When I read this fairy tale it was as if I was reading about my own life although I am not a princess and definitely do not live in a palace.
After graduating from university and starting a rather successful career, everything looked great and promising, yet I was not happy. Every morning when I drove pass the beautiful buildings of Prague to work I wondered what I was doing. I had worked so hard to get all the qualifications for this job and now it left me feeling empty and wondering if this was all there was to life.
My health was suffering but still I applied for a new promising job in Ireland. Straight after the move I got too ill to work. Alone in a strange country with no job, no friends and bedridden I could well have been in a tower on an island in the sea. It is funny that Ireland is indeed a small island in the sea.
Slowly and step by step I regained my health. It took a good few years but what took even longer was to rebuild my life. It was no use to go back to a job that had made me so unhappy before. So, I tried the usual activities of a 'lady of leisure': coffee mornings, golf, charity work, meditation, self-improvement classes. But just as the many princes seeking the princess affections none of these activities could really take my interest and fill the emptiness in my life.
Then there were a few burglary attempts at the house. For security reasons I decided to get a dog. The dog had to be taken for walks. I discovered that just like the shepherd lad there was nothing I enjoyed more than to have the soft sand of the beach under my feet, the song of the birds in my ears and the smell of the forest in my nose. I had found the love of my life.
This opened up a whole new world for me. Soon I rediscovered my love for dancing and found a completely new love for little fairy tales and stories that tell something about life (probably as a reaction to my academic background that had left me so completely unprepared for real life).
All of these loves were brought to me by what could have been a big bird from the sky, as was the case for the princess, but what I see as little blessings from above. My shepherd, and not one but a few, had come to me. And with their help I escaped from the imprisonment in the tower of loneliness, just as the princess did.
Beside the similarities between the princess and I, there are, of course, also differences, as there will be for other women, as well. But the similarities don't just cover long blonde hair and blue eyes, as I funny enough actually do have.
The value of this story to me was the reassurance that being sad when you should be happy, having no interest in what should interest you, feeling lonely, being cut off from the world and rebuilding your life with a shepherd rather than the prince everybody, including yourself, was expecting, is not that strange and wrong after all.
the works and words of those gone before us
have become instances and examples
to men of our modern day,
that they may peruse
the annals of antique peoples
and all that has betides them,
and be thereby guided and enlightened.
This is an extract from the Introduction to the Arabian tales 'A Thousand Nights and A Night'. A more complete extract can be found in Book of Tales' welcome page >>