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Sleeping Castle and Sleeping Princess

Sleeping Castle
by Jane Yolen

Hawk in its stoop over the castle tower
falls to the hardened ground.
Sleeping flies drop from the air,
The pups at the teat drool into sleep.
Dog boy, ostler, grooms at their places,
dreams imprinting on dirty faces,
sleep on their feet. Beneath the threatening
wooden spoon cook’s boy
escapes a beating, as cook
closes first her right eye, then left,
as if she’s having trouble, seeing double.

In the throne room, the king nods off.
At her tapestry, the queen’s needle stills.
No one pays the castle bills, brings in wood,
bastes the venison, pays the beggar’s benison,
says a prayer.

Now all there is—is dead air.

Sleeping Princess
by Jane Yolen

He passes the sleeping guards, in grayed uniforms,
rusted armor, avoids dozing dogs who bare their teeth
at nightmares.

The portcullis yawns, he ducks through,
never wondering at the scattered bodies.
He knows magic when he sees it.

He hesitates at the foot of the tower stairs.
Rumor has it a princess sleeps up there,
her dowry eaten by the years.

But story draws him up creaking risers,
to the room where she lies, face flushed
with dreams.

It’s not just the princess who enchants him.
It’s the tale. The promise. The title of hero,
which has so far eluded him.

All he has to do is bend to her.
All he has to do is kiss her lips.
She turns in her sleep. Smiles shyly.

And the rest is his(story).

* * *

Jane Yolen, a Grand Master of SFPA, the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and author of over 360 books, has won two Nebulas for short fiction, a World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Society Awards, the NESFA Skylark Award (which set her good coat on fire—so beware of awards!) and has six honorary doctorates for her body of work. Her mythic poetry has been published regularly in Asimov’s, Mythic Delirium, Goblin Fruit, Interfictions. Liminality, and dozens of anthologies. Her website is

What advice do you have for other fantasy writers?

Read widely, and not just fantasy: read the old folk and fairy tales, history, anthropology, Field guides, biographies of explorers, archaeology, science, natural history, religious history, art books. How can you make up a new world if you don’t understand ours?