ADELINA (A Cautionary Fairy Tale)
c1996 Airweaver

Once upon a time (for, by decree, fairy stories are required to start this way), there lived a most wise and benevolent King and his equally gracious Queen. They treated their subjects with utmost kindness, distributing food to the poor in times of need and providing coal to all their subjects during the harsh winter months. They were well loved throughout the entire kingdom, and stories of their good deeds spread far and wide. So, it was that there was general rejoicing when they gave birth to their first child, a daughter they named Adelina, which fittingly means "of noble birth." Princess Adelina was adorable and grew up to be a model child. Although very beautiful, she was far from vain. She carried herself with poise and developed perfect manners. Her life was one of continual bliss.

When she was fourteen, however, Adelina found herself alone in her room one day studying herself in the mirror. She was in the bloom of youth; her mouth was like a rosebud, her eyes a deep cobalt blue, and her breasts just beginning to develop their future promise. Yes, she thought, she was as attractive as everyone said, but still she was not quite satisfied with her appearance. It was her hair. Fairy princesses were supposed to have long, golden hair like in the picture books, and Adelinaís hair wasnít like that at all. It was thin and mousy. She had tried to grow it long, but to no avail. It only seemed to mock her as it hung there, lank and lifeless, just brushing her shoulders. Adelina picked up a limp strand and sighed. "Prince Charming will never choose me with hair like this."

As it so happened, that very evening a great and powerful Wizard arrived at court. He had heard of the good deeds done by the Royal Family and had come to reward them for their kindness and generosity. He granted the King, the Queen, and Princess Adelina each a single wish. The King wished that all the roofs of the Kingdom might be made water-tight against the coming winter. The Queen asked for a bountiful harvest so there would be enough food for all. Then it came young Adelinaís turn. All she could think of was the visit to her mirror that morning and burst out, "I wish I had thick, golden hair to my waist and that it would grow an inch a day, and if itís ever cut that it will grow twice as fast as before!" At that, the King shook his head ruefully, for he was truly wise and knew wizards were apt to take wishes quite literally. "It shall be as you command," the Wizard replied with a flourish. As the Wizard was leaving the throne room, the Queen noticed her husband whispering earnestly to his unexpected visitor. The Wizard said nothing, but smiled kindly and nodding knowingly in return.

The following morning, Adelina awoke to feel something soft and strange touching her bare arms. She leapt to her feet and rushed to her mirror. The wish had come true! Her thin, mousy hair was all gone. In its place were the most wonderful golden tresses anyone can imagine, falling thick and full clear to her waist. Smooth and silky, with just a little wave to give them body. Adelina was in heaven as she reached for her brush and pulled it through the shimmering masses. Her hair rippled and flowed down her back like liquid sunshine. When her maid entered the room with breakfast, she practically dropped the tray in her surprise. "Oh, Your Highness, what beautiful hair! I always knew you were the most beautiful child in the kingdom. But just look at you now!" Adelina shook her head and watched her golden hair bounce and rustle against her nightgown. She tossed it about in girlish glee. Each time it settled, every hair fell in perfect place. All that day, Adelina could be found sneaking glances at herself wherever she went in the castle.

Adelina had always wanted long hair and here it was, the most beautiful hair in the kingdom. In a few days, she was delighted to discover that her hair was longer still. Now she could actually sit on it, something she had always dreamed of doing. By the time another week had passed, it was down to her knees, and had become her pride and joy. She couldnít pay enough attention to it. She was continually brushing it, and braiding, it and washing it, and playing with it, and was the happiest creature in the entire kingdom. Everyone was very pleased for her, for she was such a nice child. That is, all except the King, who said nothing, but seemed deep in thought.

