The Three Weavers, part V: The Princes Come Riding

So with her father’s blessing light upon her, she rode away beside the prince; and ever after, all her life was crowned with happiness as it had been written for her in the stars.

In part I of this series I offered some background to Annie Fellows Johnston’s 1904 short story The Three Weavers, and in part II the story began as three weavers—Herthold, Hubert, and Hildgardmar—who live side-by-side and have similar fortunes, bore three infant daughters—Hertha, Huberta, and Hildegard. At each girl’s christening, a fairy appeared and declared that the girl would marry a prince—if she could weave him a royal mantle.

In part III the three fathers took very different courses of action in introducing the magic looms and weaving—here an analogy for love and sex—to their daughters. Hertha shamed his daughter for asking about her loom, and she is now weaving in secret. Huberta’s father gave her her loom with a laugh, and told her to have fun with it however she pleased. Hildegarde’s father spoke seriously with her about her loom, giving it to her along with a silver yardstick and careful instructions.

In part IV the girls went about their weaving: Huberta gave out woven mantles hither and yon, to the shepherd boy and a passing troubadour; Hertha wove in secret, working on a mantle to fit a page she believed had a royal and princely demeanor; and Hildegarde wove with her father as her confidante, reminding her that a passing man and a wandering knight did not fully fit the yardstick he had given her.

At last it came to pass, as it was written in the stars, a prince came riding by to ask for Hertha as his bride. Old Herthold, taking her by the hand, said, ‘Now I will lead thee into the inner room and teach thee how to use the fairy’s sacred gift. With me for a teacher, thou canst surely make no mistake.’

When they came into the inner room there stood only the empty loom from which the golden warp had been clipped.

‘How now!’ he demanded, angrily. Hertha, braving his ill-humour, said, defiantly, ‘Thou art too late. Because I feared thy scorn of what thou wast pleased to call my childish foolishness, I wove in secret, and when my prince came by, long ago I gave it him. He stands outside at the casement.’

The astonished Herthold, turning in a rage, saw the long-haired page clad in the mantle which she had woven in secret. He tore it angrily from the youth, and demanded she should give it to the prince, who waited to claim it, but the prince would have none of it. It was of too small a fashion to fit his royal shoulders, and had been defiled by the wearing of a common page. So with one look of disdain he rode away.

Stripped of the robe her own fancy had woven around him, the page stood shorn before her. It was as if a veil had been torn from her eyes, and she no longer saw him as her fond dreams had painted him. She saw him in all his unworthiness; and the cloth of gold which was her maiden-love, and the rosy day-dreams she had woven into it to make the mantle of a high ideal, lay in tattered shreds at her feet. When she looked from the one to the other and saw the mistake she had made and the opportunity she had lost, she covered her face with her hands and cried out to Herthold, ‘It is thy fault. Thou shouldst not have laughed my childish questions to scorn, and driven me to weave in ignorance and in secret.’ But all her upbraiding was too late. As it was written in the stars, her heart broke, as broke the shattered mirror of the Lady of Shalott.

“That same day came a prince to Hubert, asking for his daughter. He called her from the garden, saying, gaily, ‘Bring forth the mantle now, Huberta. Surely it must be a goodly one after all these years of weaving at thy own sweet will.’

“She brought it forth, but when he saw it he started back aghast at its pigmy size. When he demanded the reason, she confessed with tears that she had no more of the golden warp that was Clotho’s sacred gift. She had squandered that maiden-love in the bygone years to make the mantles she had so thoughtlessly bestowed upon the shepherd lad and the troubadour, the student and the knight. This was all she had left to give.

“‘Well,’ said her father, at length, ”tis only what many another has done in the wanton foolishness of youth. But perchance when the prince sees how fair thou art, and how sweetly thou dost sing to thy lute, he may overlook the paltriness of thy offering. Take it to him.’

“When she had laid it before him, he cast only one glance at it, so small it was, so meagre of gold thread, so unmeet for a true prince’s wearing. Then he looked sorrowfully into the depths of her beautiful eyes and turned away.

