Esmeralda was the only daughter of a poor peasant woman yet she was so beautiful that the word of her beauty spread throughout the kingdom. Quite often young men would gather to get a glimpse of her. Poets and bard spun tales and poetry about her innocence and her beauty. Now though her beauty was none to find within the kingdom but her heart was hard like stone and she was intensely proud. She would spend hours in front of her mirror peering at herself.
Now it so happened that an angel in the garb of an old man came to her house. He had pushed his way towards Esmeralda and asked her for a glass of water telling her that he was very thirsty. And Esmeralda who was rude and hardhearted without an ounce of remorse had told him to be off. She had also cursed and swore at him. This was hardly the first time that such a thing had happened. She had done so many times with so many different people. Even her poor old parents had borne the brunt of her insolence. She did talked back to them and been pretty rude with them as well.
Meanwhile the Prince after hearing about her beauty had decided to go out into the city and have a glimpse of Esmeralda. However a command had been passed by the Creator to punish Esmeralda for her wickedness. When Esmeralda had slept, her skin became coarse and wrinkled. Her beautiful blonde hair that fell straight on her shoulders became white and quite sparse. You could see her receding hairline and Esmeralda had been transformed into an old woman. Her bones became weak and brittle. Her clear blue eyes became a dull grey. So when Esmeralda woke the next morning, she felt tired and lethargic. There was an intense pain in her bones. It was with great difficulty that she managed to stand up straight. She had looked into the mirror placed at the dressing table. And to her horror, she saw a very old and weak woman staring back at her. She had let out a scream that had bought her parents to her room. And even they had been shocked and surprised to find a very old woman clad in Esmeraldas clothes. They were sure that they knew her but could not place her. It was not till Esmeralda had cried out and let them know who she was that they recognized her. But they could not fathom how their daughter had aged so much in the course of a day.
Then they heard a thundering knock on the front door to their straw hut. Standing at the door was a tall handsome man accompanied by the royal guards. They introduced him as the Prince. Esmeraldas parents had been shocked to find him at their abode. When he asked to be taken to Esmeralda, they took him to the room where she sat on her bed. But what the Prince saw was a very old woman and not a pretty young woman.
“What joke is this?” asked the Prince, “Where is your daughter?”
“This is she, Your Highness! We ourselves are at a loss to describe what event transpired during the night that has turned Esmeralda so old in the span of a night. It may be that she is cursed sire” they said.
“Let Esmeralda speak” said the Prince whose name was Harold.
Esmeralda had then raised her head slowly untowards the Prince and uttered “Your Highness, I had been so vain and proud; proud that I was so beautiful and yet my heart knew no compassion; it only knew arrogance and it was harder than stone. On so many occasions, I have hurt people through my words and actions. It maybe hence a just punishment from the Creator.”
There were tears in Esmeralda’s eyes as she said this. And Prince Harold had looked away and rode back to the palace. Soon the story about Esmeralda became famous not only in that kingdom but also in neighboring nations. Now people from near and far came to hear from Esmeralda her tale. Esmeralda had since then repented and turned to God praying for His forgiveness and mercy. Her hard heart had become replaced by a caring and compassionate one.
Most of her time was spent in praying or in teaching young children and adults the importance of humility, of contributing to charity and society and to respect ones elders.
Then God had mercy on her and He ordered for her youth to be restored to her. And when Esmeralda woke up one day, she was pleasantly surprised to learn that she was young and beautiful again. Only now her heart knew what compassion and mercy was. Her parents and the people of the kingdom hailed it as a miracle.
To this day, the story of Esmeralda is used by parents to teach them that God does not look to beauty alone, He looks for the compassion and mercy in peoples hearts.