Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there lived a princess. And her name was Paula. Princess Paula was as kind, and sweet and gentle as the day was long – and the days were very very long in the part of the world where she came from – and she was much loved by all the people in the land. Princes Paula’s favorite past-time was to go riding through her vast estates on her chestnut brown mare Sallymae Brown. These long rides gave her the time to think, and enjoy the fresh cool forest air. Usually she would go for miles before even meeting another soul as the grounds were very vast and the meandering paths she took every day – though varied, were always through the secluded and mysterious Whispering Forest. One day, as she came across a bubbling brook that she had not remembered ever seeing before, she saw a man – who’s face was completely hidden by a rather large, round hat, sitting on the ground with one leg stretched out straight and one bent. Out of the bent leg protruded a long and nasty looking arrow with bright red and green feathers. The shaft of the arrow was the blackest black she had ever seen and it gave her a chill up her spine to see it! A gasp escaped her pretty lips as nothing at all like this had ever happened to her before! She was, a very cautious and sensible Princess, so approached him slowly. He looked almost as if he was dozing off and appeared to pose no immediate threat.
“Hello? Do you need any help?”, she almost whispered. He removed his large round hat and slowly looked up and meowed ever so sorrowfully! Yes, dear reader, he meowed for to Princess Paula’s astonishment there before her was a being with the body of a man and the head of a orange marmalade tabby – only proportional – if you gather my meaning. He had the most luminous brown eyes and as she looked on in amazement he meowed pitifully again only this time, instead of just hearing the meow, she thought she could also make out what he was saying. Clearly things were not quite as they should be and being a very cautious and sensible Princess she was struggling with whether or not she should flee the scene. Even Sallymae Brown was disturbed and snorted loudly, gave a startled whinny and stamped twice on the ground. Something magical that she had only read about in children’s story books was clearly happening!
Then she heard him clearly say, “Please don’t leave just yet…I am thirsty as I have been here for 2 days with neither food nor water”.
Now Princess Paula was a very cautious and sensible Princess but she was also famous for her kindness and she could not turn away from a plea of help from one in need. His need and apparent helplessness gave her the courage to immediately dismount and approach him slowly with a bottle of water she always carried with her. “Here”, she said. “Please drink this…”
He reached out for the bottle with a perfectly formed human hand and opened his perfectly formed cat mouth and poured the contents of the bottle straight in. “Thank you”, he said gratefully after he had had his fill.
“You are most welcome…Sir?”, she responded hesitantly. “How come you to this forest kind Sir for I have never seen the likes of you here, or indeed anywhere?”. Now Princess Paula was shy with strangers and not one to be so forward in her speech normally but you will forgive her, dear reader, as it is not every day that one encounters such a magical creature. She was so impressed by his great cat head sitting incongruously on his broad man-shoulders that she completely forgot that he had that nasty looking arrow sticking out of his leg!
He meowed in a way to suggest a chuckle. “I am not from around these parts kind Lady. I come from a thousand leagues across the great Sea but I was placed here as a curse by the evil witch Bromgrenhelda – who is a very powerful witch but also very cruel.” He paused, with a deep cat-sigh and closed his eyes as if in deep rest. Momentarily he opened them again and stared right into her eyes with his deep piercing stare. She was mesmerized for she had never seen such luminous eyes, in either man or beast before. He continued, “Have you heard of the evil witch Bromgrenhelda?”
“No” she said simply. “We have heard tales of witches but I have never come across one, good or evil”, she continued. Finally her curiousity got the better of her and she said, “What are you kind Sir for we have no one such as you in all our Kingdom and what pray tell is your name?”.
A enormous whisker twitched and he said, “My name is Perelandrel and I am a Prince where i come from until I was cursed by the witch and sent here. I am not normally so disfigured as you see me. “Curse the day I was born!!!” He said with an anguished caterwaul.
The Princess, who was after all famous for her kindness, goodness, and all-round general niceness, felt a great deal of pity for this magnificent creature with the handsome cat head and man body. “Is there anything I can do for you?”, she asked. At this point she noticed him wince and finally remembered the arrow stuck in his leg and said, “Would you like me to send for the court physicians to tend to your wound?”.
“It would do no good kind Lady for that is a magic arrow and it binds me here to this land and keeps me in the hideous form you see before me now”, he said. “However, if you could find me a Princess that is pure of heart and honest and brave who will kiss me, hideous as I am then I will be set free. However…”, and at this he put on a very serious expression on his cat-face, “if she turns out to be not this person I have described in any way, She will turn out to be as hideous as I look now and the curse will be permanent.” At this he gave out another hideous wail. “I am doomed! Doomed for it is well know that Princesses, when you do come across them, are selfish, and prideful, and slothful and cowardly! Where will I ever find such a Princess of such a description and why would she ever kiss me!?!”
Princess Paula realized that Prince Perelandrel had no idea that she was a Princess yet she was naturally slightly miffed (& very rightly so you might say dear reader) that he would assume that all Princesses were selfish, and prideful, and slothful and cowardly! She decided to overlook this for the moment as this poor half creature and half-man was in obvious pain and anguish. She said in slow, clear words, “Kind Prince Perelandrel – I am a Princess. The Princess Paula in point of fact and you are in my Kingdom. Sir, I can assure you of only what my people say of me and that I am well known for being kind, and sweet and gentle and I believe I have been honest all the days of my life and while I am not the bravest soul in my Kingdom Sir I can assure you that it took some courage indeed to help a strange stranger such as yourself in need!”
The Prince knew that this might be his only chance to be released from his curse and thought that he had better swallow his pride and say something nice to assuage her hurt feelings. “Princess I meant you no personal insult I assure you. It was only because where I come from this is how Princesses are. They are catty, and capricious, and cantankerous to boot! I have never been to your land and had no idea (he said wincing a little) that they could be as beautiful as you or as you describe yourself so evidently to be!”.
The Princess smiled a little. For while he was very wrong to think poorly of Princesses he also looked so adorable with his great big cat head that it would be hard indeed for her to remain angry. In her heart she wondered how handsome the Prince would look when he is returned to his human self and thought that he must be very handsome indeed! She boldly walked over to him and leaned down so as to kiss him but he stayed her with his hand! “Nay my Princess! I have to tell you the whole curse!”, he blurted.”Not to doubt you Princess but if you are not as you say you are – not only will you remain in this accursed form forever but I will die!” She looked him deep in the eyes and said calmly, “I am Princess Paula and I am who I say I am”. With that she leaned down and kissed his cat head full on the mouth.
The kiss, and what a kiss it was dear reader, seemed to last a long long time. It made her dizzy because had she thought about it, and here dear reader you will have to admit that she would not have had cause before to think of such a thing, she would not think it was possible to kiss a man with a cat head fully on the mouth! After awhile she began to see stars all around her and her sight grew hazy – she could not see him or even the forest or her beloved horse.
Suddenly she came to with a start. And there before her was a large, beautiful Tabby cat, purring loudly by her legs. She picked him up and around his neck was a necklace. It said, Prince Perelandrel, If Found Please Return to Bromgrenhelda, Evilwitch Lane, Western Swamps.
The Cat had turned back to his normal form and the Princess knew that she was indeed of a pure heart, and honest and brave and that all male cats are little Princes and all female cats are little Princesses. The Cat and the Princess lived happily ever after and never spoke to each other of the incident again.