The Story of the Queen of the Flowery Isles
by Andrew Lang
There once lived a queen who ruled over the Flowery Isles, whose
husband, to her extreme grief, died a few years after their marriage.
On being left a widow she devoted herself almost entirely to the
education of the two charming princesses, her only children. The elder
of them was so lovely that as she grew up her mother greatly feared she
would excite the jealousy of the Queen of all the Isles, who prided
herself on being the most beautiful woman in the world, and insisted on
all rivals bowing before her charms.
In order the better to gratify her vanity she had urged the king,
her husband, to make war on all the surrounding islands, and as his
greatest wish was to please her, the only conditions he imposed on any
newly-conquered country was that each princess of every royal house
should attend his court as soon as she was fifteen years old, and do
homage to the transcendent beauty of his queen.
The queen of the Flowery Isles, well aware of this law, was fully
determined to present her daughter to the proud queen as soon as her
fifteenth birthday was past.
The queen herself had heard a rumour of the young princess's great
beauty, and awaited her visit with some anxiety, which soon developed
into jealousy, for when the interview took place it was impossible not
to be dazzled by such radiant charms, and she was obliged to admit that
she had never beheld anyone so exquisitely lovely.
Of course she thought in her own mind 'excepting myself!' for
nothing could have made her believe it possible that anyone could
But the outspoken admiration of the entire court soon undeceived
her, and made her so angry that she pretended illness and retired to
her own rooms, so as to avoid witnessing the princess's triumph. She
also sent word to the Queen of the Flowery Isles that she was sorry not
to be well enough to see her again, and advised her to return to her
own states with the princess, her daughter.
This message was entrusted to one of the great ladies of the court,
who was an old friend of the Queen of the Flowery Isles, and who
advised her not to wait to take a formal leave but to go home as fast
as she could.
The queen was not slow to take the hint, and lost no time in obeying
it. Being well aware of the magic powers of the incensed queen, she
warned her daughter that she was threatened by some great danger if she
left the palace for any reason whatever during the next six months.
The princess promised obedience, and no pains were spared to make
the time pass pleasantly for her.
The six months were nearly at an end, and on the very last day a
splendid fête was to take place in a lovely meadow quite near the
palace. The princess, who had been able to watch all the preparations
from her window, implored her mother to let her go as far as the
meadow; and the queen, thinking all risk must be over, consented, and
promised to take her there herself.
The whole court was delighted to see their much-loved princess at
liberty, and everyone set off in high glee to join in the fête.
The princess, overjoyed at being once more in the open air, was
walking a little in advance of her party when suddenly the earth opened
under her feet and closed again after swallowing her up!
The queen fainted away with terror, and the younger princess burst
into floods of tears and could hardly be dragged away from the fatal
spot, whilst the court was overwhelmed with horror at so great a
Orders were given to bore the earth to a great depth, but in vain;
not a trace of the vanished princess was to be found.
She sank right through the earth and found herself in a desert place
with nothing but rocks and trees and no sign of any human being. The
only living creature she saw was a very pretty little dog, who ran up
to her and at once began to caress her. She took him in her arms, and
after playing with him for a little put him down again, when he started
off in front of her, looking round from time to time as though begging
her to follow.
She let him lead her on, and presently reached a little hill, from
which she saw a valley full of lovely fruit trees, bearing flowers and
fruit together. The ground was also covered with fruit and flowers, and
in the middle of the valley rose a fountain surrounded by a velvety
The princess hastened to this charming spot, and sitting down on the
grass began to think over the misfortune which had befallen her, and
burst into tears as she reflected on her sad condition.
The fruit and clear fresh water would, she knew, prevent her from
dying of hunger or thirst, but how could she escape if any wild beast
appeared and tried to devour her?
At length, having thought over every possible evil which could
happen, the princess tried to distract her mind by playing with the
little dog. She spent the whole day near the fountain, but as night
drew on she wondered what she should do, when she noticed that the
little dog was pulling at her dress.
She paid no heed to him at first, but as he continued to pull her
dress and then run a few steps in one particular direction, she at last
decided to follow him; he stopped before a rock with a large opening in
the centre, which he evidently wished her to enter.
The princess did so and discovered a large and beautiful cave lit up
by the brilliancy of the stones with which it was lined, with a little
couch covered with soft moss in one corner. She lay down on it and the
dog at once nestled at her feet. Tired out with all she had gone
through she soon fell asleep.
Next morning she was awakened very early by the songs of many birds.
The little dog woke up too, and sprang round her in his most caressing
manner. She got up and went outside, the dog as before running on in
front and turning back constantly to take her dress and draw her on.
She let him have his way and he soon led her back to the beautiful
garden where she had spent part of the day before. Here she ate some
fruit, drank some water of the fountain, and felt as if she had made an
excellent meal. She walked about amongst the flowers, played with her
little dog, and at night returned to sleep in the cave.
In this way the princess passed several months, and as her first
terrors died away she gradually became more resigned to her fate. The
little dog, too, was a great comfort, and her constant companion.
One day she noticed that he seemed very sad and did not even caress
her as usual. Fearing he might be ill she carried him to a spot where
she had seen him eat some particular herbs, hoping they might do him
good, but he would not touch them. He spent all the night, too, sighing
and groaning as if in great pain.
