Once upon a time, a hearing king named Joe had twelve deaf daughters, each one more beautiful than the last. They all slept together in one large, splendid room. Their beds stood side by side and every nightwhen they went to bed, the king locked the door and bolted it so he knew his children were safe. Every morning when he unlocked the door, he saw that their shoes were worn out, with holes in the toes and laces broken. The king ordered an investigation, but after, many weeks of trying, no one could find out how the princesses were able to leave the locked and bolted room.
King Joe was very upset that he had to spend so much royal money on new shoes for his daughters, for princesses could not wear shabby shoes. He proclaimed that whoever could discover where his daughters went at night could choose one of them for his wife and be king after his death. If, however, they could not discover where his daughters went after three days and nights, they should be banished from his kingdom forever.
It was not long before a king’s son from the next kingdom came and offered to discover where the princesses danced at night. He was welcomed warmly into the palace with a large feast, and in the evening, was led into a bedroom next the princesses bedroom. He was to watch and discover where the twelve went, so the princess’s bedroom door was left open. Nevertheless, the Prince’s eyelids grew heavy and he fell asleep. When he awoke in the morning all twelve pairs of shoes had holes in them, and he had no idea how. The same thing happened on the second and third nights so he was banished forevermore from King Joe’s kingdom. Many others came after this and undertook the mystery, but none discovered how the shoes got holes in them and all were forever banished from the kingdom.
One day a poor, wounded soldier named Michael found himself on the road to the town where King Joe lived. He met a funny old woman on the road who asked him where he was going
“I really don’t know,” he answered jokingly. “I thought I might discover where the princesses danced holes in their shoes and become king.
“That is not so difficult,” said the old woman mysteriously. “The secret is that you must pretend to be sound asleep.”With that, she gave him a little cloak and said, “If you put this on you will be invisible and then you can follow the princesses at night.”
When Michael received this good advice, he decided to try his luck. He went to King Joe and announced that he also wanted to take the challenge. King Joe welcomed the old soldier, and had his servants dress him in royal garments. At the feast that night, the oldest princess stood up and performed an ABC story in sign language for everyone in the hall. Her signing was beautiful and it made Michael want to learn more. It also made him want to succeed more than ever before.
“What is that girl’s name?” Michael whispered to a nobleman sitting next to him.
“Oh, that’s Princess Leah.” The nobleman replied snootily.
Later that evening, Michael was led into a bedroom next to the twelve princesses. He lay down immediately, and after a while began to snore as if in the deepest sleep.
The twelve princesses felt the vibrations of his snoring on his bed and so they got up. They then opened the wardrobes, and brought out pretty dresses and dressed themselves in front of the long mirrors, sprang about and rejoiced at the thought of going to the dance. Because the girls were deaf, they didn’t realize how noisy they were being while getting dressed and dancing about laughing. But the youngest wasn’t feeling joyful and signed to them that she had a bad feeling.
“You’re just being silly, Jessie.” They signed back, and teased her.
When they were all ready to go, they looked carefully at Michael but he had closed his eyes and did not move or stir so they felt themselves quite secure and prepared to leave.
Princess Leah went to her bed and tapped it. It immediately sank into the ground, revealing a secret pathway. The sisters went down through the opening, Leah going first. Michael, who had watched everything, did not wait any longer. He sprang out of bed, put on his invisibility cloak and went down last behind the youngest, Princess Jessie. Halfway down the steps he stepped a little on her dress. She was terrified, and she began waving her arms to get her sisters’ attention.
She signed, “My dress is stuck. Someone is pulling my dress!”
Leah signed back, “Don’t be silly, you caught it on a nail.” They then continued down the stairs.
When they reached the bottom of the stairs, they were standing in a wonderful avenue of trees, all the leaves of which were silver shone and glistened. Michael thought, “I must carry a token away with me” and broke off a twig from one of the trees. Jessie thought she saw something but since her sisters made fun of her before, she decided
not to say anything.
As they traveled deeper into the forest, the leaves of the trees turned to gold, and then to diamonds. Again, Michael broke branches from each of the trees, and each time Jessie thought she saw something move but he was too quick for her to be sure.
They went on and came to a great lake where twelve little boats stood, and in each boat sat a handsome deaf prince. Each took one princess with him and the soldier seated himself next to the youngest.
The youngest prince signed to Jessie, “I don’t know why the boat is so much heavier today, and I will have to row with all my strength if I am to get across the lake.”
“What could be the cause,” she signed, “but warm weather? I feel very warm too.”
On the opposite side of the lake stood a splendid, brightly lit castle, perfect light for signing and dancing. The princes rowed over and entered a silver and gold ballroom. Fancy lights hung above their heads, seeming tofloat in the air, and the walls and floor vibrated around them. Each prince danced with the girl he loved most all night long. The dancers could feel the pulsating music and moved with so much joy, but Michael danced with them unseen. They danced until 3o’clock in the morning, and when they were finished all their shoes had holes.
Leah felt the hole in her toe and gasped. She was enjoying being with other deaf people so much that she had not realized how fast the time was passing. Unwillingly, she flashed the lights to signal to her sister that it was time to go home.
The princes rowed them back across the lake and this time the soldier seated himself by Leah, the eldest, so he could get back to bed without suspicion.
On the shore, the girls took leave of their princes and promised to return the following night. As the girls were saying their long goodbyes, Michael ran out in front, and lay down quickly on his bed. When the twelve had come up slowly and wearily from their midnight dance, Michael was already snoring so strong they could feel the vibrations. They felt confident that he had slept the whole time they were away. They took off their beautiful dresses, laid them away, put the worn out shoes under the beds and went to sleep.
The next morning Michael did not tell King Joe what he saw. Instead, he went with the twelve princesses again to their wonderful dance, and again the next night. Everything happened as it had before, and each night the princesses danced until their shoes were worn to pieces.
When it came time for Michael to give his answer to the king, he took the three twigs with him as proof. The sisters stood outside, peeking through the window, trying to read his lips as he spoke to the king. They noticed the three twigs, and wondered, worried, how he got them. Jessie concluded “He must have followed us.” They knew they had been caught.
When the king asked the soldier “Where have my twelve daughters danced their shoes into pieces at night?” Michael answered “in an underground castle with twelve princes,” and explained how he had found out.
The king then had his court guard get his twelve daughters and bring them in. The king yelled at the girls as he always did thinking that if he shouted loud enough, they could hear him. Of course, it was not until the interpreter signed that they understood what their father was saying. He asked if Michael told the truth. When the princesses saw that they were betrayed many of them closed their eyes so they could not see the interpreter signing However, Leah felt obliged to confess all. Hearing this, the king asked Michael which one of his daughters he would have for his wife.
Michael answered, “I am no longer young, so give me the eldest, Princess Leah.” But he was also thinking of how beautifully she had signed the ABC story on his first night in the palace.
The engagement was announced by the Royal Herald and the whole kingdom was invited to the wedding the following month. The sisters were saddened and upset that their older sister was marying a hearing man, but eventually he won them over. During that month, Michael gestured and used pen and paper to communicate with Leah, but he was secretly taking Sign Language lessons. On his wedding day, Michael surprised everyone by signing his vows to Leah He immersed himself in their culture and accompanied his wife and her sisters to all their social activities. As Michael’s sign language skills grew, so did the love between him and his princess, and they lived happily ever after. The End.