A Patchwork Fairy Tale: the one with the bird, the nobleman, and the mysterious song.
The flower girl tending to the palace gardens finds a bird that has a strange song to sing, taught to him by an unknown nobleman.
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[Gentle theme music]
Laura: Hi, you can call me Laura, I’m here to tell you a story if you like. If you want to read as well as listen you can find a transcript and mp3 download on patchworkfairytales.wordpress.com. You found one of my Patchwork Fairy Tales. This is the one with the bird, the nobleman, and the flower girl.
The Royal Flower Girl
In a faraway land there once was a princess who lived in a palace made of marble, glass and gold. An army of maids, servants and footmen roamed the palace and an army of gardeners tended to the fine park that surrounded it. Among the garden staff was a girl that everybody called “the flower girl”. It was her job to tend to the flowers and every day bring the prettiest of them to the princess so she could wear them in her hair and set them on her dressing table.
This girl was a great favourite with the princess, for she was just what a flower girl ought to be. She had rosy cheeks and a smile like sunlight. Her hands were as delicate as the flowers she picked, but she was as strong and steadfast as the woven hedges that protected the park.
The flower girl was very content with the happinesses life had given her. She loved the gardens, which she always thought of as her gardens rather than the princess’s. After all, the princess hardly went into them and the flower girl practically lived among the flowerbeds. But the flower girl really did like the princess, for she was usually cheerful and very generous and often helpful if only someone explained to her where help was needed.
So the life of the flower girl was a happy one and she often thought that she would be a lucky creature if she could only live like this for all of her days.
Sunny days came and went and life at the palace stayed very much the same for a very long time. Not a thing predicted any change, until one day a brightly coloured bird came soaring out of the blue of the sky.
He landed on the windowsill of the princess’s chamber, just as the flower girl was bringing the princess her morning flowers. The bird stuck his head through the window and when the princess turned round he was right before her.
The princess shrieked. “Get it away!” she yelled, waving her hands.
“Oh, but it’s such a beautiful bird,” the flower girl said.
“I don’t care how beautiful it is!” the princess cried, hiding behind her bed curtains. “I do not want it in my room!”
So the flower girl tried to shoo the bird away, but instead of flying off, the bird hopped onto her arm and blinked his eyes at her.
The princess yelled even louder, so the flower girl marched out of the room with the bird on her arm and she went through all the corridors, down all the steps until she reached the garden. There she held the bird up and told him: “Go on then, pretty one, fly.”
But the bird didn’t fly. He shook his tail, proudly stretched his neck and sang:
The seventh of seven brothers am I
With no job for a youngest son
To stay where there’s nothing I cannot abide
So I’ll wander till fortune I’ve won!
As soon as he finished his song the bird bowed his head to be stroked and the flower girl understood that this was a pet bird, taught to sing that song.
“Well, if he remembers the song, perhaps he remembers the way home,” she said to herself.
So she sat down in the shade with the bird and stroked his feathers and praised him and taught him a new song for good measure. When he could repeat it perfectly, the flower girl fed him and gave him some water and then she threw him high up into the air. The bird flapped his wings, circled once above the palace and then flew out of sight. The flower girl watched him go, wondering if he would ever come back.
The bird flew far, back to the estate of a nobleman with seven sons. The day he returned was a happy one, for the seventh son, who had gone out into the wide world to find his fortune, had returned. He had had many adventures and had returned with enough money to support himself and then some.
He was just standing at the open window of his old room when the brightly coloured bird came soaring down and triumphantly sat down on the windowsill.
“Well, I never!” said the young nobleman, who had set the bird free when he went out to find his fortune. “If it isn’t my little bird. Can you still sing that song I taught you?”
The bird cocked his head to the side and sang a song, but it was not the song that the nobleman had taught him. Instead he sang:
I own very little but dirt in the world
But from the dirt I raise my treasure
I hope you have found your fortune!
