This article is an excerpt from Steffani Raff’s The Ravenous Gown.
When the Prince was born, the Queen cried. “His nose,” she sobbed. “It looks like a banana. It’s just so . . . long.”
This complicated things for the King. He knew this would happen. He owed a debt to the enchantress who helped him win the heart of his wife, a debt that would show up in a horrible facial deformity. The enchantress had said, “Your Crown Prince will never marry until he admits his nose is too large.”
And there it was—an ugly, banana-shaped nose on his otherwise adorable infant son.
The King didn’t dare tell his wife the story of how this nose came to be. Instead, he sent for the royal scholar to procure images and accounts of great men with long noses. He sent for the royal painter to add length to the noses of all the portraits of previous sovereigns. He sent minstrels and storytellers out among the people to sing and speak of the great and varied advantages of having a large nose. He instructed young mothers to pinch and pull their babies’ noses in hopes of increasing their nasal prowess. In a short time, the entire kingdom was persuaded to believe there was a wonderful and glorious history associated with long noses.
The Prince grew up being revered for the length of his nose.
When the King died, his secret died with him. The Prince and his mother cried at the gravesite of the King. The Prince required an extra-large handkerchief, proving that with a large nose, you can show grief better than the small-nosed masses.
When the Prince reached marriageable age, he and his mother watched the royal painter with his cart full of canvases and paints walk into the sunset. He was sent in search of eligible princesses whose portraits he could paint and bring back to the Prince.
A year later, twenty-nine draped easels filled the throne room. The Prince and the Queen gasped in eager anticipation as each portrait was revealed. But every portrait was the same.
The Prince looked down his long nose at each portrait. “Oh, what lovely eyes, but her nose is just too small.” “What a charming smile, but her nose—you can barely see it.” Soon, the last drape came down, and the Prince exclaimed, “This is it? There are no other choices?”
The Prince whined, “Mother, how can I be expected to marry someone with such a small nose?”
“Darling, these princesses are really quite lovely. And there are twenty-nine of them. Surely there is one worthy of your affection,” the Queen replied.
“Mother, you are simply not qualified to give advice on this subject. Your small nose has made you weak in judgment.” The words came out with such harsh authority they left the Queen speechless. The Prince waved her away. “Leave me. Just leave. I will have to deal with this matter on my own!”
“The Prince paced back and forth, looking at the portraits. “Not a single princess with superior intelligence and authority. Look at all those disgustingly tiny noses.” The Prince kicked one of the velvet cloths littering the floor. Then another. He began stamping on the velvet as if it were the enemy and agonized, “I will have to remain single forever!”
He grabbed one of the velvet cloths and attempted to rip it. When it would not rip, he whapped his throne with it again and again. With his rage expired, the Prince drooped in to his throne, a cloth draped over his head, in defeat.
“I guess I’ll just have to get to know them first.” The Prince sighed. “Servants, bring me parchment, a pen, and the royal seal,” he commanded.
The Prince spent the next year writing letters to each of the small-nosed princesses. Princess Lavender from the kingdom of Gint emerged as the favorite. In fact, she was the only one who wrote back after receiving letter after letter from the Prince discussing how wonderfully long his nose was.
And so it was the angelic Princess Lavender was called upon to meet the Prince.
After waiting two days for her to come, the Prince summoned his men, mounted his horse, and set out to meet the Princess; he had waited long enough. When the Prince saw the Princess’s entourage, he directed his men to greet them.
The Prince approached the carriage in bold, broad steps, then knelt on one knee, bowed his head, and extended his hand for the Princess to use as she descended from the carriage.
After the Princess alighted, the Prince began to stand, but before reaching his full height, there was a great poof of violet smoke, and a malevolent laugh filled the air. Princess Lavender was suddenly encased in a small crystal castle. The Prince pressed his hands against the castle and walked around its circumference looking for any openings. When he found none he exclaimed, “What kind of evil enchantment is this?”(He would never know, for the King was no longer there to explain the curse of the enchantress.) The Prince vowed in a loud voice, “I will find a way to save you, my love.”
The Princess said, “His nose can’t really be that big? It must be a distortion of the crystal.” But no one heard her.
The Prince was gone in a galloping gust to consult a royal advisor. The whispers of the Princess’s entourage followed him, but too slowly to make their way to his ears. “Was I mistaken, or did the Prince have a nose shaped like a banana?”
The royal advisor had no ready answer for the Prince, so he charged the Prince with a quest to find the Queen of the Fairies and ask her how to undo this enchantment.
The Prince charged off with no direction and too much determination. He traveled alone for days in search of the Fairy Queen and finally collapsed with hunger and fatigue in front of a small cottage.
A little woman, plump as a loaf of bread, came out of the door.
“Bless me, bless me, who are you? Such a sight for sore eyes. Why, I haven’t seen another person for ages. Good gracious, where are my manners? You must be . . . ”
“Water,” the Prince whispered and fell off his horse.
“Oh dear, oh dear, oh my, my, my. What will I ever do with you? Who did you say you were again?”
The Prince pulled himself up to the gate, “Water. Food. Sleep.”
