By Claire Burianek
Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Underlig, lived the strange princess Peluda. She was known across the land for her massive amounts of body hair that covered her from head to toe. The only part of her that wasn’t covered in hair were her eyes, which were the color of fresh spring mud. She wasn’t tiny, but she wasn’t tall either — a perfectly average height.
She had a pet axolotl named Bubba, and he went everywhere with her in a little portable tank roughly the size of a handbag. Everyone in Underlig thought she was the kindest princess they had ever known, and they equally adored Bubba. Peluda loved her subjects, and hoped that when she became queen someday, she would serve them well.
Princess Peluda had been dreaming of becoming queen since she had first learned it was possible. Since her father, King Alastor, hadn’t given birth to any children besides Peluda, she was first in line for the throne provided that she married a man. She daydreamed often about the laws she would enact to help her kingdom prosper almost as often as she daydreamed about her father finally accepting her. It wasn’t that they didn’t get along; things between them had just always felt strained, especially since she felt that he disapproved of everything she did.
One day, Peluda’s maid knocked hesitantly on her door and entered looking rather afraid.
“What is it?” Peluda asked her, sensing something was wrong.
“The King would like me to inform you that Prince Doyle from the kingdom of Fraefeind will be attending dinner with you and your parents tonight, so he’s requesting that you shave your hair off your face, arms, and legs, and put on a nice gown” she answered, bracing herself for what she knew would be the princess’s response.
“I will not shave!” bellowed Peluda, “my body hair is gorgeous and I love it. I will put on a gown, but that is all I can promise.” She crossed her arms as if daring someone to challenge her.
“Alright, I’ll let the King know, but I don’t think he’ll be very happy” the maid muttered, all too happy to exit Peluda’s room. As soon as she was gone, Peluda slumped sadly.
“Why can’t he let me be? There’s nothing wrong with the way I am” she told Bubba. Bubba wiggled in agreement.
An hour or so later, Princess Peluda emerged from her bedroom in her favorite gown: a scarlet garment with long, flowing sleeves and a short train trailing behind. She had halfheartedly attempted to shave her face and arms but was feeling rather stubborn and quite simply didn’t want to do what her father had instructed her to. She had just fed Bubba and was feeling rather hungry herself. As she came down the grand staircase that led to the dining room, she saw her father and Prince Doyle waiting for her. She curtsied hastily.
“Good evening father, good evening, Prince Doyle” she said, kissing her father on the cheek and letting the prince kiss her hand. She noticed him grimace ever so slightly as his lips grazed her furry hand, but she didn’t let it bother her. He wasn’t her type anyway — tall and stick thin with white, blonde hair, he looked as though the slightest breeze would blow him away. She put her arm in his and let him lead her to the table. Once everyone was seated, her father rang his bell, summoning the servants to bring out the food platters.
As the servants swept by with salads, soups, and freshly cooked duck, Peluda glanced over at the prince. He seemed preoccupied with digging the dirt out from under his fingernails; thoroughly disgusted, she turned away and began to eat her food. She wondered why he would think her natural hair was gross when he had mannerisms that were even more unappetizing. Throughout the dinner, Prince Doyle never once spoke to Peluda, choosing instead to speak to her father about everything from what he expects in a wife to his favorite hunting locations.
He told King Alastor, “I need a wife that will rub my feet after a long day and always look her best. It’s so hard nowadays to find a girl that knows how to comport herself in public situations and won’t embarrass me. My kingdom is the best of the best, and only the best girl will get to marry me.” Peluda silently wished that Doyle wouldn’t think she was good enough to marry; imagine spending a life with that man!
No, not even a man, as he wasn’t yet mature at all– a boy. She managed to get through the rest of the meal smiling and nodding when needed and hoping she would never have to see Prince Doyle again. After dinner was over, King Alastor, Princess Peluda, and Prince Doyle walked together towards the castle entrance.
Prince Doyle took Peluda’s hand in his, and, bending down on one knee, said, “I know I said I need the most perfect princess for my bride. You’re certainly far from perfect, but all the other princesses have been rejecting me, and I can’t imagine any other prince will want to marry you. So will you marry me?” Princess Peluda stood frozen, absolutely shocked that she could be stuck for the rest of her life with such a horrifying man.
And then the King sealed her fate: “Of course she will! It would be an honor to have our kingdoms merged in marriage.” Prince Doyle seemed quite pleased with this, so pleased in fact that he leaned in and kissed Princess Peluda’s hairy lips. Then the strangest thing happened. The room was filled with a bright white light, Prince Doyle disappeared from Peluda’s sight, and she felt quite prickly all over. Within moments she realized what had happened- her body hair was gone! She suddenly felt rather chilly. Hearing an odd sound nearby, she searched for the source of the noise. Then she saw a frog on the ground- not just any frog, Prince Doyle! It appeared that they both had been cursed by that terrible kiss.
King Alastor looked at his daughter with equal parts shock and amazement. His daughter was finally beautiful! Now she could choose any prince to marry from any kingdom, not just Prince Doyle from the poor kingdom of Fraefeind. To his astonishment, her eyes quickly filled up with tears as she fled upstairs to her room. He turned his attention to the Prince, who was hopping frantically around the castle’s entrance.
Bending down and scooping him up, Alastor studied him quizzically. How could he have been transformed into a frog from one kiss? Peluda didn’t have any magical talents that he was aware of. He instructed the royal chauffeur to transport the Prince back to Freafeind, although he wasn’t sure what fate awaited him at home. Then he rushed to find Peluda and paused outside her door, hearing her sobbing and talking to Bubba.
“Why have I been cursed? The one thing that made me stand out from all the other princesses has been taken away from me; now I won’t be special anymore.” The King knocked lightly, then entered her room, standing uncomfortably in the corner.
“My darling Peluda…” he began but felt unsure what to say to her. They had scarcely talked her whole life, ever since she had been born so hairy that the doctors almost mistook her for a puppy.
“You are beautiful without all that body hair. Now your family and the citizens of Underlig can see your whole face, your radiant smile. You always have been special- how many other princesses actually care about their subjects’ wellbeing? One day, you will make the best queen this kingdom has ever known, and I’ve hoped ever since the day you were born that you would know how incredible everyone thinks you are.” He noticed then that she had stopped crying. She sat up and looked at him.
“Do you really think so?” she asked, sniffling, as he crossed the room toward her bed and hugged her.
“Of course, I do. I always have, although I’m not the best at expressing it, and I’m sorry for that.” He kissed her forehead. Suddenly, the room filled with a bright white light, except this time, Peluda felt a warm feeling all over.
When the light faded, she looked at herself in the mirror and saw that her body hair was back- except it had stayed off her face. She turned to the King and, with the brightest smile the kingdom of Underlig had ever seen, she announced that she was so very excited to be queen.
“I’m so glad you are. And I’ve decided to let you decide when you want to marry, or if you want to marry at all. No matter what you choose, this kingdom will be in the most capable hands.”
And from that day on, Princess Peluda became known far and wide for being the fairest princess- and later, ruler–anyone had ever seen. She, King Alastor, and Bubba the axolotl lived happily ever after.