In a time and place long ago forgotten to human memory, there was a land full of flowers, mountains and sun. The air was so fresh and clean; the people who lived there hardly needed any more food than the air they breathed. The faithful sun rose over the eastern horizon every morning to clear the flowers, trees and whole the land of the freshly fallen dew. In the evening she set under the western horizon and left the people again for their well-deserved sleep.

This land was ruled by a king and a queen: king Helmica and queen Jemra. King Helmica and queen Jemra had a little baby daughter, the little princess Dalamit. The little princess was a handful. Every day, day in day out, she needed attention. Attention from everyone around her, but especially from king Helmica and queen Jemra. The whole day long they had their hands in their hair. The little princess kept asking for their attention; they did not have any time left to rule over their land.

They were also loosing sleep because of the little princess. The princess’s bedtime routine was an utter nightmare for the king and queen. She jumped in and out of her bed, up and over the king and queen’s bed, on the chairs and certainly not anywhere where she would actually go to sleep. Singing, telling fairy-tales, bedtime games, nothing helped her go to sleep. A nice warm bottle of milk used to help, but the little princess did not fall for that trick anymore. When she finally did sleep the king and queen usually had a few hours left to tend to the things on their minds, but as soon as they were asleep the little princess would wake up and demand to sleep in between them. Unfortunately this meant that the king and queen had to sleep with the little princess turning over and over in her sleep and kicking both of them practically out of bed during their night’s rest.

One day the king was having an important conversation with his ministers, when Dalamit stormed into the room. On her fast — but still unsteady — feet she ran across the room to king Helmica and jumped right into his lap, overturning the coffee-table and thus spilling most of the coffee in the pot. Luckily nearly none fell on the floor, but unfortunately most landed right in the lap of the minister of fresh flowers.

Now it was enough for king Helmica, he apologized to his ministers for this peculiar interruption and adjourned their meeting until further notice. He solemnly notified them that the one and only item on everyone’s agenda was finding a solution for the little princess Dalamit’s continuous attention-seeking. He ordered his ministers to send out messengers to reach every corner in the land to join all the people in a contest. A contest to come up with a solution to keep the little princess Dalamit under control. The king would offer a bouquet of the queen’s finest roses, orchids and sunflowers to the winner.

Within a few minutes after the king had declared this, messengers sped away on their horses towards all the corners of the land, to spread the word of the king and urge everyone to come up with a solution. The price for the winner was a very attractive one for the people, because the queen’s flowers were a priced gift throughout the land, they were the most sought after gems anyone would want. More precious than diamonds, gold, emeralds or anything else.

The land was rather big, so it took quite a while before all the people knew about the contest. King Helmica and queen Jemra just had to wait a little longer before the contest really took foot.

The first entries into the contest rolled in after a few days and each and every solution to the little princess Dalamit’s troublesome behaviour was taken into consideration. The king and queen tried every entry; special food that people had sent, magic nursery-rhymes, potions made from plants that had come from far away, swimming before bedtime and so on, and so on. A very long list of possible solutions kept the king and queen busy for days on end. Besides testing all entries they also still had the problem of a troublesome little princess, who did not leave them any rest at all. She gladly participated in everything the king and queen tried; to her it was all just another — although weird — game.

But alas, nothing helped. Nothing at all. The king and queen were still in the same situation as before the king started the contest, they were getting very desperate now. Not in the least because the king had left all business regarding the land and the people to what it was. No important decisions were taken, no new flowers planted and no new friendships made. In short, the troublesome little princess Dalamit had in fact begun to dominate the entire land and all its affairs.

Then one day a very old looking woman was seen walking towards the castle where the king, queen and little Dalamit lived. She had long grey hair that seemed to flow onto the ground. She walked with a staff upright in her right hand and slung around her shoulder was an odd looking bag of some sorts; it seemed that is was made of animal-skin, deer perhaps.

