A kingdom fell under a drought which caused a deep famine. The king and queen did everything they could to heal the land and take care of their people. They even told their children that if either of them found a way to heal the land, that child would get the throne.
They had two children: a boy and a girl. The prideful prince was determined to stop the drought and secure the throne. His sister cared deeply about the people and decided to do what she could to help. She was a quiet person that kept to herself, but for the sake of the people she went out and asked people what they knew. She listened to each person intently and thanked them for their kindness, even if they did not have any to offer. Her brother found that to be a waste of time and chose a different approach. He paraded around the kingdom declaring that if anyone knew how to solve the famine, he would reward them handsomely.
One day the princess was speaking with an old woman who lived in the attic of a bakery. She told the girl that when the woman was younger, there were rumors of a witch who lived in a cave that possessed great powers. The princess asked the woman where the cave was, and after she told her, the princess was off in search of the witch.
Finding the cave and the witch, the princess asked if she held the power to stop the famine. The witch said she could, but the princess would need to do something. She said, “All you have to do is kill your brother. Once he has taken his last breath, fill this jar all the way to the top with his blood. After you’ve finished, take the jar and pour it out around the first tree you see. By the time you return home, the drought will have ended and there will be no more famine in the land.”
This greatly troubled the girl, so she found her brother and told her about the witch in the cave. Relaying to him everything she told her. “I could never do such a thing to you,” she told him. “But if you are willing to make this sacrifice for the kingdom, I will try.”
“I cannot,” he answered.
She accepted his answer and went home. Once she was gone, the prince sought out the witch in the cave and once he found her, he asked if she really knew how to heal the land of the drought and end the famine. She told him that she did. He then asked what he had to do.
She answered him. “All you have to do is kill your sister. Once she has taken her last breath, fill this jar all the way to the top with her blood. After you’ve finished, take the jar and pour it out around the first tree you see. By the time you return home, the drought will have ended and there will be no more famine in the land.”
Taking the jar, the prince returned to the castle, thinking to himself, surely no one would miss the princess.
Once he found his sister, he told her that he found a way to heal the land, but he needed her to come with him. She quickly got up and followed him. He took her to the beach and they walked along the shore. She kept inquiring about what he found, but every time he told her to wait. Letting her walk ahead of him, he came up from behind and killed her. After filling the jar up to the top with her blood, he buried her body in the sand and left the beach. Walking up to the first tree he saw, he poured the blood around the tree then returned home.
Upon finding that the prince cured the famine, the king made him the crown prince, promising him his throne. But the absence of the princess was noticed, and the king and queen began inquiring about her and where she could have gone. The prince too pretended to show concern and suggested they send out search parties, but the princess was never found.
One day a sailor was strolling on the beach and found a bone sticking up from the ground. Taking it, he carved it into a flute. Once he returned to the docks with the rest of the sailors, he lifted the flute to his lips to play them a song, but instead the flute itself began to sing.
“My brother killed me in the sand
“I knew nothing of his plot
“He used my blood to heal this land
“Now I’m left on the beach to rot”
This greatly alarmed the sailors. They weren’t sure what to do, so he played the flute again and it said the same thing. This time, the king was out near the docks with one of the search parties. Hearing this peculiar tune, he asked the sailor to play it for him. After hearing it again, he asked the sailor to return to the castle and play it for him and his wife. He obeyed and soon they were back at the castle with the queen. The king ordered the sailor to play the flute for him and his wife. The sailor did so, and the flute sang.
“He killed me, oh father
“Because of your son, I’m dead
“To think of me? He didn’t bother
“He left me on the beach instead”
This greatly disturbed the king and queen. They ordered for their son to come immediately. Once he appeared, the sailor played the flute for him and the king and queen pressed the prince on what he had done to his sister. At first the prince denied being involved in her disappearance, but the flute kept repeating its song, so the prince gave in and confessed to killing his sister.
The king was furious. He stripped his son of his title, and sentenced him to spend the rest of his life in prison. He deserved death, but the king and queen had already lost one child and didn’t want to lose the other, but he had to be punished.
They had a statue made in the princess’ honor to celebrate her great sacrifice for their kingdom and moved her remains to a proper burial. It didn’t remove their grief, but it brought them group comfort to do this last deed for their daughter.
Chloe Harrah, writer of Her Singing Bones.