Hans found the Princess sitting at the window of her chamber, hair streaming down, coiling through the open shutters, as if her soul were contained in the auburn tresses and sought to escape. He walked into the room and she jumped up. Jumped up before her betrothed. Her father had not exaggerated. She was promised to a monster. And yet, when the creature spoke, his voice was the voice she had always imagined her husband would possess, a voice of woodwind, of dark notes, a true voice.
"Do you know of me, Princess?" the voice asked.
"I do, sir," she replied. "You saved my father and he owes you his life."
Hans nodded. “But do you know of his promise to me?” he demanded.
"He promised you the first thing to greet him on his return." She looked at the blue, blue eyes, the pointy nose, the carpet of quills. "I am yours, sir, to do with what you will."
The quills bristled, the blue eyes sparked and flinted. “Then, I claim you for my bride,” he said. “I want you to come and live with me in the forest. I want you for my Princess of Sweetness and Cherry Pie. I want to catch you up and sing to you and snoodle you and hug you to bits. I want you to love me.”
A single tear crept down the Princess’s sweet cheek. “Then, so be it,” she whispered.
"Do you find me very ugly?" asked her husband-to-be.
"Not so ugly as going back on a promise," she declared and felt the tear slide from her face to the floor.
— Hans My Hedgehog, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, retold by Anthony Minghella.
[Artwork by Darcy May.]