© 1995-2001 Untangle Incorporated
Last Updated: Friday, March 24, 2001

Here is a slightly modified story which I heard as a young man when I asked 'What do women want anyway?'

Once upon a time there was a young man named Robert who poached from the king's forest. Now he knew that he should not do that for it was forbidden by decree posted on a tree beside the road at the edge of the forest. And was chasing a deer outside the forest who dashed into the forest. And so he killed a deer foreign to the King's forest in the forest. Robert was an honest lad, so he told the truth and looked straight into the eyes of the sheriff's men, then the warden, then the King himself.

And the King paused before he sentenced young Robert. "Perhaps you have circumstances that merit leniency; but if I let you free, before nightfall every thief, poacher and wastrel will be killing my game and saying the game strayed from hither and yon outside the forest. Nay, it is not for I to decide but instead I will leave it up to the good gods above and below and all about to decide what should be your fate. " And here the King paused again, looked at his wife with whom he had just being arguing, and nodded his head, then spoke thusly:
"You shall be executed one year hence unless you answer the following question:
'What do women want anyway?'
So that is my judgement. One year to give me a credible answer and you shall be free. May the gods favor you."

Now there is no lack of women in the kingdom, and every free day Robert had he went from woman to woman, and some came to him, asked of each what 'Did women want anyway?'. And he received many an answer, although many were repetitive. But none seemed right to him, or even after a short while to the woman who had given it. Robert wished to be careful for he knew the King would take only one answer, and it would have to be an answer which felt right deep into the bones. Sometimes he went out alone and sometimes he went out with a friend or two. And it was not long before he heard from one woman or another that the woman who would have the answer was 'The Old Hag' who lived yonder and then some. And everyone told him that 'The Old Hag' would extract a heavy price for her answer.

Robert knew he was afraid to face 'The Old Hag', and did not know how he could ever pay her whatever she asked. So those feelings and thoughts and the scarcity of free days soon meant that he was only one day away from the year end. So in desperation he went with his best friend, the very handsome man Pat to the cave of 'The Old Hag'. And loathsome was she ever. One tooth she had, scarce of hair too, two squinty eyes, warts grew on her face, sometimes on other warts. Even worse was her smell which forced the young men to stand upwind of her. But in some things Robert was very brave and asking her to her face was easily done although he feared the answer. 'The Old Hag' smiled and the men wished she had not.

"I shall tell you the answer but there is a price. And here is the price. I wish to be wed to your friend here, Pat, for I like the look of him, and I think him equal in value to the answer I give you."

Before Robert could protest the unfairness of the request, for Pat was his friend, and not someone he could 'give', Pat spoke up and said, "For friendship preserved, for my friend's life, I feel that is a low price indeed. I am willing."

"Your friend is willing, do you want the answer. The choice is now yours."

Robert hesitated, but there was no deception here, Pat could see, hear and smell what he was choosing. "Well, since Pat has freely chosen your price, then yes, I want to hear your answer to the question 'What do women want anyway?', but I shall judge whether it is an answer which I am willing to risk putting before the King tomorrow."

"Fine, that is your choice to make. But do you Pat swear to me that you will marry me as soon as the King says your friend Rober here is free?" And Pat said that he would as quick as a blink marry her.

"Good. Here is my answer which shall free you Robert: 'Woman want only to control their own life; to themselves make decisions about themselves. That is what women want. Anyway, any how, and any time."

And the answer went deep into Robert's and Pat's bones and they knew it was an answer that the King would accept as well. And he did. And then the wedding within a fortnight was held. Many people told Pat to get out of the marriage by hook or crook. And he refused. "She may be more loathsome than anyone ever told of, but she made a bargain with me for my friend's life, and Robert has his life now, so I shall honor the bargain, and give her the marriage. For agreements are not made with words but with spirits, and her spirit wishes for me as I am, so I shall give my spirit as it is to her."

The wedding day went as everyone expected. Pat was courteous, and geniunely treated 'The Old Hag' with respect and dignity, hers and his, which helped all the guests present to treat her likewise. And she belched and farted during the ceremony. She wolved her food and drink down during the reception, and made true but rude comments about all the guests. Then came the evenings, and the bedroom.

Pat let 'The Old Hag' walk before him into the bedroom, and he turned, closed the door, then turned back as was startled by what he saw. 'The Old Hag' was a beautiful woman who spoke a pleasing but stern voice to him. "You can have what you see before now by night, or by day, the choice is yours." And Pat bowed to the woman before him, and said thusly:
"The choice of what you are, or what you appear is not for me to make, but for you and you alone to make." The woman smiled, and though it was night the sun seemed to appear. Then she said, "You have given me what everyone one wants, and for that freely given, I will freely give you this. As you see, hear, smell and soon feel me now, so shall I ever be with you."

And so it was. Robert, and especially Pat and 'The Old Hag' lived happily ever after.
The End
Probably based on the myth cited in "The Beast to the Blond" by Marina Warner

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