By Batiushka for the Saker blog

A Story to Read to your Children or Grandchildren

Once upon a time, actually not that long ago, there was a Wicked Queen of the West, who was so vain and loved herself so much that she could not love anyone else. That was why there was no King. So she would look into mirrors all the time and compare herself to others. She thought that she was exceptional, above everyone else. Now the Wicked Queen had studied dark magic and thought she was so strong she could do absolutely anything she wanted. Having conquered the Kingdom of the West by cunning, she thought that all the other kingdoms of the world should bow down and worship her. In particular, she had a magic mirror and every day she would ask it:

‘Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who’s the strongest of them all’?

Each time this question was asked, the mirror would give the same answer, ‘You, O Queen, are the strongest of them all’.  This pleased the Queen greatly, as she loved herself so much and also knew that her magic mirror could tell nothing but the truth.

But one morning when the Queen asked:

‘Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who’s the strongest of them all?’

She was shocked when it answered:

‘You, my Queen, are strong, it is true,
But Snow White is stronger than you’.

Her vanity aroused, the Queen flew into a jealous rage and ordered all the thirty huntsmen who belonged to her HATO (Huntsmen And Trappers Organisation) not to talk to anyone who liked Snow White or even to buy and sell her things. Then she commanded them all to go into the forest and make the bad people in the forest kill Snow White, giving them lots of gold and guns and teaching them how to use the guns. Very, very angry, she demanded the huntsmen return with the heart of Snow White as proof that she was dead.

So the huntsmen took all their guns and gave lots of gold to the bad forest people to kill Snow White. But the bad forest people and the huntsmen fired at everything that moved and soon ran out of bullets. Seeing that the bad forest people had not killed Snow White, the thirty huntsmen decided instead to kill an evil genie who the Wicked Queen had released into the forest just a few years before. So they killed the evil genie and took the Queen its heart. As for Snow White, she was very pleased when she learned that the evil genie was dead, as it had been horrible to all the good forest people, who had now woken up from the spell the Wicked Queen had cast on them and were free at last.

Having avoided the huntsmen, Snow White decided to visit the House of the Three Kings that belonged to the Kings of the North, South and East. When she saw their house, she went inside to rest. Inside the house there was a table with a tidy white tablecloth and three plates.  Against the wall there were three beds, all in a row and covered with quilts. As she was very hungry, Snow White ate some bread from each plate and drank some milk from each cup. Afterwards, as she was very tired, she lay down on one of the beds and fell fast asleep.

In the evening the Three Kings came home. They had been mining for minerals in the mountains and made them into useful things which they sold in the markets.  They all worked so hard that they did not even have the time to find wives. As soon as they got home, they saw that someone had been there – for not everything was in the same order as they had left it.

The first one said: ‘Who’s been eating my bread?’
The second one said: ‘Who’s been drinking from my cup?’

But the third one, looking at his bed, found Snow White lying there asleep. The Three Kings all came running up and cried out with amazement.  They fetched their three candles and shone the light on Snow White.

‘Good heavens!’ they cried. ‘It’s Snow White. She has come to see us!’

They were so happy that they did not wake her up, but let her sleep in the bed.  The next morning Snow White woke up and saw the Three Kings.

‘How did you find your way to our house?’ asked the Three Kings.

She told them how the Wicked Queen had ordered the bad people in the forest to kill her, but that the guns of the thirty huntsmen and the guns they had given to the forest people did not work any more and so she had come to their house to rest.

The Three Kings spoke with each other for a while and then said: ‘We are not married because we work so hard. If you can keep house for us, give us food and keep us warm and keep everything clean and tidy, then we can all have everything we want’.

‘Yes’, said Snow White, ‘Let’s agree’. For Snow White greatly enjoyed keeping a tidy home with her friends.

So Snow White lived happily with the Three Kings.  Every morning they went into the mountains looking for minerals and making and selling things. Every evening when they came back home Snow White had their meal ready and their house tidy. During the day the girl was alone, except for the small animals that she often played with.

Now the Wicked Queen of the West, believing that she had eaten the heart of Snow White, could only think that she was once more the strongest of all.  She stepped in front of her mirror and said:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who’s the strongest of them all?

It answered:

You, my Queen, are strong, it is true,
But Snow White in the mountains blue
With the Three Kings who all good do
Is much, much, much stronger than you.

This shocked the Queen, for she knew that the mirror did not lie. She was very, very angry and realised that the huntsmen had tricked her, that the bad forest people had not known how to use the guns and had spent all the gold HATO had given them. Now she knew that Snow White was still alive and had made friends with the Three Kings. So she thought and thought how she could rid herself of Snow White. As long as she was not the strongest woman in the world, her jealousy and vanity would give her no rest.

