Once upon a time in a far-off land, there lived a young prince named Little Prince Freedling. One morning, Little Prince Freedling rose out of bed like a holiday firecracker, which made sense, as it was a particularly special day.
It was his fifth birthday, and all of the church bells and grandfather clocks and cornetists of the kingdom were announcing the day, even at this early hour.
However, the prince did not make it past the foot of his bed, for there he found piles of beautifully wrapped and ribboned birthday gifts.
The first gift that Freedling unwrapped was from his fairy godmother. The note attached to the gift read: “Break me and I shall turn into something else.” And the toy did just that. What started out as a spinning hoop changed once Freedling broke it. In just one hour, the toy became a top, a great ark, a jump rope, a battleship, building blocks, a jigsaw puzzle, a booming bass drum, a kaleidoscope, a tin whistle, and a thousand other things. However, once it became a kite, its string broke, and off it flew, never to be seen again.
Disappointed, Little Prince Freedling looked for another gift to keep him busy. He found such a gift by his bay window: a great golden rocking horse, with flaring nostrils and a flowing mane and tail.Freedling dashed to the bay window and threw his little arms around the horse’s strong neck. The horse’s big, beautiful eyes shone so bright, one might have thought they were alive. The prince climbed atop the horse’s back and spent the rest of the day there, chasing the dragons and stags and villains that populated his bedroom.
That night, Little Prince Freedling woke up, longing to see his great, golden rocking horse just once more. Climbing out of bed, the prince was shocked to find that the horse was not where he had left it. Instead, it had somehow crossed his bedroom and now stood staring out the window and into the dark, dark night.
As Freedling crept close to the horse, he saw that its eyes were full of tears that streamed down its neck and shone in the starlight.
“Why are you crying?” Freedling asked.
Much to Freedling’s surprise, the rocking horse answered him. “I cry because I am not free. Won’t you open the window and let me go?” it asked.”How do I know you’ll come back?” asked Freedling.
The rocking horse replied, “My name is Rollonde. My brothers call me to come gallop to Rocking-Horse Land. Look through my mane and you will find one black hair. Pluck that hair and wrap it around your little finger. So long as that hair is wound just so, you are my master, and I shall return to your bedroom each morning.”The prince did just this, throwing open the bedroom window and calling, “Rollonde, go to Rocking-Horse Land, but please, please return to me come morning!”
The great, golden horse did just that, spending the night galloping across the starry sky with his brothers. And in the morning, he returned to the prince’s bedroom. And so a year went by, with Little Prince Freedling riding Rollonde each day and setting him free every night. Soon, the prince awoke to the sounds of his sixth birthday. The bells and clocks and cornets all called to him. The gifts all sat wrapped at the foot of his bed.
The first that Freedling opened was from his fairy godmother. This gift turned out to be a mynah bird. When the prince pulled the bird’s tail, it became a striped skink lizard. When the prince pulled the skink’s tail, it became a bouncing border collie. But when he pulled the pup’s tail, it became a large Manx cat, which has no tail at all. Seeing this, the prince left the cat alone and looked for his next gift.
The best gift that the prince received was from his parents. His father, the king, said, “Freedling, you are now old enough to ride a real horse,” and presented to his son the finest young stallion in the kingdom.
Little Prince Freedling spent the rest of that day riding his fine, new horse — so much time, in fact, that he completely forgot about his rocking horse, Rollonde.
That night, as Freedling fell asleep, he heard a crying from beside his bed. The prince looked up to find poor Rollonde standing there, tears streaming down his face.
“Oh, dear Prince Freedling,” the rocking horse wept, “I see that you now have a real horse of your very own. Will you let me go to Rocking-Horse Land for good?”The prince felt just awful for forgetting his loyal friend, saying to him, “Oh, Rollonde, please forgive me.”
And with that, Little Prince Freedling threw open the shutters and let Rollonde gallop off into the night sky.
Standing at the window, the prince watched his friend ride off to Rocking-Horse Land. As he did, Freedling took the black hair from his finger and let it float away, too.
Many years later when the boy formerly known as Little Prince Freedling had grown up and become King Freedling, it was the fifth birthday of his own son, the new prince. Beautifully wrapped and ribboned gifts covered the prince’s bedroom, including a beautiful, golden rocking-horse colt.The king knelt down and saw that the colt looked so much like his own beloved rocking horse. He searched its mane until he found a black hair. Plucking the hair, the king wrapped it around the prince’s finger, knowing that the boy would take good care of the son of his old friend, Rollonde.