The Princess and the Spider

              Once upon a time there lived a princess.  She had glorious brown hair—really absolutely stunning—and ruby red lips—a bit unusual, and sometimes they tinted to a lovely rosebud pink.  But this is not a story about her hair or her lips or whether her skin was smooth as silk (it was, if you must know).  And that is because the most interesting thing about this princess had nothing to do with her beauty and everything to do with her rather all-consuming fascination with insects.
            It was an obsession that was life long, beginning in her cradle years with the castle’s rather nasty infestation of ants.  While the servants about her scrambled to do the Queen’s bidding, and the King stood on a piece of furniture trying desperately not to shriek—a mammoth feat given that his most pressing fear involved a swarm of ants covering his body in one fell swoop and leaving behind nothing but bones—the princess, on the other hand, stood in her crib, clutching the bars with tiny chubby fingers that she felt made her a prisoner, and watched with complete absorption.
            Why did they crawl so close to each other?  Why so many legs?  And how could one ant carry such an enormous burden on a back so little?
            Thus is began.  And when she grew up, and it came time for her to marry for the good of the kingdom, her passion had turned into a project of cataloging all known insects in the land—a feat never before achieved—and she found she had no time for marriage.
            Naturally, the King and Queen were not delighted by the prospect of their only child leaving the kingdom un-heired, as it were.  Thus, they thought to distract the princess by parading in front of her a variety of handsome princess, each one perfectly tailored to tempt her from her work.
            Alas for the princes—both in their suits to wed and in the remainder of their lives—all lacked wit enough to hold the princess’s attention.
            Now, the thing to know about the princess is that while she was obsessed, delighted and absorbed by all things pertaining to insect-life, she had positively no interest in spiders—which are, of course, not insects at all, but arachnids.  She could not abide their furry eight legs.  Their spindly presence would often send her into shrieks to rival the King’s, and result in fits of stomping rage as she courted the skittery creatures to their doom.
            Thus it was with great surprise one day, as she went about trying to decimate a particularly large and ghastly spider, that the spider—having evaded her stomping boots by scurrying up a wall and hanging from the ceiling just above where her hands could reach—began to speak.
            ‘Princess,’ he said in a crinkly hissy sort of voice that could only belong to a spider, ‘if you give me a kiss—just one—I promise to never eat another of your beloved insects.’
            His words made the princess pause in her frantic swattings, for she couldn’t bear the thought of the spider sucking them dry of all the juices that made insects plump and delightful.  True, the princess had stuck pins in as many insects as she could get her hands on, but only in a way that caused paralyzing and painless death.
            It was a fair trade.
            Wrinkling her nose, she let the spider climb into the palm of her hand and leaned in to fulfill her part of the bargain.  Her lips met the spider’s hairy body.  But just as she expected the spider to bite or scurry away to live off grass for the remainder of his life, the spider disappeared.  Instead, standing before her, was a bespectacled man with nice eyes and a kind face, whose tweed coat gave off the air of a scholar. 
            The princess gasped—not knowing that she was in a fairytale, and that this kind of thing was to be expected—and immediately pressed her hands into the newly formed ones in front of her and said, ‘Tell me everything you know.’
            She was, of course, speaking of the man’s time as a spider and his experience with insects, and her meaning was not lost on the gentleman in front of her; he began to tell her all he knew.
            And, because he was a prince—he could be no less for having been enchanted in such a way—the Queen and King were happy to announce a royal marriage.  A royal heir was delightfully produced, one who was quite content to rule in his parent’s stead while they fulfilled their mutual dream of cataloging all the insects in the Kingdom.  And the prince never ate another insect… on purpose, that is.

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