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Fiction #392
(published July 24, 2008)
by Noah Berlatsky
Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl named Lorna, who lived with her mother in a house in the woods. Lorna was so beautiful that everyone who saw her fell in love with her. This was a nuisance; she couldn't go to the stream to get a drink of water without getting twenty marriage proposals, and it was hard to feed the hens when the lawn was covered with young men kneeling and weeping. Lorna got so fed up that she didn't even want to leave the house, and when she did leave it she'd have to put a bag over her head, which made it hard to see. Her mother, who was old and wrinkled and had an odd sense of humor, would giggle when she saw Lorna walking around and bumping into things. But she did love her daughter, and she knew this sort of thing wouldn't do for the long term. So she told Lorna, "When I die, and you must seek your fortune, take my skin and wear it to disguise your beauty."

Eventually, Lorna's mother died. Lorna did as she'd been told; she took her mother's skin, clothed herself in it, and went off to seek her fortune. She enjoyed walking through the fields without a bag over her head and without having to dodge love-sick suitors, even though having to wear her mother's skin was a little icky. Finally, after a long trek, Lorna reached a large castle. She knocked and the Prince who owned the castle came to the door. As it happened, he needed someone to watch his geese. Lorna took the job.

Lorna moved into a little hut near the castle. She might have lived happily ever after there tending the geese, except that her mother's skin didn't fit exactly right. During the day it was okay, but at night when she was trying to sleep it pinched and itched, and she discovered that if she wanted any sleep at all she had to remove it. So she put it at the foot of her bed. And in the morning the geese would poke their heads into her hut, and see her sleeping in her natural form. Then they'd fly into the air singing, "Honk! Lorna's prettier than you think! Honk! Honk!"

One day the Prince happened to be up early wandering out in the fields. He heard the geese honking about Lorna, and he was curious. So he walked over to Lorna's hut and saw her through the window just as she was about to put on her mother's skin. "Oh, drat!" said Lorna. "Does this mean you're going to fall in love with me now?" And of course it did. But the Prince was fairly handsome himself, and, to tell the truth, Lorna was tired of geese and of dead skin. So she married him, and after a while, as she got older, she grew less pretty, and started to look rather like her mother even without the skin. Eventually only the prince and the geese and her children loved her, and all the young men fell in love with somebody else. Which was perfectly all right with her.

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