The king’s cook saw her first and rushed to the king. He told him that an odd looking old woman was approaching the castle and that he thinks that he knows who it is. In his youth he had heard about an old woman wizard living in the forest where no one dares to go. Not in the least because of the old woman, but because strange things seem to happen in that forest, people who went there never came back. This worried the king, but he was desperate enough to let her in and see if she had come up with a solution to the troublesome little princess Dalamit’s behaviour.

The old woman crossed the drawbridge over the river that surrounded the king’s castle and entered through the gate. She looked exactly like the cook had described her. Very long grey hair flowed behind her, swaying along over the ground. The skin on her face was so wrinkled that it was hard to distinguish her facial features. Her eyes seemed to have fallen behind a pair of wrinkles into deep sockets.

To the men at the entrance she introduced herself as Ova the wizard of the forest where no one dares to go. Frightened by this introduction, but aware that the king wanted to see her, they showed her towards a hallway where one of the king’s valets awaited her to present her to the king. The valet opened the two gigantic wooden doors leading to the king’s study and announced her as the wizard Ova.

The king, slouched deeply in his chair, looked up and told her that he hoped she was the bearer of good news. The wizard Ova said nothing, she just stared at the king and all that was around him. Freshly cut flowers — obviously from the queen’s priced gardens —, shelves full of books of all kind and a table full of untouched food and drink.

As the king followed her gaze around the room he told her that even in all those books, which hold all the knowledge of the land, no answer could be found. That the little princess Dalamit’s constant interfering had taken away his appetite and that even queen Jemra’s flowers could no longer bring a smile to his face.

Suddenly the doors to the antechamber flew open and the little princess Dalamit stormed in, her hands full of toys. She started to babble something to her father, the king, but quickly stopped as she felt the penetrating gaze of the wizard Ova upon her.

“I have heard that you are quite a troublesome little lady, are you not?” Taken away by the wizard’s words, the little princess Dalamit at once seemed to transform into the young little lady she really was.

“I appear to be rather demanding of other people’s time,” she agreed.

Surprised that the little princess Dalamit, who was still so young of age, could actually say something meaningful instead of just babble, the king stood up and started to walk toward the little princess Dalamit. But the wizard Ova gestured him back into his chair and made it clear she wanted him to remain there.

“Why is this so, my little one?” the wizard asked the little princess Dalamit.

“Everyone always treats me as a little baby. I am only just returning the treatment,” she answered.

The wizard Ova thought about this for a moment and said, “Just as I thought. The problem of your troublesome behaviour lies not with you, but with those around you. The whole day long you are surrounded by so-called grownups and they constantly treat you as the little baby you once were. They have not noticed you growing into a young lady, they only see the little baby.”

The wizard turned around and addressed the king, “King Helmica, ruler of this land and its people. You who has all the wisdom there is to gather, how could you not see your daughter growing up into the little lady she is?”

Embarrassed as the king was, he slouched deeper into his chair. “Too busy ruling the land and people I suppose,” was all he could say in a silent voice.

“The princess Dalamit is no longer the little princess Dalamit, but the princess lady Dalamit. And if you treat her accordingly, she will return the treatment accordingly.”

When the wizard had said this to the king, she spun around on her heels — the youthful way in which she did this surprised all present, except perhaps the wizard Ova — , and asked princess Dalamit, “Will you not, princess Dalamit?”

Princess Dalamit lowered her face and replied that she will.

The wizard Ova walked across the room towards the door and started to let herself out.

“Wait!,” the king said. “You have won the contest, the bouquet of roses, orchids and sunflowers is yours!”

Once more the wizard Ova turned around and said, “Let the princess lady Dalamit have them, as a young lady she is more in need of pretty things than I am. Besides I have all the flowers in the forest to look after.” With that said she walked out the door and returned to her place in the forest where no one dares to go.

Princess Dalamit was no longer knows as the little princess Dalamit, but as the princess lady Dalamit, and treated accordingly. King Helmica and queen Jemra could finally return to their business of ruling the land and people in an harmonious way.

The End

(Tampere, 8–10 September 2002)