“The gaze burned into her very soul and revealed to her all that she had lost for evermore. She cried out to her father with pitiful sobs that set his heartstrings in a quiver, ‘It is thy fault! Why didst thou not warn me what a precious gift was the gold warp Clotho gave me! Why didst thou say to me, “Is this the lad? Is that the lad?” till I looked only at the village churls and wove my web to fit their unworthy shoulders, and forgot how high is the stature of a perfect prince!’ Then, hiding her face, she fled away, and as it was written in the stars, her heart broke, as broke the shattered mirror of the Lady of Shalott.

“Then came the prince to Hildegarde. All blushing and aflutter, she clipped the threads that held the golden web of her maiden-love, through which ran all her happy girlish day-dreams, and let him take it from her. Glancing shyly up, she saw that it fitted him in all faultlessness, as the falcon’s feathers fit the falcon.

“Then old Hildgardmar, stretching out his hands, said, ‘Because even in childhood days thou ever kept in view the sterling yardstick as I bade thee, because no single strand of all the golden warp that Clotho gave thee was squandered on another, because thou waitedst till thy woman’s fingers wrought the best that lay within thy woman’s heart, all happiness shall now be thine! Receive it as thy perfect crown!’

“So with her father’s blessing light upon her, she rode away beside the prince; and ever after, all her life was crowned with happiness as it had been written for her in the stars.”

I’m going to come right out and say it: These princes are jerks, and Hertha and Huberta are well rid of them.

I mean, the one prince sees that Hertha has woven a mantle fit for the page she loves, and given it to him, and he responds by giving her a look of disdain? Who does he think he is, anyway? I get that the author of the story is trying to portray Hertha’s page as unworthy of her, but honestly, he comes off loads better than the prince. I vote she stick with her faithful page rather than rejecting him because she just realized she might have ha a trust fund baby. And Huberta, for her part, has had enough relationship experience by now that she shouldn’t have a problem finding a loving life partner, once she gets over the insult paid her by an uppity trust fund baby—it’s not like she’s been kept locked in a closet and has no idea how to meet guys, after all.

And then there’s Hildegarde. Notice the words used to describe her reaction to the prince—”blushing” and “aflutter” and “glancing shyly up.” These are not signs of a mature relationship. I mean, for goodness sake, she has only just met the prince! She doesn’t actually know him! In practice, what happened here was that her father, Hildgardmar, designed a yardstick of proper characteristics and chose her husband for her. This is what I was raised to expect. The roles played by Hildegarde and her father are exactly those outlined by leaders of the Christian Patriarchy movement and the “courtship” ideal. And given that she has never been in a relationship with anyone before, and given the has just been presented by her father with an approved beau whom she is told will bring her all happiness, of course she’s all aflutter and blushing and shy! It’s no wonder I read this section as so realistic when I was a teen—it was what I’d been taught to long for and expect.

I’m glad I went back through this story. It’s helped me clarify my feelings about The Three Weavers, which I first read more than ten years ago, and which had a significant impact on my relational development. I now understand that part of why I felt such an attachment to this story is that it perfectly fit with the other things I was taught, and especially with Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye. The messages in this story were the stuff of my girlhood. I suppose I now wish I could travel into this story and tell Hertha, Huberta, and Hildegarde that there is more to their lives than who they marry, and that rather than sitting around at home waiting for life to come to them they should go out and seize it themselves. Maybe we would run away together, we four. Perhaps I should write a fanfic. After all, I already know who the villains would be (hint: it starts with “p” and ends with “rinces”).

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Amtep

    Since this story is so classist that even pages and knights are unworthy, can we take a moment to feel sorry for the prince who ends up with a weaver’s daughter? ;)

    • shadowspring


  • SirWill

    I get what they’re driving at. I don’t condone it in any way, mind you, but I DO get it.

    In a society lain out along these lines, and especially in the fairy tales this is built on, marrying a prince is like winning the lottery. You never need to worry about where your next meal’s coming from, you don’t need to toil in the fields, and some day, the Prince will become King and you’ll become Queen, thereby gaining authority over everyone who isn’t the King. If you’re lucky, anyway.

