King Lear – as a Fairy Tale

Once upon a time the king of Britain, named Lear, was about to bequeath his kingdom, but he wasn’t sure yet, which of his three daughters he should give the biggest part to and which of them the smallest to. Although the king had a favourite daughter, she was the youngest, her name was Cordelia and she was the most beautiful girl in Britain and her father always called her princess, he couldn’t disappoint his other two daughters. So the king decided to do a love test with the girls and the one who loved him most was going to receive the biggest part of the kingdom, all the wealth and power.

His eldest daughter Gonerill started and picked him the stars from heaven. His second daughter Regan did just the same, because both of them knew that their father liked it when people flattered him. But the king didn’t notice that his daughters were only lying and didn’t love him as much as they said they would.

Cordelia, the princess and most kind-hearted daughter of King Lear, already had read their characters and knew that they were betraying their father. Everybody except the king could see that Gonerill and Regan actually were witches, but nobody could do anything against them, the king had to figure that out by himself. So when it was Cordelia’s turn, she still was honest, even though she knew it would cost her her heritage, so she said, she would love the king like a daughter was supposed to. Of course the king was shocked and sad about that answer of his favourite daughter and sent her away. Cordelia had to leave the kingdom and her family behind and went on a journey through the dark forest of Britain in hope to find a new home.

In the forest she saw an ugly munchkin and hid behind a big tree. The munchkin looked mean and sneaky and reminded her of her two older sisters. He was babbling some undefined words, while he walked between two trees back and forth. He seemed to be thinking hard about something and after a while he took a piece of paper and a pencil out of one of the trees and started writing. The princess behind the tree was observing the whole situation carefully, because she was too curious now to continue her journey and when the little munchkin left for a few minutes to chase a rabbit for dinner, Cordelia sneaked to the letter, which was laying on the ground in the leaves, to read it and find out what evil things the munchkin was up to. The letter was addressed to the Earl of Gloucester and contained the wish of the latter’s death. the letter was signed by Edgar, the Earl’s son. Cordelia speedily went back behind the tree to rethink that piece of paper before the munchkin came back. But at his side wasn’t a rabbit for dinner as the princess thought, but an older man like her father, the king.

The older man asked the munchkin what he wanted to show him and called him Edmond. Cordelia was very confused about that, she thought the munchkin was Edgar, the one who wrote the letter, but she was wrong and kept listening to their conversation, even more curious now. The munchkin showed the old man the letter and told him his brother gave it to him to deliver it to their father. The old man who supposedly must have been the Earl of Gloucester then, concluded Cordelia, got very angry and left with a swipe of his cape to punish Edgar for that. But he was already hiding, because Edmond, the munchkin, gave him that advice and Edgar trusted his brother. The munchkin started laughing and talking to himself that his plan had worked. He, the illegitimate son of the big Gloucester was going to be his heir now. He was replacing his brother Edgar, the good-looking, amiable, successful one who didn’t have to be hiding in the woods his whole life so that nobody was ever going to see him.

When Cordelia heard that she intuitively continued her journey, but she wasn’t going to find a new home anymore, she needed to go back to her father to open his eyes that her sisters were witches and the evil munchkin in the forest was going to betray his father, too. She couldn’t wait for her father to realise that by himself and let the kingdom of Britain only be ruled by evilness, so she had to fight for honesty in the country.

Her father King Lear was living with Gonerill in her castle at that time. His faithful servant Kent, banished by him, because he had criticised his actions to divide the kingdom between Gonerill and Regan and the king didn’t want to hear anything negative about his decision. He was satisfied with his new life until Gonerill and her servants started to treat him with less respect. His daughter even wanted Lear to reduce his number of knights, which made him want to live with his second daughter Regan instead.

Luckily the king’s faithful servant Kent came back transformed into a good fairy to help the king and to protect him from his two daughters with three wishes. His first wish was to have a fool who could cheer him up when things went wrong and one whom he could talk to like a father and a son would do. However, the king finally wanted to travel to Regan in the hope that she wouldn’t want him to reduce any more of his knights. The king realised Gonerill was faking her love and declared to only have one daughter left, so he wrote a letter to Regan to tell her that and to explain the whole situation at Gonerill’s castle. But as sneaky as his eldest daughter was, she wrote a letter to Regan, too, warning her about their father, which Regan would have been very grateful for, if she ever had gotten the letter, eventually they were both playing the game against their father together. The king’s second wish from the fairy was to deliver his letter to Regan before Oswald, Gonerill’s bulldog, could get to her castle with her letter. But the fairy knew that Cordelia was trying to find her way back home to save the kingdom. In her magic ball she could see her running around in the dark forest not knowing the direction the castles of her sisters were lying in. So the fairy met Gonerill’s bulldog on the way to Regan’s and tricked him with a line made of little pieces of sausage which lead him the wrong way to the edge of a mountain where the bulldog hopefully was going to fall down into the river, thought the fairy and observed him on the way, because she didn’t have to hurry to the castle. She wanted to wait for Cordelia, so that the king wasn’t able to do any more mistakes like moving to Regan’s. At the edge of the mountain the bulldog actually fell into the river, because he was too greedy like his owner Gonerill. The fairy was just watching him trying not to drown or choke at the sausage pieces and felt a little step closer to a save kingdom.

Looking again into her magic ball to see where the princess had been, the fairy uttered a noise of happiness. She saw how Cordelia had found the way to France and how servants had brought her to the prince to show him the foreign young, beautiful lady. The prince of France was immediately impressed by Cordelia and her big, loving heart. She told him the whole story of her family and about the munchkin in the forest and the prince was listening, spellbound. He was basically glued to the princess’ lips and when Cordelia was finished and burst into tears, the prince commanded his servants to saddle the horses.

The fairy was overjoyed to see that Cordelia and the prince were coming to tidy the circumstances and went back to King Lear to lead him under a pretence to the glade behind the forest where Cordelia and the prince would ride by on their way to the castles. The king didn’t know why he had to be at the glade and almost wanted to use his last wish to get back to Regan’s, but then he saw two people riding on horses in the distance followed with a little space between by many more horses. He got afraid and wanted to flee but the fairy held his arm and said, he must stay and when King Lear could identify the people’s faces he knew why. Cordelia and the prince of France were riding right towards him and were surprised to meet him there, too. Although there had been tensions between her and the king she got down from her horse and fell into the arms of her father. It only took minutes to exchange their stories and to introduce the prince of France.

Lear told his daughter, he was sorry for banishing her and not seeing how much she really loved her father. He finally realized how wrong his decisions were and that he had two witches as daughters. The king wanted to seize his kingdom back, in order to rule it with his princess Cordelia together and punish Gonerill and Regan with imprisonment for life.

The three were about to leave the glade to fight against the witches, but when King Lear turned around to thank the fairy for bringing him back together with his favourite daughter, she had already transformed into a pink spot at the sky and only an echo of her voice saying ‘You are welcome. I knew what you were really wishing for the whole time. So I’m not needed anymore now. You got your princess back and soon you will have your kingdom back, too and you even got a future son-in-law. So don’t lose what you love again, Lear, I’ll be watching over you.’ King Lear, outraged, turned back around to Cordelia and the prince of France and asked what the fairy meant by future son-in-law. His daughter was head over heels in love with her prince and he reciprocated her feelings with a kiss. The king started smiling and shouted out to fight as a family now against the witches and their servants. And if they didn’t lose that battle, they lived happily ever after.

Katrina Zöller