Time passed, as it is inclined to do, and Adelinaís hair continued to grow at the steady rate of one inch per day, just as she had requested. By the end of the month, Adelina had hair long enough to reach the floor, just like all the fairy princesses in her story books. It was very beautiful, and the constant topic of conversation among everyone in the castle and for miles around. How it shimmered and floated around her! She spent hours walking through the castle just to delight in the feel of those magnificent golden tresses floating down her back. Such delights, however, do not last forever. After another two weeks had past, her hair had grown a further fourteen inches, and she was forced to wear it up most of the time, because you will find it most inconvenient to be trailing hair behind you when youíre trying to walk with any degree of dignity. Adelina now only let her hair down at dinnertime, and she made a spectacular sight when she made her entrance with her golden tresses spreading out behind her like a bridal train and flowing gracefully across the marble floor.

It was two months after the Wizardís visit that Adelina got her maid-in-waiting to measure her hair for her. It proved to be a bit over eight feet long, and no longer was providing Adelina with quite the joy she had first taken in it. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing, she found herself thinking as she sat at her dressing table that night watching her maid-in-waiting attempt to brush out the long, perfect strands that spread out before her in all their profusion. In some ways her hair looked more beautiful than ever as it rippled and danced around her in the candlelight, but Adelina was beginning to have second thoughts about it. In fact, she had to admit that her hair was starting to feel a bit cumbersome and uncomfortable. It was awkward to wash and was making life difficult for her maid. "Oh, your Ladyship," she would say, as she put down the brushes with a sigh, "What am I to do with all your hair?"

Nevertheless, Adelinaís hair continued growing an inch every day, until, finally, one fine spring morning, when her hair was exactly eleven feet long, Adelina could stand it no longer and sent for the Royal Barber. Her hair was awkward and hot; it was heavy, and she was tired of fussing with it all the time. It had become oppressive. She ordered her too-long tresses to be cut back to her waist. She let them down, and the barber could see that they were, indeed remarkable, flooding the floor with their soft radiance. The deed was done, and Adelina once again found herself surrounded by the magnificent cloak of golden hair she had first wished for.

But you remember Adelinaís wish, donít you? Now her hair grew twice as fast as before, for the wise King had been right to predict that wizards take their wishes quite literally. It was growing steadily two inches every day now, instead of one. Every day her hair got longer by just this amount --no more, no less --so that before long she found it back to her knees, then to her ankles, and then skimming the floor. On and on it grew, day in, day out, as if by magic, until once again she found herself confronted with a heavy, eleven-foot column of troublesome hair --a mane so long she could never wear down, but could only attempt to cope with.

Now, Adelina was an intelligent girl, and began to realize how foolish her wish had been. She started to wish she had her old hair again, thin and mousy as it might have been. As it was, her hair was getting far too long and in the way. She resisted the temptation to cut it a second time, though, for she realized that would only make her hair grow still faster -- that, instead of two inches a day, it would most certainly start to grow four. But there is only so much resistance a young girl can be expected to put up, so with her hair a hopelessly long fifteen feet, the Royal Barbers were summoned once again. By this time Adelina had come to hate her fantastically long hair and to find it more of a problem than she could ever have imagined. She was even a bit frightened of it. There was just so much of it. It seemed to have a life of its own. It was hot and time-consuming. She found she could no longer move freely with it loose. Besides, it seemed to spread everywhere and get into everything. It took considerable effort just to keep pinned to her head and out of the way. The very weight of it was oppressive. This time she ordered it cut back to her ears. The relief was instantaneous, but, unfortunately, far from permanent. Only two days later, Adelinaís golden tresses had returned to the middle of her back; by the next day they extended to her hips.

The King summoned his ministers and explained his deep concern to them all, for he understood the gravity of the situation only too well. It was time to see if the Wizard was as good as his promise. In the meantime, he forbade Adelina to cut her tresses ever again, not by so much as a single inch, for the problem was rapidly getting out of hand. But even he relented a short time later, when their overwhelming length began to make his daughterís once care-free life an ongoing misery.

