Princess Rose was the most beautiful girl in the kingdom of Grace. Yet, she had never seen her reflection in all sixteen years of her life. The castle where she lived had no mirrors, nor glass, nor pools of water, nor metal armory, nor anything that would cast a reflection. The reason for this was simple: to keep the princess from vanity. Not only were mirrors non-existent in Grace, but everyone was forbidden to speak about the princess’s appearance. In fact, it was impermissible to speak about anyone’s appearance for fear of envy and pride. But no one mind, for it was a custom of Grace.
On the day she turned sixteen, Princess Rose was informed that the Prince from the kingdom of Lake had asked to wed her. The King and Queen of Grace agreed. The Princess did not. She protested and pleaded with anyone who would hear her that she did not want to marry the Prince of Lake.
“I have never met him,” she said. “How can I wed someone I have never seen?”
But her words went unheard, for not even her parents would relent.
“Rose, my dear,” her mother chided. “I did not meet your father until the day of our wedding. Do not worry, the Prince of Lake is a good man, and his kingdom is a peaceful kingdom like ours.”
“The Prince will come in a fortnight,” her father said. “That is when we shall hold the ceremony.”
The Princess gasped. “No!” she cried. “That cannot be! It is too soon! I cannot wed him! I refuse to, Father!”
The King and Queen stared at their daughter, eyes wide with fright.
“Do not say such words, my dear!” her mother whispered.
“You have always obeyed us, dear Rose,” her father said. “Do not change your ways.”
“I shall!” the Princess cried with anger. “I refuse to marry him and I refuse to obey!”
This time the King and Queen gasped at the sight of their daughter, for now, she was no longer the most beautiful girl in the kingdom of Grace.
The Princess squawked in fright when she saw her hands as white feathered wings and her feet dark and webbed.
“Mother! Father! What has happened?” she cried, but no one heard her words, for they only heard her frantic squawking.
The Queen began to weep. “Oh, my dear daughter!”
“We must tell the Prince of Lake when he arrives,” the King said. “He must know what has become of his fiancé. And perhaps he may know how to undo this enchantment.”
The Queen sniffled and nodded. “I wish him a speedy arrival and I wish our daughter to be herself once more.”
Both the King and Queen watched their daughter until she stopped her panicked fluttering and screeching. Then the Queen scooped the Princess into her arms and took her to a chamber deep within the castle.
Inside the chamber of stone was a pool of glittering water. The Queen placed her daughter into it.
“This is your new chamber, dear,” the Queen said, “until you return to your true self.”
“We will visit you often,” the King said. “And pray that you return to us.”
Then the King and Queen left their swan daughter alone.
The Princess stared down at her reflection in the water. She screeched at her appearance, for it was the first time she had seen herself.
“A swan!” she sobbed. “I have become a swan! Why has this happened?”
Since then she refused to look at her reflection. She sat still and silent as her tears fell into the pool, praying for her parents’ return so she may ask for their forgiveness. Perhaps then, she would become her true self.
But days would pass, and the Princess would no longer acknowledge her parents’ presence, for anger had filled her heart until she refused to lift her head or open her eyes. She believed this curse to be her parents’ doing for her refusal to marry the Prince of Lake. Whatever they tried, she would never accept. She would remain a swan forever.
Then one day, she heard a voice. It was not her mother’s or her father’s. The voice was gentle and foreign. But she understood his words.
“You are beautiful, Princess Rose,” the voice said.
No one in the kingdom of Grace spoke such words to her for it was forbidden to do so.
The swan lifted her head and turned to the direction of those words. She had never seen the young man before her, and his kind yet sad smile brought her to tears. She knew who he was: the Prince of Lake.
She turned her head away and swam to the opposite side of the pool.
“Leave me be,” she whispered, but all the prince heard was a depressing sigh.
The prince remained where he sat, opposite the swan princess, watching her.
“Princess,” he said. “I wish to help you if you would allow me.”
The swan refused to open her eyes, nor turn in his direction.
“I know the reason why you have become like this,” the prince said. “And it is through no fault of your own, but mine.”
This time, the swan princess turned to him.
“Long ago, before your birth, our kingdoms were at war. In order for peace, our parents had agreed for us to wed. I was a child, no more than five when I had learned of this. And I had refused. I had told my parents that I could not wed someone who was not yet born, who I did not know. It was then that my parents said that they could not change this fate. They had said the girl I would wed would not be as she seems for she, too, would refuse me.”
The swan gasped.
“It was ancient magic, placed over our kingdoms long before our parents ruled,” the prince explained. “Of course, I was a foolish child, and so I continued to refuse and mock my parents for such a ridiculous fate they had planned for me. As I grew older, I learned of the magic and its power over our kingdoms.”
The swan princess swam closer to him.
“It was a curse,” the prince continued. “The curse that made the people of our kingdom beautiful beyond compare until our hearts were filled with hatred of those that were not beautiful. To save me from succumbing to a dark fate, my parents had removed all the mirrors from our kingdom so we would not be able to see our beautifully cursed reflections. My parents had warned your parents of the dark magic that plagued our kingdom, and soon your kingdom, too, had banned all reflecting surfaces. But from what has happened to you, I can see it was not enough.”
The swan princess turned her head away.
“I did not realize that the curse would take your refusal to marry me and turn you into a swan,” he whispered. “And if I can change that in a heartbeat, I would.”
The swan princess glanced at him and saw tears in his eyes.
“I had accepted your parents’ proposal to wed you when you became of age for I believed that I could love you even though I had never met you. And I do love you no matter what you look like, princess.”
The swan princess swam closer to him until she could almost touch him.
“I am truly sorry for causing you such grief and hardship,” he stated. “If you wish for me to leave your presence and never return, then I shall do so.”
The swan princess opened her mouth to speak, to tell him that he shouldn’t blame himself for what had happened, but all that came out was a low gasp. The prince stood to leave when the swan princess shook her head. When that did not warrant his attention, she flailed her outstretched wings, splashing the pool water. He turned to watch her.
“Stay!” she cried, but only a frantic gasp escaped. “I forgive you! I forgive our parents! And I forgive myself for what has happened!”
He approached and sat down near the edge of the pool, watching her as if he could hear her silent words.
She looked down at her reflection. Her tears rippled the image of the swan she saw.
“I’m sorry, too,” she added. “I did not mean for this to happen, for you to see me like this. I know the mistake I’ve made and I wish to undo this with your help.”
He wiped a tear falling from her eye and she leaned her head against his hand.
“And I love you as well,” she whispered. “Your kind words have made me see the error of my ways and I do wish a bright future for us.”
Then she was no longer a swan, but a princess returned to her true self. The Prince of Lake helped the former swan princess out of the pool, and together they walked to throne hall where the King and Queen of Grace sat.
“You’ve broken her curse, Your Highness!” the Queen cried, getting to her feet and rushing over to her daughter.
“You have saved Grace!” the King added.
“It was not me, Your Majesties,” the Prince of Lake stated. “But your daughter, Princess Rose, who broke the enchantment upon herself.”
“Oh, my beloved daughter!” the Queen said, embracing the princess. “We have considered your words and if you wish not to wed the Prince of Lake, then we shall honor your choice.”
“No, Mother,” the princess stated. “It was my disobedience that led me to my cursed fate. Now, I wish to wed the Prince of Lake, if he would have me.”
The King, Queen, and Princess of Grace turned to the Prince of Lake.
The Prince gave them a nod. “I do,” he stated. “With Your Majesties’ permission and blessings.”
And so, the Princess of Grace and Prince of Lake wed and their union broke the curse placed upon both kingdoms. And they lived happily ever after.