Matthew Smith
The Peasant Girl in the Tower

Do you remember the fairy tale you heard as a child about the peasant girl in the tower? To briefly sum up the story, there was a beautiful peasant girl who was held captive in a tower by an enraged queen. The queen held her captive because her husband, the king, coveted the young maiden and spoke of her daily. This caused the queen to become angry and exile the young girl to a lonely castle tower where she was forced to reside alone for the rest of her days.

The only view of the outside world came from a tiny window within the small tower chamber. The young peasant could only imagine what the outside world was like. It seemed unrealistic to consider any of her dreams of the outside world a reality, considering she was confined and controlled by her surroundings. This is the point in which I wish to make the story a bit more imaginative. What if the young maiden actually possessed a key in the pocket of her dress that would unlock the tower door? She never would have known this because her mind was consumed with dreaming about the world outside. She was also faced with the impossibilities of a different life due to the confinement the queen had created. The reality, in fact, is that the key was there the entire time – the young girl just never searched her pockets.

Many individuals find themselves locked away like the beautiful peasant girl. They are confined to a safe, mundane reality. The lustful king acts as an enticing, but temporary fix to the search for substance, while the jealous queen exemplifies local surroundings that seem to be inescapable. The queen also echoes the familiar expression that suggests that “this is all there is to life.”

“You need to finish law school!”

“Why aren’t you more like your brother?” and the ever so popular… “What will the neighbors think?”

These demands and questions all serve the purpose of forcing the free, thinking individual into a position of conformity. The dreadful reality is that most humans die in this state of being, never knowing that they possessed the key the entire time! So what does the key unlock? This is the million-dollar question. The key unlocks different doors for all of us. We walk through doors of adventure, doors of empowerment, doors of danger, and doors of regret. Love can be found behind some doors… peace of mind behind others. Some doors lead to Colorado while others lead to central China. Some doors lead to flat tires in the desert … One door leads to incomprehensible laughter.

So you’re reaching in your pocket and you cannot find the key. You become convinced it isn’t there. Don’t be discouraged because the key you’re looking for is the mind… and like with the peasant girl, the key has been there the entire time, and you just didn’t know it. Sure, you use your brain to solve day-to-day problems, converse with friends and family, and make decisions about what to have for dinner. But the mind is something of a higher priority and when you learn to utilize its many facets it will work as a universal key that opens every door. Then you will be able to say with confidence “to hell with what the neighbors think.”

Do not remain in the tower any longer. Do not live with unresolved questions about the direction your life could have taken. If you want to be something, do not let anyone tell you it is impossible. If you want to go somewhere, figure out how to do it and go. If you love someone tell him or her. If you need to say you’re sorry, make sure you say it. Find the key and use it. Discover your potential. Leave comfort behind. Rise to the occasion. Laugh and experience the insanity of yourself before you die.

The tower is cold. The tower is sometimes lonely. Looking out the tower window raises a lot of questions about “what could be out there.” But in the tower, you are fed… you have a place to sleep… you’re aware of what the following day will hold. The comfort and security of the tower is enough for most…
Matthew Smith received his B.S. and M.A. from East Tennessee State University. He teaches Sociology and serves as Coordinator of the Honors Program at BSCTC.



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