Adelina cut her hair the third time only when it had reached the incredible length of 28 feet. She fully understood the foolishness of the move, yet she simply couldnít bear its presence another minute. How it mocked her in its profusion! It was overwhelming. By this time her hair was being measured in yards rather than inches, and half the household staff was being called on simply to maintain it and try to keep it under some kind of control. Various stratagems and procedures were suggested for dealing with it, since Adelina could hardly keep the vast quantities of it confined to her head. No matter how she tried to bind it up or keep it from straying, loose strands would continually slip from the awkward piles mounded there and get caught on things. At other times, it would trip her up, or make her feel top-heavy. At bedtime her hair had to be carefully folded and placed in a pile by the bedside out of harmís way. Her wish had become a nightmare from which there seemed no escape, as became immediately clear after that third haircut when it commenced to grow eight inches a day. Adelina had become the prisoner of her own hair. Time after time she tried to delay calling in the Royal Barbers yet again, for she knew they would only made a bad situation even worse, but again and again the barbers were summoned, if only to provide some temporary relief. It only grew faster and faster. The Queen prayed for a miracle; the King kept searching the horizon, as if looking for an answer that seemed never to arrive.

A month later, Adelina lay in bed wrapped in the lengths of her golden hair, which flowed in torrents down each side of the bed. She was watching it grow. It was growing so fast you could actually see it. By now, Adelinaís hair kept her confined to her room except for those short liberating periods after it had just been cut, but even these periods of blessed relief were growing briefer and briefer. Otherwise, she found herself trapped by yards and yards of shimmering golden silk. No one tried to determine its length any more, nobody cared, but she must have been surrounded by fifty yards of moving, flowing hair, which seemed alive and growing steadily onward and onward.

Adelina awoke early the next morning. Her tresses had been cut once again just before she went to bed the night before, yet the entire room was filled with the provision of her hair. It spilled off the bed and across the floor. Masses of it lay piled up against the closed door. Tendrils of it trailed out the lattice window. It was growing at the rate of several feet an hour. It never slept.

Had she been able to move from her silken prison and look out the window, Adelina might have noticed a handsome young knight approaching the castle wall. He was the prince of a neighboring kingdom, who had been urgently summoned by the Kingís own special messenger. He knew nothing of the task he had been summoned to perform, but he was struck by what appeared to be cascade of beautiful, golden hair growing down the tower wall from a casement above. He had never seen anything more lovely than the sight. How all that hair shimmered in the sunlight! How soft and silky it looked against the hard, stone wall of the balustrade. He rode across the drawbridge and was quickly brought before the King to learn for the first time of Princess Adelinaís sad plight. The little group hastened up the stairs, and the knight found himself entering a chamber which seemed to glow with a radiance that emanated from every corner of the room. It was the soft glow made by Adelinaís golden hair, which filled the room to overflowing. In the center of the room, trapped in all its profusion, he found the poor Princess weeping on her bed. She lay as if in a soft cocoon, enveloped in the immensity of her flowing hair.

His heart was suddenly filled with pity and a deep, abiding love. He saw instantly what he was required to do. Without a word he waded forward through the thick carpets of hair that spread crisscrossed across the floor until he was standing at Adelinaís bedside. She lay there in tears, her hair spilling silently forth in engulfing waves, slowly inundating the entire room. He unleashed his sword and, taking careful aim, with a single stroke cut through the cascade of ever-growing hair at the point just where it flowed from the bed onto the floor. At that very instant, Adelinaís hair stopped growing. The spell was broken. The King and Queen uttered a great sigh of relief and embraced one another. Adelina wept tears of joy. As the great masses of severed hair were being cleared from the room, Adelina stood up to face her rescuer. Her hair was still long and golden, flowing down her back clear to her ankles, just where the prince had cut it, but it was growing no longer.

The entire kingdom rejoiced at the festive wedding held a few months later. The weather was perfect, and everyone commented on how lovely the bride looked. A symphony of white, with her beautiful golden hair cascading over it, rich and full, like a waterfall, to well past the hem of her skirt. The King smiled for the first time in months. He thought back over Adelinaís foolish wish that had started the whole dreadful affair, and recalled the bargain he had struck with the Wizard that fateful day. The Wizard had never intended to punish the family, but simply to reward them for their charity and goodness. He had promised the King that the dangerous part of Adelinaís wish would cease as soon as she encountered True Love. The beautiful, golden tresses, a hopefully wiser and more mature Adelina could keep with the Wizardís blessings. And so it was that they all lived happily ever after.

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