The Milkmaid and the Jewel

by Clara Kennedy

Once upon a time, there was a quiet milkmaid named Anna who hardly ever spoke. It wasn't that she had nothing to say, or that she had no voice - she was just very shy, and very bullied.

   Anna the Milkmaid worked in the fanciest palace in all the land. Well, she worked on the palace farmland, approximately twelve hundred acres away from its dazzling gates. Centuries ago, when the palace was built, the snobby royal queen had declared a hate for livestock. She claimed that the animals' scent irritated her skin, and, therefore, made her less beautiful. The queen asked her husband to declare farming illegal. However, when she realized that it was necessary for food, she asked that only one farm exist in the kingdom.  This farm was to be royally controlled and located on the very outskirts of civilization.

   Anna's mother and grandmother and great-grandmother and every woman before them had been a palace milkmaid. Anna's father and grandfather and every man before them had been a shepherd. It wasn't that they wanted these jobs, or that they settled for the pay - they were just stuck in these roles, and would be forever.

 

Once Upon a Time...

 

   She knew how to speak, because her parents taught her when they did not work. But she never dared speak in front of the Overseers (or anyone else, for that matter) unless she was spoken to. As soon as she was of school-age, Anna began her life as a milkmaid. 

You see, this was the way of life in the royal kingdom. Centuries ago, the controlling king had assigned every peasant in the surrounding towns a job - and it would be their job forever. But Anna the Milkmaid wanted more. Every night, she wished that she could be a princess.

  

Every time a palace servant paid a visit to the farmland, every worker was yelled at for their work. No matter how good they did, it was never good enough. But Anna - like all the other milkmaids, shepherds, and farm workers - was always polite. If she was not polite, a servant could take her away and lock her in a dungeon!

   And no matter how much Anna was bullied and scared by the servants, she still dreamed of being a royal. Whenever she expressed this dream to her parents, they told her to be quiet and stop dreaming. It would never happen. Anna wished that her parents would love her and - at the very least - let her dream. But they were too worried about work.

 

One day, trumpets sounded - for the first time in a hundred years, a member of the royal family was visiting the farmland! Everyone was so excited. 

   This royal visitor was the youngest prince of the palace. For his eighteenth birthday, he had decided to go on a brave adventure to the far-away farmland. Curious about the world, the prince wanted to know all about the different cultures and people of the kingdom.

   Because he was so young, the workers hoped he would be nice.

   The nervous farm people lined up near their village gates, and their hearts pounded as the trumpets went off. The gate opened, and a dazzling, horse-drawn carriage rode through. The handsome, young prince stared out. As he made his way into the village, his curious eyes drew narrow. He clearly did not like what he saw.

  When the prince hopped out of the carriage, the people bowed - but he was angry because they did not bow low enough. When one said "Hello, my Lord" without being spoken to, they were dragged by their ankles to a far-away dungeon. Fed up with the peasants, the prince declared that they could only eat three times a week.

 For the next two weeks, the farm people began to starve. It was an awful, dark time. Anna's grandmother grew very sick. As she was the youngest woman in her family, Anna was put in charge of her grandmother's care.

   One day, Anna carried her grandmother's meal to her bedchamber. On the way, her stomach growled and her knees felt weak. She took one bite of food, and then another, and then another...until all the food was gone. You see, even though she was quiet and polite, Anna could be very selfish.

   Quickly, Anna looked for a place to hide the empty plate. There was no good hiding spots around, so she began to dig a hole in the ground. As she dug, her fingers closed around a rock.

   She pulled it out of the ground, intending to throw it aside - but the rock's sparkle caught her eye. Wait - it wasn't a rock, it was a jewel! She wiped the dirt off with her apron and saw that it was purple and shaped like a heart.

    

 

 

 

 

The first thought that crossed Anna's mind was "How much could I sell this for?!" - and almost instantly, whispers answered her. The voices seemed to be coming from the jewel! They chimed in unison, telling her "Make a wish Anna....what do you wish for?"

   No way! It was a magical jewel - the kind of thing you heard about in stories. This jewel could grant any wish she wanted!

   "Nooo..." the voices answered her thoughts. "You can make one wish and only one, and we will give you a choice."

 

   Anna was dismayed - she wanted to make her own wish! She almost threw the jewel back in the ground, but curiosity got the better of her. So, she listened to the jewel.

   "Anna, Milkmaid Anna....do you wish for more food for your dying family? Or, Anna, Milkmaid Anna...do you wish to be a princess?"

   Anna didn't have to think about it. You see, Anna was polite and she was quiet, but she was very selfish. And all she wanted was to be a princess.

   Anna wished to be a princess, and instantly fell asleep. When she woke up, she was lying on a cobblestone road, clad in a ballgown. Her hair was curled, she was wearing makeup, and she smelled like roses. Anna almost cried with joy - her dreams had come true.

 

   Anna stood up and looked ahead. She saw the palace, glittering in the moonlight! Anna began to walk towards its gates.

   Anna was welcomed into the palace like family, and for months she lived like the snobby kings and queens. Anna believed that she was having the time of her life. But one day, the town crier pounded on the palace doors. Before he was dragged away for speaking out of turn, the royals heard him scream: "The farmers have died! The farmers have starved! And their livestock has all starved too!"

   The snobby queen - a great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of the first snobby queen - was overjoyed. Sure, the farm was important for food. But now there would be no smelly animals anywhere in the kingdom!

   But Anna, quiet Anna, polite Anna, selfish Anna - Anna stayed quiet, for she knew what this meant. She knew what she had done. Presented with the choice to save her family or be a princess, she had been greedy. And now, they would all pay the price. There would never be food in the kingdom again.

   

 

The moral of the story...

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