Disclaimer: Even scholars haven't been able to find the origin of fairy tales; they are before my time and therefore not mine. Even the idea of them being told in Narnia is Lewis's.
A/N: This story was born out of a comment by ILoveCheetos but IAMTIMELESS on my story Home, who graciously gave me permission to write out the idea and post it.
"And what are we to do with the Sleepers?" asked Caspian. "In the world from which my friends come they have a story of a prince or king coming to a castle where all the people lay in an enchanted sleep. In that story he could not dissolve the enchantment until he had kissed the Princess." – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Lucy looked around, breathing heavily. The deck was wet, cold, with wreckage of crates and ropes and in one place Eustace's shivered sword pieces scattered on it. The crew was collapsed against railings, sitting on the overturned crates, relief and fading terror giving way to camaraderie over shared drinks, wonder in their tones as they talked about having actually seen the Great Sea Serpent. Lucy, seeing all of them well served, went and found her brother. She sat next to him, glad, suddenly, that he was there, alive. That Aslan had seen them through another adventure. Indeed, the only permanent damage was to the wood that carried them - their home. And perhaps that could be fixed.
"What are we going to do about the ship?" she asked quietly. Edmund, Caspian, and Drinian looked around as well, Caspian glancing back where the ship's wooden dragon tail had cracked off. Lucy supposed there were things they couldn't repair till they reached land.
"We tie things down tonight, and go to work tomorrow," Drinian said. "With your Majesties' permission, that is. But the crew are exhausted, and I could use a good night's sleep myself."
"Agreed," said Caspian. "Spread word to the crew. Do only what needs to be done tonight, and we'll start repairs tomorrow."
Tomorrow dawned, and Lucy woke earlier than most, walking quietly down to the mess to help cook. Breakfast, a scantier one as they weren't sure how much food they had, was followed by a long, hard day of work. All day. In the heat. Lucy spent her time moving such things as her ten-year-old body could manage, tying ropes that had snapped, and aiding in the cleaning. But she did so with a laugh for all who spoke with her, seeing once again Aslan's hand in how much they had left, and the crew He'd placed her with as they worked.
By evening all of their strength was spent, and they were glad to sit on the newly cleaned deck and eat in a restful quiet. The sunset flooded the sky with yellow and red, small clouds interruptions of darker colors, and Lucy leaned against the side of the ship and was content. They had repaired much. It had been a good day.
She glanced over at her companions; Edmund was watching the crew, with that half-absent, half-focused look that meant he was checking on them as a king but also thinking deeply about something, and Caspian was looking out at the sea, watching the waves. Reepicheep was eating, and quite focused on it. Lucy laughed inside. He focused on whatever he did. Drinian and Rhince were both looking towards the helm; probably mentally planning tomorrow. And Eustace - Eustace was frowning.
"What is it, Eustace?" Lucy asked. He looked more puzzled than angry, and she wondered if she could help.
"I saw a Sea Serpent," he replied, still frowning abstractly.
"We all did," Drinian said, turning their way. He now had puzzled frown of his own.
"Are you bothered because they don't exist in our world?" Edmund asked. He'd brought his attention back to their group as well.
"That's just it, they might exist, that's why I know about them - there was a study done on the possible life forms in the sea that are too deep for us to discover yet. But if sea serpents could exist in our world, do you think - could other fairy tale creatures?"
"I've never seen any," Edmund said quietly. "None of us have. And we've looked." Lucy thought of all the times they'd gone in the woods, looking for centaurs. They'd even taken a vacation to a mountain once, and looked for signs of dwarfs. But they'd found nothing. Eustace seemed disappointed, but he was nodding.
"I guess that makes sense," he said, and sighed.
"Good cousin, what is a fairy tale creature? Are they all giant? Are they sea creatures?" said a curious voice, and Lucy looked up to see Caspian's face regarding them with interest, and she couldn't help smiling.
"Oh, no, it means-" but she broke off. How could she explain fairy tales to a person who lived in a world filled with them, where they were normal.
