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The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince

by Robin Hobb

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Realm of the Elderlings (Short story 0.2)

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3711953,811 (3.7)32
Felicity, a minstrel sworn to the truth, tells the ill-fated love story of the stubborn and indulged Princess Caution and the stableboy Lostler, a former Chalcedean slave and the piebald horse bound to him by the magic of Wit, which gives him the power to communicate with animals.

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» See also 32 mentions

English (17)  French (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Oh you have some twenty minutes in which you have nothing to do? Well you haven't read this one yet? You once started and stopped. Well now must be the moment. Begin! You can always stop again.

I didn't. Good thing it's short because twenty minutes became one hour and a half.

Hobb always did that to me. Weird how you forget that stuff.

It was vet enjoyable if a bit sad and murdery. I do wish they put in the song at the end. The true song.

Also (this has nothing to do with the story) if I can find grammatical errors, people really messed up. ( )
  Jonesy_now | Sep 24, 2021 |
This was great. A slender Farseer book beautifully composed and beautifully illustrated by Jackie Morris. Like my favourites the FitzChivalry books it is written in the first person and the author lets the protagonist tell the tale with candour and intelligence. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jan 23, 2021 |
This book combines two novellas that take place many years before the events in the Farseer Trilogy. However, it is best to read this trilogy first before reading these novellas. Otherwise, you'll have, in my humble opinion, a harder time appreciating the stories and getting into the story, into the context.


The Wilful Princess: This story is about a low-born wet-nurse, working at Buckkeep, whose daughter should follow in her footsteps and thus assure a bright future for herself and her own family. Said daughter is to be the newborn princess's maid, companion, in everything she does and goes through: from raising over clothing and comforting to playing and horse-riding. Her mother told Felicity to remain with the princess at all times, to ensure that she'll have a job when the princess, who goes by the name Cautious, becomes an adult and ready to ascend the throne. All this doesn't go as planned, obviously.

Cautious isn't so cautious any more when she decides to buy a slave and his tainted horse. One thing leads to another, not in the least once this guy, who has the Wit, becomes the new stable-master, as he seems to do a far better job than the actual/previous one.

The mother of Felicity thinks their future is in danger, once Cautious is with child, so she commands her daughter to also be with child, no matter how. Just choose a potential partner, if only for the occasion. Here, even though Felicity followed the same lessons and got more or less the same upbringing at Buckkeep like the princess she was to be responsible for, she (Felicity) doesn't really mind the details (hair colour, for example). Both the princess and her maiden are now with child(ren), which is not done. This will lead Buckkeep into darker times, as the story and events unfold.

It was done to break the relationship between Cautious and the Witted stable-master, who went out horse-riding every day, especially as the horse had attracted Caution's attention. Felicity told the lie that he made also her pregnant. Cautious didn't verify, believed it on the spot. The lie would eventually bring chaos over Buckkeep: Cautious would dismiss her beloved stable-master, who was also tainted like the horse (as the Wit goes: man and animal are united), but how the came to be, was anything but peaceful. A very bloody sacking it was, something Cautious regretted very badly, as she had not thought it would happen like this. Eventually she succumbed. Felicity was to raise two children now: the piebald prince and her own, Redbird (because of his hair). But the piebald one was tainted/stained like his father, which was cause for mockery and laughter. Charger he was named, but this was never how the people and nobles would call him. As he was not loved among the nobles, he was very much appreciated with the lower folk, with whom Redbird quickly became friends.

It's a dark and sad story. How any means to serve an end are used, for selfish reasons: A wet-nurse who only thinks of her own situation and wants a more luxurious, comfortable life. In itself, that's fine, everybody wants a trouble-free life. But how the plan is devised, the abuse, the manipulation, and so on... It shows how vile humans can be. Due to mother's doings, her own daughter lost almost everything she had: Friendship, a warm home (Buckkeep), comfort, trust, love (one way or another, even if Cautious let her hormones run free ;-)).

Luckily, Felicity realised the error of her ways and decided to raise Charger and Redbird (her own son) according to what she thought was right, not according to mother's ways.

Nobles as well seem to be very indifferent about whose side to choose: As long as everything goes well, no problem. Once they sense something is wrong (for them personally: status, riches, etc.), they switch sides or turn into cruel creatures. Any reason is good enough to take revenge or obstruct the course of nature's ways.

