Lover of the Briar Rose Bush, by J. W. Cassandra

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Preparation for the Journey

Once upon a time, Grandma finished drying, stirring ointments, balms and tied a head scarf, put a pair of stout gloves in her basket, pruning sheath, a knife, and various similar who knows what things were for – at least that’s what Starcluster thought. Then Grandma dressed her in a hat and a jacket, which was warm inside, and she put the little girl’s tiny boots on her feet. She herself also dressed, but a little lighter than she wrapped her granddaughter in so that she could bend and move. She tied a scarf over her head, put on a short over-coat and boots, and then they headed for the distant hills, with some apples in the small basket, in case Starcluster got hungry or thirsty. The little puppy, whom the little girl found when Grandmother was „lost”, that is, she was talking to a dear acquaintance, and Starcluster shouted at the top of her voice, asked if he could go, wagging his tail.

But Grandma showed around the courtyard and said, „You’ll stay here, little Prince Royal”, because Starcluster insisted that it should be his name, „and you guard the house and the courtyard! You know that’s what good boys do. We’ll be back soon, until then take care of the livestock, the garden, the yard, the house and everything!”

So Prince Royal remained there with an unhappy, uncertain tail wagging, and an indignant yelp expressing that if he had to guard everything, his crown would fall off his head… But the human ear is quite deaf to the barking of dogs, to the chatter, and in addition, Grandmother did not bother if the dog was indignant. Starcluster wanted to drag the Royal Prince with her and let him go, let him run, but Grandma did not ask her. So she squinted back and forth at the puppy to see if he still had his crown on his head.

Toward the Distant Hills

„Come on, Starcluster, my granddaughter, we have to go far to collect today’s berries.” Grandmother encouraged her. Of course, she knew what Starcluster wanted, but her feet certainly used to ache, and for the little girl the hills were really far away. „There will be another time when we go to the nearby forest and to the nearby hills, in the spring, when the grass is growing!” She encouraged the little girl. „Now let’s skitter, because the afternoon is here soon, and then it’ll be followed by the sun’s farewell to the landscape, and then suddenly night falls: how will you stumble home in a thick shroud of darkness? For you won’t see anything…”

„But Goencoel [1], the shaman will light up! Or he’ll ask the Moon Fairy for it, and then she’ll light it!”

„It can’t be: the Moon Fairy has now ranged in a distant moon nook farthest from Earth, because there is a new moon, and its sickle can be seen tonight, you’ll see!”

„But if Goencoel shaman asks nicely the Moon Fairy, saying that I’d like her, then surely…”

„It will take even the Moon Fairy days to return from the farthest distant moon nook to light for the sake of anyone, my dear child! We would ask the Goencoel nicely in vain!”

Picking Up Berries

Starcluster kicked the rusty forest litter as a response, where they were going. But the hills were more and more approaching them, and suddenly they were there: the bottom of the hills was bordered by briar rose bushes, their branches were reddened upwards under the rose-hips in a wave-line, and they also saw many bushes at the top of the hill. Grandma started picking rose-hips. She cut them with a small knife, the stubborn branches with the pruning shear, and at the top of the branches she cut the „old” berries, which had been dried up. What she had picked she dropped on a tablecloth, and she encouraged Starcluster to carefully pick the reddish, mature rose-hips with gloves, or put them in the basket from the tablecloth. Starcluster saw that Grandma was actually picking only a few berries from a bush, because she cut off what she found in a circle at the bottom, but in the middle and above she cut only the „old” wrinkled berries. Then she went on to the neighboring bush, and so she slowly circled the hill. The little girl picked the berries that had fallen on the tablecloth for a while, tasted some of them, but got bored. While Grandmother seemed to be fully immersed in the work, she set out and ran around the hill in circles, then ventured upwards, and suddenly came close to a group of trees. There she stopped, because among the undergrowth of the small forest or grove she was also called by the briar rose bushes. She went there, and as she tried to take down a mature berry or two, something suddenly jumped with some rave and storm at the very briar rose bush where she stopped: a group of deer jumped out and ran away, kids ran among them, their spotted back flashed even from a distance. The roebuck running in front pushed the little girl up during the jump, who, of course, in horror shouted at the top of her voice, and soon Grandma came to help.

