Why the Willow Weeps
Sara E. Lundberg
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a Princess. The Princess thought that she was a very ordinary girl, but she had a magic about her. Not only was she smart, beautiful, and strong-willed, she was also amazingly kind-hearted. Everyone she met instantly felt the warmth she exuded and fell in love with her.
The queen of the land, the princess’s mother, was an evil queen. People couldn’t help disliking the Queen just as they couldn’t help the way they loved the Princess. The Princess grew up lonely, but despite her mother, or maybe because of her, she surrounded herself with those she loved, and made her own family.
She also had a magical green thumb, something else that her mother, the Queen did not teach her. She treated nature – plants, trees, flowers, and anything that grew in the earth – with the same love she lavished on her friends.
The Princess’s father died when she was barely grown, and with his passing, she felt even more alone. That was when she met the Court Jester. He was barely grown, himself, but from that first moment they met, she felt a connection to him. Even with how young they were, she knew, she felt, that she had met her soulmate.
They became fast friends, and even in her grief over losing her father, he made her laugh like nobody ever had. The Queen did not approve of the friendship, and made things very difficult between them. Despite this, or maybe because of it, they fell deeply in love. The Jester told her in one of their stolen moments that he always thought he’d never find love, and that without her, he probably never would have.
It didn’t take long for the Queen to learn of their secret love. She immediately banished the Jester from the castle, and the kingdom. By this time, the Princess was fully grown, and instead of letting her mother rule her life, she ran away with the Jester.
They gallivanted across the land, and had many amazing adventures together: she teaching him all she new of nature and plants, and he making her laugh. Together, they cultivated many delicate, exotic plants. They also met many people along the way and cultivated many dear friends, and the Princess’s family continued to grow.
In time, they decided to make even greater additions to their family. They had three children, and from her first born to her last, she fell in love all over again with each one. She spent days watching them grow, just as she cultivated and watched her plants and flowers grow, while the Jester left home to try and make a living for them.
He worked long hours and missed a lot of his children growing up, and while he was still a Jester, he lost the edge to his laughter. They were poor, and had to struggle to make ends meet. They couldn’t rely on the Princess’s wealth since she was estranged, and the Queen made it difficult for them to earn however she could.
One day, when the children were old enough to be left with friends, the Princess decided to succumb to her call to help the earth. She put her gift to use, and worked a few days a week in a greenhouse to help mete out a living.
But the people in this land had been cruel to the earth, and had poisoned it so it had become very sick. As she worked, over the course of a few years, those poisons began to seep into the Princess. At first she only suffered from small tremors that she dismissed as nothing, but over time, she became very sick, as well.
She went to a healer, who told her that she could get better, but it would take a great deal of fighting, and the treatment could be as painful as the sickness.
The Princess was strong, and a fighter, so the years passed and one day her healer said that she had won. Her family rejoiced, and they went back to their lives, enjoying each day as a second chance to make the most of everything. Since she could no longer be so close to the earth, she turned to helping sick children, instead, where she made many more friends and touched many more lives.
But the poison was sinister, and while it appeared to be gone, it had just retreated deeper inside the Princess, lying dormant until it had a chance to overcome her again. Years went by, and it waited patiently, and finally, simply by being so deep inside the bones of the Princess, began to sicken her again.
At first she ignored the signs. It couldn’t be. She had won, that is what the healers had said. And she had stayed away from her beloved earth. However, she continued to grow week, and she and her family were forced to admit the truth.
She was dying.
So she did the only thing she knew. She fought. She fought long and hard, through winters and summers, and though she never gave up hope, those who loved her most dearly feared for the worst. They watched as her body consumed itself, until she had wasted away and there was nothing left.
Her friends and family came from afar to visit her. Even the heartless Queen came to her only daughter’s death bed and said her goodbyes, and tried to make amends.
And then she was gone.
The kingdom wept. Everyone who had loved the Princess, the princess who had lived the life of a simple peasant girl, gathered together and gave her a royal send off. There was overwhelming sadness, but there was also happiness in the gathering, as the people she had drawn in to her loving embrace pooled together their memories. The memories themselves were living things.
But it was time to let her go, so they returned her body to the earth she loved so well.
In the days after the Princess left her body, the sky clouded over and nature cried for the friends and family who were hurting over her loss. Swells of rain soaked into the earth. This wasn’t an ordinary rain, however. Because the Princess had always loved the earth, had always been so kind, had always given every part of herself for others, and because she was such a pure soul, the rain cleansed the earth of the poisons.
And as her family stood in her rain, their souls were put at ease, for she was now all around them: in the ground, in the air, in the water, and inside of them. She would always be with them, and the world would always have the gift she left behind.
They buried her beneath a beautiful willow tree that she had been so fond of, and had sat under for hours, watching her children play, reading books, or leaning against its trunk lost in thought. Now, because willow trees are sensitive souls, any time you find them drooping, they are mourning the loss of a friend. As the rain fell in the days after her death, the tree itself began to bend over her grave, its branches drooping until it looked like it was weeping itself, so they named the tree the Weeping Willow, who would forever mourn the loss of the Princess.
Sara E. Lundberg is a Kansas-grown writer of the urban fantasy persuasion. She is an editor and contributor for the Confabulator Cafe, a website that she helped create, where she writes monthly flash fiction: confabulatorcafe.com.