Young King Arthur was ambushed and imprisoned by the monarch of a neighboring kingdom. The monarch could have killed him, but was moved by Arthur’s youth and ideals. So the monarch offered him freedom, as long as he could answer a very difficult question. Arthur would have a year to figure out the answer; if, after a year, he still had no answer, he would be put to death.
The question: What do women really want?
Such a question would perplex even the most knowledgeable man, and, to young Arthur, it seemed an impossible query. But, since it was better than death, he accepted the monarch’s proposition to have an answer by year’s end.
He returned to his kingdom and began to poll everybody: the princess, the prostitutes, the priests, the wise men, the court jester. He spoke with everyone, but no one could give him a satisfactory answer. Many people advised him to consult the old witch–only she would know the answer.
The price would be high; the witch was famous throughout the kingdom for the exorbitant prices she charged.
The last day of the year arrived and Arthur had no alternative but to talk to the witch. She agreed to answer his question, but he’d have to accept her price first: The old witch wanted to marry Gawain, the most noble of the Knights of the Round Table and Arthur’s closest friend!
Young Arthur was horrified: She was hunchbacked and hideous, had only one tooth, smelled like sewage, made obscene noises … etc. He had never encountered such a repugnant creature. He refused to force his friend to marry her and have to endure such a burden.
Gawain, upon learning of the proposal, spoke with Arthur. He told him that nothing was too big a sacrifice compared to Arthur’s life and the preservation of the Round Table. Hence, their wedding was proclaimed, and the witch answered Arthur’s question thus:
What a woman really wants is to be in charge of her own life.
Everyone instantly knew that the witch had uttered a great truth and that Arthur’s life would be spared. And so it was. The neighboring monarch granted Arthur total freedom.
What a wedding Gawain and the witch had! Arthur was torn between relief and anguish. Gawain was proper as always, gentle and courteous. The old witch put her worst manners on display, and generally made everyone very uncomfortable.
The honeymoon hour approached. Gawain, steeling himself for a horrific experience, entered the bedroom. But what a sight awaited him! The most beautiful woman he’d ever seen lay before him! The astounded Gawain asked what had happened. The beauty replied that since he had been so kind to her when she’d appeared as a witch, she would henceforth be her horrible, deformed self half the time, and the other half, she would be her beautiful maiden self. Which would he want her to be during the day, and which during the night?
What a cruel question! Gawain pondered his predicament. During the day, a beautiful woman to show off to his friends, but at night, in the privacy of his home, an old witch? Or would he prefer having by day a hideous witch, but by night a beautiful woman with whom to enjoy many intimate moments?
Noble Gawain replied that he would let her choose for herself.
Upon hearing this, she announced that she would be beautiful all the time, because he had respected her enough to let her be in charge of her own life.