A Fractured Fairy Tale and a Moral Guessing Game

Howard Pyle illustration from the 1903 edition of The Story of King Arthur and His KnightsOnce upon a time in a place you’ve never heard of, a young man seeking fame and fortune and a beautiful wife had the bad fortune to get sucked into a Ponzi scheme which left him penniless.

Rather than die of starvation and exposure, he agrees to marry an ugly crone for her money. He pretends, of course, that this is a noble act; that he, in fact, is giving her a gift by overlooking her hideous countenance.

On their wedding night, he returns from his dressing room to find a beautiful maiden in his bed. Immediately, he leaps into bed with her, whereupon she wallops him in the noggin.

“Hey! Aren’t you curious where your wife is?”

“Oh, yeah; we’ll have to be very discreet ouch! Stop walloping me in the noggin!”

“I’m your wife, you dolt. I’m under the spell of a wicked Hollywood agent, and I can only be beautiful half of the time. Here’s the thing: you get to decide if I’m ugly during the day when we’re with other people, and beautiful at night when we’re alone, or, y’know, vice versa.”

He smiles to himself, remembering his Arthurian legends and knowing the right answer.

“I cannot possibly decide. I surrender to your will. You must choose. And yeah, I know; once a man surrenders to your will, the spell is broken and you return to your original form, not just half of the time, but all of the time.”

And he was right: instantly, she became a hideous crone, and stayed that way.

The villagers could never agree which was worse, his screams, or her maniacal cackling. For there was no Hollywood agent, just an evil crone who loved playing this trick on selfish stupid young men.

After the divorce, each was asked what they felt was the moral of the story.

My contract with the Hollywood agent prevents me from revealing their answers, but feel free to guess, down there in the comments.

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