February 12th – The Festival of The Frozen Prince

The statuary fills an old mill’s yard by the river in the west of Buentoille. When the Monarchy fell in 1905, many statues and gaudy depictions of the Traitor King and his kin were removed from their places of public prominence and placed there; Buentoillitants care too much for cultural antiquity to simply smash and melt them down, but they didn’t want the dictators marks covering the City, like a dog marking its territory.

For the most part the statues are well executed, but uninspired. Their style is either a boring derivation of the High Buentoilliçan tradition, ‘realistic’ yet unnatural naked figures in bronze and white marble, or, jarringly, the jagged black symbolic monoliths. Both are relics of a brutishness, a fascination with raw power, a complete lack of subtlety. They tend to depict images of the Traitor King and his ancestors as heroic figures throughout history and myth; here the King looks down from a high pedestal, enthroned a victor of some imagined battle, his enemies strewn beneath; here he fires a flaming arrow toward the skies, like Adolin the creator of the sun in Ancient Helican myth (Helica was a small coastal empire, destroyed long ago, that many western Buentoillitants and the old Buentoillitant Monarchs claimed heritage from).

There is one statue, however, that seems out of place. It’s cast in bronze, like so many others, yet it’s style and subject are different; there seems to be more consideration put into the form than with the other bronze and marble works. Whereas their subjects seem stiff, positioned in subtly unnatural positions, the young man depicted in this exceptional piece looks as if he could turn to face you. He is precisely the scale of a real human, and sits in a corner by the wall, his knees pulled up to his chest, studying something that’s long missing from his outstretched hand.

The origins of this statue are seemingly unknown. Unlike many of the others there are no marks left by the artist, and nobody seems to be able to remember where it originally came from. The currently favoured theory is that it came from a private wing of the Traitor King’s palace, hence why nobody remembers it. As to the figure it depicts, some people think it might be Siraman, the Ancient Helican god of quiet contemplation, but this is a hotly contested subject. It’s thought that the piece might be far older than the surrounding statues, and was mistakenly taken from the palace as a piece of monarchist art, because of the small crown that lays by the figure’s feet.

The statuary is a known haunt of modern Monarchists, a practice which is loosely tolerated, though the offerings they leave by busts of the Traitor King are often stolen or destroyed. Yet the statuary will today attract a less ghoulish form of visitor; a line of young women and men will form in front of the statue, each taking their turn to kiss the statue on the lips, after they have placed a small picture of themselves in its outstretched hand. Each visitor hopes that the statue will come alive and kiss them back, although of course it never does.

The origin of this practice is down to two, seemingly unconnected, factors. Firstly is the tale of the Frozen Prince: in ancient days a beautiful Buentoilliçan prince was promised to a Strigaxian witch-princess, in return for that city’s help in a war. The prince, so afraid of the marriage, went to the church, prayed that he be spared the horrible fate, and was promptly turned to stone. Secondly is page 164 of Kitsin Baffle’s Oncanni Pediktshuns, which states that on the 12th of February ‘troo love shalle unstyk the prinse.’ The book, written by a near-illiterate hedge-witch, has apparently made numerous true predictions, but nobody has realised what they mean until the event has occurred, because of their near-illegibility and rambling nature. An article in The Warren Reader in 1967 was the first to note a connection between these two factors and the statue, which is, apart from anything else, ravishingly beautiful. In the article, Jerald Stomprint joked that the ‘young, romance-obsessed generation would do well to kiss the statue to see if it wants to marry them.’

Whilst the statue has never come to life and kissed back, other romances have formed between those who have met between the crumbling statues, the festival’s theme leading their minds down certain paths. Around the figure’s mouth the bronze shines brightly, polished over the years by many ardent young lips. We many never truly know where the statue came from, or who’s likeness has been so adored, but to these young romantics, it hardly seems to matter.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Orderlies of Good Health’s smiling cherub competition final