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A fairytale from censored children book “Amber Heart”

A Lithuanian book “Amber heart” (“Gintarinė širdis”) by Neringa Dangvydė contains magical stories for children about people with disabilities, same-sex couples, Roma and other socially vulnerable groups. Here You can read one of the fairytales in the book – The tale of the princess, the shoemaker‘s daughter and twelve brothers, singing as nightingales

The Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences that published the collection removed it from bookstores and proclaimed it to be “harmful, primitive and purposeful propaganda of homosexuality”. On top of that, the Lithuanian Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics concluded that two fairy tales that promote tolerance for same-sex couples are harmful to minors and should be marked by the index “N-14”.

A few Lithuanian NGO’s decided to defy censorship and reprint the amended version of the book.

Here is the English version of one of the fairytales that was considered to be “detrimental to minors”.

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The tale of the princess, the shoemaker‘s daughter and twelve brothers, singing as nightingales

NERINGA DANGVYDĖ

Once there was a king who had a daughter. When the princess grew up, young men from the whole world began gathering to the castle asking for her hand. But the princess rejected all of them. At night she dreamed of chaste eyes, but none of these who had arrived, had such. Therefore, the princess asked all the young suitors to perform three tasks: to bake dark bread, to make shoes and to sew a wedding dress. Unfortunately, none of them were able to do it. Some were able to bake bread, some – to make shoes but the third task was failed by all of them. No one knew why that was. The princess would turn all contestants into birds and let them fly wandering over the world.

A shoemaker lived near the royal castle. He had twelve sons and one daughter. Sons learned about the tasks princess has set, and started talking that it was not so difficult to perform those tasks, because they have learned from their father to make good shoes, and used to bake bread daily by themselves. Mother taught them the basics of sewing a dress.

The first who went was the oldest son. After a few days a nightingale flew by the shoemaker’s home, squatted in the bush and began to sing. Everyone understood, that this was the oldest brother but others also insisted to go.

One by one the brothers went to the castle, and after a few days flew home as nightingales.

No one has succeeded.

Then the youngest daughter went to the parents and said:

– Now I will go to the palace.

Shoemaker did not want to let the only helper go, but couldn’t persuade her otherwise.

– My brothers just went out of curiosity. As for me, I have loved the princess for long. We used to play together in the garden. If I do not perform a third task, she will recognize me and will not turn me into a bird. I will come back the same.

So shoemaker’s daughter disguised in menswear, hid her long hair under a hat and went to the palace.

When the princess saw another young man, she sighed and took him to one of the halls to bake bread over night.

– It’s an easy task, – smiled shoemaker’s daughter. She found everything she needed, so in the morning she was waiting for the princess with fragrant loaf of bread.

-You managed to perform the first task, – said the princess. – And now you will have to make shoes for me without measuring my foot. Some of the young men managed to perform this task, but most of the shoes were either too small for me or too large. We’ll see how you succeed.

– This is also a simple task, – said the shoemaker’s daughter dressed as a young man. – I learned to sew shoes from my father.

And went to work. In the morning she stretched out a pair of amazing leather shoes. The princess put on the shoes and gasped – the shoes were neither too big nor too small, as if a tailor had measured her feet carefully.

– Well, one task remains, which none of young men has managed to perform before you, – said the princess and took the shoemaker’s daughter to the hall, where she found a thin white silk material, scissors and a needle. – You will have to sew me a wedding dress overnight. And here is a thread…

When the princess said this, she smiled cleverly and stretched out a tow ball of yarn. This explained why those who could sew did not complete the task: a thick thread did not go through the narrow eye of a needle.

But the shoemaker’s daughter did not gloom. She waited until the princess locked the door of the hall, carefully cut the material, and then took off her hat and let out her long blonde hair. She uprooted a single hair and easily put through the eye of a needle, and made seams as finely that they were barely seen. Then she hid her hair under the hat and in the morning an amazing dress was waiting for the princess.

The princess dressed and it fitted like a glove.

The princess got quite upset. She did not want to marry the young man, but it was not fair to break a promise: he has performed all three tasks.

So, wearing the new shoes and a bridal dress the princess was ready for a wedding.

A shoemaker’s daughter dressed as a young man stood next to her.

She uttered an oath – to be together until death do us apart. Princess said the same with a trembling voice.

Having uttered a blessing, the king allowed to kiss the bride. She was so unhappy she couldn’t raise her eyes and closed them as the young man was getting closer.

When their lips connected, the hat of shoemaker’s daughter fell off and everyone saw that it was not a young man who stood next to the princess, but a beautiful girl with long hair.

All gasped in surprise.

The princess opened her eyes to see what has surprised them so much.

And saw her childhood friend standing next to her. She dreamed of her bright eyes.

Shoemaker’s daughter hugged the princess and repeated the words of the oath:

– Do you agree now to be with me until death do us part?

– I will love you for a lifetime, – said princess with a relieved heart.

The king scratched his bald head under the crown and accepted the daughter’s decision. All those hordes of grooms were beginning to bother him.

Plus, he was afraid that all kingdom men will be turned into birds.

But after the first night shoemaker’s daughter looked sad and pale. No wonder: as soon as a happy princess fell asleep in her arms, a nightingale flew to the window, sat in the bush and began to sing.

Shoemaker’s daughter listened to the sad melody till dawn and thought of brothers roaming somewhere.

Next night two nightingales came and didn’t let shoemaker’s daughter go to sleep again.

But she didn’t want to tell the princess anything, just shook her head sadly.
It lasted for eleven nights and every night one new nightingale joined others. However, the princess never heard them. Once the sun went down, she fell into deep sleep. She even did not feel as shoemaker’s daughter escaped from her embrace and went to the window to listen to the song of nightingales.

