Actions

Work Header

The Truth behind the Curtain

Work Text:

Dear Tamino!

You must be now mad with worry, trying in vain to find me. Please, stop all that searching… If you think I'm a liar and a traitor, I wouldn't argue, because it's the truth. Though I've never said it straight that I love you, but still… You can hate me now to make it easier for yourself. These conspiracies are much harder than I thought. I pity both you and Papageno so much (though he, of course, was plainly lucky with his new bride and happy ending, he was so eager to rescue me), and Sarastro too.

I'll try to explain everything. If you don't forgive me, maybe you'll understand. This letter is the whole truth.

I had a difficult life with Mother. After my dearest father's death she had fully dedicated her life to raising her power. She needed power over all peoples and lands that she could conquer, I think it was her revenge for the years spent as my strong-willed father's wife. I was too obedient, and that's why Mother hardly noticed me. She was absorbed in oppressing rebellions, fighting with political rivals…

I was horribly lonely. Despite everything, I loved Mother and was sad that we had become practically strangers. But perhaps it is the destiny of every royal. Perhaps Mother waited for me, all grown up, to weave intrigues and fight for the throne myself, and my weakness was a disappointment and an annoyance to her… Perhaps. I won't be able to speak to her anymore.

It was the easiest thing for Sarastro to kidnap me. I've never liked constant guards, and Mother didn't watch over it… Oh, you said that you were told by Mother's ladies-in-waiting – how I was kidnapped from the cypress grove in our palace park. But it's not true that it happened in front of Mother's own eyes. How could she be outdoors at midday, when the sun shone high, when sunlight was deadly for her? I believe she added the detail to extract more pity from you. Though what am I saying? Me, the lying pretender!

Well, Sarastro didn't need much time to put a hand over my mouth, bind my hands, put me on his horse and carry to Sunshineland. I was so shocked that I didn't fight.

When we arrived, it turned out that Sarastro had some urgent and important things to attend to. I don't recall what it exactly was, I remember everyone running around and shouting at each other. You might ask Sarastro what the matter was. What I'm telling you is that everybody was dreadfully busy and no one could guard me. No one – save for Monostatos, who was quite ready to do it. Sarastro hesitated about it, but there was no one else around, so he had to agree. Before leaving, he ordered Monostatos to treat me as gently and respectfully as possible and warned him that else he'd be whipped.

For the first two days the warning was heeded. I don't know what Sarastro himself meant, but I lived well for a prisoner. As if I was a friend on a visit. Only I wasn't allowed to leave my chambers.

On the third day all was changed. At first there were only faint hints… I didn't notice – or pretended not to. But then Monostatos openly declared his passion for me and demanded immediate reciprocation. He said that he fell in love with me at first sight and that's why he offered to guard me.

First I was completely astounded. Then this pursuit, needless to say, utterly enraged me. I was used to Mother ordering me things I didn't want to do, but being told whom to love!.. It was insufferable, and I mustered enough strength to fight back. Finally I said I'd tell Sarastro.

That did it. Monostatos chose to keep me under his, well, supervision. For a while it became calm in the place of my custody. He got used to standing for hours by my side and wordlessly staring at me. It was discomforting at first, but then I was touched. As I've said before, no one had truly needed me after my father's death.

During the second week of my captivity I asked Monostatos:

"Why has Sarastro taken me?"

"I've no idea," he answered. "Sarastro can be secretive about his plans. But I'm glad he did it," he added quietly.

"What's so special about me? Even I've noticed that there are as many pretty ladies around as in any other country, and many of them must be honored by the head guard's attention," I murmured.

"Nobody can be honored," Monostatos said bitterly. "Because of my ugliness, especially the dark skin…"

That I hadn't expected. He wasn't breathtakingly handsome, of course, but no one could call him ugly. At least myself – I was used to Mother's servants, some of them horrifying beasts with skins or chaffs darker than the night itself, and the olive-skinned face of a Moor was in no way appalling to me. Moreover, he had beautiful curls of ebony hair and deep dark eyes.

"I can't believe this is the reason!" I exclaimed. "You'd better watch out how you treat women."

"I tried to be gallant and polite like others," he shrugged. "That's that: every girl I talked to said she wouldn't be letting a black one get closer."

I pitied him. I knew too well how it was to be lonesome! Though I had never thought about spousal love before, I had suffered the absence of a mother's one.

I thought that maybe my guardian wasn't so monstrous after all.

"If you don't torment me anymore, perhaps we can work something out," I said.

Of course, Monostatos didn't turn gentle and tender on the spot. He simply couldn't: he has a naturally hot temper. But he tried hard at least, when he realized he has a chance.

Almost imperceptibly I grew attached to him. Besides, Sarastro, still busy, visited me only a couple of times, and the servants weren't very talkative, so actually I had no other company.

I won't recount to you, Tamino, the whole history of my days in captivity. You must be brokenhearted as it is. I'll skip two months to the happy day. When Monostatos brought me food as usual, I smiled at him:

"Well, yes."

He had thought himself unlucky in love for so long that it took him some time to grasp my meaning!

