“THE STORY OF PRINCE FAIRYFOOT” was originally intended to be the first of a series, under the general title of “Stories from the Lost Fairy-Book, Re-told by the Child Who Read Them,” concerning which Mrs. Burnett relates:
“When I was a child of six or seven, I had given to me a book of fairy-stories, of which I was very fond. Before it had been in my possession many months, it disappeared, and, though since then I have tried repeatedly, both in England and America, to find a copy of it, I have never been able to do so. I asked a friend in the Congressional Library at Washington–a man whose knowledge of books is almost unlimited–to try to learn something about it for me. But even he could find no trace of it; and so we concluded it must have been out of print some time. I always remembered the impression the stories had made on me, and, though most of them had become very faint recollections, I frequently told them to children, with additions of my own. The story of Fairyfoot I had promised to tell a little girl; and, in accordance with the promise, I developed the outline I remembered, introduced new characters and conversation, wrote it upon note paper, inclosed it in a decorated satin cover, and sent it to her. In the first place, it was re-written merely for her, with no intention of publication; but she was so delighted with it, and read and reread it so untiringly, that it occurred to me other children might like to hear it also. So I made the plan of developing and re-writing the other stories in like manner, and having them published under the title of ‘Stories from the Lost Fairy-Book, Re-told by the Child Who Read Them.'”
The little volume in question Mrs. Burnett afterwards discovered to be entitled “Granny’s Wonderful Chair and the Tales it Told.”
THE STORY OF PRINCE FAIRYFOOT
Once upon a time, in the days of the fairies, there was in the far west country a kingdom which was called by the name of Stumpinghame. It was a rather curious country in several ways. In the first place, the people who lived there thought that Stumpinghame was all the world; they thought there was no world at all outside Stumpinghame. And they thought that the people of Stumpinghame knew everything that could possibly be known, and that what they did not know was of no consequence at all.
One idea common in Stumpinghame was really very unusual indeed. It was a peculiar taste in the matter of feet. In Stumpinghame, the larger a person’s feet were, the more beautiful and elegant he or she was considered; and the more aristocratic and nobly born a man was, the more immense were his feet. Only the very lowest and most vulgar persons were ever known to have small feet. The King’s feet were simply huge; so were the Queen’s; so were those of the young princes and princesses. It had never occurred to anyone that a member of such a royal family could possibly disgrace himself by being born with small feet. Well, you may imagine, then, what a terrible and humiliating state of affairs arose when there was born into that royal family a little son, a prince, whose feet were so very small and slender and delicate that they would have been considered small even in other places than Stumpinghame. Grief and confusion seized the entire nation. The Queen fainted six times a day; the King had black rosettes fastened upon his crown; all the flags were at half-mast; and the court went into the deepest mourning. There had been born to Stumpinghame a royal prince with small feet, and nobody knew how the country could survive it!
Yet the disgraceful little prince survived it, and did not seem to mind at all. He was the prettiest and best tempered baby the royal nurse had ever seen. But for his small feet, he would have been the flower of the family. The royal nurse said to herself, and privately told his little royal highness’s chief bottle-washer that she “never see a infant as took notice so, and sneezed as intelligent.” But, of course, the King and Queen could see nothing but his little feet, and very soon they made up their minds to send him away. So one day they had him bundled up and carried where they thought he might be quite forgotten. They sent him to the hut of a swineherd who lived deep, deep in a great forest which seemed to end nowhere.