“The Heartless Queen”
When the Queen was a little girl
Her mother told her
A little white lie:
“It’s my own fault
That your father doesn’t love me anymore,
But I’m sure he’ll love me again soon.”
But her mother was wrong,
And her husband never loved her again,
And she wasted away loveless and alone,
And soon the future queen was without a mother.
But her father had decided that he didn’t care for wives,
So he didn’t re-marry;
He preferred the single life.
When her father died,
The little girl became the Queen at last,
And she made her first proclamation to her court:
“I shall never wed, and I shall never love,
And I will not have a heart,
Because only through a heart
Can a queen be hurt or die.
This is the command of your Queen.
See to it.”
One of the men of the court objected.
“It is impossible not to have a heart!”
“Perhaps it is more possible not to have a head,”
The queen replied. “Let us find out.
Off with his head!”
The headsman obliged.
It was not possible to live without a head.
The men of the court scrambled to obey their queen.
They found doctors.
They found wizards.
They found witches.
They found shamans.
They found priests, faeries, giants and ogres.
But no one could remove the queen’s heart
Without her dying in the process.
The Queen sponsored a contest.
The one who could remove her heart
Without her dying would receive
A great prize.
The one who failed
Would lose his head.
Lawyers tried to prove,
That she never had a heart at all.
But the jury never bought it,
And the headsman had shiny new shoes,
And a legal-size briefcase to match.
Poets and song-writers sent their words–
From a safe distance in another country–
To beg the Queen to accept her Heart
And the beauty of Love,
But she was not swayed by their words,
And ordered that they lose their heads,
If they were fool enough to enter her borders.
(But they weren’t that stupid.)
A shyster, a con man and a thief
All came to town on the same day.
They decided to compete for the prize.
“I’ll convince her I’ve found the escrow papers
That prove her heart has already been removed,”
Said the shyster.
“I’ll convince her that I’ve found
A thousand and one
Ways to remove her heart,
Each better and more sure
Than the last,”
Said the con man.
“She’ll be paying me more
Gold than I can count.”
“I’ll just steal her heart,”
Laughed the thief.
“One way or the other.”
They made their wager–
A thousand gold coins,
To be paid from the Queen’s purse,
But of course!–
–and set about their plans.
The shyster waltzed right into court,
And presented himself to the Queen,
Forged documents in hand.
The Queen was not fooled,
And reminded him that she would have
Remembered having her heart removed,
Just as he will remember having
His head removed.
She was wrong:
He didn’t remember a thing.
The con man was wary.
He was quite attached to his head.
But he wanted that gold!
So he told the Queen of the miraculous emetic
Which would surely cause her to barf up her heart.
Disgusted, she ordered him beheaded at the very idea.
Some things were worse than having a heart,
As far as the Queen was concerned.
The thief came to court in disguise.
He called himself a prince,
Visiting from a neighboring land.
He said he came to woo the Queen.
She reminded him that she would not wed,
And was trying to rid herself of her heart.
“What better way to rid yourself of your heart,”
The thief replied, “than to give it away?”
The Queen was tempted to reply
“Off with his head!”
But stayed her tongue,
To prevent a war.
Besides, she thought he meant well.
“That is not what I had in mind,”
She replied instead.
“And I will not wed.”
The thief tried and tried further,
But to no avail.
What little heart the Queen had
Was apparently made of stone.
That night, the thief tried again.
He crept into the Queen’s chamber,
With all his thieving tools,
And tried to steal her heart
Right out of her chest.
But she opened her eyes,
And screamed out
“Off with his head!”
At least, as he was led away,
The thief could reflect that he alone
Actually deserved his death.
After that, people stopped trying.
They accepted that the Queen would always have her heart,
Even if it was made of stone.
Even if it refused to feel.
Even if it refused to love.
Some years later, a little girl came to the court.
She was a pretty little thing.
Ten years old, at most.
Sad-eyed and lonely.
Wearing ragged clothes,
With a weepy face.
The little girl went up to the Queen,
And said “I want to see my father.”
The Queen seemed puzzled by this.
“Why tell me this, little girl?”
The Queen replied.
“He came to remove your heart,”
The girl explained,
“And I never saw him since.”
The court was saddened.
The poor little girl!
To lose her father so young!
But the Queen was not moved.
“If your father failed to remove my heart,”
The Queen replied calmly,
“Then he lost his head in penalty.”
The little girl frowned.
“That isn’t right,”
She said, scowling at the Queen.
“How can you do something so awful if you have a heart?
You’re a bad, bad lady,
And you should be punished for being so evil!”
The Queen’s eyes flashed in anger.
“Do you dare to reproach me?!
Off with her head!”
The court was aghast.
But what could they do?
If they argued with the Queen,
They would die, too.
So they led the innocent little girl out.
The headsman was aghast, too.
But what could he do?
If he refused to do his duty,
A new executioner would execute him, too.
But he couldn’t chop that sweet little girl!
He had a daughter almost exactly her age, after all.
How could he face his own daughter, if he did in that other girl?
The executioner left the girl with his daughter,
And went to see the grave digger.
The grave digger was aghast.
But a little girl had died recently,
About the same size as the brave little girl.
If she was already dead,
Then she wouldn’t miss her head;
The Queen wouldn’t notice the difference,
Not from the royal box,
If she even watched the execution–
And she usually didn’t, anyway–
So the executioner and the grave digger
Swapped the dead girl for the live girl,
And cut off the head of the dead girl,
And the brave little girl was sent to a foreign land,
Where she was raised up as a princess,
By a queen who had no children of her own,
And taught fine words
By the same poets and singers
Whose words hadn’t moved the heart
Of the Heartless Queen.
When the brave little girl
Became a brave woman
And a noble queen herself,
Having married the prince of the land that raised her,
Leading an army.
And the Heartless Queen learned the truth:
Having a Heart or not having a Heart…
You die all the same, if your head is cut off.
Originally posted on 8/10/15.