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The Tale of the Sneezing Knight
24 October 2009
When my son Jeremy told me about an essay writing contest sponsored by the Vision Forum, I didn't think much of it. But then ideas started popping into my head. The rules of the contest are as follows (click here for more details):
"Let it be known that a prize of $1000 in Federal Reserve notes shall be granted to the man or woman, boy or girl, knight or vassal, royal or commoner, who drafts the most compelling story that artfully tells the 'true' tale of the individuals, events, and the monstrous beastie depicted on the cover of this 2010 Vision Forum catalog (see image to the left), and who submits the aforementioned story no later than December 31, 2009. There is a 1,200 word limit."
So, below is my story, that tells the "true" tale of the people and events in the image from the catalog cover. This version is somewhat over 1,800 words, so I had to work hard on cutting a version down to 1,200 words to enter into the contest. Therefore, without further ado, I present to you the full version of "The Tale of the Sneezing Knight"...
Once upon a time, there was a knight named Sir Siegfried. But his fellow knights more often than not called him Sir Sneezy, because not a quarter of an hour could pass without Sir Siegfried sneezing. This resulted in many unfortunate incidents, like showering his fellow knights with soup during meal time as he was about to put a spoonful into his mouth.
But the worst consequence of all was when he was thundering down the lists astride his charger, lance ready to unseat his opponent. Invariably he would sneeze at just the wrong moment, and then find himself flat on his back in the dirt. His humiliation as he limped off the field was as great as his longing to win the tournament — and the admiration of Princess Goldarina.
One day, as he sat in his chamber bemoaning his misfortune, his Fairy Godmother appeared to him and asked, "What is vexing you, my son?"
He replied, "For ten long years now, I have not been able to enjoy fifteen minutes without sneezing, and it verily spoils my life! I have tried all of the traditional remedies, to no avail. Neither holding my breath, nor drinking a glass of water very slowly, nor having someone scare me has any effect. Meanwhile," he sighed, "I always appear the fool in the eyes of my fair Goldarina. When will my torment end?"
His Fairy Godmother answered gently yet gravely, "You are not alone in your misery, for even the beloved King Tristram himself suffers from like malady. Regarding your attempts to deliver yourself, truly those remedies have great merit, and generally succeed in most cases. Yet I perceive that yours is a peculiar case, which will require peculiar measures. Should you search out three other fellow creatures who are suffering from the same plague of sneezing, and should you cause them to be cured and stop sneezing, then as surely as Spring follows Winter, you will be set free from your own sneezing."
So with a bow to his wise Fairy Godmother, Sir Siegfried the sneezer set out upon his quest, determining to start with the King. As he was roaming through the royal palace to seek an audience with the King, a loud sneezing, coming from the chamber he was passing, stopped him in his tracks.
Peering into the room, he was disconcerted to find Princess Goldarina, with tears of frustration in her eyes.
"What is troubling you, fair maiden?" he inquired.
Goldarina sobbed, "Truly I am a damsel in distress, for I cannot be rid of this incessant sneezing!"
To which he rejoined, "Have you tried holding your breath?"
"Indeed, but to no avail," she sighed.
Siegfried continued, "What about drinking a glass of water very slowly?"
"Innumerable times," Goldarina lamented, "but failure was the only outcome! And many trips to the royal privy!"
It was at this moment that a peculiar idea began to form in Siegfried's knightly brain. Pausing to reflect and weigh its merits and perils, a tangible stillness settled over the room. Then, while sending forth his loudest bloodcurdling war cry, that noble knight lunged at the Princess.
While Goldarina was swooning with fright, Sir Siegfried asker her quickly, before she lost consciousness altogether, "Have you tried being quite scared by someone?"
"I have now!" she gasped, her face flushed with mingled terror and pleasure.
After spending considerable time comforting the dear maiden, and telling her of his ten years of torment from sneezing, the Princess suddenly jumped up and exclaimed, "Verily, your boldness has cured me of my disease, for thirty minutes have passed without a sneeze!" With a light kiss on his bearded cheek, she added, "For that, I will be forever in your debt." Then she sighed, "If only a remedy could be found for my father the King...."
Sir Siegfried lost no time in his attempt to make Princess Goldarina's wish come true. After taking a few wrong turns in the massive castle, he finally entered the royal hall where the King sat upon his throne. "King Tristram, live forever! Verily your beloved daughter has been delivered from her sneezing, and now your turn has come!"
"And how do you, a mere knight, intend to cure my royal person?" inquired the King.
"Well," started Siegfried, "it would be doubtful that I could scare your Majesty as I did the Princess, and drinking from a glass slowly is not seemly for royalty. Inasmuch as you are a Monarch of few words, would it please your Majesty to hold his breath for three minutes?"
That noble King took a deep breath and firmly clamped his mouth shut, as his chamberlain turned over the royal egg timer. Slowly the sand slid through the glass, while the King's face turned ever deeper shades of purple. As the last grain reached the bottom, King Tristram opened his mouth wide and gulped in the fresh air.