Something Jumped on Me!”

„Well, why are you so scared, my little?”

Something jumped on me and pushed me up and barked with a tiny, weird yelp, like Prince Royal used to, but he didn’t greet me, he jumped over me, Grandma, and then I closed my eyes because I thought I was die like my parents…”, Starcluster finally whimpered.

„Come now, come now! You won’t die! Deer are gentle, at least from afar. True, if they are alerted to their hiding place in the brushwood, they are not so gentle, because they are afraid… He jumped for you out of fear, knocked you backwards and jumped over you”, winked Grandma. „Do you know why the deer ranges at the bottom of the briar rose bush?”

„No, but I’m sure you know…”

Once Upon a Time…

„Well, once upon a time, when even humans might not have appeared on Earth, the briar rose bush was not a bush, but she was Royal Princess Briar Rose. Royal Princess Briar Rose was the daughter of Queen Rose and King Rose of Japan, whose beauty the birds sang about, the butterflies spread it with their dance, the gurgle of creeks carried it to the rivers, the water of the rivers to the sea, and finally the news spread all over the world that Royal Princess Briar Rose was the most beautiful girl, for whose hand kings, royal princes, dukes, counts, barons competed. But she did not give her hand to any of them, for although she was truly beautiful: her figure, like a reed, her hair, like a dense star tent, fell to her heels, the moon shone on her forehead, the sun shone on her cheeks, her gaze, like the ray of the Morning Star, shone. And her gait was like that of the stars in the sky: majestic; but she was also up-stage, proud, and she declared that she would give her hand only to the one who weaves a bridal veil for her from the rays of the Morning Star, bringing her the most precious treasure of the Moon Fairy: the moon magic kept in the fine, artistic little casket, so that the wedding ring may be made from it, and who will crown on her head the veil woven of the rays of the Morning Star with a light-crown guarded under the pillow of the Sun King, on the wedding day.

Oh, alas! The suitors bewailed!

Oh, alas!, the kings, royal princes, dukes, counts, barons bewailed: there is not a sea of wealth on the planet with which this wish can be fulfilled! So it was secretly proclaimed by the kings who had applied for the princess’s hand that whoever would go on the way to the Morning Star, the Moon Fairy, and the Sun King on their behalf, would receive half of their kingdom. But the news was taken away by the magpies, told to the ravens warbling, and they whispered it in the ear of the princess’s nanny, and when the king appeared to promise the princess wonders, knowing that a poor lad would make the journey on the king’s behalf, the princess ordered to chase him away her palace. Then another ruler got on the same way. The suitors could not think by any way how the princess could find out everything.

The Charmer Nanny

Until their sorcerers were intriguing, saying their spells, and casting spells on the world and the beings living in it, that one day the chief wizard of King of Cloud-Cuckoo-land  appeared to his king: „My Majesty, I dedicate my life and death to you, the princess’s nanny is the charmer, she knows from the birds what we are up to…”

Now, the King of Cloud-Cuckoo-land ordered, by magic, charm, or a fair word, but immediately to find the old nanny and bring her to him! The old nanny, however, was neither a charmer nor a witch, she listened to the fair word, and went before the King of Cloud-Cuckoo-land .

„Can you hear it, you old witch?!”, the king snapped at her . „What practices do I need to win Royal Princess Briar Rose’s hand?”

