the Princess Pash'Pashan Hat

The Arabian Princess Pash'Pashan was so beautiful that anyone who saw her face would immediately burst into flames.

This being Arabia, and this being A Long Time Ago (which I didn't mention, but it was), the Princess Pash'Pashan got to wear a veil. Because she did, the rather unpleasant side-effects of her stupendously good looks were not a problem for her most of the time. Only very occasionally - perhaps if she got a cold and sneezed particularly violently - would some unlucky courtier be consumed by a pillar of fire and leave a nasty, black mark on the carpet.

Other than the Princess Pash'Pashan herself, only her father (the King) and her mother (the Queen) were immune to her beauty. This was because they had known her ever since she was a baby, when her face had looked much the same as every other baby's, which is to say it had been alarmingly ugly. Only when she grew older did she begin igniting people, by which time the King and Queen had become used to her increasingly phenomenal features, and so were spared the same fate.

The Princess Pash'Pashan never let her fiery looks get her down, however, and she always had a pleasant word and a smile for everyone she met (not that they ever saw the smile, of course). All in all, her life was going swimmingly well until one fateful day when her father told her that she had to get married.

Now in those days, princesses pretty well had to do what their fathers said, and so, reluctantly, the Princess Pash'Pashan agreed to advertise for a suitable prince. She did suggest to the King that perhaps it would be handy if her future husband could look at her without barbecuing himself, and, after much consideration, the King consented.

So it was that one morning the Princess Pash'Pashan found a note waiting for her at the breakfast table informing her that three princes had been found who were willing to try their luck.

No, I don't know why there were three. There's always three: that's just the way these things work.

The Princess Pash'Pashan finished her breakfast, put on her veil and told the maid that it was safe to come in to take away the bowls and stuff. Then, she headed for the royal audience chamber, where the note had said the princes would be waiting.

The princes were indeed waiting. As is customary in such cases, the Princess Pash'Pashan immediately realised that one was the First Prince, another was the Second Prince, and the remaining one was the Third Prince. Also, not entirely unexpectedly, she discovered that the Third Prince was rather cute, and found herself suddenly overcome with a strong desire to marry him.

Too bad he was probably going to end up toast.

The First Prince stepped forward, and introduced himself.

"I am Prince Qal'Zium," he said, "of whom you may have heard. I am a famous scientist."

"As a scientist, you should know that you cannot possibly survive bursting into flame," warned the Princess Pash'Pashan.

"As a scientist," smiled the First Prince, "I know that no-one could ever be so beautiful that they would cause such a thing to happen. It is simply impossible. I therefore request to see your face, that I may become your husband, inherit half the kingdom, be given my weight in gold, and so on and so forth."

"If you wish," sighed the Princess Pash'Pashan. "It's been nice knowing you."

She stepped behind a screen, and the First Prince followed.

Moments later, there was an almighty WHUMPH!

Scientists know a lot, but they don't know everything...

The Princess Pash'Pashan emerged, coughing from the smoke, but carefully holding her veil in place so as not to cause the other princes to experience premature conflagration.

The Second Prince had seen what had happened to the First Prince, but was not afraid. In fact, he laughed!

"Good morning, Princess!" he boomed, as she tried to make herself presentable by dusting the soot from her dress. "I am Prince Q'Rajiz, and I am renowned the world over for my bravery!"

"It is not fear of my beauty which consumes people by fire, but my beauty itself," warned the Princess Pash'Pashan.

The Second Prince would have none of this, however. "What danger could the face of a young woman pose to a man who has wrestled a hundred tigers?" he asked, rather smugly.

He was soon to find out.

Resignedly, the Princess Pash'Pashan went behind the screen, and the Second Prince followed.

Moments later, there was a huge WHUMPH!

Yes, the Second Prince burst into flames, too. But he did so very bravely.

Now, the screen that the Princess Pash'Pashan was standing behind had caught alight from the Second Prince's WHUMPH, and at first she thought that maybe she ought to put it out. There was only the Third Prince left, however, so she decided that she didn't really need a screen any more.

One look at the Third Prince told her what she did need, though - him!

The Third Prince seemed rather nervous.

Well he would, wouldn't he?

"If you'd rather not burst into flames, it's quite alright," said the Princess Pash'Pashan, in a kindly way. "We don't have to go through this, you know. You can go home and find someone else to marry instead, who won't turn you into a kebab when you look at her."

"But I want to marry you," answered the Third Prince. "My name is Prince Qan'Vas, and I'm a famous artist."

"Oh, I love art!" exclaimed the Princess Pash'Pashan. "It's such a great shame that I'm so beautiful, because I really think we two would get along splendidly well together. But," and here she sighed, sadly, "your being a famous artist isn't going to help you when it comes to, you know, WHUMPH time, is it?"

