King Greenshield: A Fairy Tale
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Once upon a time, in a village in Kent, there lived a girl named Mary, of noble birth and gentle spirit. She was known throughout the town for her kindness and beauty. In time Mary became a woman and was married to John, a knight of the county in service to the good Duke. John was known by the people for his fairness and wisdom as well as his prowess in battle, and in time became a favorite of the Black Prince. One day it came to pass that the Black Prince was called on to lead the army against the French, and he called upon John to ride at his side in the battle. Though John was loath to leave his wife behind, he said his tearful goodbyes to her and boarded the Prince's ship.

After John had gone to war, Mary found her heart constantly full of sorrow and worry. Though she knew not the ways of war herself, she had heard stories told by the knights and men and was constantly in fear that her husband would not return. At night she found it hard to sleep and worried for his safety, walking the halls of the keep for hours in deep thought. Every day she waited for the messengers to bring news from France, but never did she hear a word of John's doings.

After four fortnights had passed without word from John, Mary became so worried and desperate that she sought out the witch of the woods to ask for her help. "Fair lady of the woods," Mary said to the crone as she offered her a purse brimming with silver, "four fortnights has it been since my dear husband has been away at war and I have heard no news of his fate. Know ye any way to scry if he be alive or dead?"

"Perhaps," said the witch. "Know ye of King Greenshield?"

"I do not," Mary answered.

"They say King Greenshield is a prince of the fairies," the witch said. "He holds court at the cliffs near Dover, and watches the sea and the distant shores day and night. If you go to the right place, and ask of him, an ye know how to listen, he will tell you what he sees."

The witch taught Mary how to recognize the proper place, and the next morning she left the keep and rode to Dover. Mary searched up and down the cliffs for hours before she found the right spot. Mary placed her ear to the ground and spoke;

King Greenshield, King Greenshield, I beg of ye please,
Hath you seen my husband since he crossed the seas?
Two months hence he sailed with the Black Prince to France,
Tell me, King Greenshield, have you seen him perchance?

At first Mary heard nothing but silence, and wondered if she had come to the wrong place, or spoken wrongly, or if the witch had deceived her. But soon, the ground rumbled and a voice low and sorrowful responded;

Fifty-seven days past he sailed with the Black Prince;
I have waited and watched, but have not seen him since.

Mary was saddened to hear that King Greenshield had no news of her husband, but found it calming that he could see the shore and was watching what happened across the ocean. With the silver she had brought from the keep, Mary took a room in the public house in Dover and spent the night alone, worried but hopeful. The next morning she rode again to the cliff, placed her ear to the ground, and asked;

King Greenshield, King Greenshield, I beg of ye please,
Hath you seen my husband since he crossed the seas?
Two months hence he sailed with the Black Prince to France,
Tell me, King Greenshield, have you seen him perchance?

And King Greenshield replied;

Fifty-eight days ago he sailed with the Black Prince;
I have waited and watched, but have not seen him since.

For nearly a year, Mary returned to the cliff every day and asked King Greenshield if he had seen John, and every day King Greenshield answered no. The people of Dover took notice of Mary as she rode out to the cliffs every day. The village children mocked her upon leaving. "Look at that lady, off to talk to the cliff again," they said to each other. "Doesn't she know her husband must be dead by now? We should play a trick on her and teach her a lesson."

The next day when Mary rode out to the cliff, the children hid in a bush near the spot she went to to talk to King Greenshield. She put her ear to the ground and called out;

King Greenshield, King Greenshield, I beg of ye please,
Hath you seen my husband since he crossed the seas?
A year hence he sailed with the Black Prince to France,
Tell me, King Greenshield, have you seen him perchance?

Before King Greenshield could answer, one of the children shouted in a deep and booming voice, saying;

This morning he fought at the Black Prince's side
A Frenchman's blade found him, and he fell and died.

Mary cried out in anguish when she heard the voice and raised her head from the ground before she could hear King Greenshield's true response. So great was her sorrow that she ran to the cliff's edge and jumped, her body breaking on the rocks below. The children were startled to see such a grave act, and walked solemnly home and told no one what they had done.

A fortnight later, the Black Prince's army won the day against the French, and victorious he returned to England with John, alive and well, in his company. News of his wife's death had reached the keep by the time he returned, and he was overwhelmed with grief. He learned she had spent much of the year he was gone in Dover, and when he traveled there he learned of her trips to the cliff. John was not a superstitious man, but he had learned tales of King Greenshield when he was a boy, and knew why she had gone.

Riding out to the cliff in his sword and armor, upon his favorite steed, John found the spot and put his ear to the ground, and called out;

King Greenshield, King Greenshield, oh why has my wife
Leapt from thy brow and taken her life?
They tell me she watched here and waited for me
Tell me, King Greenshield, what fate did you see?

And King Greenshield replied;

The children pretended and told her you died
She took her own life because of their lie.

John was furious, but John was clever. He hatched a plan to take his revenge on the ruffians who had driven his wife to jump. As she had done, he took a room in the public house, and every day he rode out to the cliff, in his sword and armor, upon his favorite steed. Every morning, he knelt to the ground and called out;

King Greenshield, King Greenshield, oh why has my wife
Leapt from thy brow and taken her life?
They tell me she watched here and waited for me
Tell me, King Greenshield, what fate did you see?

And every morning, King Greenshield replied;

The children pretended and told her you died
She took her own life because of their lie.

Before scarcely a fortnight had passed, the same children took notice of John's behavior. "Look at that fool!" they cried. "Does he think that calling out will bring her back? Let's see if he's as easy to fool as she was."

The next day, when John rode out to the cliff, the children were hiding again in the bush. John put his ear to the ground and called out;

King Greenshield, King Greenshield, oh why has my wife
Leapt from thy brow and taken her life?
They tell me she watched here and waited for me
Tell me, good King Greenshield, what fate did you see?

And before King Greenshield could answer, one of the children shouted;

She has left you, my friend, for another lord's arms
Fled off to Scotland, away from all harm.

As soon as John heard the voice, he knew King Greenshield had told the truth. Drawing his sword, John leapt upon the children in the bush in a frenzy, and mercilessly hacked the knaves to bits which he tossed, piece by piece, over the cliff. His sword and armor covered in their blood, John rode back into Dover to the chapel and told my grandfather's grandfather, the parish vicar, what he had done. He gave his final confession and paid penance to the Church, and satisfied that he had done his duty, he rode back to the cliff and jumped off, his body breaking on the rocks below, to meet his wife in Christ's embrace.

They say that King Greenshield holds court to this day at the White Cliffs of Dover, and that if you find the right spot and ask of him, and know how to listen, he will tell you what he has seen. But whether the story I have told is true or not, he will not say; and if you seek his counsel, you should first and foremost make certain it is his voice you hear.

Memo from Dr. Samesh: The above story was published in an 1892 edition of Andrew Lang's Fairy Book, an English collection of fairy tales compiled from various sources. All known extant copies of this edition are currently owned by the Foundation. Based on our research, variants on the above tale have been part of the oral tradition of southeastern England for several centuries; as such, full suppression has to date proven impossible, though our efforts at keeping it out of print have marginalized public awareness thereof. In Interview 1588-33, wherein SCP-1588 was asked about the provenance of the story, it stated that it is aware of the story's existence, and that numerous people have committed suicide by jumping from the cliffs above it in the time it has existed, but it refused to state whether or not the story was true.

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