The Piebald Prince: This is a direct follow-up of the events in 'The Wilful Princess' and focuses on Charger, who is crowned the new king. Obviously, as he's a bastard (not 100% Farseer-blood), this causes political problems, especially in the Farseer-family and among the various dukes. High nobles back Canny Farseer (the son of Strategy Farseer, who's the brother of the current king), others back Charger (aka the piebald one).

Redbird is not a strong lad like Charger is. Redbird was born too soon, thanks to Felicity's mother, who also ordered her daughter to break off Queen-in-Waiting Caution's pregnancy with a special brew, but she failed; the brew didn't work. Part of the plan was to switch babies, so Felicty had to put Redbird sooner onto the world, which had serious consequences for the kid. He was always very tired, never had enough energy, wasn't and would never be strong, ...

Redbird, like Felicity and Caution, was taught the same lessons as Charger. Redbird was talented enough to become a minstrel, but true to his word. Other minstrels often invented stories or enhanced them to make their masters more perfect than they were.

Not only political problems were constantly lingering, love was another spoilsport between Canny and Charger (the Piebald king). In the end, as the Wit was now considered a curse and everything related had to be wiped out (people who had it, people who had had it, animals, ...), it also meant the end of Charger. Redbird, however, witnessed it all, yet remained in his hiding place for a long time. And it took a while before he could speak and eat again. Felicity (his mother) could care of him, while trying to not put too much attention on herself, as her son had been affiliated with the king, who had the Wit. Redbird decided to plot his own revenge on the new-crowned, yet illegally, king Canny. This, too, came to dreadful end. Redbird's revenge, that is.

Both stories were written down by Felicity, in which she swore to tell the truth and only the truth, as her own son was adamant about truthfulness.


As said above, don't read these novellas when you have not yet read The Farseer Trilogy. It's said that the Piebald Prince is also named in The Tawny Man trilogy, but I've yet to read those books.

Robin Hobb did it again. The stories are beautifully written, in a very lovely style. The main characters are almost like real-life people. It's not difficult to feel sympathy for them (Felicity, Redbird, Charger, ...) as they go through difficult, troublesome times. It's also heart-wrenching to read, although not new, how low humanity can fall when they don't apply a critical stance or feel wronged. Which does not mean their actions are justified or should be approved of. On the contrary.

Long story short: A recommended book! ( )
  TechThing | Jan 22, 2021 |
The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince is a legend mentioned in the Realm of the Elderlings series which Robin Hobb refers to several times in Fool’s Errand and other books. Felicity, a servant of Princess Caution and the daughter of the Princess’ wet-nurse, recounts the story of Princess Caution and her son, who becomes known as the Piebald Prince. Princess Caution’s name belies her willful personality. She takes an interest in the stableboy, Lostler, a former Chalcedean slave, who share a wit-bond with a piebald stallion. When her son, Prince Charger, is born, he has piebald markings. Few are willing to accept Charger as King due to his unknown parentage and suspected wittedness, and once he becomes King disaster befalls the Kingdom.

This was an interesting and well-written backstory in the series. However, it left me with more questions than I think it answered. ( )
  rretzler | Feb 6, 2019 |
The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince is a novella set in the Six Duchies from Robin Hobb’s books, long before the events in the Farseer Trilogy. There are some references to this story throughout that Farseer Trilogy, but this novella tells the true story behind the legends as witnessed by those who were close to the people involved. It also explains how the Wit came to be so feared and loathed.

I don’t think the story would have much meaning to somebody not already familiar with the setting, but it adds some interesting context for those of us who are. It’s not a terribly cheerful story, though. It’s full of bad decisions, betrayals, and tragedies. It’s also a bit too romance-y at times, at least for my tastes. Despite that, it held my interest and I did enjoy learning the back story. I also liked the way it ended. ( )
1 vote YouKneeK | Sep 30, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robin Hobbprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cock, MariskaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foster, JonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karreman, EricTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karreman, FredTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lap, MarcoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mousnier-Lompré, ArnaudTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Felicity, a minstrel sworn to the truth, tells the ill-fated love story of the stubborn and indulged Princess Caution and the stableboy Lostler, a former Chalcedean slave and the piebald horse bound to him by the magic of Wit, which gives him the power to communicate with animals.

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