At last the princess fell asleep, and when she awoke her first
thought was for her little pet, but not finding him at her feet as
usual, she ran out of the cave to look for him. As she stepped out of
the cave she caught sight of an old man, who hurried away so fast that
she had barely time to see him before he disappeared.
This was a fresh surprise and almost as great a shock as the loss of
her little dog, who had been so faithful to her ever since the first
day she had seen him. She wondered if he had strayed away or if the old
man had stolen him.
Tormented by all kinds of thoughts and fears she wandered on, when
suddenly she felt herself wrapped in a thick cloud and carried through
the air. She made no resistance and before very long found herself, to
her great surprise, in an avenue leading to the palace in which she had
been born. No sign of the cloud anywhere.
As the princess approached the palace she perceived that everyone
was dressed in black, and she was filled with fear as to the cause of
this mourning. She hastened on and was soon recognised and welcomed
with shouts of joy. Her sister hearing the cheers ran out and embraced
the wanderer, with tears of happiness, telling her that the shock of
her disappearance had been so terrible that their mother had only
survived it a few days. Since then the younger princess had worn the
crown, which she now resigned to her sister to whom it by right
But the elder wished to refuse it, and would only accept the crown
on condition that her sister should share in all the power.
The first acts of the new queen were to do honour to the memory of
her dear mother and to shower every mark of generous affection on her
sister. Then, being still very grieved at the loss of her little dog,
she had a careful search made for him in every country, and when
nothing could be heard of him she was so grieved that she offered half
her kingdom to whoever should restore him to her.
Many gentlemen of the court, tempted by the thought of such a
reward, set off in all directions in search of the dog; but all
returned empty-handed to the queen, who, in despair announced that
since life was unbearable without her little dog, she would give her
hand in marriage to the man who brought him back.
The prospect of such a prize quickly turned the court into a desert,
nearly every courtier starting on the quest. Whilst they were away the
queen was informed one day that a very ill-looking man wished to speak
with her. She desired him to be shown into a room where she was sitting
with her sister.
On entering her presence he said that he was prepared to give the
queen her little dog if she on her side was ready to keep her word.
The princess was the first to speak. She said that the queen had no
right to marry without the consent of the nation, and that on so
important an occasion the general council must be summoned. The queen
could not say anything against this statement; but she ordered an
apartment in the palace to be given to the man, and desired the council
to meet on the following day.
Next day, accordingly, the council assembled in great state, and by
the princess's advice it was decided to offer the man a large sum of
money for the dog, and should he refuse it, to banish him from the
kingdom without seeing the queen again. The man refused the price
offered and left the hall.
The princess informed the queen of what had passed, and the queen
approved of all, but added that as she was her own mistress she had
made up her mind to abdicate her throne, and to wander through the
world till she had found her little dog.
The princess was much alarmed by such a resolution, and implored the
queen to change her mind. Whilst they were discussing the subject, one
of the chamberlains appeared to inform the queen that the bay was
covered with ships. The two sisters ran to the balcony, and saw a large
fleet in full sail for the port.
In a little time they came to the conclusion that the ships must
come from a friendly nation, as every vessel was decked with gay flags,
streamers, and pennons, and the way was led by a small ship flying a
great white flag of peace.
The queen sent a special messenger to the harbour, and was soon
informed that the fleet belonged to the Prince of the Emerald Isles,
who begged leave to land in her kingdom, and to present his humble
respects to her. The queen at once sent some of the court dignitaries
to receive the prince and bid him welcome.
She awaited him seated on her throne, but rose on his appearance,
and went a few steps to meet him; then begged him to be seated, and for
about an hour kept him in close conversation.
The prince was then conducted to a splendid suite of apartments, and
the next day he asked for a private audience. He was admitted to the
queen's own sitting-room, where she was sitting alone with her sister.
After the first greetings the prince informed the queen that he had
some very strange things to tell her, which she only would know to be
'Madam,' said he, 'I am a neighbour of the Queen of all the Isles;
and a small isthmus connects part of my states with hers. One day, when
hunting a stag, I had the misfortune to meet her, and not recognising
her, I did not stop to salute her with all proper ceremony. You, Madam,
know better than anyone how revengeful she is, and that she is also a
mistress of magic. I learnt both facts to my cost. The ground opened
under my feet, and I soon found myself in a far distant region
transformed into a little dog, under which shape I had the honour to
meet your Majesty. After six months, the queen's vengeance not being
yet satisfied, she further changed me into a hideous old man, and in
this form I was so afraid of being unpleasant in your eyes, Madam, that
I hid myself in the depths of the woods, where I spent three months
more. At the end of that time I was so fortunate as to meet a
benevolent fairy who delivered me from the proud queen's power, and
told me all your adventures and where to find you. I now come to offer
you a heart which has been entirely yours, Madam, since first we met in
A few days later a herald was sent through the kingdom to proclaim
the joyful news of the marriage of the Queen of the Flowery Isles with
the young prince. They lived happily for many years, and ruled their
As for the bad queen, whose vanity and jealousy had caused so much
mischief, the Fairies took all her power away for a punishment.
['Cabinet des Fées.']