Once upon a time, there lived a good, fair, and gracious king, beloved by his people. One day, his journey to a neighboring kingdom led him to the one to whom he would profess his undying love. There was nothing particularly of note about her: just a commoner and only “merely pretty”, but the king loved her and that was that.
“She makes me
laugh and cry.
I reflect her glow
and believe that I
am glowing too.
To please her for a minute
pleases me a week.
She has thunder
rage and joy.
She breathes in
the high notes
She wakes me up
and makes me sing.”
Never once did he sing of her heart, nor of her love for him, for indeed, she had little of either to sing about. Her only thoughts of love were those of his for her, for she was selfish, vain, and petty, caring not a whit for any but herself. (She must have thought it odd when he did not begin to sing of her beauty when she, by mysterious means, became beautiful beyond the lot of mortals overnight.) Even when he thrust forth his good, gracious, beloved person to take a nigh-fatal blow meant for her, she only mourned the loss of his affection and readily set herself to be a powerful queen, even as her husband laid on death’s door. Her rule was the exact opposite of the king’s: she was cruel and careless of all but her status of power. She betrayed her friends, turned on her counsellors, and spurned her subjects.
Then came the day the king made a turn for the good and recovered. He heard the complaints of his people, the account of events from trustworthy witnesses, even a partial account from his wife from the times he heard her speaking to him in his sleep. He learned of the destruction, the injustice, the atrocities done in the name of the crown, all thanks to his self-centered, uncaring, power-hungry bride.
For the good of all — for his wife, for his kingdom — the king announced that he and his wife would move to another of his castles and that he would prepare his successor for the kingship before his own retirement in three years’ time. He would not risk the chance of his wife harming his country, nor would he desert her. His love for both were too great (and, by the way, he didn’t care that she suddenly, inexplicably, reverted back to her “merely pretty” face).
For, despite all she had done, he still called her:
“My… dear… beautiful… love.”
Before you ask, no, that wasn’t a story I made up; all of the above are taken straight from Gail Carson Levine’s Fairest. Why am I sharing it? Not because I like the book (which I do), but because upon my second reading of this book, I walked away with something I hadn’t really drunk in the first time, even though I highly, highly doubt the author intended this.
Neither the king nor his queen are the story’s protagonists. Theirs is a mostly-separate subplot. But after my initial declaration of, “Wow, the king is a fool!”, I realized that this actually reminded me of something. Perhaps what I saw was familiar to you too when you read it above.
The king of this fairy-tale retelling reminds me an awful lot of another good, gracious, just King Who left His throne for the sake of love — and that love for a wayward, common, certainly-not-pretty, self-absorbed, childish chit of a bride. A bride unworthy of His love on every level possible. A bride undeserving of His sacrifice to save her.
Who’s the bride? Well, take a gander in any looking-glass and tell me that there aren’t similarities between the queen of the story and yourself.
And yet, He still chooses to love you.
I don’t know about you, but that is the fairest thing of all.