So, my wife and I read my daughter Hans Christian Anderson at bedtime. Our assumption is that fairy tales are in some way more hopeful and appropriate than, say, Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica.
But the trunk is enchanted and carries the young man to the roof of a far off tower. Inside lives a princess hidden from the world in fear of the prophecy that “she will be very unhappy about a lover”.
The young man charms the princess with tall tales of adventure. He impresses the King and Queen with claims of magical powers and charms them with an improvised tale of matches who pretend to greatness as they flame and die lighting the kitchen stove.
The king and queen offer their daughter in marriage. In celebration the aspiring prince flies into the night sky showering the town with fireworks.
The next morning, he discovers embers have burned his trunk to ashes. Ruined, he flees the town and abandons the princess.
“she stood all day on the roof waiting for him, and most likely she is waiting there still; while he wanders through the world telling fairy tales, but none of them so amusing as the one he related about the matches.”
Both the innocent and clever live in misery and mediocrity.
The merchant’s son, a flawed person, becomes a flawed artist forever repeating his mistakes and falling short of first creative effort. He is a fairy tale character who invents a cautionary tale which describes himself.
Now go to sleep and pleasant dreams…