"Fairy tales are a large collection of stories in our world, that are filled with creatures and magic that don't belong in our world. We usually tell them to children," Edmund finished for her (1), and Caspian's eyes lit up.
"I have not heard you tell the stories that are told in your world, only stories of the doings in your world. Will you not tell us some of these stories?"
"I'd better let Lucy, she's the better storyteller."
"Only of fairy tales," Lucy interjected, knowing that there were tales Edmund could relate much better, usually mysteries or stories with surprise endings. But she smiled at the Narnian's expectant faces. "When we tell them, we usually begin with 'Once upon a time,'" she started, and Eustace interrupted.
"You know, I've always wondered about that, when I heard it. Alberta wasn't keen on telling them, but I heard a librarian telling them once (2) and she said that. What does that phrase even mean?"
"It means a long time ago, but nobody knows when," Lucy said, trying to keep her temper. Eustace still hadn't learned the art of listening to stories.
"But I thought these stories were about things that don't belong in your world. Did they belong in your world once?" Caspian was frowning now too.
"No, but we pretend - for the children - that they could have happened. So that children hear of brave knights and heroic courage (3) in magical stories."
"It is like the tales we are told as mouslings," Reepicheep siad, nodding. "Of mice who stood against giants of fire and won, with nothing but their bravery and Aslan's help. I do not think giants of fire exist, but they are still stories every mousling hears."
"Exactly!" said Lucy, smiling at the mouse.
"Then our apologies for interrupting, Queen Lucy," Caspian said, bowing as best he could while sitting. "Please continue. And let's have no more of these interruptions," he added to the group in general, though Lucy could see Eustace flush.
"(4) Once upon a time, there was a land with many fairies - magical beings who could cast spells, who often did good, but who no one wanted to make mad. They were very important creatures, and when the king and queen of that land finally had a child, a daughter, they invited all the fairies in their land to her christening - her naming party. But in their land was an old, ruined castle, where a fairy lived. No one had seen her in many years, and most assumed her dead. The king and queen did not bother sending her an invitation. This, she could have forgiven, but when she arrived, and saw that the other seven fairies had been given rich table settings of emerald plates, while hers was only gold, she grew a little angry. And when the drinks were served, and her cup was of crystal while the other seven each had one of diamond, she grew angrier still. And the king and queen looked at each other, their faces white with fear, for they had no more emerald plates or diamond glasses, nor a casket with a gift in it; they had not had one made for a fairy they thought was dead. And after supper, when each fairy gave the new princess a magical gift - beauty, grace, and other things befitting a princess - the old, angry fairy waited till last, and instead of a gift, cursed the princess to prick her finger on a spinning wheel spindle - what they used to make clothing, a wheel that spun thread (5)," she interjected before the Narnians could ask. She didn't think Caspian would take kindly to more interruptions; stories were a delight to him. "She said when the princess pricked her finger on the spindle, the princess would die. And all the court, the king, and the queen, began to weep. But the youngest fairy, who had also seen the anger of her elder during the supper and heard the muttered threats, stepped forward from where she had hidden, that she might give her gift last. Her power was not as great as the older fairy, and she could not undo the curse, but she changed it, that the princess might not die, but only fall into a deep sleep, her and all around her, and sleep for a hundred years, till a prince should waken her with a kiss."
"Ah," said Reepicheep. "But he must brave many dangers first, as is right for a prince."
"Yes," said Lucy, smiling. "But we are not to that part of the story yet," and Reepicheep rose and bowed. "And so the princess's feast ended with tears, but also with hope. Her parents, hoping to prevent the curse, commanded all in their kingdom to burn their spinning wheels, whether for flax or for thread, that there might be none for the princess to prick her finger on. And for many years this worked, and the princess grew up with grace, beauty, wit, and joy, and delighted all who knew her." She paused for Edmund's quick smile, looking at him curiously.
"She sounds a bit like you and Su," Edmund admitted in undertone, and Lucy grinned.
