatures. Sometimes they were helpful, but sometimes they were deadly and destroyed anyone who crossed their path. What have I been brought into? he thought. He whispered a silent prayer under his breathe. Allah give me protection.
“Your majesty, ” said the merchant, bowing low, “I seek Cluster of Pearl and I was told to come here.”
To his surprise, the boy’s eyes were shining with excitement.
“I am Cluster Of Pearl, and it must have been fate which guided you to me…” said the boy. He took a beautiful blue box out of his pocket and handed it to the merchant, “Go! Take this small box. In it are three hairs. Give them to your daughter and tell her to sit in an empty room, near a bare threshold in a place apart, all by herself. When she is alone, let her rub the three hairs together. Whatever appears to her, she must not utter a word or cry aloud for fear, but must say “Mashallah!” (God has willed) three times.’
V. MAGIC, THE PRINCE AND LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
“Sisters! Sisters! Father’s back!” cried the middle daughter, “Father’s come home!”
When the youngest approached her father, she felt nervous and excited.Cluster of Pearl? Was it a kind of magical jewellery? she wondered.What had her mother had in mind for her?
When the merchant turned to the youngest, his face became serious. He silently handed her the box.
“This is Cluster of Pearl?” said the youngest. She opened the box and saw three hairs. She looked up at him. “I don’t understand.”
“I don’t know what strange sorcery your mother’s gotten us into,” said her father, “Clusters of Pearl is the name of the son of the Sultan of the Djinn. He gave me this to give you and told me to relay some weird instructions.”
The girl looked at her mother who said nothing as the merchant told them the Djinn’s instructions; she only smiled and nodded. That night, the mother bathed and perfumed her. The girl went to sit in the bare threshold her mother had prepared.
“Okay, let’s do this.” said the girl. She took the hairs and rubbed them together. Nothing happened. The daughter sat in the empty room, wondering if her dad had been swindled.
Then, the bare threshold started to glitter blue. The girl blinked. Instead of looking out into nothingness, she found herself looking towards a beautiful midnight lake. And sailing on that lake, glowing white like the moon, was a beautiful ship of pure crystal.
The girl was stunned, and she opened her mouth to scream but she clamped it shut. No, I have to be brave. She took a deep breath, and did what she was told : ‘Mashallah!’
The words seemed to pulled the ship closer.
A boy appeared on the ship’s deck. He was the most beautiful person the girl had ever seen. He smiled at her. The girl could barely speak he was so lovely, but she forced herself to say the word one more time:
The ship boarded and the beautiful boy stepped off. As he walked down the stairway his reflection remained frozen along the water, creating a dozen beautiful copies of himself.
Is this a dream? Thought the girl. But the Prince bowed and took her hand and kissed it softly. When she felt the warmth of his lips she knew it was real.
“I am the Prince of the Djinn.” said the boy, “Before I was born, my grandmother met a woman once and it was prophesised that one day I would fall in love with her daughter! I’ve been waiting so long to meet you.”
The Prince sat down with the girl. He told her all about the prophecy and his father’s kingdom and the Djinn. Each night he came to see her in that ship made out of crystal, and as they spoke with each other they found themselves falling deeper and deeper in love. But one night, the Prince seemed awfully quiet. He didn’t say anything until the first ray of sunlight began to glitter on the water of the mysterious lake.
‘Could you promise me something?’ asked the Prince, ‘If… If anything were to happen to me- if we were separated, if I couldn’t come and see you, come find me. Put on these iron shoes and take this staff.’
‘What are you talking abot?’ said the girl, ‘Is there something…’
‘Just promise me!’ said the Prince, ‘Please, I’m depending on you.’
The girl nodded. The Prince smiled. He let go of her hand. The girl was left watching as the prince walked away, as he sailed away into the vibrant light of dawn. Little did the girl know that this was the last time she would ever see the Prince sail in his ship of Crystal.
Meanwhile, her older sister saw how happy her younger sister had become, and was overcome by a fierce jealousy.
When her sisters were bathing, the oldest sister stole the box. She sat in the bare threshold and rubbed the hairs together.When she saw the ship sailing towards her, she screamed.
“Oh Allah! What’s happening!”
Invoking Allah’s name against a Djinn had a deadly effect. A mighty crash filled the air. The crystal ship was ripped apart. In the distance the older sister saw a beautiful boy, screaming… screaming as a hundred splinters of crystal stabbed him through the heart. He fell into the lake and the whole scene faded into oblivion. The older sister fell to her knees.
“What have I done?” she said. She collected herself and took a deep breathe. No one will know it’s me. I’ll take the box and put it back in her robe. No one will be able to prove it’s me. She thought to herself. I’ve done nothing wrong. It was my sister’s fault. All her fault.
But regardless of what she told herself, when she saw her sister, she couldn’t bear to look her in the eye. When she saw her sister head to the empty room, she cried more than she’d ever done in her life.
The youngest sister went into the room and rubbed the hairs together, same as always. She waited; she waited and waited. But the Prince never came. The cold night’s wind never changed the fresh air of the lake. She was left staring out into an empty abyss.
“Why hasn’t he come?” said the girl, her heart sinking.
Then she remembered her sister’s strange behaviour. Remembered the Prince’s words…
“No… this can’t be!” cried the girl, “My older sister did this, I know it! Now I know something terrible’s happened to the Prince.”
As the first rays of dawn broke through the sky, the daughter ran to her father.
