(A Fairy Tale by me)
Once upon a time, there was a brave and noble knight.
It probably goes without saying that he was brave and noble, since these are generally the personality traits that a king is on the look-out for when hiring knights.
The knight and his colleagues had worked long and hard for their king, making sure that nobody in the kingdom was bothered by dragons, trolls or door-to-door salesmen. The kingdom was generally agreed by all to be the safest and most pleasant place there was. Villagers could go about untroubled by goblins. Peasants could earn their daily pittance without fear of mystical fire-breathing beasts. Knights could largely do as they pleased since there was so little evil that needed fought these days.
Our hero, being also the most handsome of the king's knights, was followed wherever he went by the beautiful young maidens of the villages he travelled though. But none of them caught his eye. His thoughts were only of daring deeds and valiant acts.
One day, the knight crossed over into a neighbouring kingdom, in the hopes of finding some poor villagers plagued by a dragon or an evil pixie, for so effective were the knights that dragons and evil pixies were hardly ever seen in their own kingdom any more.
Alas, the first village he came across was full of happy and prosperous villagers. Happy and prosperous villagers are all very well, but provide little amusement for a valiant knight. Particularly the kind of valiant knight who doesn't take much of an interest in pretty young maidens.
The knight rode on, until he found a castle, deep in a dark wood. Approaching the castle, he saw a small troop of men, riding towards the castle at great speed. Behind them, the knight could just make out the form of a huge, fire-breathing dragon! It was still a long way off, but approaching fast.
The knight grinned.
And drew his sword...
...and with one mighty swing...
...he had slain the dragon.
The troop of men turned and rode towards the knight. The man at the head of the troop wore a crown bejewelled with rubies and emeralds. Clearly a king of great worth and power. He addressed the knight.
"Noble knight! You have saved my castle from almost certain destruction by that foul beast! For your valiant deeds, I offer you my only daughter's hand in marriage! See, in yonder tower?"
The knight looked where the King pointed, and saw, in the topmost tower of the castle, the most beautiful princess he'd ever laid eyes on. Her flaxen hair shimmered in the sunlight, and her face shone like cruelty-free synthetic ivory. The knight instantly fell in love.
The princess and the knight met that night at a banquet held in the knight's honour. They exchanged pleasantries, idle chit-chat, and long, meaningful gazes. They talked of heroic deeds and moonlit strolls through leafy glades. At the end of the night, the princess turned to address the knight.
"Look, you're very sweet, and very handsome, but I'm afraid I don't love you. But I am loyal to my father, and so I shall marry you as he bids. I am sure you will be a good husband, even though I cannot love you in my heart."
The knight's own heart broke in two. He told her that he would not marry her if she did not love him. He kissed her cheek and turned to leave.
He was, after all, the very noblest of knights.
His heart breaking, the knight went to cry alone in the forest. It's not the done thing for a knight to let himself be seen crying in public. He sat on a lonely tree stump and sobbed and sobbed until no more tears came. He couldn't think how he could go through his days without his princess. But equally, he could not trap her in a loveless marriage.
Presently, a wise man came upon the dejected knight. He picked up a stick and poked the sobbing knight in the leg.
"You there! What's so bad that you cry so much, and frighten the little woodland creatures?"
"Ah, wise man, my heart is broken. I am in love with the princess, and she is promised to me by her father. But she says that she cannot love me, so I cannot bring myself to marry her."
"What you need, my young friend, is a love potion. No loveless marriages with a love potion, not with all the potion-induced love, and so forth!"
The knight followed the wise man to the village (where, naturally, the usual hordes of fair maidens swooned with love at the sight of the noble and handsome knight in his gleaming armour), and into the apothecary. The knight watched as the wise man poured and mixed powders and ointments, and ground them up with a mortar and pestle, before depositing them in a little glass phial.
"You just have to sprinkle some of this over whoever you're after, and the next person they see, they'll fall helplessly in love with."
The knight thanked the wise man and departed for the castle.
He rode up to the castle gates and stopped.
He thought about love, and marriage. Would the love which the potion induced be real, true love? Would it be the kind of love he had for the princess? Was it really noble to use a love potion in this way?
Half dead from the pain in his heart, the knight rode back to the village.
He stood up in the town square, and watched as the maidens gathered round, concerned at the apparent distress of this handsome knight. (Equal rights are all very well, but the simple fact in the battle of the sexes is that whereas only one knight is generally required for a damsel in distress, a whole flock of damsels are required for a knight in distress).
Closing his eyes, the knight drew the love potion from his bag, and sprinkled it over his own head.
He opened his eyes and randomly fixed them on a love-struck young maiden whose name, he later learned, was Esther.
And they both lived happily ever after.
I should not be allowed to watch The Princess Bride...