The Tale of Partlet

There once was a knight named Huon who was vain and proud and decidedly cruel. He rode about on his horse with his glittering vestments and his plumed hat, all given to him by the king , and cared little for the laws of the land. On one particularly cold evening, Huon happened upon a dainty farfadet  bathing in the river. He took the poor thing by force, then journeyed off as if nothing had happened.

And the little farfadet sang:

O, woe, o woe, o woe is me!

Forgotten farfadet!

From this union there was born a child, a little girl called Partlet . At first she seemed quite human, but if one looked closer they could see that her skin was scaled from hip to toe, her eyes were pale and piercing, her tongue was forked, and she smelt like the sea. The farfadet abandoned Partlet to wallow in her own melancholy, and the child was found by simple farmers, who named and fed and clothed the half-breed  as if she were their own.

And so it came to pass that Partlet grew beautiful, if not in spite of her faults, then because of them, and she seemed everything her father was not. But sweet little Partlet was restless; she longed for more than the life of a farmer’s daughter and spent her days singing:

If only I were born again

and made a rich man’s wife!

How happily, then, could I live,

in such a lovely life!

No matter how her parents spoiled her with rare fruits, picture books, and languid days with friends, Partlet was never satisfied.

It just so happened that Huon passed by again, bedecked in his velvet finery and riding his great white horse. Though he hardly noticed the villagers, little Partlet was quite smitten with him. She hurried off to the river to find a magical farfadet and beg him to make her fully human.

“But there is nothing wrong with you,” said the puzzled farfadet.

“Ah, I am ugly!” cried our young Partlet.

“But your mother was surely a farfadet,” said the farfadet.

“Ah, a wicked beast!” cried Partlet.

“But you will die without your magic,” said the farfadet.

“Ah, to live as a human for a day!” cried Partlet.

So the farfadet agreed to make her human, but of course it would be unpleasant. Her legs would be long and cool and smooth, but her feet would ache and bleed as if stabbed by a thousand pins. Her eyes would become dark and soft, but her vision would become the same. Her tongue would no longer be forked; in fact, she would have no tongue: it was the price the farfadet charged. And, as she smelt like the sea, it was only fitting that—should she remain unwed by sunset in a fortnight—she would turn to foam and water.

Little Partlet agreed, and the farfadet cut out her forked tongue and fed her a potion to make her human, singing all the while:

Oft amazed am I, my friend,

to see your prideful heart;

oft amazed am I, my friend,

and o, it makes me grieve!

Then Partlet followed the trail of Huon’s horse, crawling on the road so she could see, til she came to a grand house in the midst of the city. Huon caught sight of her, and when he saw her he was quite beside himself, for she was lovely and familiar. He asked her her name, but of course she could not reply, and he soon came to see that was dumb and almost blind. So Huon named her after his old cat: Little Fool.

Huon would take Partlet riding with him through the country. He mostly lauded his self-perceived prowess, which Partlet adored, or commented on the attributes of passing ladies, which Partlet despised. And all the way Partlet would think, “Ah, soon we shall be married!”

But days passed, then weeks, and Huon never asked Partlet to marry him. A fortnight after she had left the country, Partlet came to Huon’s room and sat upon his bed, begging to him read her thoughts. The knight started at the touch of her hand on his foot, then laughed when he saw who it was.

“Ah, Little Fool!” he chirped. “Today I am to be married!”

And Partlet was full of joy, as she had been waiting to become a bride. And she spent the day sewing a pretty dress, pricking her fingers enough times to match the pain in her feet, and did not measure the pieces quite right, so poor were her eyes! She worked until the sun was setting.

But alas, it was not to be! For when Partlet stepped in to the church, she heard, “Little Fool, have you come to be a bridesmaid?”

Poor Partlet! She flew from the church, hurried down the stairs, ran along the path, and in to a farmer’s field. And there she melted and turned to foam, and the wheat shivered in the cool night air.

And the farfadets sang:

May songs be messengers to ask dear friends

why they are so cruel, so vain!

Is it pride or sorrow or pain?

But most of all, dear messengers, tell those

who love pomp and penny:

pride is the death of many!

Author's Notes/Comments: 

This is merely a reinterpretation of old fairytales I heard as a child.

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