Once upon a time, a king’s daughter loved dogs as her dearest friends. She had all manner of species about her all the time, and whenever she went for a walk, she always brought at least two with her. She trained the dogs herself along with her brother, who loved them almost as much as she did, and they spent all their free-time with them.
One afternoon, the princess decided to train one of the newest puppies, so she set off on a walk with Klitus and Grimus, two old, wise dogs, and OrangeYellowBlack, OYB for short, the frisky puppy.
“Shall I come with you?” asked her brother eagerly. He wanted to get out of a long meeting with his tutor. “OYB might be troublesome.”
She laughed at him. “I’m sure I can handle him,” she said, and made the prince watch her run away with the dogs while he had to go to his lesson.
The woods beside the palace were a golden green, full of playful shadows, butterflies, and trilling birds. She knew to stay only in this wood, since further on, against the very edge of her father’s kingdom, there was a deep, dark forest, ruled by a sorcerer.
Klitus and OYB ran ahead, and then back again, and then on ahead. The princess practiced calling OYB’s name and making him learn to obey. Grimus plodded on patiently beside her – her loyal, faithful watchdog.
Out of the trees beside the path hobbled an old, ugly, hunchbacked man. He was pulling himself along with a gnarled staff, and grunting as he came. He did not seem to see the princess until he nearly ran into her, and she had to hop out of his way.
“Watch it! Ah, princess, I didn’t see you. Have a few coins for a poor old traveler?”
The princess was frightened by his awful appearance and brisk manner, but she was too polite to show it, and fumbled in her purse for some coins.
He stomped over to receive them and, as if by accident, hammered his staff into Grimus’s paw. With a squeal, Grimus jumped back and growled lightly in his throat. He did not like or trust this old man, and his paw pounded so painfully he could not walk on it, and had to limp on three legs.
“Oh, Grimus, my darling, are you alright?” The princess bent over her friend and the two other dogs danced excitedly nearby, unnerved by the event.
“Oh, terrible accident that,” mumbled the beggar. “Whoops. Didn’t see him!” He whirled about as if to help, sending his stick going in every direction and nearly whacking the princess’s head off. Though it missed her, it hit OYB in the rear, and with a cry of panic, the puppy took off running into the forest.
“Ho, there! All this fuss is putting me out!” cried the old man, but the princess ignored him and called and called for OYB to come back.
“Oh, where is he? OYB!” She was so upset that she ran after her lost puppy without a second thought, closely followed by Klitus. Grimus whined on the path, torn because he wanted to go too, but knowing he would be no help hobbling on three paws. So finally, he turned back toward home, leaving the beggar grumbling to himself on the path.
When he reached the palace, he barked like a mad pigeon, and everyone yelled and told him to be quiet, but he only got louder and louder, until the prince, who was studying geography and finding it exceedingly dull, heard the noise and ran downstairs.
“What is it boy?” he asked, and Grimus started limping back toward the forest. “Something’s wrong,” said the prince to himself, and followed after.
Grimus led the prince to the place where they had met the beggar, but there was no sign of him. So he began to sniff the ground, and then took off after his beloved princess’s scent.
To both their horror, the scent led them right up to the dark forest, and there, against the outermost tree, lay Klitus, dead.
Grimus whined and wept over his fallen companion, and the prince knelt beside him. “You must go home,” he whispered. “This is no place for an injured creature.” Grimus looked at him with large, worried eyes. “I’ll be alright, you know,” the prince assured him. “The sorcerer never harms young men.”
So with his tail between his legs and his ears hanging past his mouth, Grimus trudged back to the palace, and the prince disappeared into the black shadows of the dark forest.
Immediately beneath those trees, day turned to night, and he could see no further than the stretch of his arm. As he searched for his sister, he began to despair. There was no sign of her. Instead, there was a big black toad the size of his fist sitting on a mushroom.
“Have you seen my sister?” he asked the toad.
“No,” he croaked. “All I see all day are the black flies that fly around my head.”
A little further into the forest, he found a lion. “Have you seen my sister?”
“No,” he growled. “All I see all day are the scuffling hogs I eat.”
Even further, a snake was coiled around a tree limb. “Have you seen my sister?”