For a while we have been blissfully happy. Until I remembered that Mother, who was set on marrying me off to some King, preferably a great one, wouldn't be glad to find me a simple guard's wife. And knowing her, she would kill one of us, or throw in prison, or to the Nightmare Caves…

I had no ideas how to escape her. I thought about asking Sarastro for help, but I decided it'd be too risky.

Monostatos suggested we'd elope and hide for some time, until Mother gives up. I argued:

"She'll find us. Don't forget she's the Queen of the Night."

"She won't know where to search. We'll run away separately."

"How?"

"Listen here. Sarastro doesn't trust me. I'll try to anger him so much that he'll banish me from Sunshineland."

"But he can execute you!" I cried, scared.

"No," Monostatos laughed. "We don't have executions here. At the very worst I'll be whipped, but it's nothing."

I didn't quite agree that it would be nothing, but saw no other way.

"You'll remain here for a while," he continued. "Then try to gain Sarastro's trust – a fragile young girl like you will certainly manage it – and ask to be given more freedom. And flee at the first opportunity."

I decided the plan was rather good in general. We thought how Monostatos could anger Sarastro.

"Don't kill or wound anyone," I said firmly. "I don't want our happiness to be bought for someone's blood."

"We need no blood, rest assured. All you have to do is blacken my name in front of Sarastro like you intended to do earlier."

We agreed to play the villain and the victim for a few days for everything to look believable. I chose a day when Sarastro was going to go to a grand falcon hunt, and I was prepared to kneel before him in tears when he returned.

And that was the day when you and Papageno came to my rescue. I was shocked when Papageno told me about you and about Mother sending you on your quest. Mustering all the courage I had, I continued playing my part and for the credibility's sake pretended to be in love with my savior. Naturally I made Papageno go the same road as Sarastro's hunting train…

Tamino, if you only knew how hard it was for me to rush into your arms right in front of my beloved! I'm not blaming you – it's none of your fault. But it was a torture for me. Worse still, Sarastro ordered Monostatos to be whipped, but, soft-hearted as he was, didn't banish him outright.

Thankfully, after sending you and Papageno to the trials everyone completely forgot me. I managed to meet with Monostatos and hurriedly discuss what to do now.

"Never worry, sweetest, I'll convince Sarastro to throw me out of here," he said. "I shall demand your love again… you'll reject me… and I'll try to kill you. The cries will attract Sarastro's attention."

This time it worked. I didn't even have to fake confusion and distress: I've told you, Mother also appeared out of the blue and ordered me to murder Sarastro, threatening to disown me… It was truly terrifying. Sarastro, ever the kindly soul, calmed me down as he could. And told Monostatos to leave right now – finally!

I was so grateful that I almost blurted out our plan to Sarastro. But I held my tongue: I thought he was already suspecting something. With gritted teeth I went on with playing the part of a fairytale princess. No one should find out about my elopement!

As for the trial of silence, I really didn't know about it: I was much surprised when both you and Papageno stood still and motionless. I think I overplayed back then: had I loved you, I would have been vexed, maybe extremely vexed, but I wouldn't have tried to commit suicide! But neither you nor the three boys realized how silly I actually looked.

I was actually close to death when Sarastro told me about Mother's fall into eternal darkness. He said Monostatos was also there… I forgot that a human being couldn't perish because of a single sun ray. Even the blackest villain. And now you know that Monostatos wasn't one.

I was resigned to get married to you – what else could I do? So I was besides myself with joy when my beloved sent me a letter from… I won't say from where, so that we won't be found. It turned out that he in fact tried to save Mother and her servants when he discovered their conspiracy!

I knew his handwriting, and our affair was kept a carefully guarded secret – so I never had a single doubt. I managed to sneak out of Sarastro's castle and get to our hiding place.

Once more I'll say that it was worse than the Nightmares – showing fake love. You're almost a boy still, you haven't encountered such deceptions before… Forgive me if you can. If you can't – I don't blame you.

I have one hope about you, though. You fell in love with me when you saw my portrait, and the painter made me much more beautiful than in reality… I'm sure our life would have been a disappointment to you at least because I'm not the dashing beauty you had fallen in love with. Well, I hope you will find that beauty in real life! Perhaps she's already waiting for her prince! I'm certain – I've told Papageno so as well – that love will come if you truly wish for it. Papageno is a proof of it, by the way. Give him and Papagena my fondest congratulations – these two are made for each other!

Tell Sarastro that – if I can – I will repay him for his kindness to me someday. Oh, and add that I'm not going to be the next Queen of the Night – the last days showed plainly enough that I'm too weak for these responsibilities. I think that Mother's lands will be taken by the King of the Stars, he used to be her enemy, but in my opinion he's a good sovereign.

Farewell, Tamino. Perhaps we'll come back to Sunshineland, but not in a very near future. I don't want to embarrass you with our happiness. You're very nice, Tamino, but even if I had fallen in love with you, we wouldn't have been happy with each other. I'm telling you – don't take me wrong – you're almost a boy; you don't need a shy and fearful wife!

I will always be a friend to you, and when you find your intended, the first one to congratulate you will be

Pamina, Princess of the Moon.