    For a young peasant girl, about the only way out is to marry upward, and the Prince of the Realm would be the best option. Nevermind the hilariously huge ears, missing (or extra!) fingers, the insanity from inbreeding, various hereditary diseases, etc. That said, why not marry the knight, or the page (who will be something other than a page eventually, maybe even a knight. I’m a bit rusty on the medieval stuff) . Seriously, WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE PAGE? He may not be a prince, but he’s there, and he’s been dating (or is it supposed to be courting?) her and got to know her, hasn’t he? Unless of course, she’s only gotten to watch him through the mirror, in which case all she has is a faraway image of the person. In which case, it’s no wonder she’s dashed when she sees him close up. She fell in love with a fictionalized, idealized version of the man.

    As for the second girl, we’re left with “Oh, she’s a dirty slut. She’ll be left all alone like she deserves and fears.” Nevermind that maybe her Prince will want someone with some experience. Maybe he’ll want a fun time with his Princess, rather than trying to get her to learn everything from scratch. What’s most important is the happiness of all the participants in a relationship, and to be frank? What we have with ALL of these is not a relationship. It’s a sell-off. Like dad is selling his prize goat for the royal feast. Only worse, because at least the goat will have no idea it’s going to be dinner, just that he’s going somewhere. But the girls (INCLUDING the one who marries the prince) has an idea of what they’re going to get and it’s all dashed.

    The more I see about the kind of thinking of patriarchy, the more I get the feeling I’m seeing an alien species in action. What they do makes complete sense given the premise given. Nevermind they never, ever, stop to think that maybe the premise given might be wrong.

    Good series, Libby.

    • ako

      Yeah, portions of it seem to be based on things that would have been true when the story was set, but are increasingly inaccurate in the modern world with a less-rigid class structure and more opportunities for women that don’t entirely depend on the social status of their husband. Only instead of recognizing the outdated aspects and trying to update it, they double down on the “You must save all of your love for the exact right man or else you are doomed!” part.

      • The_L

        Not to mention that the implication that only princes are “worthy” makes it sound like one must hold out for a wealthy husband, even if he’s horrible in all other respects. I know my father kept pushing me for YEARS to marry a millionaire, because he wanted me to be fabulously wealthy. Never mind that I didn’t know any millionaires, that I wasn’t interested in marrying for money alone, or that money is power, power corrupts, and I didn’t like what I’d seen of his own money-based attitudes.

        The failure at old-timey grammar is cringeworthy, too. “Waitedst” has never been a word. Forsooth, I’m not even certain how thou dost pronounce such a word. ‘Tis quite unlike anything I’ve heard in Shakespeare, or at the Faire.

    • Rachel Marcy (Bix)

      The story would be more realistic if the girls were told to become excellent weavers so they had a marketable economic skill. Then they could marry someone in the Weaver’s Guild and live as prosperous peasants, in a solid house, eating meat a couple times a week. Marrying a prince is laughable.

      • David S.

        Waitedst is perfectly fine pseudo-medieval Victorian; it was used by Robert Browning and William Morris, for example.

    • Bugmaster

      The future of the prospective Queen may not be as rosy as all that. After all, in the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.

    • Caravelle

      I don’t buy it. Fairy tales are indeed all about marrying a prince being the best thing that can happen to you, but actual period fairy tales are still usually not as classist as this is. Treating it as “oh it might have made sense in that time period” is wrong because it’s not from “that time period”, and it shows.

      I agree “traditional” fairy tales (i.e. European folk tales recorded in the 17th-18th centuries) are classist in that princes and princesses are usually awesome* and they always maintain the social status quo, but they’re also usually about the goodness of one’s character transcending one’s social class (usually this means good people end up becoming or having been royalty all along, but the point that they were poor yet good people to start with remains).

      It’s all the weirder that I would expect a Christian morality tale to be less classist than a traditional fairy tale. How can a purportedly Christian story treat shepherds this badly ?

      *The youngest one at least

  • Sheila Crosby

    Ha! I did write sort-of a fanfic of this years ago: Some Day My Prince Will Go

  • Nathan

    I don’t remember seeing in any of the Three Weavers threads any mention of Robert Munsch’s ‘The Paper Bag Princess’ – here’s a link to the author reading the story, although he does a little improv and doesn’t follow the exact text of the book

    • The_L

      I love that story so much! We had book-and-tape sets of that one, the Boy in the Cupboard, Angela’s Airplane, and Mortimer. All of them hit my childhood happy-buttons very well, and the “Paper Bag Princess” is definitely a good response to “The Three Weavers!” After all, Ronald’s hair is really neat, and his clothes are pretty and fancy, and he looks like a real prince–but that doesn’t make him a nice person.

