The Scarlet Flower

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Fairy Tale Nesting Doll

The Scarlet Flower
(Russian version of Beauty and the Beast)

Once upon a time, there lived a wealthy merchant who loved his three beautiful daughters dearly. One day, this merchant was going on a voyage and asked the maidens what presents they would like. The two elder daughters, who were spoiled and vain, asked for rare and costly treasures. The youngest girl, hardworking and modest, asked only for a little scarlet flower.

He set off on his voyage and eventually found the presents his elder daughters desired. But the scarlet flower was nowhere to be found. On the way home, the merchant’s caravan was attacked by brigands, and the merchant was forced to flee into the deep forest. There he lost his way, and eventually came to a magnificent palace. He knocked on the door, but there was no answer. He crept inside, where he continued to search for whoever owned the palace, but he could find nobody. The exhausted merchant ate some of the fine food that had been set out and went to bed in the palace.

The next morning, he was wandering through the beautiful garden, when he suddenly saw the scarlet flower his favorite daughter had asked for. He reached out and plucked it, and at once a horrible beast appeared.

The beast was outraged that the merchant would steal his flower. For this insult, he cried, the man must die. The terrified merchant begged to see his daughters one last time. The beast replied that he would spare the merchant if one of the girls came willingly to live with him. The merchant had no choice but to agree.

The beast magically transported him to his home, where his caravan had just safely arrived without him. He gave each of his daughters the presents they wanted, but he couldn’t hide his grief. At last, he told his daughters about his fateful meeting with the beast. The two elder sisters declared that the youngest must go, since she was the one who wanted the scarlet flower. The girl agreed that this was just, and dutifully went to the beast’s palace.

There, the girl was given a life of luxury. Unseen servants fulfilled her every wish. Her mysterious host never appeared, but sometimes he would write messages to her in letters of fire on the marble walls. The girl quickly discovered the beast was kind and generous.

After a while, she wanted to hear his real voice, and see his true form. The beast was worried that his rough, wild voice and monstrous appearance would frighten her away, but eventually he allowed himself to be convinced to speak to her and show himself. She was quite frightened at first, because he did indeed look like a horrible monster, but once again she overcame her fear and their bond grew stronger than ever.

One day, the girl had a vision that her father was ill. The beast allowed her to visit her family, but he asked her to return by the end of the third day, lest he die from a broken heart. She agreed, and was transported back to her father’s house.

The girl’s sisters heard her stories and grew jealous of the luxurious life she enjoyed with the beast. Before the end of the third day, they turned back the clocks so that their sister missed the hour when she was supposed to return to the beast.

The girl returned to the beast’s palace to find the place silent as a tomb. She found the beast’s lifeless body in the garden, and burst into tears, crying, “Please, awaken! You are my true beloved!”

Suddenly there was a huge flash of lightning, and the girl found herself in a splendid throne room, seated next to a wondrously handsome young prince. An evil witch had placed a curse on the prince, transforming him into a hideous beast. The spell could only be broken if a maiden fell in love with him in spite of his hideous appearance. The merchant's daughter had freed him when she professed her true love for him. The merchant was overjoyed to give the young couple his blessing, and the good-hearted maiden and the handsome prince lived happily ever after.

by Sergei Aksakov

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This product was added to our catalog on Friday 27 November, 2009.

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