At last she thought of something. She went to her White Palace and into her most secret room which was oval in shape. There she made a poisoned apple which she called ‘Democracy’.  From the outside it was beautiful and anyone who saw it would want it.  But anyone who might eat a little piece of it would die. Colouring her face with something called PR cream, she disguised herself as an old woman, so that no one would recognise her, travelled to the Kings’ House and knocked on the door.

Snow White put her head out of the window and said: ‘I’m not letting anyone in’.

‘That’s all right with me, my dear’, answered the old woman. ‘Here, let me give you one of my lovely apples’.

‘No’, said Snow White, ‘I won’t take anything from strangers’.

‘Are you afraid of poison, my dear?’ asked the old woman. ‘Look, I’ll cut the apple in two.  You eat half and I’ll eat half’.

Now the apple had been so artfully made that only one half of it was poisoned. Snow White was so innocent and so longed for the beautiful apple, that when she saw the old woman eating half of it, she could no longer resist. So she put her hand out and took the poisoned half.  She barely had a bite in her mouth when she fell to the ground, apparently dead.

The Wicked Queen looked at her with an evil stare, cackled loudly and croaked: ‘White as the snow, red as the flower, black as the crow, and just a regional power!  The Three Kings shall never awaken you’.

Back at home she asked her mirror:

‘Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who’s the strongest of them all’?

It answered:

‘You, my Queen, are the strongest of them all’.

Then her cruel and jealous heart was at rest, as much as a cruel and jealous heart can ever be at rest. And so the Wicked Queen issued a cancelling decree all over the Kingdom of the West that no-one must ever speak of Snow White again.

Now when the Three Kings came home that evening, they found Snow White lying on the floor.  She was not breathing at all.  She seemed to be dead.  They lifted her up and looked at her longingly.  They talked to her, shook her and wept over her. But nothing helped. They laid her on a bed of straw and all three sat next to her and mourned for her and cried for three days. They were going to bury her, but she still looked as fresh as a living person and still had beautiful red cheeks.

They said, ‘We cannot bury her in the black earth’, and they had a transparent glass coffin made so she could be seen from all sides.  They laid her inside it and with golden letters wrote her name on it and that she was a Princess.  Then they put the coffin outside and one of them always stayed with it and watched over her. The animals too came and mourned for Snow White, firstly a wise owl, then a strong eagle and finally a peaceful dove.

Now it came to pass that a Prince who was travelling in the mountains with his soldiers happened onto the Kings’ House, where he sought shelter for the night. He saw the coffin with Snow White in it and read what was written on it with golden letters. Then he said to the Three Kings: ‘Let me buy the coffin from you.  I will give you anything you want for it’.

But the Kings answered: ‘We will not sell it for all the gold in the world’.

Then he said, ‘Then give it to me, for I cannot live without being able to see Snow White.  I will honour her and respect her as my most cherished one’.

When he said this, the good Kings felt sorry for him and gave him the coffin. The Prince had his soldiers carry it away on their shoulders. But then one of them stumbled over a stone and that freed the piece of poisoned apple which had lodged in Snow White’s throat.  At once she coughed it up, opened her eyes, lifted the lid from her coffin, sat up and was alive again.

‘Good heavens, where am I?’ she cried out.

The Prince said joyfully: ‘You are with me’.  He told her what had happened, and then said: ‘I love you more than anything in the world.  Come with me to my castle and we shall be King and Queen’.  Snow White fell in love with him and went with him. When they got to the castle, the people were very happy and they invited the whole world to their wedding feast.

Now the Wicked Queen in the West was also invited to the wedding feast and when she had arrayed herself in her most beautiful garments, she stood before her mirror and said:

‘Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who’s the strongest of them all?’

The mirror answered:

‘You, my Queen, are not strong at all, it is true.
And the young Queen is much, much stronger than you’.

The Wicked Queen was furious. Not knowing that the young Queen was Snow White, she went to the wedding to try and kill her. But as soon as she saw her, she realised that she was Snow White. And at once the vain heart of the Wicked Queen filled with the deepest dread and she died in a rage of narcissism.

So, at last freed from her wickedness, the Kingdom of the West began to make friends with the Three Kings of the North, South and East. Having forgotten the Wicked Queen completely, he became the Fourth King. The whole Family was together again at last. And soon after that the Four Kings took wives and were very happy.

As for the King and Queen Snow White, every year on the anniversary of their freedom from wickedness, they would hold a huge ball to which they invited the Four Kings from the Four Kingdoms of the world and all their families. And there they would all make merry and the music and the feasting and the singing and the dancing and the laughing would last until dawn. And so they lived happily ever after.

13 February 2023

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