      I’d forgotten the author’s name after all these years–now I know whom to look up for my kids. :) I may end up getting a whole library of Munsch stories!

    • Niemand

      Oooh, excellent response! They didn’t get married after all :-).

    • sylvia_rachel

      Best. Princess story. Ever. :D

      Princes. Who needs ‘em?

  • ako

    So is there one prince, or more than one? Because “That same day came a prince to Hubert” makes it sound like he’s a new prince, but “Then came the prince to Hildegarde” sounds like it’s the same prince. I’m wondering this because if there was only one prince, two of the girls were going to be out of luck no matter what.

    I like the idea of stories subverting the idea. I’d be tempted to do something where a girl wove a cloak that was too big for the prince, and no one could work out what that meant, and the prince staged a big ugly tantrum because he was mad that she’d revealed he was smaller than he wanted people to think, and she had to go on a quest to find out what to do with all of her extra love. (I think it would include a different kind of magic warp threads that regrew more the more you wove.)

    • Niemand

      Do it! Do it! Do it! I like your story already.

  • Christine

    First rule of allegory: the story has to make sense in and of itself. If you need to know what everything is supposed to be representing before any of the story makes sense, then you are probably better off just saying what you want to. “See, giving your virginity to your husband is like weaving a cloak for him without ever meeting him, and it fits him perfectly” “Why is that a good thing? Is that supposed to make me want to not have sex?”

    • Sgaile-beairt

      & you’re supposed to practice lots & lots & lots of it by yourself! in secret!! who knew conservatives were so keen on masturbation??

  • perfectnumber628

    “She brought it forth, but when he saw it he started back aghast at its pigmy size. … She had squandered that maiden-love in the bygone years to make the mantles she had so thoughtlessly bestowed upon the shepherd lad and the troubadour, the student and the knight. This was all she had left to give. … But perchance when the prince sees how fair thou art, and how sweetly thou dost sing to thy lute, he may overlook the paltriness of thy offering. Take it to him.’”

    This part here. I used to believe that if I dated any guys or kissed any guys who weren’t my hypothetical “future husband” then when I finally got married I would have to apologize to my husband for doing those things with other guys. And that I would need to find a guy willing to forgive me for it- because he’s well within his rights to be upset with me/ reject me for having kissed another guy, years ago.

    • Kate Monster

      We had the Abstinence Speakers come and tell us al about that every year at school. We also got the “having sex with multiple people is like trying to reuse a piece of tape” and “sex is like spitting in a cup”. One of the speakers was a guy who was always going on about how his wife had slept around as a teen and really regretted it and how he had accepted her and loved her anyway (barf). He was also big on preaching the greatness and super-effectiveness of natural family planning/rhythm method (aka Catholic birth “control”). Yet his wife was at home pregnant ever year. Oh, Catholic school…

      • machintelligence

        Abstinence Education, short version: ” Kids, we want to have a word with you about sex — the word is NO!

      • Sophelia

        Isn’t it strange that the same people who argue that love is a finite resource (re-using a piece of tape) simultaneously promote having huge numbers of children?

      • Keane Sanders

        What? You thought you were supposed to *love* your children?

        Well that’s just silly.

  • Jolie

    Purely for amusement and trolling purposes (and maybe a little bit of naughty feminist subversion), here’s my bit of fanfic, have fun with it:

