Narrator: When you need help, don't you wish
a fairy godmother would suddenly appear to make things right?
Well, don't hold your breath. She doesn't do that kind of thing
anymore. (She's getting on in years, you know.) So if you want
some help-she still fixes anything from broken windows to broken
hearts-you'll have to visit her little cottage in the Bavarian
woods and wait your turn, just like everyone else. And when you
knock on the door, I'll let you in and make you comfortable. I'll
even serve you a nice cold glass of lemonade. You see, I'm the
fairy godmother's assistant.
My job used to be quite simple, really, until the fairy godmother
announced she would be taking a much-needed vacation. I was scared
stiff! What would I say to people who came for help? I didn't
know any magic. I couldn't have turned a pumpkin into a glittering
coach if my life depended on it. I remember exactly what she told
me as she was leaving.
Fairy Godmother: Don't worry.
Narrator: the fairy godmother told me.
Godmother: You're very sensible. I'm sure you'll
find a way to handle whatever comes up. And besides, I'll only
be gone for a few days.
Narrator: To be honest, I didn't get much sleep
that night. I kept wondering how I could possibly fill her shoes.
I got up the next morning and went to the kitchen to make a fresh
pitcher of lemonade. When I heard a knock on the door, I opened
it and found a young woman with a tear-strained face, wearing
a tattered dress. I explained that the fairy godmother would be
gone for a few days and that I was her assistant. But she looked
so sad that I invited her in for a glass of lemonade to cheer
her up. As soon as she sat down, she started to cry. I sat beside
her and gave her a handkerchief to dry her eyes.
Assistant: First wipe away your tears. Then
tell me what's bothering you.
Narrator: I said in a soothing voice. The young
woman took a few breaths before speaking.
Ella: My name is Ella, but my stepmother and
stepsisters call me Cinder-Ella, because my apron is always covered
with cinders from cleaning the fireplace. They are mean to me
and make me clean the house, cook, sew, and run errands all day
while they have fun. Now I have to make them new gowns for the
royal ball. But I want to go too.
Narrator: She started to cry again. I could
guess where this was leading.
Assistant: I'm very sorry to hear that.
Narrator: I responded.
Assistant: I suppose you came to ask the fairy
godmother to get you to the ball. Is that it?
Narrator: She nodded.
Assistant: I wish I could help you, but I make
lemonade not magic.
Narrator: Ella began to cry again.
Ella: Can't you do anything?
Assistant: There's not much I can do. It's really
up to you.
Narrator: She dried her eyes again with the
handkerchief and stared at me in amazement.
Ella: Up to me?
Narrator: she queried.
Assistant: It's really very simple.
Narrator: I said.
Assistant: If you want to go to the ball, go.
And don't let anything or anyone stand in your way.
Ella: But how can I go to the ball without an
Assistant: Don't look at me.
Narrator: I responded.
Assistant: You're the seamstress. If you can
make beautiful gowns for your two stepsisters, why not make another
Narrator: Ella pondered this for awhile, then
shook her head.
Ella: But I can't afford to buy silk or velvet.
How can I make a gown without any fabric?
Assistant: Are there any velvet curtains in
your house? Or silk bed sheets?
Narrator: Her worried look slowly turned into
Ella: There sure are!
Narrator: she gushed. But her smile was shortlived.
Another question had flashed into her mind.
Ella: But what about dancing slippers? I don't
Assistant: Then don't wear any.
Narrator: I advised. Ella couldn't believe her
Ella: You mean I should go to the royal ball
Assistant: What choice do you have, unless you
want to wear those ugly boots you're wearing?
Ella: How am I supposed to get to the ball?
Narrator: she asked. This young woman certainly
could think up problems!
Ella: The royal palace is almost a mile from
Narrator: I knew Ella wouldn't like my answer.
Assistant: I suppose you'll just have to walk.
Narrator: A big frown appeared on her face.
This wasn't the kind of help she had hoped to get from her fairy
Ella: But they'll never let me in if I don't
arrive in a fancy, horse-drawn carriage.
Narrator: she whined.
Assistant: You're right.
Narrator: I agreed.
Assistant: They may not let you in through the
main gate, but I don't think there's anyone guarding the door
to kitchen. Do you?
Ella: I guess not.
Narrator: she said tentatively.
Ella: At least, I hope not!
Narrator: Ella seemed uncomfortable with my
answers. She'd never done anything so daring before. I wasn't
surprised when I heard another "but."
Ella: But if a prince asks me to dance, what
should I say?
Assistant: Ask him to be careful not to step
on your toes.
Narrator: I joked. Ella laughed so hard, she
had to use the handkerchief again. Sensing she was close to deciding
in favor of going to the ball, I gave her one more push.
Assistant: What have you got to lose?
