Once upon a time, there lived a woman, who after her handsome and kind husband died, married the proudest and meanest man in all the land.   She had two sons from a previous marriage who were just as nasty, haughty and smelly as their mother. The lady also had a young son by another husband named Manderella, who was filled with goodness and was one of the nicest, kindest and gentlest young men the kingdom had ever seen.

Manderella’s stepfather was extremely jealous of his chiseled face and charming demeanor and made him do the hardest and most dreadful work in the yard and fields. Manderella ploughed the wheat rows without the aid of an ox, set the paving stones on the walkway to the house and weeded the lawn by hand as his step brothers rested on fancy beds had fun drinking beer and playing chess. Sometimes, his brothers would force Manderella to compete with them in “European Boxing,” a sport wherein the older brother would pin Manderella’s arms behind his back while the younger brother punched him repeatedly in the stomach. They played this sport so often that Manderella had developed a high tolerance for pain in the arms and abdomen.

It so happened that the King’s daughter decided to give a ball, inviting all the young men in the land to attend. Manderella’s stepfather and stepbrothers were stoked, and would talk of nothing but the ball all day long, each claiming that they would be the Bro of the Ball. They sent for the greatest designers in the kingdom to ensure that they looked their best.

Manderella offered to help them get ready for the ball for he had excellent taste and despite how his stepbrothers treated him, he always gave them the best advice about grooming, cravats, shoes, colognes, conversational tactics and dance steps.

As he helped them, the eldest brother asked, “Manderella, are you not going to the ball?”

Manderella sadly lowered his head and said, “No, you’re only teasing me because I have nothing to wear and wouldn’t fit in. Perhaps I could borrow something?”

“Lend our custom made suits to a dirty loser like you? We’re not fools!” they exclaimed.

The brothers laughed cruelly and said, “You would make everyone laugh at the sight of you, you!”

When the big day finally came, Manderella accompanied his stepfather and stepbrothers to the Court, and couldn’t help but burst into a melancholy frown as he watched them enter the beautiful ball. He held back the tears that wanted to flow, knowing that his brothers would beat him mercilessly if they saw him cry.

Then Manderella’s spirit animal appeared, in the form of a black snake. “Manderella, why are you crying?” he hissed. “You wish to attend the ball, is that not so?”

“I’m not crying,” he insisted. But the knowing look from the snake was too much for him to handle and yes, he finally did cry.

“Let it out,” said the snake. “Then, run into the garden and bring me a zucchini.”

Manderella immediately went to get the finest zucchini he could find.

When he brought it, the snake licked at the zucchini with the tip of his forked tongue, instantly turning it into a stallion, armored in gold and silver. Next, the snake had Manderella find some cockroaches, and when he brought the skittery creatures back the snake ate one of them and licked the other, turning him into a fine squire named Gregor.

“Well what do you say? Do you still think you are not able to attend the ball?” asked the snake.

“In these rags?” pouted Manderella.

The snake only touched him with his tongue wand and instantly Manderella’s rags turned into a perfectly tailored three piece suit with a golden pocket watch, a glittering silver pocket square and a tasteful black cravat. To top it off, the snake gave Manderella a pair of leather boots from Italy, the most expensive in the world.

“The magic dissipates at midnight,” said the snake, tripping a bit on the sibilance of the word dissipates. “So promise you will leave the ball before then.”

Manderella promised to return before midnight, thanked the snake, climbed atop his steed and rode off in the direction of the ball, leaving squire Gregor to follow on foot.

When Manderella made his entrance, the dancing and music stopped as everyone turned to gaze at his debonair ease. Nobody recognized him. His mystery served to allure the women, and some men, in the marble hall.

The Princess rushed up to greet him and led him to the most honorable seat by her side. She later asked him to ask her for a dance. Rather than speak, he stood and held his right arm akimbo so that she could snake her delicate fingers around his bicep, sculpted by years spent polishing the hardwood floors at home. He led the princess to the dance floor.

Manderella later made time to approach his stepbrothers, who did not recognize him, and shared some of the oranges the Princess had presented to him as a gift. The Princess never left his side, and Manderella enjoyed himself so much that he completely forgot the time!

When the clock struck midnight, Manderella was shocked and fled immediately, leaving one of his Italian leather boots behind. The Princess ran to follow him, but only managed to pick up the luscious boot.

Manderella managed to get home, but was quite out of breath and in his dirty old clothes. He was resting in bed when his two stepbrothers stumbled drunkenly into his room. “You stayed really late!” said Manderella, rubbing his eyes and stretching as if he had been sleeping.

“If you had been there you would have seen the most graceful Prince,” exclaimed the eldest brother, “He was chill to us and had the undivided attention of the Princess.”

“Nobody knows where he’s from but the Princess would give anything to know,” said the youngest.

A few days later the Princess declared that she would marry the man whose foot fit in the leather Italian boot. Her soldiers began to try the slipper on themselves and then men from high and low society lined up at the Court to try to squeeze their feet into the bespoke boot, but it was all in vain for the boot was not a sample size. Days later, it was brought to the two brothers. They tried with all their might to make the slipper fit. They promised to try low carb dieting and cross fit to slim their feet.

Manderella, who saw this, politely asked to try. His brothers burst out laughing at the idea, but the Princess ordered that everyone in the kingdom should have a try, citing an earlier “sword in the stone” precedent that had gone over rather well in England.

When Manderella’s foot slid perfectly into the boot, his brothers were astonished. Manderella’s spirit animal appeared and with the flick of his tongue wand turned Manderella back into the dapper gentlemen from the ball.

The brothers dropped to their knees and begged for forgiveness for the awful way they had treated him over the years. Manderella lifted them up and embraced them, saying he forgave them with all of his heart and that, in fact, the beatings, the teasing and the menial labor had all served to build his character.

Manderella was then escorted to the Princess. A few days later they were married.

Manderella, who was no less good than handsome, gave his two brothers rooms in the palace, and everyone lived happily ever after.

-The End-