    So, after Herthold tore the mantle from the page’s shoulders and gave it to the prince, Hertha could clearly see it was not befitting: it was too small for the prince’s broad shoulders, and besides, according to the prince- it has been ” defiled by the wearing of a common page”;why, some persnickety goody-two-shoes that prince was!
    Obviously, neither the prince nor Herthold knew mouch about the young long-haired page: how he would lend Hertha books about the mysteries of the Universe, that they would talk about in the nights she sneaked out of the house just to be with him; how he would make hot chocolate for her, how he had taught her how to ride a bike and how he confided his deepest secrets in her. They didn’t know how, while Herthold concerned himself with teaching Hertha broidery and fair needlework, and songs upon a lute, the young page and his books taught her about the wonders of science and adventure and long lost worlds and treasures.
    This is why, upon the prince’s dismay and disdain, she confidently laughed in his face:
    “Why, whatever gave you the idea that it was ever meant for you?”
    “What???” stuttered Herthold in shock, “so you don’t want to marry the prince and -you know- be a princess?”
    “I’ve made other career choices”, she said with a grin.
    So Hertha enrolled in university in the city nearby, where took to the study of archeology- and became an adventurer who spent her days seeking for ancient treasures in lands far, far away. She married the long-haired page and they traveled the world together. Some years after- they settled down in a little liberal college town: she taught archeology at the University, while the page, being a man of less career ambitions than Hertha, became a stay-at-home dad for a bunch of very happy and creative kids.

    Hubertha… well, her story is perhaps less conventionally romantic. Upon realising that she was all out of Cloto’s gold wrap, she decided to experiment with spandex instead. You see, the thing about spandex is that it stretches- and so it can fit a very wide variety of bodies, depending on whom you’d like to experiment with next. And besides- after all this weaving, she had become pretty good at creating mantles of various creative shapes, embellishing them with the adornments at hand and cutting them in many stylish shapes. Last we have heard of Huberta, she was in an open relationship with an open-minded wizard and she blogged on Tumblr about fashion design, sex-positive feminism and cupcakes.

    Hertha’s and Hubertha’s princes still haven’t found wives to weave the mantle for them. The reason, they’ll tell you if you ask them (as well as if you don’t) is because obviously all women are bitches and you know, for goodness’ sake, how come they can’t get a date when they’re such nice guys?? Wife-less and mantle-less, they revised their goals a little and started organising workshops in which they talked about alfa and beta males and how to manipulate women into darning your socks.

    As for Hildegard… well, all we know is that with her father’s blessing light upon her, she rode away beside the prince. Some time ago, you may remember, there was a dreamer with eyes so blue they filled all her dreams; and then there was a knight like Sir Lancelot… would any of these had been a better match for her? Would they have walked in and demanded a mantle just for their measure? Would they have appreciated her for her identity as a human being rather than for the mantle she weaved? Since they did not measure against the yardstick, I guess we’ll never know. But hey- remember that it was not Hildegard’s yardstick- it was Hildgardmar’s. So, Ye Humble Storyteller guesses, if marriage between Hildegard and the prince she was married to right after she just met him turns out sour and dissapointing, there is a silver lining: gay marriages are legal in nine states, so Hildgardmar, if he so wishes, can marry the fair prince himself.

    Good night, children. Sleep well and dream of smashing the patriarchy.

    • Katherine A.

      Very good. I especially like the part about Hildgardmar being able to marry the prince. I knew the page was better for Herta anyway. And good for Huberta she woke up to the double-standards and didn’t let them rule her life. (Also cupcakes are awesome.)

    • Rae

      I love this :-)

    • Monika Tillsley

      I have copied your ending to read to my daughter when she gets a little older! Love it.

  • Katherine A.

    You should write a fan-fic. And the princes did nothing to earn the love of those girls other than to be royalty. When the prince that came for Herta rejected the mantle because it was “defiled by the wearing of a common page” and gave rode away giving her a dirty look- I knew he was a jerk. Herta can do so much better! One other thing I noticed was the repeating of the word “maiden- love”. Is this word a more polite way to say hymen?