Narrator: Ella exclaimed, smiling from ear to
Ella: Nothing at all.
Narrator: She stood up to shake my hand.
Ella: Thank you for all your help. I've got
to go now. I've got so many things to do!
Narrator: Before she left, I offered her some
Assistant: If you don't want your stepmother
and stepsisters to know you've been to the ball, be sure to leave
by twelve o'clock sharp. That way you'll be back in bed by the
time they get home.
Narrator: I was quite pleased with myself for
helping Ella. Relaxing for a moment with a glass of lemonade,
I wondered if the fairy godmother with all her magic could have
done a better job. I spent a good part of the day congratulating
myself and feeling thankful I'd gotten through my first visitor
without messing up.
After dinner I was surprised by a knock at the door. When I opened
it up, I discovered a distinguished-looking elderly gentleman.
He looked ever-so-much like the king, as pictured on every postage
stamp in Bavaria, except that this man looked older, frailer,
ad far more worried. He must have been trying to keep his visit
a secret; no guards or footmen were with him. I curtsied deeply
as soon as I let him in.
King: Enough of that.
Narrator: he blustered.
King: I must see the fairy godmother at once!
Assistant: I'm sorry, Your Highness.
Narrator: I explained.
Assistant: She's away. Can I help you?
Narrator: he replied.
King: Do you know where she keeps her magic
Assistant: If you tell me which potion you'd
like, I'll be happy to look.
Narrator: I said in as helpful a voice as I
could muster. The king looked embarrassed.
King: Well, actually, I'm looking for a potion
that would enable me to, well… live forever.
Narrator: I offered the king a comfortable chair,
excused myself, and went to the cabinet where the fairy godmother
kept her potions. In a short time I returned with a handful of
Assistant: I've found a potion to keep your
breath fresh longer, and one to make your suntan last longer.
But I can't find anything to help you live longer, not even for
Narrator: His royal highness was definitely
not overjoyed by this news.
King: In that case, I'll wait here till the
fairy godmother returns. You see, I'm not feeling well, and the
royal doctors haven't been much use.
Assistant: I'm sorry to hear that, Your Highness.
What seems to be the problem?
King: My back, for one thing. It's killing me.
And I can't sleep at night because of terrible gas pains, not
to mention splitting headaches. My eyesight's growing dim. I'm
deaf in one ear. I'm growing forgetful… or did I mention that
already? But worst of all, my twin sons are driving me crazy!
Aside from that, I'm fine-just fine.
Narrator: There was no mistaking his sarcastic
Assistant: I think you must be terribly uncomfortable,
Your Highness. But why would you want to live forever? Surely
your health will continue to get worse as you grow older. In a
few years, you'll be confined to bed. Would you enjoy living forever
King: I never thought of it that way.
Narrator: he admitted thoughtfully.
King: But at least if I lived forever, I wouldn't
have to worry about how to divide the kingdom between my sons,
Prince Sherman and Prince Herman. They're identical twins, you
know. Even I can't tell them apart. You see, no matter how I divide
it, one or both of them will be angry with me. Their squabbling
is driving me crazy… or did I mention that already?
Narrator: he asked absent-mindedly.
Assistant: Your memory serves you well.
Narrator: I answered diplomatically.
Assistant: But I wonder, if two sons' squabbling
is driving you crazy, how will you like it when you have eight
grandchildren arguing over how to divide the kingdom? Or thirty-two
great-grandchildren? Or a hundred-and-twenty-eight great-great-grandchildren?
If you're not crazy yet, that should do it.
Narrator: The king appeared lost in thought.
King: Come to think of it,
Narrator: he answered,
King: the longer I put off making a decision,
the worse it will get. I suppose I'll have to make the best of
my situation for as long as I can. You've been more helpful than
you can imagine. I'm glad the fairy godmother was away.
Narrator: With more energy than he'd displayed
since he arrived, he got up from his chair and announced,
King: I must be on my way.
Narrator: He smiled as though a great burden
had been lifted from his back. He headed for the door, opened
it, and was almost gone when he turned and said,
King: I want you to forget that I was ever here…
or did I mention that already?
Narrator: He reached into his pocket and pulled
out a bag of gold coins, which he handed me. He didn't see me
collapse into the armchair and pull out a handkerchief to wipe
my face. This had been a most unusual day, and I was anxious to
relax in a tub full of hot water and bubbles. (I'd found an excellent
bubble bath in the fairy godmother's potion cabinet.) The next
morning was uneventful. I'd slept well and was ready for anything.
Then , around noon, "anything" happened. Who do you think knocked
at the fairy godmother's door just as I was starting to think
about lunch? Prince Sherman and Prince Herman! The first thing
I noticed when I let them in was how angry they looked. They were
arguing about something on the doorstep, and they continued to
argue as I opened the door.