But the rest were waiting for the story, so Lucy continued, "But one day, running to the most distant rooms of the castle, the princess came upon an old deaf woman, who had been deaf for years, and had never heard the royal command. She was spinning. The princess, having never seen such a thing before, drew near, and asked, by means of signs, if she could try. The old woman goodnaturedly rose for the young, beautiful girl, and the princess no sooner put her hand to the wheel then prick! she touched the spindle, and fell to the floor in a deep sleep. The old woman, crying out when she could not wake the princess, drew others to the room, and the king and queen and courtiers slowly, sadly, bore the princess to an enormous bed in the highest tower. No sooner had they finished, the king and queen kissing her before leaving, then all within the castle fell into a deep sleep. The youngest fairy had spelled them all, that the princess might not be alone on waking. And around the castle, that they might not be disturbed till the hundred years had passed, grew a thick, impassable forest of thorns.
Over a hundred years - just like in Narnia, after we left - what had happened became stories, then legends, and many were sure the castle had never existed." And she and Edmund shared a smile; it had been odd, coming back and finding they were figures of legend, older than the very drawings in Aslan's How. "But the castle did, sleeping, waiting, and magically kept free of dust and spoil. After the hundred years had passed a prince from a neighboring kingdom was hunting in the woods. The animal he was chasing ran into the thicket of thorns, and the prince, not one to be dismayed, dismounted his horse and gave chase. But his attention soon turned away from the hunt, for the branches seemed to move before him, allowing him entrance, till he got to the wall, and then they were immovable, and would not be cut, nor burned, nor moved. And the prince, seeing the wall and refusing to give up on the adventure, set his hands and feet to climbing the brambles, though they cut into his skin and made him bleed. Higher and higher he climbed, above the wall, following the brambles as they wrapped themselves around the highest tower, bravely and steadfastly continuing." Lucy added that for Reepicheep, who was leaning forward, intent. "At the top of the tower he found a window which opened at his touch, and he slipped inside. There he saw the most beautiful lady he had ever seen, sleeping, and remembering stories his mother had told him as a child, leaned forward and kissed the princess. Instantly the castle awoke, and the brambles outside crumbled into dust, though the prince and princess were aware of none of it, for they had fallen in love and were talking. And that very day they were married, and lived happily ever after (6)."
"I like fairy tales," was Drinian's short approbation, and it meant as much to Lucy as Caspian's thanks or Edmund's quick smile. She loved the way Aslan made people different, but drew them all together with something as simple as a fairy tale.
"Will your Majesty tell another?" Rhince asked, and the group quieted at Lucy's nod, many of the sailors who had been listening drawing nearer.
"Once upon a time, in the middle of winter, a queen was sewing near the window. She was working on a handkerchief made of black ebony, and she pricked her finger while sewing, the red drops falling outside the window onto the white snow…"
Lucy continued to tell stories late into that night, till the sunset ended and the lanterns were lit. As she finally went to sleep that night, she thanked Aslan for a day mixed of work, stories, and good companions, a day as happy as any ending in a fairy tale.
(1) After reading Tolkien's essay on fairy tales, yes, I know, that's a very simplistic and not-quite-accurate description, but it's what I thought Edmund would come up with, since it's the way most of us think. :)
(2) I have no idea if librarians read to children on a regular basis in English libraries, but since they likely love books as well, it seems a probable event.
(3) This is another Lewis quote, slightly paraphrased.
(4) I am aware there are many different versions of fairy tales - I tend to collect them, and I'm retelling a conglomeration of the parts I liked best, so if it's new to you, it's still not mine, it's just a different version.
(5) I don't remember any spinning wheels in Narnia, but if there was one (perhaps at Mrs. Beaver's house, but I'm traveling again and don't have my books with me), then I most humbly apologise. Please let me know, and I'll change it.
(6) I'm not including the part where the prince leads two separate lives because he has a cruel, ogerish mother, who tries to eat his two children and his wife after they're discovered. I'm sure Reep would like it, but it's not my favorite part of the story.