Three princes, the sons of a rather impecunious monarch, try to win the heart of a cold and uncaring princess. Two fail and are turned into statues, but the third gives up the quest, preferring to find love instead.

I'm rather surprised by this story—surprised that Asimov wrote it at all, and surprised that I enjoy it as much as I do. The ending is obvious from about the second paragraph, and the entire set-up is surrealistic almost to the point of satire—but not quite. Rather, the tone ends up being gently whimsical rather in the same vein as The Rose and the Ring or “The Reluctant Dragon.” And, like the Good Doctor, I tend to be a sap for a bit of genuine romance.

(Actually, come to think of it, darned if this isn’t perhaps the most “romantic” story Asimov ever wrote. Go figure.)

Anyway, the idea of True Love winning out, of the Good Guy finishing first, and the self-mocking yet serious combine nicely and the result is truly successful. This is one of Asimov’s few true fantasies, but it’s really very nice.

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