It was nearing winter, the trees were shedding their leafy coats, and frost lay upon the morning ground. The prince would have shivered if he could feel the chill, stretched out naked in the cold. Through the hazy mist he saw someone approaching the city, heading for his bridge. As the person drew nearer, he saw it was a young girl wearing a ragged blue cloak. The prince saw hundreds of girls cross over the bridge, but as he strained his gaze, he saw that this girl was unusually beautiful. Feelings not felt for so long stirred within him, the golden hair cascading onto her shoulders, her rosy cheeks, the way her cloak wrapped tightly round her small frame, staving off the cold, all enflamed the prince, his vision locked on the girl. She was his ideal visage of perfection. Then he saw her eyes, and was overcome by how much sadness lay within them.
Why should someone as beautiful as her be so sad? He pondered. He wished he could help her in some way, he wished he could turn her frown into a smile. As the girl crossed the bridge, a nobleman on a horse galloped past, thundering along the road.
"Please sir!" Cried the girl. The nobleman stopped, his horse rearing up.
"What do you want?" He asked, his frosty reception matching the weather.
"Can you spare a penny for a poor soul?" Begged the girl.
"Don’t you have a job?" Sneered the man.
"I go to the palace everyday for work but they often send me away," explained the girl. "My father is ill and we have no wood for a fire and no axe to chop any with."
"Not my problem," growled the nobleman, and with that, he spurred his horse and galloped away. The poor girl sighed and carried on her despondent journey to the city. The prince seethed with anger towards the rude nobleman, outraged that he only stopped to humiliate the young girl. Then, an idea struck him, a plan of how he could aid the beautiful peasant.
Every morning, if the girl returned with no work, the prince would pry some pieces of wood off himself and toss them up next to the river bank. To start with the girl was too scared to take the wood, afraid that someone else had dropped it and would return for it later. After a few days, when she realised no one else had taken the wood, the girl began to carry the pieces away with her. Everyday she looked a little happier, the prince’s heart bursting when he saw her beaming smile.
However, soon the bridge began to become less stable, wobbling and creaking as people crossed. Sometimes it would take all the prince’s effort not to fall into the rushing river below, as the travellers crossed over his back. People would say to each other,
"Someone really ought to fix this bridge, it’s getting very dangerous." But no one actually took the time to do the job. The prince still found bits and pieces of wood he could give to the girl. Every time she found a pile of wood waiting for her, the beautiful girl would gaze upwards, hands clasped, and say,
"I thank the gods for blessing me, please bless the soul who does this kindness unto me." Warmth would rush over the prince, filling his heart with love. He wished he could regain his human form, just to serve her forever.