Once upon a time,
There was a little girl who loved to dance. She practiced very hard in her dance class, and would dance for hours and hours. This always made her very happy.
There was a young man in her class who sometimes would help her with her dances. He would lift her high in the air so she could feel like a beautiful swan. She, of course, grew to love the man very much.
She thought of him as her prince, and wanted to dance a pas de duex with him so very badly. She said to herself, "I will love him until I die and no one else."
However, the man was much older than she, and did not see that even as a little girl she was very pretty, with red lips and golden hair. He only saw how young she was and thought, "What a funny little girl! She is full of fanciful dreams!" He never thought of her like the older girls. He danced with the older girls passionately, and would call their names after class and kiss their hands and flirt with them.
This made the girl sad. She could not bear the thought of her prince falling in love with someone else, so she went to a wise old man to ask him what to do. This very old man lived on the outskirts of the village, and not only was he wise, rumor said that he was also a magician. She came to him one day and told him how much she wanted to dance with her prince. He told her to forget about the young man and to go home and practice, that one day she would dance with another man, in time. But the little girl insisted there could be no other.
The wizard was finally convinced and taught her a magic dance that would speed up her life and make her grow into a lovely prima ballerina like the older girls. He warned her that being grown up would come with much heartache, and asked that she give her youth to the wizard in exchange for helping. The girl, intent on her love for the young man, hastily agreed.
She did as she was instructed and came to the old man's house every afternoon after dance class and danced the magic dance for him. When she woke in the morning, she always found herself a little taller, her body a little more womanly, and every day the old man lost more of his wrinkles. Soon she was loveliest dancer in her class. The young man noticed she was becoming a woman, and danced with her more often. The little girl thought to herself, "Now I will be happy. I have grown up and can dance a pas de duex with my prince forever."
And dance with him she did. He lifted her high, and she danced en pointe. He chased her after class, and kissed her hands, and called her by her name. They spent all of their time together, and at night he took her home with him and made the princess his only love. She told him, one night, after dancing out under the moonlight, that she was falling in love with him. He whispered that he loved her as well. She knew she was finally the princess, and he was her prince. They lived happily ever after.
That is, until one day. A new dancer came to class. An older girl, who had been dancing much longer than the little princess. She asked the prince to dance with her, and weaved her body around him. She lured him in and stole a kiss, casting her spell upon the prince. He forgot about his princess and only danced with the older girl. Soon, he was spending all of his time with her and never even spoke the younger girl.
Heartbroken, the little girl ran to the highest cliff she could find, as to fling herself off into the depths of the ocean. "I cannot bear to see him love another woman, " She said to herself, "I must kill myself." The wizard, now a middle-aged man, woke in the night, magically sensing that the girl was in trouble. He found the prince's house and woke the young man. The wizard told the prince of the girl's sorrow, and her plan to end her own life. The prince rushed to her side and assured her of his love. The princess danced with her prince again, and he brought her down from the cliff and away from a terrible fate.
But the princess's nightmare was not over.
Whenever she came to class, the older girl was still there, dancing more lovely than the little girl could, and always keeping her eyes on the prince. The prince knew his heart belonged to the little girl, but he still lusted for the older girl. He still enjoyed her flirtations, and would not dance with the little girl if the older one was watching. This hurt the princess more every day, and soon made it almost unbearable to even dance at all. Day after day, she would watch her prince dance with the older girl, and knowing he enjoyed dancing with her, knowing she was losing him.
She continued to see the wizard each day and dance the magic dance that was restoring the wizard's youth. But her pain weighed her down so much that one day, as she went up on her toes to dance, she immediately fell down and began to cry. The little girl told the wizard of all her troubles, and he held her and comforted her.
It was different from the prince, being held by the wizard, but the girl still thought it was okay. That is, until the he kissed her.
First he kissed her, a small peck on her forehead. But then, he lifted her chin and put his lips to hers- and oh! he kissed her and kissed her.
