There was once a man who had everything that a king could offer him. The king gave him gold, a castle, the finest horses and even the hand of his daughter since he was born with nobility in his blood. However, the man turned down everything and only asked that if the king needed a painting done he should call on him. The king accepted and could not believe his luck. Taking the artists offer was easy. However, keeping it soon became a difficulty.
The painter was humble and poorly, despite his nobility. Living in a home that did not reflect his status with the king. The king paid this no mind and the peasants only found it foolish of the painter to not seeker greater rewards. However, there was someone who found this a truly redeeming quality of the man who would work for the king. It was a hag, her name forgotten and her appearance worn down to nothing.
The hag paid a visit to the painter to make a request of him. Knocking on his door in the middle of the night until he responded. The painter was struck with a moment of horror and disgust at the sight of the hag, but soon this vanished as the hag bowed to him.
“Please, humble painter,” the hag begged. “Do not be fearful of me, I only request your skill for a single painting. I need your help to look beautiful.”
“I cannot change a way a person looks,” the painter laughed. “I paint what I see. If you want, I can paint your portrait to the best of my ability, but I hold no magic that can change who you are.”
The hag, disheartened, accepted the offer and sat down for her portrait. The painter, although tired, felt all too ready to paint a new face, so he asked the hag to be patient with him, telling her that this portrait of her would be the best one he ever did. The hag smiled at the painters dedication and despite telling her that her face would always be that way, was happy that he would still paint it.
The hag sat and the painter painted for hours until the light of day began to leak into the decrepit home. Through the day the painter painted and unlike the hag he did not eat nor drink. He would not until the portrait was done and hag was touched by the actions of the noble painter. There was such kindness in him that she had not seen from peasants and especially not from nobility. The hag began to feel love for the painter.
Through the day and one more night and the painting needed to dry before he continued. The hag asked if she could see the portrait and the painter told her that would not be permitted until it was finished. He was the only one to gaze upon the picture until the last brush stroke left the canvas. Not wanting to upset the painter, the hag heeded his warning and left the painter’s home while he recuperated with food and water.
The hag would return in time, but before then the princess heard about the painters dedication to his latest portrait. Already insulted by the fact the painter turned down her hand she wondered who could outmatch her beauty. She decided to sneak out of the castle and enter the painters home late at night to destroy the portrait. She would request another of herself and this one would his greatest of all.
The painter left one night to seek the hag while the princess snuck into his home. It didn’t take long to find the hag, she waited for him near a river close to town. The painter expressed his admiration of the hag and the hag smiled happily, expressing her own love for him. She asked him if he could ever fall in love with someone with her disfigured face, but to this he replied that one who falls in love with a face is not truly in love. He had fallen in love with the hag and asked for hand to which she accepted with joy in her heart.
With a sly smile she felt the heart of an intruder enter the painters home. With a click of her fingers the painting became enchanted to keep to the painters rule that only he may gaze upon the painting. As the princess lifted the sheet to stare at the painting she immediately disappeared into a puff of smoke and feathers.
When the painter brushed the ragged hair from the hag’s face he was shocked to find she was a lot more beautiful than she had let him believe. He felt he recognised the face of the hag. The two retired to his home and he continued the portrait, blissfully unaware that the painting had changed with the hag to that of the princess. The magic had power that the hag entered the castle as the princess to tell her new father, the king, the painter had accepted her hand. The king rejoiced and the painter felt confused, but in the end, the hag had a heart that could lead the kingdom well and he could not see himself with anyone else.
He continued the portrait inside the castle walls and once complete it hung in the throne room. The beauty of the hag was captured in every aspect of the painting while the cruel princess had her soul captured in the painted world. The kingdom was blissfully enchanted by the hags magic. She had no idea she would no take the place of the princess, but as chance would have it she now wore beauty that matched her heart.
The painter continued to paint whoever wished to be painted, but no painting would ever match the quality and dedication he put into the hags painting. The kingdom ruled through peace and quiet, knowing that the later King and Queen would rule it with benevolence.