The Prince of Paper wore a paper crown, paper robes and a paper cape, and he carried a paper sceptre. He lived in a cardboard castle on the banks of the Sea of Ink, and his people farmed the purple papyrus that grew on the salt marshes. He loved to look out over the Sea of Ink, and watch the kraken splash silver spray high into the air.
His people worked hard to refine the ink from the sea and make fine paper from the papyrus, to trade to other lands. His merchants sailed great ships of waxed paper, or trekked over the desolate wastes of the Pencil Shaving Desert, and brought home great wealth. Even with minimal taxation, the Prince of Paper was a rich man.
Where there is a rich man, there are women eager to marry him. The Prince was inundated with offers of matrimony.
The Spectacle of Lens desired to marry the Prince of Paper. The Spectacle was beautiful in the same way lead crystal is beautiful; she was hard and brilliant and brittle. She had a heart of glass. The Prince could see that he might be consumed in any relationship with the Spectacle.
The Rubber of India sent the Prince many presents. The Rubber delighted in a bouncy and buoyant personality, but she had her flaws. She was a generous woman while she thought her chances of an alliance were good, but she expected the Prince to return all her gifts when he spurned her advances. The Prince was secretly glad, for he feared he wasn’t resilient enough to enjoy marriage with the Rubber.
Queen Sandal wanted the Prince for her youngest daughter, the Princess Boot. Alas, the Princess wasn’t a good fit to the Prince of Paper, as the Princess Boot was too strait-laced for the fun-loving Prince, too up-tight, too prudish. She lacked the certain style he was looking for in a wife.
The Prince of Paper grew tired of the unromantic diplomancy of female rulers seeking political alliances with him. He decided to ask for advice from the wisest person in the land: the Book. The Book lived in the Library, the most beautiful structure in the entire kingdom. The Library was dedicated to the preservation of knowledge and the enrichment of intellectual pursuits. The Book was the jewel of this glorious setting.
The Book graciously agreed to meet with the Prince. He consulted with her in her throne room, where she sat surrounded by all her pages. The young pages were outfitted in green, blue, red and gold – a fine sight indeed – but they were nothing compared to the magnificence of the Book, stately and refined, in her highly illustrated cover.
“How may I be of assistance?” asked the Book, looking kindly upon the Prince.
“I would like to marry. However, I feel that marrying for political reasons is somehow wrong,” he said.
The Book nodded. “It depends on your expectation of what a marriage should be. As a head of state, a political alliance can be made by a favourable marriage. But such a marriage may only offer power, not love or friendship.”
“Ah. It is possible,” said the Book.
“But unlikely,” said the Prince, flatly.
“Very unlikely,” agreed the Book. “As a prince, you will find it very hard to find true love. Even the most sensible, good-hearted girl will see the Prince before she sees the man.”
The Prince frowned, until he realise what the Book was alluding to. As the realisation dawned, the Book nodded wisely.
The Prince arranged to disappear, while wild rumours abounded. Was he on holidays? Had the Prince had a nervous breakdown? Had he been kidnapped?
In a tiny reed hut by the Sea of Ink, the Prince rested. He dressed as an ordinary fisherman, in Wellington boots constructed from oiled cardboard. Each day, for his lunch, he bought a cone of scallops from a pretty lass on the wharves. She would smile at him as he complimented her, “Your shellfish are as sweet as you.”
In the end, the Prince of Paper married for love, not politics. The Spectacle of Lens misted over at the news of the Prince of Paper’s nuptials. The Rubber mentally erased the Prince from her Christmas. Princess Boot threw a tantrum of foot-stamping. But the Prince didn’t care.
And every year, he and his bride shared a cone of scallops on their wedding anniversary, while they watched the kraken frolic in the Sea of Ink.