Feeling horrible and wonderful at the same time was too much for this little girl, and she ran home. Once she was alone with her thoughts she felt guilty, but soon it turned to jealousy as she realized that the prince must have kissed the older girl in the same way. The images swirled around in her head, making the girl feel angry and sad and sick all at once.
Finally, the little girl could take it no longer, having known jealousy, betrayal, and heartbreak. Even as an older girl, she had not been able to fully win the prince's love. The following afternoon, when she went to the wizard. she begged him to make her young and innocent again.
But the wizard, now the very same age as the girl, shook his head and reminded her of his warning. The little girl cried out, "Then I must kill myself, for I cannot live with this pain!".
The wizard, after seeing the girl dance day after day, now wished to have her to himself. So he said he knew a way for her to get her youth back, but it would mean never being with the prince again. He told her only way she could take back the spell was to cut out the heart that she had grown up to win, and bring it to the wizard. He did not believe she would truly be brave enough to do that, and the little girl would simply give up her love for the prince and learn to love the wizard. However, to his dismay, she insisted that she could, and would be able. So she snuck into her prince's house and went to his bed while he was sleeping, and pulled out the enchanted knife the wizard had given her. But as she raised her arm to thrust it into his chest, she stopped, realizing she could not harm her only love.
The little girl heard the snicker of a someone else behind her. She whirled around to see the older girl, smiling an evil grin. "Can't do it, can you?" She said, stepping out of the shadows. "It's okay, go ahead, cut his heart out. It's not all that bad, you know, if you can stand all the blood," the older girl drawled,. The little girl was horrified as the older continued, "But the wizard is lying, you won't get your childhood back. You'll only kill your lover." The little girl gasped, and asked how the older girl could know. "I did it myself." She replied. "I was once a girl just like you. In love with someone who could not love me back. So I went to a wizard, who tricked me to keep me for himself. He told me if I wanted the man's heart so bad, I should cut it out and keep it. And once I did, my love was dead. Now why don't you just go home to your mommy and live what's left of your happy little life and forget about him." She skulked over to the prince's bed, leaned down and kissed his sleeping lips passionately. "Don't worry, I'll take very good care of him."
This filled the young girl with rage and jealousy. She lunged at the scheming woman, "Why don't I cut out your heart instead, you evil wench!" She cried. "If you were not here, the prince and I would be happy."
But the older girl didn't even flinch. "No you wouldn't. It wouldn't make him truly love you. He didn't love who you were before, now did he?"
The little girl realized how right the older girl was. She began to cry and dropped to her knees. "I don't want to be in love anymore, I don't! It's only misery! And I don't want to be kissed by someone else and I don't want to be tricked and I can't trust anyone and I...I don't know what do." She sobbed.
"Yes," The older girl said, picking up the knife and handing it to the younger girl, "I think you do."
The little girl cut her heart own out, and when she did, black feathers fell to the floor. But even without her little heart, the girl was not dead. When she stood, her hair fell down from its bun, and it was black as raven feathers. She said, "I will never love again."
She went to the wizard's house to bring him the heart, but he did not answer at her knock. When she opened the door, she found the wizard had returned to his elderly state. The wizard, seeing the little girl's raven hair, blank eyes, and the little box in her hands begged, "What have you done? Have you cut out your own heart instead?" But the girl pushed the box into his hands and said, "It was broken anyway." At that, he fell on the floor as if having a heart attack, and turned into a black crow and flew away.
She continued to dance in her class, but she no longer felt anything. And the prince noticed something different about her, and sometimes called out to her, but she never turned. Occasionally, when she was out walking, a crow would come rest on her shoulder and she knew it was the wizard, living out the punishment for his selfish use of magic. She brushed him off without a care.
The older girl eventually won the prince's love and was no longer bitter about her awful past. They danced an endless pas de duex, and they both found true happiness being together.
But the raven princess did not mind. She danced alone, and one day left the class to perform all over the world. She kept her heart in a little box where it could never be broken again.