And here is the full story for you to read:
One day, the princess decided it was high time she got married. But, of course, she couldn’t just marry any Tom, Dick or Harry…no Prince Thomas, Prince Richard and Prince Harold were all already married. No, it would take someone special, someone unique, someone…talented to marry such an extraordinary princess, which is whycome she invented “The Gauntlet.”
“But, mistress, someone has already invented the gauntlet,” said the prime minister when the princess made the announcement.
“No, not gauntlet like glove,” said the princess. “The Gauntlet is a series of difficult tasks to determine who is most worthy to marry me.”
Difficult? More like impossible! First the suitors who wished to marry the princess would have to journey deep into the Haunted Forest and catch the rare and elusive phoenix. They would then have to pluck one of its long tail feathers and take it to the top of the Misty Mountain where they would find a giant sleeping in a cave. Using the feather they would then have to tickle the giant until he said “uncle” at which point he would hand over a silver key. Then down the mountain to a maze which had been constructed on the castle grounds. At the center of the maze was a box which had to be unlocked with the silver key. Inside the box was a golden apple inscribed “To the fairest in the land.”
The upshot of all this is that only he who presented the golden apple to the princess would be able to marry her.
Of course, suitors from all over the kingdom came and tried their luck, but none of them got very far. In fact, none of them got past the Haunted Forest. Most ran straight out of the forest in fear, and one or two got lost and were never heard of again. Then there was one guy who snapped almost immediately and decided to live in the forest with the ghosts. He became known as the Ghost Man of the Haunted Forest, but that’s another story.
The princess was just beginning to think that nobody would be able to run the Gauntlet when Doug announced that he would attempt to recover the Golden Apple.
Doug was not the tallest, strongest, fastest, bravest or handsomest man in the kingdom. In fact, he was widely considered to be just sort of…ordinary. Just a normal guy. A nice guy, mind you, but normal just the same. And after knights and princes and lords and other guys with fancy names had all failed to retrieve the apple, the princess felt sure that Doug would fail, too.
So bright and early one spring morning, Doug entered the Haunted Forest armed with nothing but a spool of thread, his trusty fiddle, some hard candy, a handkerchief and a cheese sandwich. The first thing he did upon entering the forest (which was dark as night, despite it being bright and early in the morning) was to take a branch off one of the trees and tie his handkerchief over his eyes. You see, Doug knew that ghosts can’t really hurt you, just scare you. And if you can’t see them, you can’t get scared. So, feeling his way through the trees with the stick, Doug made it past the ghosts and straight to the center of the forest, where the phoenix was known to dwell.
Once in the clearing, Doug removed his blindfold and took out his cheese sandwich. “Mr. Phoenix!” he called out. “I’ve got a cheese sandwich for you!”
It just so happens that a phoenix’s favorite food is a cheese sandwich, so the majestic bird walked straight up to Doug, saving him the trouble of catching it.
“I’ll give you half the sandwich in exchange for one of your tail feathers,” Doug said. “And if you’ll also fly me up to the giant’s cave on the Misty Mountain, you can have the whole thing.”
Well, that was a sweet deal the Phoenix couldn’t refuse so, before he knew it, Doug was on top of the Misty Mountain with no cheese sandwich, but with a phoenix feather, which is really what he needed anyway. So armed, he bravely marched into the giant’s cave.
The giant was making a quiche when Doug arrived and panicked when he saw the feather. This particular giant just hated being tickled. “I don’t want to tickle you,” said Doug. “But I hear you have a silver key which I need.”
“Oh, that?” said the giant, giantly. “Yeah, it came in the mail last week. I figured it had been delivered to the wrong address so I hung on to it in case someone came looking for it. Here ya go!”
“Thanks,” said Doug. “Hey, is there a quicker way down this mountain besides climbing?”
“Sure, take the service elevator. Down the hall to your right.”
So Doug took the elevator to the base of the mountain where it was just a short walk to the maze. As luck would have it, there was a tree just outside the entrance to the maze. Doug tied one end of his spool of thread to the tree then entered the maze. Using the thread, he was able to keep track of where he was and where he’d already been, so it was easy to solve the maze and reach the center where he opened the box with the key and took out the golden apple.
Then all he had to do was follow his thread back to the tree and he was out of the maze with the feather, the key and the apple. He put them in his pack with his other possessions…then went home. He never even spoke to the princess.
And why should he? Who would want to marry someone who makes her potential husband go through all that? What kind of person is that arrogant? The apple was clearly addressed to “The Fairest of the Fair” and that was not the princess. So Doug just took the apple home, hoping one day to meet someone who did deserve it.
As for the princess? Well, as far as I know she is still waiting for someone to bring her the golden apple…and if you don’t tell her I won’t!
If you enjoyed this "Flunkerer's Fable" why not buy the book HERE and learn all about this forgotten hero of fairy tales?