Sherman: I want the horses and the stables so
I can play polo.
Narrator: said Prince Sherman. (I could tell
he was Sherman because he had a large "S" monogrammed on his tunic.)
Herman: No way.
Narrator: replied Prince Herman. (He was the
one with a large "H" monogrammed on his tunic.
Herman: I like to ride, too.
Assistant: Excuse me, Your Highnesses.
Narrator: I said as I curtsied.
Assistant: I'm afraid the fairy godmother isn't
here. I'm her assistant.
Sherman: That's all right.
Narrator: said Prince Sherman.
Sherman: Our father, the king, sent us to see
Narrator: I couldn't believe my ears.
Assistant: He sent you to see me?
Herman: That's right.
Narrator: said Prince Herman.
Herman: You see, he told us he's very sick and
doesn't have long to live. And he said we'd have to figure out
how to divide up the kingdom ourselves.
Narrator: Prince Sherman continued,
Sherman: he said if we couldn't figure it out,
to come and see you. Which is why we're here.
Assistant: What do you expect me to do?
Narrator: I asked.
Assistant: You know, I'm just the fairy godmother's
assistant. I don't do magic.
Herman: We know all that.
Narrator: said Prince Herman.
Herman: But father said that what you do is
better than magic.
Narrator: I was surprised… no, stunned… no,
Assistant: I-I- I'm fl-flattered.
Narrator: I stammered, not knowing what else
Sherman and Herman: So we'd like you to divide
up the kingdom for us.
Narrator: they said in unison.
Assistant: I don't suppose I can refuse a royal
Narrator: I said hesitantly.
Sherman: What do you mean?
Narrator: asked Prince Sherman suspiciously.
Assistant: You see, if I decide how to divide
the royal kingdom, then you'll both be mad at me, because I can't
possibly make you both happy. But I do have a few suggestions.
Sherman and Herman: Such as?
Narrator: they demanded. I cleared my throat
to create some drama.
Sherman and Herman: Yes?
Narrator: they asked, waiting for a brilliant
Assistant: Well, you could both renounce the
throne and let your cousin Fritz rule.
Narrator: The twins looked at each other, wondering
whether the other would seriously consider such a proposal.
Sherman and Herman: Nah!
Narrator: they said simultaneously.
Assistant: Or you could share the throne and
Narrator: exclaimed Prince Sherman.
Narrator: proclaimed Prince Herman.
Sherman: We can't agree about anything.
Narrator: added Prince Sherman. He paused.
Sherman: Well, almost anything. We both agree
that's a stupid idea.
Assistant: Then there is only one other option.
Narrator: Again I paused for dramatic effect.
Assistant: Prince Sherman, you divide the kingdom
as evenly as you can. Prince Herman, you choose which half you
Narrator: Prince Sherman looked at Prince Herman.
Prince Herman looked at Prince Sherman. They smiled. Then they
looked at me. Still smiling, they both reached into their pockets,
pulled out bags of gold coins, and handed them to me at the same
time. Then they walked out the door with their arms on each other's
shoulders. They barely made it through the door.
Assistant: I can't believe it!
Narrator: I said to no one in particular as
soon as I'd collapsed into the armchair again. Thank goodness
there were no more visitors that day. I'd had all the excitement
I could handle.
That night over dinner, I wondered whether Ella ever went to
the royal ball. The next day I found out. Just before noon she
knocked on the front door. She was carrying a satchel and looking
tired but happy. I was about to ask, "How was the ball?" but she
started talking before I could say a word.
Ella: The ball was great! The music! The food!
The dancing! Everything! I would never have gone without your
Narrator: she gushed.
Narrator: I replied.
Assistant: But I can't take any credit. You
did it all yourself. By the way, what's in your satchel?
Ella: All my belongings.
Narrator: Ella replied.
Ella: After attending the royal ball, I really
couldn't go back to living with my stepmother and stepsisters.
So I decided to move to town and open up a dressmaker's shop.
I really am a good seamstress, you know. I just came by to thank
you and to tell you the latest news from court. Last night, the
king announced he was stepping down from the throne so he could
travel. He turned the throne over to Prince Herman-all except
the stables. Apparently, Prince Sherman had decided to devote
himself to polo.
Narrator: As she was leaving, I said,
Assistant: I'd like to be your first customer.
I'll be in to see you for a fitting next week.
Narrator: she said.
Ella: Maybe we can go to the royal ball together
Assistant: I'd love to.
Narrator: I replied.
Assistant: But next year we'll go in style.
We'll rent a coach for the evening. And we'll both wear dancing
Narrator: Ella walked out the door laughing.
The fairy godmother returned the next day. She didn't seem surprised
when I told her all the things that had occurred while she was
Godmother: I told you when I left that you could
handle whatever came up.
Narrator: she said. I wonder if those were magic