Once Upon a Marigold, by Jean Ferris;
Harcourt, Inc.: New York, 2002; $17
What if you were a princess who lived a perfect, happy life except for one minor problem—your mother kept trying to marry you off to a boring royal suitor so she could become queen? What if you had never met or talked to your best friend except by letter? And what if, after too many boring suitors to count, you fell in love with someone you weren’t allowed to marry?
Once Upon a Marigold is a riches-to-rags fantasy about a young runaway boy, a plain, unpopular princess, and a four-foot-tall troll. Christian is only a small boy when he runs away from home, tired of living in stiff suits, with too many siblings and too many rules. However, when he is found by Ed, a short, friendly troll, he becomes a young inventor living in a beautiful cave with his troll foster father. Through a small telescope, Christian can watch King Swithbert’s castle, and all the goings-on there. He watches the three beautiful, blond princesses grow up, as well as their smaller, dark-haired sister. He is an uninvited guest at the balls and banquets, and even at the weddings of the three triplets. But Christian is especially attracted to the younger, dark-haired princess. When he finally gets the courage to contact her, through p-mail (pigeon mail), he finds out her name is Marigold, and starts a long correspondence between them.
Right from the start, I loved reading Once Upon a Marigold. Although I’ve never run away from home, met princesses or trolls, or lived in crystal caves, I can very much relate to many of the feelings and emotions of the characters. Throughout the story, both Christian and Marigold felt restricted by too many rules, and were trying to break free of them and make their own decisions. Christian succeeded in this when he was only six, by running away from home. However, Marigold’s life was much more complicated. Her mother, Queen Olympia, was always forcing her into lessons on ruling, manners, and many other “stiff, proper skills,” never leaving Marigold any time for herself, or letting her make her own decisions. Even in my daily and ordinary life, I can relate to these feelings often. Whenever I clean my room, I feel restricted from making my own decisions because, being a naturally messy person, I tend to procrastinate and would rather spend the time on other meaningful activities and leave my room as I’m comfortable with it.
Another interesting lesson I was reminded of in Once Upon a Marigold was to respect other people’s opinions and feelings. Though Queen Olympia’s daughters’ ideas about ruling were different from her own, that didn’t give her the right to ridicule and disregard their ideas. Many of these fairy-tale crises may seem very different from our world and reality, but they really aren’t that far from some of the problems in our world today. Consider the quilt of different cultures, religions, and beliefs. Does that necessarily make any of them wrong? Just because your best friend goes to a temple and you go to a church, does that affect your friendship?
Once Upon a Marigold was jammed with many unpredictable turns and surprises so that I never knew where it was going next! The next time you’re in need of a good book, I suggest you pick up Once Upon a Marigold, by Jean Ferris.