Story: The Princess and the Coats
This is a TEACHING story – which shows how addiction takes hold and then how you can free yourself.
Read the story below
There was once a princess who was given at her birth, as all princesses are, three wishes, to be a happy and kind and interesting person. But in her castle, as in every castle, there lived, muttering in dark corners and under the floorboards, little demons, who were jealous of the princess, and determined to spoil the three wishes. And it happened by chance one day that the princess strayed into a room in a high turret of the castle, on which these demons had laid a bad spell.
In the middle of the room there was a large mirror. It was a magic mirror of lies, and whenever anyone looked in this mirror they saw their face and body as ugly and hateful, and immediately felt miserable and angry. So when the poor princess spied herself in the mirror, she forgot all about the three wishes she had been granted, and instead believed that she was ugly and sad and angry. And then the little demons came running out of the dark corners, and they all chattered away at her so she could hardly think, and they said “oh you need to cover yourself up. Here is a beautiful coat- see how warm and silky and lovely it is. Put it on at once to cover yourself up.”
So the princess put it on, and it was indeed very lovely and comforting, and for a little while she did feel better. But then she spied herself in the mirror of lies again, and she felt bad. And the little demons came chattering around her again, and some of them looked at her image in the mirror, and pointed and jeered and told her how terrible she looked, but others brought out another coat, and told her how much better she would feel if she put it on. But really, they were all working together, and they were all telling her lies. And the princess found that the coats were enchanted coats- they were easy to put on, but very hard to take off. She very much wanted to put on the new coat, so she just put it on over the first one. And for a little while, she did feel better, until she looked again into the mirror of lies, and started to listen to the little demons, who seemed to become noisier all the time.
And so it went on. Each time she looked in the mirror of lies, and felt bad, the princess put on another coat. Quite soon she had on so many coats that it was hard to see the real princess inside, but still the little demons told her she would feel better with one more coat. But it was all lies, just lies. And after a while, the princess began to know that she had so many coats on, that she could hardly move. They were very heavy, and made her tired, and she could no longer do anything but wear the coats. Sometimes she looked longingly at the door out of the enchanted room, but then she sighed and said “I can never get out now; I am wearing so many coats I can’t get through the door”, and the little lying demons said “Oh you are quite right, you will never get out now.” But it was all lies, you know.
And then one day, at the beginning of a New Year, a small bird with beautiful feathers appeared at the tiny window of the enchanted room. The princess, who had not thought about anything but coats for a very long time, noticed his lovely colours, and his sweet singing, and slowly, weighed down by all her coats, she made the effort to walk across to the window, and stood on tiptoes to listen to him, although she could hardly hear him for the chattering of demons. And the little bird sang a special song for her. He sang to her that he had been sent to remind her that underneath all the coats she was really still the princess who still had the three wishes to be happy and kind and interesting. But to find herself again she had to be brave, and start taking off the coats. The princess said “Oh no, I need the coats to cover myself up, and I am not strong enough to take them off. I will have to stay here for ever”. But the bird sang “No, no it is all lies. You are a princess, you are unique, and you have a special place in the universe. No-one in the universe is more important than you; no-one in the universe can take your place. The universe is not whole without you. You must take up your place in the universe”. And then the bird plucked one of its own feathers, and gave it to her, and said “I give you this feather of hope and courage and truth. When the demons are chattering at you, you must hold fast to the feather, and remember that you are special, and tell them to SHUT UP! When you are tempted to look in the mirror, you must remember that it lies, and you must look instead at the feather, and at the door, and you will start to take off the coats. At first it may be difficult, but it is possible, and you must hold fast to the feather. Just one thing you must promise me: when you go through the door into your palace, you will look for someone to help, and you will help them; you will look for a job to do, and you will do it; and you will look for something to learn, and you will learn it.”
And so it was. The princess held tight to the feather of truth, and when the demons chattered and told her she needed a new coat, she shouted “Go Away! I do NOT NEED a new coat. I do not need all the coats I have. I am going to take them off. You are telling me lies , and I am not listening, so you can just SHUT UP”. And when she felt tempted to look at the magic mirror, she looked instead at the door, and imagined what it would be like to go through it, and all the things she would do, and held fast to the feather to remind herself that she was a special person who deserved good things in life. And so she began to take off the top layers of coats. And even though it wasn’t easy, it was possible, and she kept reminding herself of how good life would be once she had taken enough off.
And then came the great day when she realised she had taken off enough coats to get through the door. And she walked out into the palace, and left the magic mirror behind for ever. Some of the demons scurried out after her, but she paid them no mind, and they just muttered and murmured foolishly to themselves. She walked through the palace, and out into the beautiful garden. In the middle of the garden was a lake, and in the lake was an island, and on the island was a small girl who was crying. And the princess, who had not thought about anyone else for a long time, was sad to hear the girl crying, and called out to her “What is the matter?” And the little girl answered that she was trapped on the island, and was cold and hungry and sad. So the princess said “I will help you”. And she looked around for somebody to row out to the island, but there was no-one there, and she thought “I will do it myself”. And then she found a rowing boat, but she didn’t know how to row. So she thought “I will have to learn”. So she got into the rowing boat, and picked up the oars, and at first she hardly moved at all, and then she rowed round in circles, but eventually she learned how to do it, and she rowed out to the island, and rescued the little girl. And she was feeling quite happy with herself, because she had helped someone, and got the job done, and she was very pleased to have learned how to row a boat. And then- she realised that, in all the excitement and work, she had taken off most of her remaining coats, without really noticing!
And so for the rest of her life, she went on helping and working and learning, and everyone agreed that she truly was a special princess. She kept one or two coats of course; coats are useful to keep off the cold, and can be very beautiful. And she always kept by her bed the feather of hope and truth, to remind herself that she was special, and that she could beat the demons.