I’m declaring this illustration by beloved Czech artist Josef Lada to be a wedding celebration, like that of Clever Manka and the king (which they undoubtedly had even though it is not in the story.)

“Whew,” Simplia said, flinging her luggage through the door first, then stumbling in herself. “I thought we’d never get home. I’m ready to hit the sack!

“Me, too,” Sagacia sighed, pulling her suitcase in behind her. “I wouldn’t trade getting to be in the women’s march for anything in the world, but it’s good to be home!”

The Simpletons heaved a great sigh and looked around them at the old home place. Yep. Everything looked the same. Except for the mountain of mail Flossie Squashblossom had left on the table for them. In spite of long hours sitting in the car, Sagacia pulled out a chair and sat herself down.

“I may go through some of this before turning in,” she said. “I need a few moments to unwind, or I’ll never go to sleep.”

“Me, too, pro’bly,” Simplia said. “I’ll put on some tea.”

“Junk,…junk, …junk ,…” Sagacia said, flipping post cards and “junk…” envelopes with less than “junk,…” 28-cents worth of postage on them. “Bill…” she continued starting a second pile. “Junk,…junk,…bill…”

“Cha cha cha,” Simplia sang.

“Junk…” Sagacia ignored her. “Junk,…Charles Kiernan!” she exclaimed. “We have an actual letter!

“Oh!” Simplia exclaimed! It’s pro’bly about that question. You know, the one about whether fairy tale monarchs are ever good or wise or generous or honest?”

“Yeah, I remember,” Sagacia said. “Just hush up and listen!” and she began reading:

I am scandalized that anyone would question Vasilisa the Wise! She has become royalty and royalty possess magic. Of what greater authority should we ask of those who live in castles?

I am reminded of Grimm’s The Goose Girl. The goose girl was really a princess who, through personal failings, lost her status, but, because of her birth—possessing magic—the “old king” saw her worth and restored her to her true position.

The point is, the old king recognized her as not a commoner because she raised a wind to blow off poor Conrad’s hat and he needed to chase it, leaving her in peace to comb her hair. Commoners do not have magic. (Her nemesis died in a barrel lined with nails, but that’s a different point.)

In modern western terms, royalty have become symbolic figureheads of state where they have survived at all. The real royalty are now the rich. We now give them the same respect, deference, underlying hostility, and assumption of special wisdom that earlier commoners extended to the kings, queens, princes, and princesses.

I find myself begging the question: Do the rich possess magic? Well, how do they make so much money? Are they turning lead into gold? As I understand it, the rich do not horde wealth, they create wealth. Does that not sound magical?

Who are we, the commoners without magic, to judge the actions and ethics of the new royalty?

As my words echo away from me, down the dark castle corridors of argument, I become less fond of them. Perhaps Cynical in Cynghordy should retain their skepticism and I keep my mouth shut.

“Never, Charles!” Simplia exclaimed. “Though I do understand how logic sometimes goes circular when you’re dealing with Fairy Tales.”

“Still,” Sagacia began, “A story needs evil. Adversity, you know. Or a trick or a test. And if it’s a story with a king in it, he’s the most likely to be assigned the part. He’s the most privileged, so the one who has the most to lose. Nobody cares if duke or marquis goes corrupt as long as there’s a good king around to right things again.”

“But what if the king just did one bad thing, but was really good?” Simplia asked. “Inside, I mean. What if he just had a flaw but rebounded in the end. Like Clever Manka’s king husband, or mayor, or whatever he was. He loved Manka dearly, admired her, and he was fair and good to his citizens. He just did one foolish thing, and when she tricked him into seeing what he’d done, he turned it all around. He repented.”

“Yeah,” Sagacia pondered. “Or the Lute Player’s king. The same thing happened to him. Midlife Crisis, I think.”

“Right,” Simplia proclaimed. “And the ‘story’ revolves around them righting themselves with a little help from their queens, in both cases. And the happily ever after comes when they admit their failing and go on, more committed than ever to their clever spouse.”

“I wonder,” Sagacia said, “And, after this—I really am going to bed—but, I wonder if it’s always the queen or the wife? Is there a story in which someone else, ‘rights’ the king.”

“I think I’ll sleep on that one,” Simplia said.

“Oh, I see through that ploy,” Sagacia said, scooting out her chair. “You’re just hoping one of our magical friends will come up with the answer while you’re sleeping!” She stood and pushed the chair back under the table. “Well, so do I!” she said.