Smile

The Russian fairytale The Princess Who Never Smiled tells the story of a sad father who wants nothing more than to see his daughter smile. No matter what anyone does, the princess simply doesn’t show any joy.

Enter a young man who works hard and each year is offered a bonus by his employer. The employer offers a sack of money, telling the young man to take as much as he wanted. Not wanting to be greedy, he takes only a single coin; however he loses this coin when he takes a drink from a well.

The following year, the employer repeats the gesture. The young man takes only a single coin, and again he loses it. The third year, he takes another coin but this time does not lose it, and as he drinks from the well the two other coins float up to the surface. The young man collects his coins and decides to see the world.

As he goes about his journey, he gives away each of his coins to three small animals. Penniless, he comes across a castle where the princess lives. The young man falls in mud when he notices the princess looking at him. The three animals he had helped all come to his aid and their antics makes the princess laugh. The princess ends up marrying the young man and then spends much of her time smiling and laughing.

There are two versions of this fairytale – this one with the coins and animals, and another with a worker paid with eggs, a piglet, fish and then a cow. Both have the same underlying story – always work hard, try your best every time and learn how to adjust when things don’t go to plan.

This fairytale is a very fitting reminder that we must remember to remain humble and not be greedy. It reminds me of a quote that I have tried to live by when going about my work:

Work hard in silence, let your success be your noise.

Frank Ocean

We see this noise of success in the hard working young man in the fairytale – he worked hard, took little and was thankful for what he’d received, and from his generosity came his great success of making a princes laugh and smile. He didn’t have an agenda to make her smile.

Each year he went about his work, focused on his tasks, remained humble and helped others. This young man could have taken more coins from the sack, but what would this have said about his personality? Greedy? Narcissistic? Egotistical? Needy?

For his hard work, he is rewarded more than merely a few coins. The young man is turned into a handsome man who marries the princess. So what does this fairytale teach us. There are a handful of lessons we can take away from it, likely the most important ones are to be focused on our tasks, be selfless when we have an opportunity to help others or focus on their needs, and to know that recognition of our work through voluntary means is far more rewarding than deliberately pursuing or requesting it.

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