As I found in my calling my pleasure
The young man couldn’t believe his ears, but he immediately understood that someone had found his bird and sent this message and he was absolutely wild with curiosity.
“If you could talk for yourself, you could tell me who the person is that sent me their song,” he sighed.
But the bird could not and so the nobleman taught him a new song. As soon as the bird could repeat the it, the nobleman let him go. And the bird, who knew the way now, flew straight to the flower girl’s garden.
Of course the flower girl had told herself she should not expect the bird back, but when he ascended from the blue sky in a whirl of coloured feathers her face lit up with joy.
“Hello!” she laughed. “Have you come back to sing for me again?”
The bird perched on her arm and sang proudly:
Poorest I was of all seven
But no one could do me harm
A mansion now stands on the place
Where I started with just one farm
“That is good fortune indeed,” the flower girl smiled. And to send back the story of her own fortune, she taught the bird this song:
A gentleman farmer! I bow to you.
And in recognition I’d shake your hand
For both of our fortunes did richly spring
From that which is grown from the land!
When the nobleman heard this, he could bear it no longer. He had to know who this person was. So he taught the bird yet another song and released him once more, but this time he saddled his horse and followed the bird.
Birds, however, can take routes that horses cannot and at a certain point the nobleman lost sight of his bird and did not know which road to take.
“I shall find them!” he vowed. “I shall never be easy until I’ve spoken with them in person.”
So he wandered down the country roads and asked everyone he met if they knew of anyone around here who had made their fortune off the land.
But every single person he asked answered: “No Sir, we know many young people and a few of them are very prosperous, but none of them can be said to raise treasures up from the dirt.”
The nobleman was getting very discouraged, but finally he met a farmer who answered:
“Well, I suppose you could say that my mistress, Her Majesty the Princess that lives up there in the palace, has made her wealth off the riches of the land. This is her land and even though we farmers turn it to profit, I’m sure she feels that it is her land giving her her riches.”
The nobleman thanked the farmer sincerely, but deep down he felt strangely disappointed, hardly even knowing why, because he had secretly been hoping his mysterious friend was a young lady. But disappointment or not, he rode towards the palace, where the princess lived.
The flower girl was resting in the sunshine when the bird came soaring towards her. Happily she held out her hand and the bird began to sing, albeit a bit off-key because he had hardly practiced this one:
I greet you, my friend
That I have never seen before
But I hope I’ll do so soon
For I am at your door!
The flower girl turned bright red. Had the owner of the bird really come for her? But before she could wonder more, one of the footmen came running out of the palace. He saw the flower girl and called to her: “Hurry, fetch some fine flowers for the princess! A nobleman has come to see her.”
Now the flower girl turned quite white. Of course the owner of the bird had thought that the it had gone to the lady of the house, and in truth, he had started out there. The poor flower girl bowed her head, while she hurried with the flowers. She thought of how beautiful and charming the princess was. The first time she had ever met her, the flower girl had been quite in love with her for a good while.
“Even if he does find out she was not the one that sent him songs, he will forget about that as soon as he sees her,” she told herself. So she brought the flowers, hurried away and ran back to her quiet garden, where to her surprise the bird was still waiting for her.
“Go on, pretty one, “ the flower girl pleaded. “Fly off, back to your master’s house, that way no one can find you with me and you can greet him when he comes back home.”
But the bird stared at her and did not move. It disagreed with her and stayed put.
Meanwhile, in a beautiful room made of marble and glass the princess received the nobleman very politely and asked him why he had come.
“Why, has my bird not told you?” he smiled. “I have come to meet you, no other reason!”
The princess looked at him and shook her head. “I do not know of what you speak,” she said. “I know of no bird and while I am very glad to meet you, I have never heard of you before.”
The nobleman was all confusion. “Have you really not seen him?” he insisted. “He is brightly coloured with a long neck and a swooping tail.”
