Sunday, 10 May 2009

Many Moons by James Thurber

Short Story, published 1943

I promised myself that the next time I wrote about a short story for Once Upon a Time III's short story weekend, it would be one that was easy to find. It wasn't a difficult choice, because it is from a writer I love, and is one of my favourite stories ever. What's more, not only does the story itself demonstrate just how much fun the author had writing it, it predates by a couple of years the first of his longer ventures into the writing of fairytales, The White Deer, and some of the characters in this story, Many Moons, reappear in similar form and voice in the later work.

Ten-year-old Princess Lenore, the apple of her father's eye, has fallen sick of a surfeit of raspberry tarts, and the King, anxious for her recovery, promises whatever her heart desires. If she can have the moon, she replies, she will get better. The King is used to relying on his advisors, so he sends, in succession, for the Lord High Chamberlain, the Royal Wizard and the Royal Mathematician, to no avail. By this time sounding distinctly miffed, he sends again, this time for the Court Jester who, wiser than the others, finds a solution. All seems well until the King realises that the moon will rise again the next night, so he sends for...well, you can guess.