Posted in fiction, Tabletop Poetry (and Other Artforms)

Penta the One-Handed

I recently joined a D&D campaign with some friends, and when building my character, asked if I could base her off the fairytale of Penta. The DM consented, and I got a lot of pleasure out of introducing my friends to this bizarre fairytale (though it is normal enough to have it’s own Aarne-Thompson classification.) The major change we made to the character was to have her lose only one hand, as I wasn’t sure I was knowledgeable enough to play a character with no hands. But as such, I re-wrote the fairytale to match this new variation:

Many years ago, the king and queen of Ilaennel thought they would not have another child. They already had a son as their heir, but the queen had nearly died giving birth to him, and so she believed that she would never give birth again. But one day, she became unexpectedly pregnant, and nine months later, a baby girl was born. They named her Penta. Her entire family doted on her, and she was beloved by all the kingdom, for she was the miracle no one expected. Even when her brother married, his new wife loved her as her own sister. And when her parents died, and her brother took the throne, he grew even closer to her, and she helped him make decisions in the kingdom. And thus the girl grew into a beautiful woman, the most beloved princess of Ilaennel.

But a few years after the death of her parents, an epidemic swept through the kingdom. Soon, the new queen, her brother’s wife, fell ill and perished. Penta’s brother was thrown into such despair he lost his mind. For weeks, he mourned and rarely left his room, though Penta brought him his supper every night and found herself making decisions on his behalf.

At last, her brother grew strong again and returned to his duties. And the next morning, he summoned Penta to his office. The guard at the door let her in. Her brother sat at his desk, pouring over paperwork, but he leapt up with joy when he saw Penta.

“My sweet sister!” he said, “So happy am I to see you.” And he embraced her.

“It is good to see you well again, brother. I miss my sister-in-law as well, but I am happy to see I have regained one sibling today.”

Her brother. “You have not lost me, my dear. For I have been planning your marriage.”

“Oh?” Penta asked. She knew it was her responsibility to one day marry for the good of the kingdom, as her brother had, but she had hoped that day would not come so soon.

“As you know, our parents chose a wife for me, and as they are gone, it is my duty to choose a husband for you. I have done so.”

“Pray tell, who is this man? And when shall I meet him?”

“Why you have already met him.” Penta’s brother took both her hands in his and looked into her eyes. “For it is I.”

Penta recoiled at this. “You must be joking. I cannot marry you. We’re brother and sister.”

Even as she moved away, her brother advanced toward her. “And this union will only serve to make us closer.”

“Why do you want to marry me?” Penta asked, “when there are so many other women in the kingdom?”

“None so beautiful as you!”

“Then find someone outside of the kingdom!”

“But no woman from outside the kingdom would be able to understand our people as you do.”

Penta returned to her brother, taking his hands again. “And because I know our people so well, I know that they would never consent to this union.”

“They do not have to consent, my sister. For we would be king and queen.”

“No.” Penta dropped his hands, and with them, all hope that he would understand his folly. “You have gone mad, and I cannot marry you.”

“Then you shall be my captive until you agree.” And with that, her brother summoned the guard by the door.

Now, other princesses in this situation might try to think their way out of it. They might agree to his face, and then flee in the night in disguise, only to return after they have wooed the prince of another kingdom. But Penta was always a person of action. She pulled the guard’s scimitar from his belt, and laying her left arm on her brother’s desk, cut off her hand at the wrist. “You cannot marry me,” she said, “for I have no finger on which to place a ring.”


I am a poet, linguist, and ESL teacher who loves to play games.

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