It may not look like much now, but when I was in fourth grade at Denkmann Elementary School, and it appeared among the selections offered by the Scholastic Book Club, I was entranced.
This was no wimpy fairy-tale prince in love with a princess, but a Fighting Prince, strong and powerful. I had never heard of Donegal, but it was obviously a mystical, distant country with castles on high mountains, outlined against an orange moon.
My boyfriend Bill and I both ordered copies. They wouldn't arrive for four to six weeks.
We talked about the book every day. Would the Prince have muscles? Would he have a best man? Would he rescue his best man, who would then sigh "My hero?" and melt into his arms?
We made swords out of cardboard and played "Fighting Prince of Donegal." My brother got to be the villain, who would lock Bill in the dungeon (the lilac bushes outside my house) so I could rescue him.
We often talked about what the Prince looked like. If you read the ad very carefully, you could see that the book was originally called Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal. That meant a red-head. He must look something like this:
Or, from an adult point of view, like this:
We looked up Donegal in the Golden Book Encyclopedia. It was a county in Ireland, on the northeast coast.
There was a book in the Denkmann Library about Donegal, but it was all fairy tales, which we hated.
Would those books ever arrive?
Peter McEnery as Red Hugh.
"Did he rescue a boy or a girl?" I asked expectantly.
"Neither one," Tom said. "He gets rescued by an older guy. I don't remember his name." (It was Henry O'Neill, played by Tom Adams.)
The books arrived around Halloween. We ran to Bill's house and upstairs to his room, thrust aside our other selections -- Journey to the Center of the Earth, Arrow Book of Ghost Stories, The Forgotten Door, The Secret Hide-Out, 13 Ghostly Tales -- and opened our books and started reading.
It was the most boring thing I had ever read!
I skipped ahead to the end -- Red Hugh gets a girlfriend!
Bill and I looked at each other. He put the book down and glanced at our cardboard swords in the corner.
"Wanna play Fighting Prince of Donegal?" I asked.
He nodded. "But this time I wanna rescue you, and you have to melt into my arms and say 'My hero!'"
See also: Gay Teens in the Summer of Love.