  • thalwen

    When I first saw your description of this story, I couldn’t imagine how horrible I would find it. The notion that someone might think this is a good thing to read for a young girl is baffling to me.
    -The girls have no personality, their actions are completely determined by their father but they are the ones who suffer the consequences of something they had little control over.
    -The first father is almost abusive, but that’s not a bad thing, the bad thing is his daughter weaving in secret – which, what was she supposed to do? Not weave? Then the jerk prince wouldn’t have come around I guess.
    -The third father… knowing this story is a metaphor for sex…eeew. Being that involved in your kid’s sex life is creepy to say the least.. and he’s the hero of the story!
    -The princes are jerks, they’re also completely generic, the only “good” thing about them is that they are princes and I guess, rich. Great story girls – let your father run your sex life and if he’s a “good” father, you’ll get to marry rich (and if he isn’t, your life will be terrible and you’ll be married to the page…and live in a duplex, and it’s still your fault because you had the nerve to have two X chromosomes).
    -Where are the mothers?
    -What exactly makes the fathers qualified to make this choice for their daughter? If prince is the gold standard – none of them are princes, not even knights.
    -Even if this story wasn’t about sex, it would still send a terrible message to a child. The fact that it is about sex makes it just outright creepy and disgusting.

    • Kate Monster

      Quote:-What exactly makes the fathers qualified to make this choice for their daughter? If prince is the gold standard – none of them are princes, not even knights.

      Um, didn’t you read? The father is qualified because he has a MAGIC TAPE MEASURE. The magic tape measure of JESUS!

  • Sam

    Can’t stop imagining that they’re weaving with vaginal secretions, since the parallels with sex are so obvious.

    The story is horribly classist. This idea that the prince’s deserve the best (and biggest!) mantle, simply because they’re princes.

  • Rae

    …so with a look of disdain, he rode away.
    Hertha was equally angry. “Father, thou art a jerk! Why must I marry a prince, if I do not love him?”
    Her father was almost too astonished to speak. “It is written in the stars that-”
    “Damn the stars!” Hertha exclaimed. “If that prince thinks the page is unworthy to wear a mantle that I wove, what must he think of me, a peasant girl? Does he only wish to wed me because he would have a golden mantle?” Herthold had no answer for her.
    “My lady,” the page said, “I shall love you, always, gold or no. For you have proved to be faithful, and to care more for a man’s character than for his wealth!”
    With that, the page took Hertha’s hand, and they walked away. In the end, it turned out to be quite a fortunate decision, because the prince had already divorced two wives and beheaded another for what was rumored to be failure to provide him with a male heir. Hertha felt fortunate to have escaped that fate, and lived happily ever after with her page.

    …he looked sorrowfully into her eyes and turned away.
    All was not lost for Huberta, though. Much to her father’s dismay, many of the men for whom she had wove mantles still came to call, all quite happy that they had clothing befitting a prince. Fortunately, Huberta by now was so adept at creating precisely the correct size mantle for any customer, without even needing to use a measure, that she became renowned for being the best weaver in all the lands. Out of embarrassment that his daughter was so much more successful than he, Hubert retired and moved to a distant land where he could only find work creating mantles to be sold at the Mart of the Wall. Huberta then adopted all the stray cats in the village, and spayed and neutered them. She kept some for herself, gave some to her childhood friends, and found the rest of them the most loving homes in which to live. It was a most fortuitous decision, for the land was stricken by a bout of the plague, and while the prince fell ill and met his untimely death, Huberta lived happily ever after with her business, her cats, her rodent-free hut, and many friends.

    …she rode away with the prince;
    Upon arrival at the prince’s palace, Hildegarde was stunned. It was beautiful and majestic beyond her wildest dreams! The prince’s sister, the queen, was also quite beautiful and treated Hildegarde quite kindly. Hildegarde was quite proud that her perfect mantle had won her a prince that lived in such an amazing, wonderful place.
    Sadly, her delight did not last beyond that summer. For one evening, upon entering the bedchamber that she shared with her prince, she was stunned to see the queen in there, giving him a golden mantle of the queen’s own making! Ashamed and betrayed, she ran for miles, tears streaming down her face. As she looked back at the castle, and lo, it was attacked by three fiery dragons!
    Alarmed at this turn of events, she quickly returned to the castle, curious about what had transpired there, and hoping against hope that her prince was alive. He was not – but, standing amidst the dragons (which were now quite placid) was a young woman, with unusual white hair, more lovely than any man or woman that Hildegarde had ever seen before. And so it was that Hildegard and the young woman fell in love, and travelled to a distant land where they were married and lived happily ever after with their trio of dragons.

