by Freya Jackson

Once upon a time there was a girl whose name was Alice, but everyone called her Joy.

This was because Joy was so happy every day, nobody could think of a better name for her than Joy, so Joy she became.

Joy had a little sister, whose name was Amy. Some days Amy was happy, and some days she was sad, and so everybody called her Amy.






One day, Joy’s mother who was very wise told Joy that she must go out to seek her fortune as all young people are obliged to do.

And so Joy said goodbye to her mother and her little sister Amy, and set off into the unknown world.



Joy climbed up mountains.



And walked through deserts.


And rappelled down into
deep, dark caves.


In fact Joy spent a lot of time travelling,

But somehow she didn’t seem to actually go anywhere.

She just kept on moving along.


One day Joy was so tired that she sat down by the side of a stream and fell asleep.

Joy had never felt so tired in her life.

She was so tired that even her hair and her tonsils were tired.

She was so tired that her fingernails had stopped growing.


She was so tired that Joy was sure that she had been cursed, and maybe she was right.

Because, in the night, while Joy was fast asleep, Joy’s happiness got up and walked away.

When she awoke, Joy felt inside her an empty ache where her happiness used to be.

Afterwards, Joy started to cry and could not stop. This was very strange, as Joy didn’t usually cry. Joy was usually joyful.

Afterwards, Joy felt very tired, no matter how much sleep she got. Some nights she couldn’t sleep at all.

joy_9Afterwards, Joy found it very hard to carry on with her journey, so she didn’t.

Instead she just kept on sitting by the river, waiting for her happiness to come back

But it didn’t come back.



Slowly, an invisible cage descended upon Joy. She didn’t notice at first, but one day she looked up to see bars all around her.

Joy wept again. Now all Joy could see was the cage. Joy tried to push down the cage doors with all her strength, but they would not budge.



One day a young man came up to the cage.

‘Hello, strange person’ he said ‘I have come to seek my fortune.

I was told to follow the Myrastarous river up until the Anjuou tree, and there I would find my destiny – but I seem to have gotten lost.

Please tell me, is this the Myrastarous river?’

‘I’m sorry I don’t know’ said Joy.

‘Aha!’ said the strange man, ‘you must be a wanderer like me, off to seek your fortune!’

‘I was’ said Joy ‘But then I got trapped in this invisible cage, and I can’t get out!’

‘Aha!’ Said the strange man ‘My sister’s husband’s cousin got trapped in an invisible cage but they found that they only had to give it enough will power and the bars weren’t there anymore.

Have you tried to do any of that?’

‘Yes!’ Said Joy. ‘I have pushed and pulled and prodded with all my might and the cage is still standing!’

‘That’s a pity’ said the rude young man, ‘since if this is the Myrastarous river, and that is the Anjuou tree maybe you could have been my destiny.

After all, you are very pretty which everyone knows is the main thing.

Are you sure that you pushed properly; it doesn’t look like you were trying very hard to me.

Maybe it’s for the best, though, after all no one wants to marry a person in a box’

And with that the rude man wandered off.

Time passed, and Joy became sadder and sadder, and the cage became tighter and tighter.

joy_12Then a young woman came up to the cage.

‘Hello strange person’ she said, ‘I have come to seek my fortune.

I was told to follow the Myrastarous river up until the Anjuou tree, and there I would find my destiny (it was a very common destiny) – but I seem to have gotten lost (and a very confusing route). Could you please tell me, if this is the Myrastarous River?’

‘I’m sorry I don’t know if this is the Myrastarous River. You see I am trapped in an invisible cage, and all I can see are the bars of the cage. Although I have tried my hardest to leave the cage, it will not budge.’ Said Joy.

joy_13‘I can’t see any cages’ Said the woman, ‘In fact, I’m not sure there even is a cage. You’re making it up!’ Said the woman, storming off in a huff.

‘It’s invisible’ Joy called after her, but the woman didn’t hear her.

And Joy waited and waited for someone else to come up to the cage, but no-one did.

Joy got so used to her misery that she started to forget the small moments of pleasure that passed by her.

joy_14Soon it got to the point in which she felt, she had always been unhappy. This is truer than you might have thought.

As a child Joy learnt that the best way to be happy is to forget unhappiness, suppress it learnt to hide it in the places she knew least: beneath her smile, that bitter sliver in her liver.

You never have to face it if you do other things, and now for the first time in her life, Joy really truly stopped.

And then, one day, Joy’s pain began to subside.

It didn’t happen suddenly, but a little bit each day like a pair of curtains slowly loosing their colour when faced by the glare of the sun.

Although Joy’s cage still remained around her, it grew bigger again, until she suddenly had the space to breathe.

Which is good, because some days, that was all she could do.

Mum, Mum, Mum

The sound of Joy’s mobile had burst the stillness of all her days.

Joy was almost surprised, like a solipsist she had tricked herself into thinking that the only world that existed finished with her sightline. That while she was trapped the rest of the earth had faded into sudden white.

joy_15Joy’s mother was worried.

She hadn’t talked to her daughter in three weeks, and although she thought it was important that Joy retained her autonomy, she wouldn’t be a mother if she didn’t worry.

But talking to her daughter made her feel more worried not less.

Joy, who was a child who never cried (something to worry about in and of itself), was suddenly joyless.

“You don’t have to do it alone, my darling.” Joy’s mother said. “It’s ok to ask me for help. It’s ok, to come home.”

“But what about my journey?” Asked Joy. “If I don’t complete it then I’m a failure.”

“Is that so?” Asked Joy’s wise mother. “And what’s so bad about failure, Joy”

joy_16“It’s failing” Said Joy. “That’s what’s so bad about failure. It’s failing.”

“All failure means is you have another experience to learn, and to live, and what, exactly, is so bad about that?” Joy’s mother asked, and Joy had no response to that. “You can always come back afterwards, my darling. All you’re doing at the moment is drowning in your own unhappiness, something has to change. Come back home with me.”

And Joy did.

Although the cage didn’t recede, somehow Joy learnt to live inside it. She learnt the art of treasuring the good days and the art of waiting out the bad days, and that is how she lived, sometimes happily, sometimes not so happily, forever after.

more Complex Fairy Tales


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