The Doctor and the Fairy Princess is an old Irish fairy tale written by Lady Francesca Wilde of Dublin Ireland, who also wrote under the name Speranza. Lady Wilde was also the mother of Irish author Oscar Wilde.
Lady Wilde tells the story of how the fairies needed help from a talented doctor and how they magically spirited him away. Upon his success, the fairy queen assisted him in escaping after he cured her daughter.
Here is a modern tale of An Unlikely Doctor and the Fairy Princess inspired by Lady Wilde’s fairy legend.
Eileen Quinn was waiting for the bus to take her home after finishing up the night shift at Belfast City Hospital when the strangeness started. A beautiful horse-drawn carriage, the kind you’d expect to be taking tourists over cobblestone streets in London or something, was moving slowly up the street.
She’d expected it to keep clopping on by, but it pulled to a stop right in front of her, and a handsome but exceptionally pale man looked down at her from the driver’s seat. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he asked, “but would you happen to be a doctor?”
The young doctor looked down at her scrubs, and then back at the driver. “Well, I’m going to be one,” she said. “I have six months left in my residency, if that means anything.”
“Good, good! You’ll do fine.” He jerked the reigns, gesturing to the carriage. “Get in! We don’t have a moment to lose.”
It probably wasn’t the best idea, to get inside a strange man’s even stranger carriage at the crack of dawn; and yet, Eileen found herself getting in without even a moment’s hesitation. At least the inside was comfortable, and though she couldn’t seem to move the curtains to look outside, there was no sensation of travel, either. It was like they hadn’t hit a single pothole.
What felt like (and may have been) minutes later, the carriage stopped, and the pale man parted the curtains and wordlessly gestured for her to follow him. Wherever they were, it sure as hell wasn’t Belfast.
They proceeded into an old manor: the kind that had given way to museums and television drama sets in modern times. It bustled with servants, all equally beautiful and pale, as the man who led her through the house and up a flight of stairs to a beautiful room. But, as beautiful as it looked, the smell hanging on it was familiar as anything to a doctor; it was sickness and death.
In the large canopy bed, a small, wan girl was fast asleep, golden curls cascading around her like a halo. A similar-looking woman, surely the girl’s mother, she assumed, was sitting next to the bed, holding a small hand in her lap. She looked up when they walked in. “Please, doctor” she said, “please save our little princess.”
Eileen wasn’t sure what to do, so she let her medical training take over, and set upon treating the girl like she was any other. Time passed. Time she couldn’t count because there was a curious absence of clocks — and, much to her relief, the girl’s fever broke, and a small smattering of color came back to her face. To think what might have happened if she’d failed! The doctor shivered at the thought.
The mother, with tears of relief in those pale eyes, put a small silk purse in Eileen’s hands and closed her fingers around it tightly. “Now mind! Don’t look in your hands until you exit the front gate,” the lady warned. “And ignore everyone around you until then, too. Take nothing offered. Say nothing back.”
They were strange directions, but when she exited the room, Eileen realized they were definitely needed. All the servants were crowded around as she walked out of the house, holding up great trays of amazing-smelling food, trying to put handfuls of gold coins and jewels in her hands, trying to convince her to talk to them…
“You saved the Princess! We’re ever so grateful to you!” they called.
"I saved the princess!" she thought to herself. "What kind of princess could she be?" And thought it over as she made her way through the door. Such strange circumstances could only mean…
She looked at the ground and broke into a run, then, with eyes closed leapt and pushed through the gate with all her might.
Upon which she found herself back at the bus stop, though it was almost dusk. Then groaned realizing it was past the start of the night shift, and there hadn’t been time to sleep at all! Remembering the package in hand, she looked down at the bundle.
In the middle of her palm was a pig’s ear, gross, but there was also a thick gold coin with a strange marking on it. She brought it to her mouth and bit down—it was real. “But,” she muttered, to no one in particular, “this doesn’t make me any less late for my shift.”
But then she smiled to herself anyway, feeling oddly happy about having saved the fairy princess.
Fairies, the fairy princess, could it be true? It was certainly a bizarre day! Had she actually been surrounded by fairies and indeed truly be responsible for saving the fairy princess?
She thought her career as a doctor was off to an amazing start, but she doubted anyone would believe what had happened this day. Herself, a fairy doctor! She sighed and hurried back inside to work in the real and mundane world.
Unbeknownst to her, the coin was incredibly lucky, and would bring her family good luck and fortune for seven and seven generations. But, she was also completely right: it didn’t make her any less late for her shift, and didn’t magically prevent a reprimanding by the head doctor.
The fey can only do so much.
You can find the original version of The Doctor and the Fairy Princess in Library Ireland’s collection of ancient legends.
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