Once upon a hushed moonless night, a Queen in a far away land gave birth to her fourth consecutive daughter. The King loved his wife and daughters, but was troubled without a male heir, as to who should rule at the end of his reign.
All his daughters were good and kind, save the third in line, who had a jealous, deceitful and greedy disposition. Often she would steal from her sisters and blame others for her indiscretions. Over time the Princess became isolated from those who would love her.
When his youngest daughter came of age, the good King decided to set tasks for his daughters to prove which one would be most worthy to rule the Kingdom.
The King asked the eldest Princess to bring back the tooth of a hind.
The second Princess was asked to bring back a lock of hair from a mermaid.
The third Princess was asked to bring back the song of a nightingale.
The youngest Princess was asked to collect the smoke from the flame of a dragon.
The King bade them farewell and ordered them to return after one year, regardless of the success of their obligations.
Worried for his daughters, the King sought the help of the local Wise Woman to ensure that no harm came to his children. The Wise Woman assigned a crow for each child, so they would know patience, tolerance and compassion.
After nearly a year the eldest Princess gained the trust and loyalty of a sweet hind. The kind Princess could not conceive a brutal extraction or death of the hind and was rewarded by donning a collar and leading her to the King. The hind had a full set of teeth, thus fulfilling the request of her father.
For many months the second Princess sat hidden, for she did not want to frighten the mermaid, watching as she brushed her hair. Each day her crow would fly to the rocks to collect escaped golden threads. At the end of the year, returning to her Father, she proudly presented him with a lock of hair gleaned from the mermaid.
The youngest Princess had to wait patiently for nearly the whole year until the dragon showed itself, elusive and shy, it eventually came out of the caves to practice the fire-breathing. Her crow guided her high above the caves, then standing tall on the cliffs above the dragon, held fast her container to collect his rising smoke.
The third Princess decided to wait until all her sisters had presented the King with their conquests, for she truly believed hers was the best gift to warrant the Crown of the Kingdom. She had set to kill the nightingale, convinced the song was held in its mouth and all she had to do was bring back its head.
The year was almost done and still she had not caught the illusive nightingale. With desperation she decided to lie to her father and tell him that she had swallowed the nightingale and indeed, its song was present within her. Her father asked her to sing, but all that came forth was a strangled gurgle and tendrils of ivy.
The Princess became a disgraced laughing stock of the castle. Shamed and humiliated she retreated to the woods. Over time, the Princess was visited by the nightingale who taught her to sing and the golden hind passed by with gossip of life within the castle. The mermaid took her swimming in the lakes and the dragon kept her warm with fire and took her flying to distant lands.
Her crow forever faithful companion became her guardian and closest friend. He would encourage her to sing like the nightingale and rivers of ivy would carpet the forest floor, cascading over trees and shrubs. Respected and cherished by offering sanctuary to her friends in the forest the Princess was rewarded with love and compassion, treasures far greater than any Crown.