    (Well, *that* got away from me quickly…)

    • Niemand

      Meh, not sure about Hildegarde’s fate. I don’t think she’s going to be very happy until she gives up falling in love at first sight (that is, with the person’s looks, rather than their character.) Maybe she should apprentice herself to the white haired lady, since controlling dragons seems a better fate than being eaten by dragons. Then, when she’s more self-confident maybe she’ll find someone to be with. Or some several. Or not. There’s no shame in being a happy single person.

      • M

        What if Hildegarde offered to marry the page, but he said “Nay, fair lady, for we have just now met. Let us tarry over dinner and watch the stars and carry on many divers conversations, that we might know each other”.

        And they did that for three years, until both of them were past any illusions or mere fancies. Then they got married and lived happily ever after.

      • Jenesis

        Well, Rae’s version of Hildegarde’s fate is a blatant reference to the Song of Ice and Fire series.

        In my alternate ending fanfic:

        Hertha runs away from home with the page and dates him for a couple months, but eventually they amiably break it off when they realize they don’t actually have anything in common. She flits around the social circles of various pages, squires, heralds, and other castle folk for several years before disposing of all this “true love” business to open up a shelter for victims of abusive parents/spouses.
        Huberta loses her prince, but discovers much to her amazement that the various men she gave mantles to have been spreading her reputation far and wide over the land. Eventually she’s swamped with more orders than she can fill on her own, buys out her two neighboring competitors, and establishes a mantle-manufacturing conglomerate that persists for decades after her death.
        Hildegarde…well, the fairy didn’t lie. Hildegarde lives happily with her prince for the rest of her days. He being accustomed to having his every whim serviced, and she being accustomed to doing whatever her patriarchal figure tells her to, they’re a perfect match. Eventually Hildegarde receives permission from her husband to write a self-help book titled Created To Be His Help Meet, which becomes a national best-seller.
        In her joy at getting published, Hildegarde sends advance copies of CTBHHM to her childhood friends Hertha and Huberta. They are briefly flipped through and subsequently used as kindling.

      • M

        Oh dammit, I meant Hertha’s fate. Grr. She should still get to marry the page, but they haven’t even talked yet because all she did was stare at him in her magic mirror!

      • Rae

        Jenesis: I spit my tea out when you got the part about CTBHHM.

        M: I missed something, then, because I thought that Hertha and the page had had a secret thing prior to when the prince came! I like your ending for it, then :-)

    • Monika Tillsley

      I read too much fantasy I think. I was expecting the last girl to be sacrificed to dragons or something. It is never good when they want to make you royalty or whatever without any good reason. Why the heck is the prince marrying so far beneath his station? For a mantle? Something is fishy. I think that is where my alternative ending would go.

      Except she would find herself more resourceful than she thought and escape and go on to live her own life! I’d like to craft happy endings for all the girls. Because the moral is the advice of your parents can help (or not) but you can fashion a happy life regardless.

      And I agree that my reading was Hertha and the page had been meeting:
      “‘How now!’ he demanded, angrily. Hertha, braving his ill-humour, said, defiantly, ‘Thou art too late. Because I feared thy scorn of what thou wast pleased to call my childish foolishness, I wove in secret, and when my prince came by, long ago I gave it him. He stands outside at the casement.’”

  • Little Magpie

    Okay, I know this is kind of a minor quibble, but, what is with all the H-names? More seriously, the fact that all 3 girl’s names are just female versions of their dad’s names… it makes me feel like they are just somehow extensions of their fathers not their own people (since they don’t really have their own names). And yeah, I know, maybe I’m reading too much into it: but it’s symbolic really. And the whole story is, after all, all about symbolism and metaphor.
    Also Herthold is a total jerk.

    • SirWill

      Well, duh. Women aren’t people, you know, they’re just extensions of their fathers, and later, husbands. They’re property. At best, they’re well-tended to vessels for bringing about the next generation of Good Christian Sons(tm).

      This is like watching a documentary on human sacrifice. You get what they’re driving at, you might even understand why they’re doing it, but you get sick watching it happen.

      • SirWill

        Of course I was being sarcastic for most of the previous post, but still. I think I hit it on the head when it comes to the way the women here are being treated, under the surface at least, when the ugliness isn’t outright on display.

      • Heather