The princess frowned. “That sounds like a bird that tried to get into my bedroom once,” she said. “But I had my flower girl take him away.”
“Your flower girl?” the nobleman said, something like flowers starting to bloom on his own cheeks. “And… where could I find her?”
The princess raised her eyebrows. “You think she still has your bird?” she said. “If so she must keep it in the gardens, you can almost certainly find her there.”
So the nobleman rushed out into the palace gardens and looked around until he saw the flower girl sitting under a tree. She looked rather dejected, but she held his bird perched on her arm, stroking him softly with her free hand.
“What makes you sigh so, my lady?” he asked politely.
The flower girl looked up and bowed her head.
“No lady, Sir,” she said. “Just a flower girl taking care of a bird for a friend.”
“A friend?” the nobleman asked, his heart jumping from his chest to his throat and back again.
“A dear friend who has come to visit the princess,” the flower girl said, trying to smile.
“Why would he do that, if you are the one taking care of his pet?” the nobleman asked.
“Because he is a nobleman and she is a princess and I am a flower girl,” the flower girl said.
“What if the nobleman would prefer the flower girl?”
The flower girl looked at him, suspicion beginning to dawn on her face. “Why would he?” she asked.
“For all the best reasons,” the nobleman smiled.
He reached out his arm and the bird gave a pleased cry and hopped from the flower girls arm to his. He shook his feathered head and winked at the flower girl, who was blushing as red as her roses.
“So you are the seventh son who found his fortune,” the flower girl smiled.
“And you are the one whose fortune grew from the dirt!” he beamed.
“Well, that is true, isn’t it?” the flower girl laughed and the nobleman had to agree, for there was a wealth of flowers all around them more glorious than any gold or jewels could ever be.
They smiled at each other and they smiled at the bird, who was looking very smug indeed. They talked of the past and they talked of the present and then they hinted at the future and they blushed with happiness until the roses were becoming quite envious.
Finally the two of them decided to go to the princess to explain themselves, for they could tell all the gardeners were becoming very curious and no doubt the princess was sitting in her parlour wondering what had happed to the visiting nobleman.
So the nobleman and the flower girl told the princess everything that had happened and the princess promptly told him he was very welcome to stay at her palace as long as he liked, because after such a history surely a single meeting wasn’t enough.
Both the nobleman and the flower girl agreed most heartily and after a very, very long visit and a rather bashful talk with his dear friend in the garden, the nobleman went back to the princess. To ask if she’d not mind terribly if he took away her flower girl, on account of him wanting to marry her.
Luckily the princess was a very romantic soul and she gave the couple her blessing immediately. What’s more, she gave the flower girl a trousseau fit for a nobleman’s bride. And so the royal flower girl, now actually neither but very happy nonetheless, went with her betrothed to his father’s estate.
There they were married among all the pleasant noise that seven sons were capable of making and soon after they moved into a pretty little crème coloured mansion that the young nobleman had built with the fortune he made from farming the land. Now they had a little estate of their own and they filled it up to the brim with their happiness and all their dreams for the future.
So now the former flower girl had maids and footmen and all kinds of servants to help her with whatever she wished. But she never employed a flower girl, for she always took care of her flowers herself.
Laura: And with that last word stitching up the very last sentence, this story has its proper end.
Thank you so much for listening, lovely of you to stop by. You can follow this podcast on podcatchers like Spotify, iTunes, or Stitcher, but for an mp3 download, transcripts, themed tags and summaries, you can check out patchworkfairytales.wordpress.com, where you can also contact me and find out about my other projects. Like my book Coffee and Faerie Cakes and my webcomic The Fisherman’s Favour. You can also find me at laurasimonsdaughter.tumblr.com which is full of folklore and urban fantasy, or you can follow @patchworktale on twitter.
There’s another tale to tell some other wednesday, but until then:
Watch your words, mind the faerie mounds, and be safe~
Copyright Laura Simons, please do not copy my stories without my permission, lest you insult the fae.