Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived in a castle high up in the mountains overlooking an enchanted land of drifting clouds and singing cuckoos. Her name was Princess Tuna and she lived with her elderly father and mother who were the King and Queen of this wonderful land. But Princess Tuna was not a happy girl, she had no brothers or sisters and was often very lonely and bored. She would spend hours just staring out of the castle windows, dropping stones into the moat, or firing them at the cuckoos using a jewel-encrusted and powerful catapult.
And that would have been her life, were it not for the fateful day that the King was accidentally struck by one of her missiles. Rubbing his painful butt, the King decided that it was high time she not only had her sight tested, but found a husband. At this suggestion, Princess Tuna perked up a bit, went upstairs and tidied her bedroom. That evening, with the help of the Queen, the King worked out a plan to help the princess find the best person for the job. It would be an important choice too because, one day, they would become king and queen of Cloud Cuckoo land.
The plan was to invite three princes from nearby states to visit the castle on different dates and spend a day entertaining their daughter. They could bring anything which they thought might interest her, but they were not to talk about their latest carriages or the football. When she had met each of the three princes, she could then choose the one who would become her husband. Following a royal proclamation throughout the region, three young princes were invited to take part in this competition. Their names were Johann, Sebastian and Bach.
When Prince Johann arrived at the castle, he was stunned by the beauty of the young princess. Indeed, it took him several minutes to recover. He had brought with him a collection of silver objects to show her. There were goblets, plates, trays, candlesticks, tea sets, knives, spoons, forks, toothpicks and so on. He explained how the marks on the objects could be used to discover where and when they were made. He had even brought a little tin of silver polish and a duster with him and together they polished up some of the silverware until it shone. Afterwards, he wrapped each item in tissue paper and carefully placed it back into a large box which he locked with a silver key. When he left the castle, Princess Tuna spent quite a lot of time washing her dainty hands.
When Prince Sebastian arrived at the castle, he too was stunned by the beauty of the princess. Indeed, it took him several minutes to recover. He had brought with him a collection of golden objects for her to admire. There were all kinds of things made of gold including rings, necklaces chains, clocks, watches and coins. He explained how the marks on the objects could be used to discover where and when they were made. Princess Tuna was even more impressed when he showed her some of his gold teeth. He explained that gold was worth a whole lot more than silver and it had made him incredibly rich. He presented her a large gold ring as a souvenir of his visit.
Prince Bach arrived on a bicycle. Although he was stunned by the beauty of the princess, unlike the other two, he didn’t stand there panting like a dog with his tongue hanging out. He carried a large bag of marbles with him. He showed her that if she looked up at the sun through them, all kinds of wonderful colours could be seen sparkling against the sky. He then taught her how to play marbles and they spent several happy hours together rolling them down the grand staircase and along the floors of the castle. She learnt what a ‘shooter’ was and how to ‘knuckle down’. He even fired one or two marbles at the cuckoos with that catapult and told her lots of amusing stories. It was a wonderful afternoon; one which she would remember for many years to come.
‘Well,’ asked the King, after Prince Bach had left, ‘Which one of these fine young men will you choose as your husband?’
‘Oh, Papa,’ replied Princess Tuna, ‘I need some time to think about it but I’ll let you know the moment I have reached my decision.’ With that, she retired to her bedroom to drop more stones into the moat, and give more thought to the matter. Her whole future, and that of Cloud Cuckoo land, now depended on a decision that must not be made in haste.
The next morning, at breakfast, she announced her choice to her parents. ‘I have spent a sleepless night giving this decision so much thought. There was a lot to admire in each of these young men, and I thank you for inviting them to the castle. I have thought deeply about each one of them, but I have to be honest and say that there is only one for me. I will be his bride and we shall all live happily ever after.'
‘Let me guess,’ said the Queen, hardly able to suppress her excitement. ‘I have a feeling that we can rule out Prince Johann and his silver collection. We were not prying but we couldn’t help overhearing what you said about him while you were washing your hands in the bathroom after his visit.’ Princess Tuna blushed at the memory but kept a dignified silence. It was not having to clean the cutlery that had disturbed her, it was the way he drooled over it.
‘Yes,’ agreed the King, ‘And I think we can probably rule out Prince Sebastian, because all he seemed to do was boast about his vast wealth and his enormous collection of gold objects. And how could you bear to put your hands in his mouth?’
‘So, my dear,’ continued the Queen, ‘It looks as if it is to be Prince Bach because we know you both had such a happy time together.’ The King and Queen smiled lovingly at their beloved daughter; parents have a way of knowing these things.
‘On the contrary,’ retorted Princess Tuna, ‘I thought he was a complete loser. What would I be doing with a guy who still plays marbles at his age? No, my choice is the one with all the gold. What was his name again?’