“Father, please, something terrible’s happened to the Prince.” she said, “I promised him if anything were to happen, I’d go find him. Please, I need you to make me shoes and a staff of iron so I can go and search for him.”
“You can’t!” said the merchant, “The desert’s filled with thieves and spirits- you can’t go alone!”
“I must.” said the girl, “I made a promise. I can’t break that, no matter what.”
She took her father’s hands.
“Father.” she looked down, “Please. Let me go.I have to help him… if anything happened to him, I couldn’t live with myself.”
The merchant looked at his daughter. He was torn between the desire to see her happy and the wish to protect her. In the end, he looked at his wife.
“You seem to know more about this than any of us. What do you say?”
“Let her go.” said the mother, “Allah will protect her.”
“Very well,” said her father. He squeezed his daughter’s hands “But stay safe. Disguise yourself as a man so you won’t be harassed. And most of all, be vigilant at all times.”
The daughter nodded. She took the iron shoes and staff and began her journey. She wandered over deserts, valleys and towns. She travelled day and night, refusing to remove her iron shoes even they were so heavy they made her legs feel like lead. The desert was a dangerous place, filled with malicious Djinn
who thought that a young girl on her own would be easy prey, but they couldn’t touch her; the iron repelled them.
Then one day, she reached a small town and rested for a while under a tree. Two birds flew above her and landed on the lowest branch of the tree. But they weren’t any old birds; this was the land of the Djinn, and even the animals weren’t normal.
As they perched on the tree above her, they began to whisper.
“If this maiden be sleeping, her fate is sealed.”
“But if she’s listening, her Prince is healed.”
The girl’s heart began to race. She knew how animals could convey deep truths if you were vigilant. She gripped her robes.
“If she wants to save the Prince, she must pretend to be a physician. She must smear her Prince with her blood and feathers which will create a fedu ransom charm. When she does, the splinters will fall out.”
The girl’s heart begins to race. She spied them out of the corner of the eye. She tensed up and knelt down. As soon as the birds looked away she swiveled around, leaped towards them and grabbed them by their throats.
“Thanks for the help!” she said as she took what she needed and ran off. I hope I’m not too late.
“A Healer! A physician!” cried the girl as she ran through the palace garden. She spotted two pigeons in one of the trees. One of them nodded at her…they were missing feathers. Could they really be…
“You!” Came a deep voice. The girl spun around. An intimidating guard towered above her. “The Sultan told me to bring you to him. But beware.”
The guard knelt down and looked the girl in the eyes. His eyes were red.
“If you should treat the Prince, and you let him die, the Sultan will make you suffer a fate worse than death.Do you understand?”
The girl gulped and nodded. The guard brought the girl into the throne room. There she saw the mighty Sultan of the Djinn. He was half the height of the guard, but the girl could sense he was far more powerful. She bowed deeply.
“Who are you?” he said, his eyes narrowed. “Can you help my son?”
“I can.” said the girl bravely. She was afraid, but forced herself to stand tall,”I am a healer. If you bring your son to the Hamman (bath) and leave him along with me, I will heal him.”
The Sultan stared at her for a few seconds. She felt her knees shake… what if he saw through her disguise? But in the end, the Sultan nodded.
“Very well. Servants, do what she asks.”
She was brought to the bath and left alone with the Prince. The steam seemed to take the shape of mysterious figures who appeared to dance in the air before disappearing… Her mother had told the her that Hammams were supposed to be inhabited by spirits, so she hoped it would increase the power of her charm.
She walked over to the Prince. When she saw his weakened figure lying in the bath, she felt her heart tighten in her chest. What had been done to him? He looked up at her, his once bright eyes dull and half closed.
“You… look familiar somehow,” he said weakly, “Who are you?”
“I’m a healer, ” said the girl, “I’m here to save you.”
She said a silent prayer. She took the blood and feathers of the birds and smeared it across the wound. The Prince closed his eyes…
Suddenly, shards of Crystals flew from the boys wound. They spun and floated in the air and glowed green before they disappeared. The girl looked at her Prince. He was standing up, wrapped in a robe, his eyes shining with light once again. Tears of relief stung her eyes.
“You saved me!” said the boy, “But… why are you crying?”
The girl took off her headdress and let her long, black hair fall down her back. The boy’s eyes widened.
“You?” said the boy. “You came for me?”
“You didn’t think I would break my promise, did you?” said the girl through her tears, “All this time… I was so scared. I thought I’d lost you forever.”
The girl hugged the Prince tightly. She didn’t want to let him go… she didn’t want to lose him ever again, but the boy pulled her away. He smiled at her, brushing the hair out of her face.
“It’s okay, I’m here.” He said, “Come. See my father; we’ll never have to say goodbye ever again.”
IX. WEDDING BELLS
The Prince and the merchant’s daughter approached the Sultan of the Djinn, and the girl prostrated herself before him.
“Daughter of man, you crossed valleys and deserts, risked thieves and the wrath of the Djinn to save my son?” said the Sultan,” Rise, young one. If you had failed, I would have had you thrown off the palace walls, but now that you succeeded, I will always call you daughter. You will have my son’s hand in marriage and become a princess of the Djinn.”
The whole palace was decorated in lavish jewels for the most fantastic wedding ever have happened. After the two married, the girl became the Princess of Djinn and she lived happily in the land of the Djinn. Fate may have brought them together, but it was the Princess’ courage that allowed her to save him, and it was their love that made them happy for the rest of their days.