Another book illustrated by the wonderful Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone. This is a French fairy story by Madame la Comtesse d’Aulnoy written in 1682. Published by Dean 1972. This isn’t a story that appears in fairytale collections very often, let alone in a book to itself. It’s a classic enchanted-creature, dividing the kingdom tale, but in this story the enchanted creature is the princess and the prince is on the journey.
Three princes are sent on a quest to find the prettiest, tiniest dog for their father. The youngest prince gets lost in the forest and finds his way to a mysterious castle where the servants are strange disembodied hands. It turns out that the castle is the home of the Queen of Cats.
The Queen of Cats takes quite a fancy to the prince and he stays with her until it is time to return to his father. The Queen gives him a dog that fits inside a cob nut. Of course the King was a bit put out by this and sent his sons on another quest and so on and so on.
While the youngest prince is living with the Queen of Cats she treats him to entertainments, parties and feasts. She even has her own theatre – isn’t this great!
I won’t tell you the end of the story – but suffice to to say they lived happily ever after…
The illustration is sumptuous and the costumes are authentic late-1600s. Costume was one of the Johnstone sisters’ great strengths and interests – especially Anne (I believe Janet focussed on animals).