Friday, April 19, 2013
Q is for the Questions of the Princess
If the name sounds familiar then you must be familiar with the Puccini opera that made it famous.
The original story and the princess(es) in it come from the Persian tradition, from a collection creatively titled "Thousand and One Days" (betcha you didn't know this was a thing). It is originally titled "Prince Calaf and the Princess of China", among various other titles.
It is a looooong story filled with delicious, delicious details.
Long story short, however: Princess Tourandot is a monster. She hates men and enjoys violence, and she has tricked her father into making an oath that if a suitor of hers does not answer all her questions on the spot, without hesitation and correctly, they will be publicly beheaded. Of course this does not frighten underage royalty, and a blood bath ensues, since Tourandot happens to be not only breathtakingly beautiful, but also embarrassingly smart for a woman in her day and age. Of course eventually a prince shows up who has been around the block (the block meaning Central Asia) and is determined to win her no matter what (really, what the heck do they like about her so much?). He answers all three questions correctly. Tourandot, unlike other fairy tale princesses, throws a major hissy fit and plots to have him assassinated in true Chinese spoiled princess fashion. But Prince Calaf still lurvs her, so he gives her a way out: it is her turn to answer a question, and if she does so, she can walk away from the wedding.
The question is embarrassingly easy, and genius at the same time: Calaf asks her with a smug little smile to say his name out loud.
(Eat it, Bilbo Baggins)
Oops: Tourandot never bothered to learn any of her suitor's names, since she did not expect them to live.
Prince : Princess
Of course the entire story is a lot more complex and pretty. It also includes an alternative princess who lives as a slave in the Chinese court; guess what, she is pretty AND smart AND kind, and tried to have Calaf run away with her instead of being assassinated by Princess Predator. And then we observe a brutal scene of friendzoning on the prince's part, the reason for which can only be explained through one classic example:
Well, to each his own.