After spending quite a lengthy time explaining to the King how his daughter has been helped, and also of his own decade of misery, the King suddenly jumped up and exclaimed, "Verily, my near asphyxiation has rid me of my disease, for much time has passed without a sneeze!" Then he queried, "Whatever can I do to reward you for your service?"
Pausing briefly to work up his courage, Sir Siegfried replied with a tremor in his voice, "If it please your Majesty, may I have the hand of your fair daughter Goldarina in marriage?"
After a much longer pause, the King said thoughtfully, "If it please her royal highness Goldarina, yes, you shall have my blessing. Shall I call her in so you may ask her?"
"Please, your Majesty, not yet," Siegfried begged. "I have a quest, given to me by my Fairy Godmother, yet to fulfill. Once it is brought to a successful conclusion, I shall return to your service — and to your daughter."
So the knight left the castle with much hope for the future. "If only I can find one more person who needs to be set free from sneezing, I too shall be set free," he mused.
As he journeyed through the realm, he ventured into a dismal district. This land had been so ravaged by a fire-breathing dragon that it had been rendered uninhabitable for humans. The more desolation he saw, the more his ire grew. "If only I could slay that abominable creature, that would be a knightly deed well done!" he exclaimed.
Rounding a small hill, he suddenly found his way blocked by the very dragon himself. His anger fueling his courage, he cried out to the formidable foe, "Prepare for battle, you vile worm! You have ravaged this land for too long. Today I will put a stop to your wickedness once and for all!"
"Please, O noble knight," pleaded the whimpering Silverscales (for that was his name), "I am not the evil beast you imagine me to be, but only a poor and wretched reptile, plagued with incessant sneezing. For whenever I sneeze, fire shoots forth from my mouth, and ignites everything around me. Oh, woe is me! If only I could be delivered from my sneezing by a means other than death by your sword! I would never start a fire again!"
Seeing the pitiful state of the dragon, and recalling is own long years of misfortune, it began to dawn on him that here was his third patient. Realizing that it would be nigh impossible to scare such an intimidating beast, and that a fire-breathing dragon could hardly be expected to hold its breath, his attention drifted to a nearby pond. "Perhaps...." he softly breathed.
Turning to the dragon, he said, "Be of good cheer, O wretched worm! For if you would kindly stick your snout into yonder pond and take the deepest, longest drink you possibly can, I have high hopes that your sneezing can be cured!"
With a doubtful glance at the knight, the desperate dragon crept to the water's edge and began a draught of epic proportions. Little by little, the level of the pond began to slowly descend. On and on he slurped, until fish were flopping in puddles at the bottom of the basin. The dragon gave out a great belch of smoky fumes and shook his leathery head, causing great sparkling drops of water to shimmer around him.
While smoldering belches continued to erupt periodically from the colossal waterlogged lizard, Siegfried recounted in great detail how he had already helped the Princess and the King, as well as his own miserable history. Suddenly, the dragon cried with joy, "Verily, your prescription has cured me of my disease, for an hour has passed without a sneeze!" Then it added sorrowfully, "But alas! That great draught has also extinguished my dragon flame! How shall I ever be able to live out the rest of my dragon years?"
"We have, as the proverb says, killed two birds with one stone. You will no longer sneeze incessantly, nor will you ravage the land with your flame," explained the knight. Then he offered, "Come back with me to the royal city, and I will care for you until the end of your days."
This suggestion greatly pleased the dragon, so they journeyed together, deep in discussion, until they reached the gates of the royal city. At first there was great uproar upon sight of the dragon, but after Sir Siegfried had explained everything, the good people of that city accepted Silverscales without hesitation. Finishing his tale, that noble knight and the good-hearted dragon walked over to King Tristram and Princess Goldarina, who had been listening while seated by the royal lake, opposite the castle palace.
With considerable trepidation, Sir Siegfried knelt before Princess Goldarina, asking her if she would have him for her husband. With a radiant and bashful smile, she replied, "With all of my heart, O mighty sneeze slayer!"
Then King Tristram rose, drew his sword, and rested it on Sir Siegfried's shoulder. "I now dub thee PRINCE Siegfried," he proclaimed, with a wink to his daughter. The dragon simply thumped the end of his long, slithery tail with quiet delight.
The Fairy Godmother gazed with satisfaction upon this heart-warming scene through the eyes of the dragon. Her plan, and her disguise, had worked perfectly. As a contented smile spread across her face, Sir, um, I mean, Prince Siegfried, glanced at the dragon. The Fairy Godmother gave him a wink.
"Verily, I do believe that Silverscales is grinning! And what a toothy grin it is! But wait! What was that? Did that scaly dragon actually wink at me?!"
And they all lived happily ever after!
— FINIS —
© Copyright 2009 by Brian Byrd. All Rights Reserved.
Get the Flash Player to see this video.
After I created this page, I decided to Google "sneezing knight" to see what I would find. And I found something pretty fun!
Come to find out that in 1958, there was an episode of Bugs Bunny called Knighty Knight Bugs, which features a fire-sneezing dragon! Cool!
This cartoon is notable as being the only Bugs Bunny cartoon to win an Academy Award, in 1959, for Best Animated Short Film.
Click on the video to the right to watch it ... enjoy!
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