The Three Hags
By Jeff Thomson

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— for your love is more delightful than wine.” – Song of Solomon 1:2 NIV
This story is a dream and as many stories go that are based on dreams there many things hard to explain because the events took place while the dreamer was a sleep. Unfortunately dreams do not allow the dreamer to ask clarifying questions, dreams just keep moving forward until the dreamer awakes and many details are lost on the journey from sheets to shower. This rendering has been retold many times and so the details have become deliberately elaborated.

Once upon a time there were two kingdoms at war with each other. During a battle the Prince of the West Kingdom was captured by the Kingdom of the East and held for ransom. The Prince’s father sent a message written on royal stationary to the East. The message stated that the bearer of the note would receive anything they asked for if the Prince had been returned safely to the Kingdom of the West. By the time the note had been read in the court of the King it was balled up and discarded on the floor because the Prince had managed to escape the royal prison and had safely returned home to the West.

And here enters the characters for whom this story based on a dream is titled, the three hags. A ‘hag’ is a title given to those whom physical characteristics look as the word sounds, simply ugly. You will need to forgive the story re-teller for elaborating the description of the hags as the purpose of the story requires the reader to have a sad almost nauseous mental image developed of these main characters in order to appreciate the story’s conclusion. These three hags were each other’s only friends because their odor and appearance were such that they were the only person able to stand being in each other’s personal space. A hag is a person prone to the development of warts due the lack of consistently applied personal hygiene practices. Of course the hag is not financially able to provide for themselves which causes them to forage for food among trash heaps and gutters. When needing to live in such a way ones concern for personal appearance or scent take a low priority and with the passage of time a general repulsiveness grants one the title ‘hag’.

Given the necessity of hanging around garage heaps the three hags happened upon a curious piece of Royal note paper that had been collected by a Royal court janitor and thrown out with the daily trash. The smarter of the three hags read the note and discovered that they happened upon a document of potential great value. After an evenings meal of maggoty bread pieces and gutter stew the hags determined that they really had nothin to lose by traveling to the West and attempting to cash in on the note they had found which said, “To the bearer of this note the King of the West will grant whatever they wish if the Prince is returned safely.” And so with warts and rags they took the long journey to the West not knowing if life improvements waited or a return to their daily foraging, yet they determined, they had nothing to lose.

After the long journey on foot they arrived at the Kingdom of the West. Once within the city gates they marveled at the beautiful houses with white picket fences, simple gardens, and clean windows. The residents seemed happy enough and well fed. The hags gazed over the fences longing to know what it would be like to have a such a safe home. The hags continued on through the outer suburbs until they came to the palace in the middle of the city. Once at the palace door a guard approached them and asked them if they had business in the palace. The hag with the most smarts replied, “we have come to cash in on the King’s promise.” She handed the note to the guard which caused her scent to arise to the guards nostrils. Squinting through tears his eyes produced in response to the repulsive smell he shook his head in disbelief as he read the note and the promise it seemed to guarantee the bearers. He motioned for the hags to wait and he went into the palace. After several long minutes he returned and opened the door allowing the hags to enter the massive palace and he instructed them to follow him to the King’s court room. Walking through the palace the hags noticed the beauty of the occupants. The palace residents were dressed in the finest designer silks, with their skin and hair all clean and perfect. They walked by a dining room where endless tables were filled, a buffet of the finest foods. Finally after a long walk through the palace halls they came to the courtroom.

The king was holding the note that bore his signature and seal. Behind him stood the Prince who had most certainly returned to the West unharmed. The three hags were presented to the King and they stood before him with a dust cloud surrounding them and a scent of spoiled gutter stew wafting throughout the room. The King spoke first, “I see you have come across a note that entitles you to whatever you wish from my kingdom; I am a man of my word and will honor you as the bearers of the note. So what would you desire me to grant you?”

The shortest hag spoke first and quickly said, “I’d wont ta live out in da burbs of your fine city, I’d be happy wit dat!” The Kings looked at his son with a small smile and instructed the guard to make sure the hags had houses, gardens, clean windows, and white picket fences. Suddenly the taller hag yelled out, “I don’t wants to live in da city, I wants to live right here in the palace!” The kings upper lip curled up a bit and the sound of inhaled shock came from the gallery, all of them residents of the palace. The king once again called to the guard with instructions to escort the shorter hag to a new home in the suburbs with a garden, clean windows, and a white picket fence and the taller hag to be given a bath, new designer clothes, an apartment in the palace, and a free pass to the endless buffet, and he threw in free visits to the palace dermatologist at the suggestion of the guard.

While all this drama was taking place the last hag was staring at something or someone in the courtroom. Following her eyes, which were hidden under matted hair that had not seen a brush in a decade, the King realized that the last hag had fixed her eyes on the prince standing beside him. The hag spoke, “I would not be satisfied with a house in the suburbs, with a garden clean windows and a white picket fence, and I will not be satisfied with a palace apartment new designer clothes and full 24 hours access to the endless gourmet buffet. I want to marry the prince.”

The humidity in the courtroom actually rose due the jaws dropping by all the inhabitants. The prince looked at the king and the king looked back at him and then slowly they looked back at the last hag. Slowly the prince placed his nervous hand on his fathers shoulder and drawing down to his ear whispered several long sentences to him. As he spoke the Kings countenance moved from shock to relief for the prince had devised two tests that were required of anyone who would be his wife. After explaining to the hag that she could marry the prince only if she passed two tests she continued her gaze at her handsome prize and agreed to the process. Everyone except the hag was certain she would fail.

The first test was a water test. The hag was tied rather roughly to a wooden chair and lowered into a well and held under water for a very long time. After the hag stopped moving and no more sounds of splashing could be heard they raised the hag up out of the well thinking she had passed out or had not survived. As soon as the hag reached the surface, she opened her eyes and smiled at all the onlookers. Something amazing had happened to the hag, her hair was no longer matted and course but long and healthy, her eyes were bright with youth and her skin clean without hint of warts. Her teeth were white and her smile inviting, she had been transformed into the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. After gazing on her for what seemed an eternity the prince softened his stare and approached the beautiful hag. With lowered voice he said, “there is still one more test you must complete before you can marry me,” and looking into stables behind them he continued, “you must ride across the wilderness and to the edge of the kingdom and return before night fall.”

While holding the gaze of the prince in her eyes she called for a horse to be given her. Having been a hag she knew nothing of riding horses but with willful determination she held fast the reigns and rode off straight across the wilderness, her dream waiting for her at the edge of the city. Making to the edge of the wilderness the guard who been following her motioned for her to begin the journey back to the city mentioning the day was fading. Yet the beautiful hag though weary pressed the horse onward into full gallop her heart pounding with urgency for her prize, the prince. Her energy fading and the sun falling into the horizon she collapsed in the saddle and the well trained horse gently knelt and she cascaded to the ground in exhaustion. In the quiet of the wilderness the guard who had been following caught up to her and held her, shading her face from the setting sun. Through her exhaustion and sensing her prize lost she whispered to the guard, “tell the prince…I love him.”

Slowly the guard removed his helmet and revealed that he was the prince for whom she had so valiantly rode. Gently holding her head on his shoulder he spoke, “My love you have never been out of my sight and you never need be again.” And with a kiss she was refreshed and the prince held her in his arms on the journey back to the city where they lived happily ever after. Oh and gutter stew was added to the menu at the 24 hour buffet.

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— for your love is more delightful than wine.” – Song of Solomon 1:2 NIV