“I have sssseen only the miccce that I sswallow whole.”
The prince searched for two more days until his strength relinquished itself to the weight of his desperation, and he fell to the ground and slept.
In his sleep, a dream came to him. He saw OYB run into the forest in fright, and his sister chase after him. He saw a mighty black crow fly across the gray sky and land in a tall, dark tower in the very middle of the forest. The crow changed into the evil sorcerer, the dark master of the land, and with a wave of his staff, he transformed the princess into a beautiful dove.
When the prince awoke, he no longer searched for a princess, but called out in a loud coo for a dove. Finally, a coo came back to him.
From the very tops of the trees flew down a bird on a single beam of light and alighted on his shoulder. He kissed its beak, and the dove nuzzled its head into his cheek.
“Oh, my dearest sister, how shall I save you from this fate?” he asked her. She cooed softly in response and a tear fell from her eye.
“I will save you!” he declared, and headed off for the black tower with his sister still on his shoulder. When they reached the mighty fortress, the prince banged on the door.
“Sorcerer!” he yelled. “How can I save my sister?”
The sorcerer stuck his head out of the tower. “Go away!” he shouted, and disappeared back inside.
He pounded even harder. “Sorcerer, how can I save my sister?”
This time, there was no response. For ten minutes, the prince yelled and pounded. Finally, the sorcerer returned to the window.
“I said, go away! Or I’ll turn you into a dove!”
The prince pounded so hard on the door that the wood splintered in two, and then he ran up the spiral staircase.
When he arrived, the Sorcerer was very angry. “Go away, I tell you! Why do you test my patience? I’ll enchant you!”
“Everyone knows you do not enchant men. I’m not leaving here until you tell me how to lift her curse.”
The sorcerer groaned with annoyance, but he saw he could not get rid of this boy. “Very well,” he snarled. “You must leave her in this forest for three years. You cannot return home – instead, you will wander the world as a nameless beggar collecting one whole seashell from each ocean and stringing them into a necklace. After three years, if you put that necklace around her neck, she will turn back into a girl. Now go away and leave me in peace!”
The brother and sister said a tearful goodbye at the edge of the forest. Just as the prince turned to leave, however, he heard a tiny bark and from out of the foliage leapt OYB. With a coo of joy, the dove lighted on the animal’s head, and the prince left them together, relieved that his sister would have a friend in her exile.
At the first cottage he came across, the prince traded his rich royal clothes for the costume of the resident peasant, and then departed into the world to find the shells.
At the first ocean, he encountered a polar bear and wrestled with him on an iceberg until, finally, he overcame the beast and collected the shell. Just before reaching the second ocean, he faced a giant, evil koala bear who tried to kill him with a rifle. But the prince defeated the evil Koala, took the rifle for himself, and found his shell. At the third ocean, he strangled a sea serpent. At the fourth, he slew a gigantic spider. And finally, in the final year, when he had traveled, and suffered, and grown into a man, he came to the fifth ocean.
There, he picked up the final shell and threaded it onto the string he had worn around his neck for three years, then he sold the shark to local fisherman who could make use of its parts, and with the money from the sale, headed back to his own country.re, just as he bent to pick up the final shell, a giant shark flew out of the water and came right for his throat. He leapt back, pulled out the rifle, and with one single shot, killed it in the head.
He went straight to the forest, and there, right where he had departed from her all those years ago, he saw his sister waiting. He ran up, placed the necklace over her head, and she transformed instantly back into a princess. The sorcerer knew when his magic had ceased, and he flew instantly to where the prince and princess were embracing.
“I have completed your tasks!” proclaimed the prince.
The sorcerer had never expected to see the prince again, and he was very angry. But a promise was a promise, so he had to let them go. But before they did, he said to them, “You have escaped my power for now, but someday beware…I will come after your descendants.”
The brother and sister headed back to the kingdom with their now grown dog OYB, and their father the King, who thought both his children had perished years ago, received them with tears of joy.
Keep a look out for future stories about the Sorcerer! Why doesn’t he enchant men? What will happen when he goes after the prince and princess’s descendants? Why is he always so cranky?
Images were made by myself and my four-year-old brother