On the twelfth night the princess cut herself on the palm, and the pain didn’t let her fall asleep. She closed her eyes only and began to wait for what was coming.

Not long after she heard the song of the nightingales. Shoemaker’s daughter got out of bed and went to the window. The princess breathlessly got out of bed and as quietly as possible came closer to her. But nightingales heard anyway and flew away.

– What have you done? – mourned shoemaker’s daughter. – It was my brothers who came flying for me to sing the last night, and you didn’t let them finish the song. They are afraid of you because you turned them into nightingales. And they will not ever come back…

– That time I did not know how to avoid marriage. If I had left any of them as a man, he would be able to tell others, why they failed to sew a dress. And someone for sure would have brought a thin silk thread … But do not grieve, I would find your brothers and disenchant them.

– I will go with you. It will be easier for two of us. In addition, they will not be afraid of me.

They baked some bread in the morning, jumped on horses and rode in search of brothers.

They have roamed for many days and nights, but no one could tell them the twelve nightingales’ whereabouts. They almost ran out of food and met less and less people. Finally they reached a forest. There was a hut next to it. Being tired, they decided to stay the night.

An old wrinkly woman opened the door.

– If you have anything to eat, I’ll let you come spend the night, – she said. – I haven’t had anything in my mouth for days.

The princess put her hand into a bag and pulled out a handful of crumbs. That was all what they had.

– This morning we ate the last loaf, – she said. – But you have been fasting for a few days, so you need it more than us.

– Thank you for your good heart, girls – thanked the old woman. – Come inside.
Inside, she strewedthe crumbs in a bowl and poured a cup of water for each. Then shoved the bowl on the middle of the table.

– Take it, it will be enough for all of us, – she encouraged.

And it is true. No matter how much handfuls they drew out of a bowl, the crumbs still remained.

– Maybe you have seen twelve brothers singing as nightingales somewhere? – asked the shoemaker’s daughter.

– Yes, I have, – said the old woman. – And I even know that the princess turned them into birds.

It is as easy to draw back a stone thrown from the hand, as to recall a word once spoken. It will not be easy to remove the spell.

– I will do everything for my beloved to regain her lost brothers! – cried the princess.
– Then do listen. You will reach another kingdom soon. Their king has caught your nightingales, keeps them in golden cages and tells them to sing for him alone. Ask him to serve in his castle. Then gather one feather of each nightingale and burn them in bonfire flames – necessarily in bonfire! Only this way the birds will turn into humans again. But beware – if someone sees you holding hands, embracing or kissing, you will not escape alive. People there do not know what love is.

They thanked the old lady for good advice, jumped on horses and went to look for the kingdom.

Shortly they reached the city and the palace. The princess started working as a gardener and shoemaker’s daughter as a cook.

The city was strange. The residents smiled constantly, but their smiles were artificial, and it seemed as they were glued. People pretended to be friendly and greeted each other but when they turned away, they would get surly again. However, inanimate objects were openly hostile: stones were rolling near feet so that everyone were constantly triping over them; fences as if intentionally tore people’s clothes…

Needless to say the princess’ arms were quickly nicked by rose thorns, and the shoemaker’s daughter’s arms had blisters and burns from boiling water.

However, they still worked patiently and waited until all feathers were collected. It wasn’t very difficult because the king wanted fresh-cut flowers in the hall at all times. Lucky coincidence: the cages with nightingales were in the hall.

In twelve days the princess has collected all the feathers.

She wanted to share good news with the shoemaker’s daughter as soon as possible. When they met in the garden of roses, they hid behind a bush and embraced. They have missed each other so much they have forgotten all the warnings from the old lady.

Suddenly the bush of roses parted and the lord of the castle sprang in front of them.

– What do I see? – he shouted. – So my gardener kisses my cook! You have violated the laws of this country, because here it is forbidden to love. Is it not clear that families are made only for continuation of kin and for having somebody to inherit the wealth? And because of his crime you will be publicly burned at the stake immediately! This will be a good lesson for others.

A large bonfire was loaded in a town square, the shoemaker’s daughter and the princess were taken to it, tied up and one chump was ignited. Then the princess quickly pulled out a handful of feathers from her pocket and threw into the fire.

And suddenly a miracle happened – the wind picked up, put out the fire, smashed the windows of the castle, unhooked doors of golden cages and released twelve nightingales. After they have flown into the square, they landed on the ground and here, in the eyes of the citizens, turned into twelve handsome young men. They surrounded shoemaker’s daughter, and said:

– This is our youngest sister, we will not allow you to hurt her.

And then they turned to the princess:

– You see what happens when you do not tell your wishes. If you have confessed to your father king right away that you loved our sister, then there would be no need for us to sing as nightingales for such a long time, and you would not be in such danger.

– In my kingdom nobody is allowed to love! – howled the evil ruler. Because of his howling the huge wind rose again, caught him in a whirl, raised and took to unknown direction.

People looked at each other.

– What do we do now? Who will issue orders, make us follow laws? – they asked.

– You will rule yourselves, – the princess said. – There are countries which are ruled by kings, for example, my homeland, but also there are other countries, where everybody live nice and without any lord. It will not be easy, but you will learn little by little.

– But we don’t know where to begin…

– From the basic law: “All different – all equal”. And everyone has the same rights: to work, to rest, to education… And children – to play, of course.

People issued new laws little by little. They began to live happily. Even inanimate objects were no longer angry: fences did not tear clothing, rocks did not roll under feet intentionally. True, roses did not lose their thorns but everyone knew that such was their nature, therefore, instead of picking them, people admired them from afar.

And the princess and shoemaker’s daughter returned to their kingdom to listen to songs of real nightingales, as the brothers were free.

Translated by Virginija Jakutyte-Symanska, edited by Ingrida Vaitelyte.

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