storytelling Miss Annie

fairytales Janet and Tam Lin

endings LaLlorona

technique The Lute Player

beauty Pretty Maid Ibronka

truth The Condiment Basketball Game

meaning Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, or Morgiana the Clever

meaning Chien Nang

The Lute Player

As told by Mary Grace Ketner
San Antonio, Texas


Long ago and far away, beyond the thrice nine kingdoms, a king and queen ruled a land with great fairness and justice.

But the king grew restless, and one day decided that he should like to go off again to do battle and add to his holdings. So he left his queen in charge of all their affairs and set out, but instead of gaining, he and all his surviving soldiers were taken prisoner. Every day he and his men were taken out in chains and made to work in the fields, then at night they were returned to the dungeon and locked away.

One night he was able to send a message to the queen. "Take all that we have," he wrote, "and sell it to pay for my ransom."

The queen received the message, but she thought to herself "If I sell all that we have, whom shall I trust to take the money to the enemy king? And if I take it myself, how shall I know that he will not take the money and imprison me? And, if I do that, the king will only return to downtrodden subjects and an impoverished kingdom."

At last she thought of a plan. Without telling anyone, she cut off her hair and removed her robes and covered herself with the dusty cloak of a traveling minstrel. She took her lute and left the palace at night, walking along the streets until she came to the road toward the neighboring kingdom where her husband was imprisoned. She joined pilgrims and merchants as they traveled on their way, and in the evenings, she entertained them all with her lovely voice and her musical lute.

At last they arrived at the kingdom where her husband was a prisoner. She made her way to the palace of the king, and into the courtyard, and there she began to play her lute and to sing:

And if you hear me singing
Within your palace, sire.
O, give I pray this happy day,
To me my heart's desire.
Give to me my heart's desire.

When the king heard this, he went to the window overlooking the courtyard. "Boy!" he called to the minstrel. "Come into my palace and stay with me, and play for me always.

The lute player went inside, but told the king "I will stay here for while, but I am a traveling minstrel and I cannot stay forever."

"Very well," said the king. "But stay here for a few days, and when you must leave, I shall give you what you ask in your song: your heart's desire."

And so the lute player stayed in the kings palace, and everyone thought they had never heard such music before. They would stop their eating just to listen.

After three days, the minstrel said to the king "It is time for me to go."

And the king said, "Very well. Name what is your heart's desire, and I shall give it to you."

The lute player said, "I get lonely sometimes in my travels. Give me a companion, one of your prisoners; you have many and can spare but one for me."

So the king himself took the lute player into the dungeon, and the lute player walked around until she came upon her own husband, and then she said "This is the one I shall have."

That very night, the lute player and the prisoner left the palace and began to walk back toward the queen's own kingdom. They joined pilgrims and merchants, and each night the queen, in her minstrel's cloak, sang for whatever company they were in, and the king did not recognize her.

At last the reached the borders of their own kingdom, and the king said to the minstrel "Kind sir, you have brought me many miles, but I must tell you that I am no ordinary prisoner, I am a king, and this is my country. Won't you come with me to my palace where I will be welcomed, and you may stay with me and live in my palace forever."

"I cannot, sir," said the lute player, "for I am a traveling minstrel." And so they parted.

The king headed back to his own palace, and so did the queen, but she knew a short cut. Well, actually, she didn't; the king got lost and refused to stop and ask for directions, so the queen arrived at the palace before him. She took off her faded minstrel's cloak and dressed herself in her own clothing and crown and waited in her chambers.

At last the king arrived back at his palace. His ministers all came to greet him and embraced him fondly, then the queen came out of her chambers.

When the king saw her he said to her "Why did you not do as I said and send the ransom money! Where were you when I needed your help? I suffered in prison all this time, until a minstrel boy, a lute player, finally came to rescue me!"

Well, the queen had intended to tell the king about her scheme later in the privacy of her own chambers, but before she could speak, one of the ministers said "And furthermore, on the very day that she received a letter from you, she disappeared from the palace and has not been seen here again until this very moment!"

Well, the king called his ministers to him to help him decide what should be done about the unfaithful queen. And she herself, unnoticed, slipped back into her chambers.

She dressed herself once again in the dusty cloak of the minstrel, and took her lute outside the palace and stood below the window and sang:

And if you hear me singing
Within your palace, sire,
O, give, I pray, this happy day,
To me my heart's desire.
Give to me my heart's desire.

When the king heard that, he rushed to the window and called out, "You! Boy, come inside!"

And when the lute player passed through the door, he said to his ministers "This is the very minstrel who rescued me!" and turning to the lute player, he said "For your goodness, I will give you what you ask for in your song. I shall give you your hearts desire. Name what that will be."

At that, the lute player removed the hood of her cloak and revealed herself to be the queen, and said "I ask only that you love me and trust my love for you." And she told the king all that had happened.

And who can tell how happy the king was. He threw a great feast to honor her for her wisdom and her loyalty, and te celebration lasted for two weeks.

I was there, and I drank many goblets of wine and ate many good things, and I shan't forget that feast for as long as I live.


I only use one verse of the song, and I made up my own little melody. The story is in two of Andrew Lang's color Fairy Books, Violet, maybe Brown. All the verses are there, but no melody, in case you like to compose music more than you like to tell stories. --Mary Grace

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