“Oh, oh, oh. Come in. You look a mess. I’ll get you some food to eat. Are you sick? Your nose looks swollen right off your face. Stung by a bee? My foot swelled up to the size of a watermelon once with a bee sting, but enough about me. Come in, come in. I’ll get you some food and water.”
The Prince gulped down the water and savored each bite of bread. The woman continued her chattering. “I’ve never seen a nose so large in all my days. You must be quite ill. Maybe it was an enchanted bee that stung you. It must be dreadful trying to eat and drink with such a nose—always getting in the way, tut-tut-tut. Really, it looks like a banana.”
“Do you ever stop talking?” the Prince finally coughed out.
“Well, I never! At least my parents taught me some tact, young man. Don’t you know it is rude to treat a hostess like that? Why, I always know when to stop talking. My parents were sticklers in teaching me the art of conversation. Passing words back and forth. Listening as much as you speak. My parents were experts. They were the Fairy King and Queen, may they rest in peace. And you, with your long nose, come in begging for food and water and sleep and then insult me for not knowing when to stop talking?! I know exactly when to stop talking—”
The Prince shifted uncomfortably, but managed an apology. “I am sorry, my good woman. I meant no offense.”
“Well, your apology is accepted, mostly out of pity . . . but accepted nonetheless.”
The Prince almost stomped out the door, but held his temper and managed to say, “Did you say you are a Fairy Princess?”
“I am the Queen of the Fairies now.”
The Prince forgot his anger upon hearing she was the Queen of the Fairies. “You are the Queen of the Fairies? You’re much bigger than I thought.”
The woman gasped and her hands flew to her middle. “Well, I never!”
The Prince interjected. “What I meant was, taller. You are much taller than I thought you would be. I thought fairies were tiny and have wings.”
“Oh, I see.” The woman’s face relaxed. “That is just how fairies are described in stories. We actually look like, well, like this,” she said as she gestured to her pudgy frame.
The Prince bowed. “You, my lady, are just the person I have been in search of all these many days and nights!” The Fairy Queen blushed and giggled at his chivalry. The Prince continued, “Do you know how to rescue a princess from a crystal castle?”
“Well, if I was ever in such a predicament as that, saving a princess—or rather, in my case, a prince—I would know exactly what to do. True love is a very powerful thing. But are you quite sure the Princess wants to be rescued by someone like you? I mean, really, your nose is ridiculously large!”
“I prefer to call it a proboscis, and its size is regal. Every great thinker and ruler in my kingdom has possessed a long nose. None as long as mine, of course, for I am the Prince.”
“The Prince! Well, your Royal Majesty, I hope I did not offend. I just can’t seem to keep my eyes off it. It is a very large proboscis, my dear fellow.”
The Prince touched his nose defensively, but swallowed hard and said, “Can we get back to the Princess?”
“Oh yes, the Princess. Well, like I said, it’s simple. I would kiss her—or rather him, as I would be rescuing a prince instead of a princess—and that would be the end of that.”
“Ha! A kiss!” The Prince smiled and was on his horse before she could say another word. “Thank you!” he called, as he rode out of sight.
The Prince approached the crystal castle with a smile teasing the corner of his lips. A kiss. So simple. “I have come to free you, my love!”
The Prince pressed hands, then face, with lips outstretched, on the crystal, but his nose got in the way. He backed away surprised. He approached the crystal from a different angle, but his nose still blocked the way. Again and again he tried, but his nose always touched first.
“This can’t be! My nose is regal.” He tried to kiss again, but his nose was clearly in the way.
He leaned in for another kiss. It was no use. “But my nose shows my superiority. I am the Prince!” the Prince sputtered. He forced his way to the crystal once again, but made no progress.
The Prince gazed at the Princess inside the castle. Her nose is small, but she is still lovely, and I know from our correspondence what a fine queen she’ll make, he thought.
The Prince turned his back to the crystal and let his head clunk against it. He sat there for a very long time. With some finality, he announced, “Alas, my darling, my nose seems to prevent me from rescuing you.” He slumped. “My nose is just too large.”
Another sudden burst of violet smoke filled the air, and when it cleared, the crystal castle was gone. There was the Princess Lavender, standing before him. He was surprised at how different she looked from her portrait. Her lips seemed much larger than he remembered.
The Princess smiled and said, “Hello.”
The Prince stood, but looked away. “My love, I fear I am unworthy of your affection.”
“The size of my nose prevents me from kissing you,” the Prince said. “You are deserving of a husband you can kiss.”
“The size of your nose makes you no less, or better, than me,” the Princess said with authority.
The Prince looked up to see the Princess smiling. He stood, then leaned in to kiss her, but his nose bumped into her lips.
The Prince groaned in frustration.
The Princess flashed an empathetic smile, then in one bold movement, positioned the Prince directly in front of her, tip-toed, and maneuvered her large lips, right past the Prince’s nose, to his lips. They kissed.
“How did you manage that?” the Prince asked in awe.
“My lips have always been quite large. The royal painter portrayed them much smaller than what they were in fear you would not choose me.” The Princess grinned at the Prince. “It seems, though, my large lips are absolutely perfect for you.” She touched his nose.
The Prince reached for his nose, looked down, and smiled. “Indeed, they are. We shall make a fine pair.”