"Aha! Well that's where you're wrong," said the Third Prince, pulling a sketch pad and set of coloured pencils out from inside his cloak. "I have a plan!"

For the first time since she met him, the Princess Pash'Pashan felt that perhaps he wasn't going to end up as a nasty, black mark on the carpet after all. "What do we do?" she asked.

"Well, the way I understand it," answered the Third Prince, "if I were to get used to your beauty, I ought to be able to survive it."

"That's true," nodded the Princess Pash'Pashan. "But how do you hope to achieve that?"

"I shall draw you," replied the Third Prince. "Please pull your veil down just enough for me to see your eyebrows."

Cautiously, the Princess Pash'Pashan obeyed.

"Oh WOW!" exclaimed the Third Prince. "What amazingly beautiful eyebrows! I have never, ever, ever seen eyebrows as beautiful as those! Let me draw them!"

He sketched the Princess Pash'Pashan's eyebrows onto his pad, and nodded, satisfied.

"Right, now can you cover up your eyebrows again, then sort of pull your veil round a bit so I can just see your left eye... THAT IS INCREDIBLE!" He staggered back, pulling at his collar for air. "That eye is just the most fantastically beautiful eye I have ever seen, ever!"

"The other one's not entirely dissimilar," warned the Princess Pash'Pashan, who was nevertheless rather enjoying being able to see the Third Prince without having a layer of silk in the way.

Meanwhile, the Third Prince was drawing her eye. When he had finished, he went on to do her chin, then her cheeks, her lips, her other eye, her ears, and her all the bits in between. Eventually, he had a complete portrait of the Princess Pash'Pashan, made up rather like a jigsaw puzzle from all these Šindividual pieces.

"Is this what you look like?" he asked, worriedly, showing the Princess Pash'Pashan what he had done.

She nodded. "It is," she replied, "although because I'm real life and not a drawing, I'm actually far more beautiful than that."

"Well, it'll have to do," said the Third Prince. "I'm afraid that I've fallen tremendously in love with you, and if I don't get to kiss you soon I'm going to burst into flames of my own accord anyway."

The Third Prince stared at the portrait hard. He was using it to guess what the Princess Pash'Pashan would look like if she lifted up her veil. Even in the picture, she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He tried to imagine what she must be like in reality if she were ten, or a hundred, times more beautiful than he had drawn.

"I'm ready," he said, firmly. "Please take off your veil."

Sadly, because she had grown more than fond of the Third Prince and didn't want to see him burst into flames, the Princess Pash'Pashan raised her veil.

She was a thousand times more beautiful than the Third Prince had drawn her!

The Third Prince felt hot - very hot! His hair began to crackle, and his clothes began to smoulder, and the paper he was holding started to go brown where his fingers were touching it.

But he did not burst into flames!

The Princess Pash'Pashan was overjoyed! She threw her arms round the Third Prince, and hugged him and kissed him, and gave him generally a good time of things until eventually he cooled down. They were married the very next day, and went on to have lots of children and good holidays and everything else you'd expect.

Years passed.

Then, one day, the Princess Pash'Pashan (who was by then the Queen Pash'Pashan) had a rather dismaying thought. So concerned was she, that she interrupted her husband (who was by then King Qan'Vas) while he was painting.

Now this was something she never did ordinarily, so King Qan'Vas knew there was something worrying her. "What is the matter, my dear?" he asked.

"Well, I've been thinking," she replied. "If the First Prince had been a better scientist, he would have realised that he could have looked at me perfectly safely had he done so while taking a shower. And if the Second Prince had been braver, he would have poked his eyes out with a sharp stick in order to escape a frying."

"That's right, my angel sweet," nodded her husband.

"And yet if you had been a better artist, your drawing would have been so accurate that you'd have burst into flames by looking at it, even before I fully lifted my veil."

The artist formerly known as the Third Prince smiled. "Come here and see what I've just finished," he said, and stepped back from his easel.

The Queen Pash'Pashan walked over, and looked. It was a painting of her. It was a very good painting of her. It was a very, very good painting of her. In fact, it was so incredibly good that even she began to feel a little warm from staring at it.

"I am a better artist," said King Qan'Vas, proudly. "I could have drawn you accurately that day, only sometimes it makes sense to think about what you're going to do before you do it."

The Queen Pash'Pashan smiled with happiness, and gave him one of her big hugs. "When the paint on this has dried," she announced, "I shall hang it in the Great Hall where everyone can see what a great artist you are. It's so wonderfully life-like that - "

But she didn't finish, because for some reason her husband was shaking his head and laughing...

Copyright © Richard A. Bartle (
24th September pashpash.htm