But the old nanny was not a coward, she was an old woman, she was as old as hills, and she had seen so much that she was not afraid of the king. So she replied to him:

„I’m telling you, Your Majesty, I don’t know. But I know one thing: if the arduous paths are not taken by a poor lad instead of you, but by you yourself, only then you can win my beautiful Royal Princess Briar Rose’s hand! For if you try to bring the ray of the Morning Star, the treasure of the Moon Fairy, with someone else: the moon magic and the light-crown guarded under the pillow of the Sun King, you will never have my beautiful princess!”

„And how could I go get these engagement presents, you nanny?”

„Call back the poor man you sent instead of yourself, and provide yourself on the road, and then go in turn: first to the Morning Star, then to the Moon Fairy, and finally to the Sun King!”

„But what am I supposed to take with me on the trip to get there and come back with the engagement presents?”

„Nothing but your loving heart, your faith in yourself and the belief that the Morning Star, the Moon Fairy and the Sun King will help you!” The nurse replied.

Beyond seven times seven borders

Then the King of Cloud-Cuckoo-land dismissed her and ordered to call back the poor lad who by then had already crossed the seventh time seven borders, his steps were passing through the stars, and he was heading straight for the glittering palace of the Morning Star. The Morning Star has already seen him, she has seen that he is determined and bold, that he trusts himself and her that she will help him. And she also saw, for she knows the secrets of hearts, that the poor lad really loves the princess: for he does not mind if his king marries her, not he himself, only he the poor lad could please her… And the Morning Star felt pity for him: she drew him to herself, gave him the morning-star-ray, and put him on his way toward the silver castle of the Moon Fairy. From there, the silver-lit castle of the Moon Fairy was only a sparrow jump away, so the poor man got there in the blink of an eye. The Moon Fairy saw the ray of the Morning Star shining around him, so she invited him into her castle, introduced him to her most remote little chamber, which had no windows, yet the light shone silvery in it: it emanated from the fine, small box, because the light of the moon magic shone all over the castle. The Moon Fairy weaved a little of this light to the poor lad’s Morning-Star-ray with a waving, and explained to him that when he arrived at her fiancée, he has to unstitch the weaving with a golden knife, and turn it three times towards the rising sun and then three times towards the setting sun, then it would become the wedded ring which is the sign of eternal love and eternal fidelity. With it, she set off for him to the Sun King’s palace beaming in lavish light. But she made it his duty:

„When you get there, hide your cheeks and yourself in the moon magic woven together with the Morning-Star-ray, or the Sun King’s violent heat will burn you!”

„But that sun’s crown can’t be worn by anyone but a true man!”

The poor lad thanked her very much, and when he got there, he hid himself. Then the Sun King stood before him and said, „What are you up to here, you poor lad?”

„My king has entrusted me to bring him the Morning-Star-ray with the moon-wave, and to ask you to give him your sun crown under your pillow as a gift for Royal Princess Briar Rose!” The lad gave a smart answer.

„But that sun’s crown can’t be worn by anyone but a true man!” The Sun King told it.”If somebody who is not true, puts it on the veil, it will bring trouble to the bride and even to himself! In addition, even to the person who takes the engagement presents, on behalf of a king!”

„I don’t mind handing them over, even if it’s an assignment, even if I’ll die! By no means, I can’t have the beautiful princess anyway, because I’m poor…” and he was desperately waiting for the crown ready for anything.

The Sun’s Crown

Then the Sun King took him into his sleeping chamber, where an exorbitant, glaring light emanated from the sun’s crown from under the Sun King’s pillow. The Sun King blew on it, so that the lad could tie it with the moon charm woven together with the ray of dawn, and he could hide it in his bosom, he wasn’t harmed at all.

The Sun King returned him back, and he was going already on his way from the Palace of the Morning Star to the Big Dipper, namely the Chariot of Goencoel the shaman, to descend to the edge of the empire of King of Cloud-Cuckoo-land , when the King of Cloud-Cuckoo-land  himself came face to face with him: „Give me the engagement presents!”

He is not a true man, even if he is a king a hundred times!

