East of the Strawberry

Amy Caylor
Aug 10 · 6 min read

Amy sank into the pile of stuffed animals that engulfed her sister’s bed, ready to tell her a bedtime story.

She began…


Once upon a time, there was a girl named Strawberry, as in Strawberry Shortcake. She lived with her parents up north, where there was a lot of snow and stuff.

One day, as they were eating dinner, a polar bear walked through the front door.

“Hello.” the bear said. “If Strawberry comes with me and lives with me for a year and a day, then I will give you a bunch of money.”

“Why a year and a day?”

“Because it sounds poetic, now hush.”

“Why should we trust you?” her mother said.

“I’m a talking polar bear.”

“That’s a good point,” she concluded.

The family thought the proposal over and decided that it was a good deal. Strawberry was sent to live with the bear in his ice palace. It wasn’t literally made of ice, like Elsa’s. That would be cold and wet all the time. Instead, it just looked like ice. There was no one in the palace besides Strawberry and the polar bear. That day, Strawberry explored the castle with the polar bear and when it became dark she went to bed in her room.

Now, this was in Ye Olden Days, when they didn’t have electricity. There was no fireplace in Strawberry’s room, or candles or lanterns. It was completely dark.

“Wasn’t she cold?”

“She had blankets.”

Then someone got into bed next to her.

It wasn’t the bear, and she hadn’t seen anyone else in the castle. With all the darkness in the room, she couldn’t see who it was. She was so scared she couldn’t move, but when she woke up the next morning the man was gone. It must have been a nightmare.

“How did she know it was a man if she couldn’t see?”

“He snored like a man.”

“I knew it.”

But it happened against the next night. And the next night. When she asked the bear the only thing he would tell her was to never look at the man.

Over the course of the year, she got to know the bear better. She found he was very kind and had a sense of humor too. She enjoyed her time at the ice castle, but every night, the man slipped into bed beside her even if she tried to take up the whole bed. She didn’t like that part of her stay.

When she only had ten or so days left of her year with him, Strawberry visited her family. She told them how happy she was at the castle, and how kind the bear was, but there was a man who came and got in her bed every night.

Her mother was very alarmed. (As she should be.) She gave Strawberry a lantern and some matches and told her to look at the man. So Strawberry went back to the castle, and soon it was the 101st night, her last night with the bear.

“The 366th night.”

“What?”

“You said she stayed with him for a year and a day. That’s 366 nights, not 101. And I still don’t get why she needed to stay for a year and a day.”

“I got mixed up. And it’s because it sounds cool, okay?”

It was the 366th night. Strawberry thought about the bear and how kind he had always been to her. She thought about how he told her never to look at the man. Then she reached for the lantern and lit the match.

She did not recognize the man laying beside her (although that wasn’t very surprising because the bear was the only other person she had seen at the castle.) He opened his eyes and looked at her.

“Strawberry. What have you done?”

Then there was a bunch of light and wind and evil cackling and the next thing Strawberry knew she was sitting on the ground where the ice castle used to be and the polar bear was nowhere to be found.

Luckily, the North Wind was nearby, and he knew what was going on.

“The what?”

“The North Wind. You know, the stuff that blows through the air? This was the North one.”

It turns out the polar bear was actually a prince!

“Knew it! Just like in Beauty and the Beast.”

He had been engaged to the Troll Queen, but didn’t want to marry her.

“Don’t you mean Troll Princess?”

“Um… No. I mean the Queen.”

“Queens don’t get married. Princesses get married.”

“This Troll was the ruler of all Trolls… which makes her a queen.”

The Trolls were not very nice people. Though they had magic, they could not create, only destroy. They could not clean, they could only dirty. They could only… another metaphor that fits this pattern.

“They couldn’t take showers, they could only get muddy.”

“Yeah, that.”

The prince didn’t want to marry the Troll Queen, so she cast a curse on him. She turned him into a polar bear and told him he needed to get a girl to come and live with him for a year and a day, and he would need to get in bed beside her. If she never looked at him then he would go free, but if she did then the prince would belong to the Troll Queen.

“Which was a weirdly specific curse when you think about it. Also, Strawberry and the polar bear fell in love after spending the year together. I forgot to mention that earlier.”

“Seriously?”

Since Strawberry had looked at the prince, he was going to be married to the Troll Queen. Strawberry needed to save him. She convinced the North Wind to take her to the Troll’s castle, where it laid east of the sun and west of the moon and went up to the gates.

“Why should we let a human like you in?” the Troll guard said.

“Wait, Strawberry was a human?”

“Yeah! What did you think she was?”

“A strawberry? Like that one in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.”

“No! She was human!”

Knowing that Trolls could not create anything, Strawberry offered to make —

“Strawberry pancakes!”

“No, she was going to card and spin wool… but I like strawberry pancakes better.”

Strawberry offered to make strawberry pancakes, and she was let inside. Unfortunately, the prince was locked up in his tower until the wedding day, which was three days away. Luckily, Strawberry was able to get to him at the rehearsal dinner, and they made a plan.

The Trolls had a custom. At every wedding, the groom could ask something of the bride and vice versa, and if she could not grant it then the marriage was annulled. The prince couldn’t ask to be set free, but he had another request.

The day of the wedding came. The Troll Queen came down the aisle. The priest began his sermon. “Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together today…”

“Stop.” the prince said. “I have a request for you, my bride. I want you to… wash my shirt!”

“Oh, I get it!”

The Queen scoffed at such a simple request. She got some warm water and some soap and began to scrub. But no matter how hard she scrubbed, the shirt just got dirtier and dirtier.

Finally, the Queen gave up. “I may not marry you, princeling.” she snarled. “But that doesn’t mean you won’t be my prisoner for the rest of your days!”

Strawberry stepped forward. She got into the warm water and scrubbed the shirt until it was clean. This broke the Troll Queen’s magic. The prince was free!

Strawberry and the prince went home. They got married and lived happily ever after.

The End. Now go to bed!

Amy Caylor

Written by

Lover of Words, Stories, and Dragons. Freelance writer and editor. https://acaylor.com/

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