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Little Princess Tuvstarr

'Great Swedish Fairy Tales'
John Bauer

From the Swedish tale of "Skutt the Moose and Princess Tuvstarr" AKA "Leap the Elk and Little Princess Cottongrass"
little princess tuvstarr
A long time ago, Princess Cottongrass lived in the Dream Castle, with her father the King and her mother the Queen.  Princess Cottongrass was a beautiful blond and slender girl, and she had spent her entire life in the castle.  One day when she was playing in the fields a large elk wandered by.  “Who are you with such a splendid crown?” asked the princess.  “I am Long-Leap the Elk.”  “Please carry me into the world and let me see the life outside the castle.”  Long-Leap hesitates, warning the princess that the world is dark and dangerous, but the Princess is certain he can protect her, and climbs onto his back and holds onto his antlers. Long-Leap carries her into the forest towards his home.
As they pass through a meadow, Princess Cottongrass sees someone dancing in the distance.  “Who are they?” she asks.  “They are fairies.  But take care, they cannot be trusted.  Hold on to my antlers or they may take you away.”  Princess Cottongrass promises, but the fairies come closer and closer.  They pull on her dress, and tug on her hair, and suddenly Princess Cottongrass’ golden crown starts sliding from her head.  She tries to hold on to it but the fairies are too strong, and soon the crown is gone.  Long-Leap carries her away from the fairies, but Princess Cottongrass is devastated to have lost her crown.  “It could have been so much worse, had you let go of my antlers” says Long-Leap.
They find some soft moss and stay to rest.  In the morning Princess Cottongrass wakes up, eager to explore the woods.  In the distance she sees something moving between the trees.  A couple of white arms waving, and a long, green hair.  “Who is that?” asks the princess.  “It is the Lady of the Forest.  Be pleasant to her, but do not let go of my antlers, whatever you do, or she will enchant you and you will never get out of this forest” answers Long-Leap.  The Lady of the Forest comes closer and asks where Princess Cottongrass is from.  “I come from the Dream Castle.”  “And what a lovely dress you are wearing, may I see?”  “Of course” answers the princess and holds out the hem of the dress with one hand.  But no sooner had she done that, than the Lady of the forest snatches the entire dress from her and takes off through the trees.  “My dress, my dress” cries the Princess.  “Oh why did you have to let go of my antlers to show the dress?” asks Long-Leap.  “Had you let go with both hands you would have had to go with her, and then you would never have returned.”
The Princess is naked now, but for a gold chain holding her heart, and her long flowing hair.
Soon, the Princess and the Elk come to a dark tarn in the deepest part of the forest.   “Hold on, there are dangers lurking in the waters.”  But Princess Cottongrass is already on the shore looking into the water.  As she leans close, her gold heart slips off and disappears into the tarn.  The Princess is inconsolable and looks and looks into the water to see if she can find her heart.  The Elk asks her to come, but the enchantment already has her in its grip, and she doesn’t notice anything around her.
Many years have passed, but still Princess Cottongrass gazes longingly into the tarn, looking for her heart.  The girl is gone – by now she is just a flower, bearing the Cottongrass name.  A small white flower at the edge of the pool.  Now and then the Elk comes to visit.  Pauses for a moment and looks at the little one.  He is the only one who knows who she is.  Cottongrass – the princess.  But she no longer wants to follow him back into the world – not for as long as the enchantment binds her.  The enchantment lies far beneath the surface.  On the bottom of the pool lies a lost heart – a heart of gold.

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