The story of The Lost Princess, by Rabbi Nachman, is written in a book of stories that my friend let me borrow recently. The folktale king had a precious daughter who one day was taken away by the Evil One, so he sent his viceroy to look for her. He searched for a long time through the wilderness till he came to a castle, where the king’s daughter was trapped as queen within its ceremonies. When she recognised the viceroy, she knew of only one way for him to free her.
She said, “It is impossible to get me out unless you choose yourself a place and remain there for an entire year. All that year you must long to get me out. Whenever you are unoccupied you must only yearn, seek, and look forward to freeing me. You must [also] fast. Then, on the last day of the year, you must fast and go without sleep for the entire twenty-four hour period.”
The viceroy followed what she said. On the last day of the year, as he headed towards the castle, he ate an apple and fell asleep for a long time. When he finally woke, the princess lamented, and set him a similar task; again, he fell asleep at the last moment, and slept for seventy years. It takes so much to keep ourselves awake even to the things we value most.
She then began to complain to him. He had spent so much effort and great toil for many years to free her, but then on the very day that he would have been able to free her, the opportunity was lost. She wept very much. “It is a great pity, both upon him and upon me. I have been here such a very long time, and I cannot leave…”