Chosen: Microfiction


Ilya Repin. “Choosing a Bride for the Grand Duke” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Once long ago, as the full moon glowed in the sky, a line of maidens stood in brilliantly colored gowns and feathered headdresses. They chattered and peeped like exotic birds, as they waited for the king to arrive to choose one of them to be his bride.

Katerina alone was silent; she comforted herself with the thought that she was unlikely to be chosen. She had nothing against the king in particular—he seemed pleasant enough. But marriage to him meant a life of seclusion in the women’s quarters, a gilded cage, a life spent producing babies and little else.

Katerina’s mother had convinced her father that reading was a skill that would allow Katerina to assist her future husband. So as she stood waiting in the Great Hall, Katerina read. When the trumpets sounded, announcing the King’s arrival, she quickly tucked her book inside one of her wide sleeves.

As the king strode down the line, each maiden curtsied before him. When he stood in front of Katerina, she bent low, and as the king took her hand, the book slipped from her sleeve and dropped to the ground. The onlookers gasped, but the king merely bent and picked up the book. Glancing at its title, he smiled, commenting that philosophy was an unusual choice for a woman. He handed the book back to Katerina and walked on. Throughout the night, the king talked to all of the women, but he kept returning to Katerina.

At dawn, the King announced he had chosen Katerina to be his queen. As a result, carrying books—even if they were not read–became a fad among unmarried women. Over time, Katerina adjusted to her role as queen and to life in a “gilded cage”—though she had to admit that it was a luxurious, gilded cage that many would envy. Using her position, she convinced the king to let her teach all the women at court to read. A generation later, all of girls in their country, as well as the boys, were permitted to go to school. Finally, after many decades, on another moonlit night, a woman became the leader of the nation. She was also named Katerina, after her distant ancestor, the queen who made books and reading fashionable.


This fairy tale was written when I was feeling hopeful. It is for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge—though I am again stretching the meaning of the term “micro.”  There were two possible painting prompts, I chose the one above.





21 thoughts on “Chosen: Microfiction

      • The world, though worse for wear, survived 8 years of Bush/Cheney.
        People, democracies, this world is not so fragile, but, if nothing else resilient. Have heart.

      • I worked with an outside contractor to develop a workshop for a corporate HQ’s HRD Dept ( pardon the alphabet soup) for managers who had clamored for it. They were overwhelmed by the increase pace of change and felt out of their depth.
        One thing I learned is that dealing with change is similar to the process of grieving. Certainly true with a change of this magnitude. We have to, as writers, illuminate what led us to this pass and focus on healing. In my humble opinion.

  1. Well, I found this micro-fiction fascinating, hopeful, fun, and believable. Fairy tales DO come true. We just need to believe in them. Thanks for an excellent story. I needed something to lighten my heart, and you just did.

  2. I Loved your fairy story, Merril, with so much more of a ‘happy ever after’ ending than the usual domestic monotony one. Cheer up, it’s happening the world over. The ignorant prevail everywhere.

  3. Thank you for this, the happy ending. ♥ I’m hoping there is still hope although it’s hard to see it right now while the shock is so fresh and new. Maybe reading and education will someday come back into fashion.

  4. I really liked your story and imagined the perfect place for a small book would be in those voluminous sleeves. 🙂 She impressed him with her intellect and he was open to this as her husband. Lovely, wonderful and hopeful, Merril!

    I grieved most of the day. Thank you for your kind words and comforting thoughts in the early morning hours. . . another day will come but my Mom was so excited to know she had lived through many “firsts” and wanted thus to be a landmark year with President Hillary R. Clinton.

    • Thank you, Robin. I really worked on this story. I first had her tucking the book under her belt, but then I didn’t know if it would fall when she bent, so I changed it to her sleeve.

      I so wanted my mom’s vote this year –as well as all of ours–to be for the first woman president, too. She’s 94, so I don’t know if she’ll get another chance to vote for a president. My niece said though that my mom wasn’t all that depressed. I guess she’s been through more history, and she just said something like it will be bad for four years, and then we’ll have someone else.

  5. Pingback: Microfiction challenge The Choice: the entries – Jane Dougherty Writes

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