The King and the Beggar Lady: A Love Ballad
by Wim Coleman
Madeira Press

"Her bearing was much to be praised—a beggar proud was she."

Inspired by the centuries-old love ballad of “The King and the Beggar-Maid,” the tale in this book seeks to explore the relationship between the titular characters from a fresh and contemporary perspective. A lonely king seeks out a beggar woman who has captured his heart through her sharp mind and compassionate nature. He persuades her to come live with him in his court and promises she will never regret doing so. However, she soon flees from such a decadent life and the weight of expectations represented by wearing a royal crown, stressing that she belongs wherever others are in trouble or need assistance. Finding his role as a monarch too confining, the king chooses to give up his crown and travel the world with his newfound love, helping everyone who crosses their path.

There have been numerous updated retellings of fairy tales such as “Rapunzel,” “Snow White,” and “Sleeping Beauty” over the years to help them connect with new generations of readers. They are so well-known that even with modernizations, readers can already guess the course of the story from the very beginning. In contrast, while this account of “The King and the Beggar-Maid” is notable for bringing the story to more widespread attention, it then plays around with new directions for the narrative to take. As such, the whole idea comes across as new and surprising, as do the various twists found along the way. Further, it can encourage readers to check out the original version of the story and is a special treat for Shakespeare fans who might have noticed the bard’s reference to it in his plays. In essence, Coleman has given new life to an old tale in this refreshing and engaging retelling.

A 2023 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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