But in the meantime, in the mind of the poor lad, a thought occurred: if the Sun King is right, and only a true man can be the happy husband of the chosen fiancée with these presents, then he does not give the presents to his king, for he who himself does not do his duty, but deceives everybody, is not a true man, even if he is a king a hundred times! And he jumped on the driving-box of Goencoel, with the engagement presents in his bosom. The king tried to jump next to him, but missed the jump and broke his neck as he fell down to the edge of his own empire.

The Reception

And the poor lad jumped down with Goencoel to the palace of Royal Princess Briar Rose and happily brought her the engagement presents.

At the gate of the palace he was held up by guards with a drawn sword, but he pulled a tiny part out of the gift, and while blinded by the exorbitant glare, he appeared suddenly before Royal Princess Briar Rose. He happily pulled out the present, but the royal princess belittled his spotty spots: „Perhaps you are a king, or a prince, in such clothes?” She looked at him loftily. „Such a shabby-looking man must not make an offer of marriage!”

The Charm

Well, as she said this, the engagement present flew out of the poor lad’s hands, laid on the hair of the extraordinarily beautiful princess, and turned her into a bush. A shred remained in the poor lad’s hands, and it turned the lad into a deer. The briar rose bush then roamed all over the world, and later grew out everywhere, because the lofty royal princess charmed in it, hopes, that if she would find somewhere the borderland that would take her to the Morning Star in the form of a briar rose bush, in case the star would remove this spell and release this punishment. Or the Moon Fairy, if she gets to her. Or the Sun King… For any one of them can remove the charm off them, and then the moon magic, the treasure, can finally connect them together as a sign of eternal love and eternal fidelity.

They hope even hopelessly

And the deer settled as an unhappy lover under the bush, and he has lived there ever since, because he hopes for the same thing that Royal Princess Briar Rose, locked in the bush: that they can be freed and have each other at last. For since this time of yore, the princess, who had been locked in a briar rose bush, had long since changed, and the deer had long suffered that he had ever acted on assignment. And they hope even hopelessly that at some time the moment will come when the veil woven from the rays of the Morning Star will be placed on the royal princess’s hair, and from the moon magic a ring of eternal love and eternal fidelity will emerge, which will finally be placed on the fingers of the lovers in the light of the sun’s crown surrounding the royal princess’s veil made of the Morning-Star-ray. For then both the bush and the deer can turn back into humans, and then they can finally get married.

Secret of Release

„But, Grandma, don’t you know how they could be released?”

„But I know, little granddaughter! But it is so far from here that what must be done for it is farther than the road that the poor man once walked! For a man of magic must be born, who is the offspring of these three relics, and he must, on the way of the poor man, reach the Morning Star, the Moon Fairy, the Sun King, and throw the veil and the crown on the briar rose bush from the chariot of Goencoel. And if the sun’s crown touches the veil woven into one of these three relics, then the ring will break off and it redeems the lovers. But that man has not yet been born, and no one is able to know about the bush, which was the original, nor of the deer… That’s why it’s so difficult to free the unhappy lovers!”

„And will he be born?”

„Most assuredly, because every mistake can always be corrected! Not all can be done right away or easily. But don’t be sad, if we ask for the Moon Fairy on a full moon, she will definitely help. And until then, be glad to meet the lover of the briar rose bush, the deer who guards his beloved…”

Returning Home at Dusk

In the meantime, dusk had descended, and they had arrived home just in time to have a good dinner and to rest after the tiring day. And Grandma put away the rose hips because she cooked jam and syrup from them the next day so that her granddaughter could be strong. For, rose-hip strengthens the body against diseases.

25/09. 2021., by J. W. Cassandra

[1] Goencoel (in Hungarian: Göncöl), the Big Dipper, in Hungarian legends and folklore a shaman of old.

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J. W. Cassandra

About the Author: J. W. Cassandra

I’m a teacher and a registered author either, at Artisjus as a writer and a poet in Hungary. I love forests, butterflies, flowers.

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