Prose – Tradition

Oliver Herford illustrated the fairy godmother...

Don’t believe what you read in the papers. They call me a rogue, a trouble maker, unstable, but that’s bull. I don’t play by the rules, that’s for sure, but frankly, the rules suck. They’ve tried to stop me. They’ve cut off my magic a hundred times. I just buy more on the black market. Magic’s everywhere, if you’ve got the coin for it and I saved up when I was still in the business. Now they’ve trying to ruin my good name, but I know I’m doing the right thing. Take my last job.

Iarrive at a house, roses round the door, chickens in the yard, and from an open window I hear a screech,

‘Where is my purple and gold top?’

I give a grim smile and ‘puff’ inside. Old habits and all that. Three girls occupy the bedroom; Faith, Hope and Charity and never were three girls so badly named. Hope is brushing her long blonde hair, Charity’s kneeling on the floor pulling clothes from a chest and Faith is spread-eagled on the bed, snoring.

‘Who’re you?’ shrieks Hope, whirling round.

‘And why did you just pop up in a cloud of smoke?’ asks Charity, standing up.

The girl on the bed is still snoring.

‘Faith!’ yells Hope, ‘wake up!’

And she throws her brush at the girl.

‘Ouch! What? What’s going on?’

‘Some weird old lady’s just appeared in our room,’ answers Hope.

Some weird old lady? Good grief.

‘This is private property,’ says Hope, ‘you’re trespassing and my Daddy will have you locked up!’

‘Your Daddy is overseas,’ I say, ‘and he doesn’t have my powers of transportation.’

‘She’s got wings!’

Faith points at my back. Ah yes, the wings. I wasn’t about to part with them. The dress went, the sparkles were binned but I had to keep the wings.

‘So she’s got wings-‘

‘-she appeared in a puff of smoke-‘

‘-and she’s old-‘

‘She’s our Fairy Godmother!’ shrieks Faith.

They start jumping up and down and screaming. Okay, enough already.

‘Wrong!’ I say.

They stare at me.

‘But you’ve got wings?’ says Charity.

‘Yes, I know,’ I say, ‘I am a Fairy Godmother, well I was, but I’m not your Fairy Godmother. Now, can one of you giggling harpies tell me where your step-mother is?’

The girls look at each other.

‘Joan?’ says Hope, ‘I don’t know she’s probably cleaning something.’

‘Have you tried the kitchen? That’s where she normally is.’ laughs Charity.

Just then a large basket of washing walks through the door. A pair of legs and two red hands are all that are visible from behind it.

‘You must be Joan,’ I say.

The basket plummets to the floor, sending clothes flying and revealing a woman with the worn face of sheer hard work.

‘Who – who’re you?’ she gasps, ‘don’t you touch my girls!’

Her reaction is unexpected, but it warms my heart and make me even more determined to sort this place out.

‘Believe me, I’ve no intention of touching them,’ I say.

‘She’s our Fairy Godmother,’ squeaks Faith.


I sigh.

‘Yes and no. Yes, I’m a Fairy Godmother, sort of, and no I’m not here for them. Now-‘

I grab Joan’s arm and puff down to the kitchen. This is where Joan lives. There are faded floral curtains at the windows and a small truckle bed sits in one corner near the fire. For what it is, it’s home. But despite Joan’s best efforts, surfaces groans with unwashed dishes and piles of clothes.

‘This place needs help,’ I mutter, ‘but something smell’s lovely – what is it?’

Joan’s face is a jumble of confusion, but she points to the stove.

‘Pear jam,’ she says.

I notice a long line of jars, with pretty check tops, that have been squeezed on the counter.

‘May I try some?’

Joan is a born hostess, there’s no doubt about that. She hurries to slice a nice chunk of bread and slather on the jam. And the jam. Oh heaven, I have not had such good jam in, well in forever I think and I tell her so.

Joan blushes and looks down again.

‘I could eat this all day,’ I say, ‘but unfortunately I don’t have time. Let’s get started. First we need to sort out this mess.’

I snap my fingers and Faith, Hope and Charity appear looking extremely confused.

‘What’s going on?’ asks Charity.

‘You three are going to help for a change,’ I say.

And with a flick of my hand they are kitted out with brooms, brushes and buckets.

‘Hang on this isn’t right,’ says Faith, ‘you’re meant to be our Fairy Godmother!’

My reply is a swift kick of magic up the behind and they begin polishing and cleaning and washing as fast as they can. Another flick silences their wails of complaint.

I turn back to Joan.

‘Ready?’ I ask.

‘I don’t understand any of this. It’s the girls who have the Fairy Godmothers, not people like me. Everyone knows that. It’s tradition.’

I sigh.

‘Sit down Joan’ I say.

I pull up a couple of chairs. Joan sits and looks uncomfortable. This is not what she’s used to.

‘Let me explain. For three hundred and forty years I lived by tradition. I watched waif after winsome waif disappear into the sunset for a life of happiness and luxury. The young and the beautiful were pampered, everyone else got shafted. I just went along with it because that’s what I did, I was a Fairy Godmother. Then I got a wake up call. I got arrested.’


‘Yep. The Goblin police got me. I’d not been right for a while, going out, drinking, they got me on an FUI – Flying Under the Influence. So I’m languishing in jail and I think “what am I doing?” I’ve got friends getting their wings shortened to stop them looking droopy. I’m packing on the face powders like no tomorrow. But no matter what, I don’t get the happy ending. Neither does the troll, the goblin outside my jail cell or the step mother. So I got out of the business. I stopped playing by the rules. Sure some people don’t like it, but hey you’ve gotta do what you gotta do.’

I make a mirror appear and place Joan in front of it. Her eyes widen before she looks away. She hasn’t looked at herself in years. I gently turn her head back.

‘You’re beautiful already,’ I say, ‘and I’m not here to perform a makeover miracle, but tonight, you’re going to the ball.’

‘What for? Not to meet the Prince I’m far too old-‘

‘Hell no! I wouldn’t foster that little twerp off on anyone. You’re going to go out and dance and smile and have fun. Whilst I make the rest of the arrangements.’


‘Joan, do you remember the dreams you had? Before you married that charming man who turned into something less charming and got stuck with the cleaning and the cooking and everything in between.’

Joan gave a small smile.

‘I was going to sell jam. Start small and work up you know.’

‘Yes. And that’s just what you’re going to do. It’ll be all set up here when you get back.’

A little while later I fluff up her hair and slip on a chic little jacket. She looks in the mirror again, for longer this time. Meanwhile the three girls look miserable, covered head to toe in dust and sweat.

‘This isn’t fair!’ moans Hope, ‘why is she making us do this?’

Joan looks at me, then the girls and says,

‘Don’t worry my darlings, you’ll get used to it!’

So next time you read how I’m wrecking tradition, you remember – it’s not the whole story. Far from it.

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