Hans My Hedgehog
A Short Fairy Tale Retelling by Manelle Oliphant
A year ago I promised my father I would marry a hedgehog. Today I married him.
Father met him when he was lost in the forest. It frightened him to meet a man all hedgehog on his top half, but the hedgehog introduced himself as Hans and helped him find his way. In return, Father promised to give the hedgehog the first thing he met when he arrived home. He thought it would be his dogs or one of the servants but I raced ahead and sealed my fate.
As a princess, I knew it wasn’t likely I would marry for love. Only, marrying a royal stranger from a distant place to secure an alliance is easier to stomach than marrying someone not quite human.
When he arrived I watched from my tower room. He rode through the gate on his rooster and the guards admitted him to the castle. After about an hour my father sent up a message. All was in order and I was to prepare myself.
I dressed myself, hoping that by doing what’s right and keeping a promise, it would turn out well. I think that’s what faith is, doing what you know is right and trusting in God things will turn out well, even if it seems impossible they could.
Now I wait in my bedroom, wearing my night shift, the fire the only light. Hans enters. I see his silhouette in the doorway until he shuts the door.
“You are my wife now,” he says to me from the dark.
“It is true,” I say.
“It is an ugly thing for a pretty girl like you to be married to me.”
I feel tears form behind my eyes but I blink them away. “Not as ugly as breaking a promise.”
I hear a little snort. “You are right, not so ugly as that.”
He takes a step closer. I see his large form in the firelight. I feel faint and place my hand on the mantel for support. He shakes and snorts and I see him slough off his coat of quills. He drops it in front of me. After a minute I kneel down and touch it. The quills are soft. I look up. A man stands in front of me, a normal, not-half-animal, man. I look at his eyes. They are brown and nice and pleading. The moment stretches out between us but he doesn’t speak. I open my mouth but he shakes his head.
He wants me to do something. I look around confused. I look back to him. He stands still, his brown eyes begging for something. I look at the coat of quills, the fire, and back to him. He looks relieved, and I know what he wants me to do. I grab the quills and throw them into the flames. As they burn he falls to the floor and cries out. I see his skin turning black.
Have I done wrong? I turn to pull the coat back out of the fire, but it’s burning fast and hot. The flames light up the whole room. Hans screams again, the black on his skin spreads. I glance around and see the wash basin by the bed. I grab it and pour it over the writhing man. For a second I am surrounded by steam. When it clears Hans is calm and the black has washed away. I kneel down next to him.
Hans groans, and turns his head toward me. “Thank you wife. You have freed me from a life-long curse.”
I smile. “You’re welcome.”
Hans sits up. I help him to the bed and fetch more water. He nods his thanks as he takes it. Our eyes meet. His are still kind. I can see he is a good man and we will have a happy life. I can’t explain how I know this but I feel the truth of it inside me. I smile at him and take his hand. He smiles back.
This short story is based off of the Brothers Grimm tale of the same name. To read the original story visit http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm108.html