‘Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the Demon Castle
not a demon was stirring—
Save for one: Princess Syalis herself. The snow (before you ask: yes, it snows in demon-lands; deal with it) has filled her with Christmas nostalgia. After writing out her wish list to Santa and stuffing it into the purple, demon-themed stocking at the side of her window, she promptly falls asleep, and the demon castle is silent once more.
Well, that’s not entirely true. After all, in the Demon Castle, the walls have ears—or, more precisely, the guards are always on patrol (because with a gremlin like Princess Syalis on the loose, who wouldn’t have 24-hour surveillance?). Word spreads throughout the castle that Syalis had written a wish list to Santa. Eventually, Twilight the Demon King himself hears the news, and though he regally reassures his subjects that good Saint Nicholas does not, in fact, ship presents to the Demon Castle, he decides to take a look at the wish list’s contents for himself. Though only for reasons of domestic security.
But when Twilight sneaks into the cell and pulls the list from the stocking, he’s shocked at its contents: “Dear Santa, I want to go home. From: Sya.” This wish sends Twilight and the others into a spiral of unease. Is the princess homesick? Does Santa even provide ride-on-demand services? Why does she want to go home so badly, anyways? And how can they find out without revealing that they read Syalis’s wish list and triggering a fate worse than death?
None of these worries end up mattering. Upon waking in the middle of the night, Syalis immediately finds her wish list missing and determines the demons to be the culprit. Thus, the truth finally comes out. The reason that Princess Syalis, future ruler of the human realm, current hostage of the Demon King Twilight, and terror of the Demon Castle, wants to visit home so badly… is that she wants a pair of her favorite homemade woolen underwear.
(Sometimes, it’s good for me to be reminded that I really am watching a kids show.)
Of course, Great Red Siberian is the first to point out all the problems with this wish. First off, Syalis’s request is clearly unreasonable. Second, warping into the human realm is one thing—they’ve done that in the past—but warping into the royal family’s castle, and Syalis’s bedroom at that? Finally, why would they do all that for a hostage? Now, his points are all valid. But they make Syalis very sad. And as she pouts to herself in a corner of the table, head lowered in grief, the Demon Cleric speaks for everyone: “Let’s go if it’s that important to you.”
With that, it’s settled. On Christmas morning, instead of waking joyfully to the demonic delights of Christmas cheer, Twilight, the Demon Cleric, and Syalis ride a warp into Syalis’s bedroom to obtain the woolen treasures. And as expected, shenanigans ensue. Syalis’s laser-focused attention span means that within a stretch of two minutes, she gives the boys a tour of her prolific wardrobe, shows off her photo album, and promptly falls asleep in her luxurious king-size bed.
The ruckus wakes up Queen Goodreste, who promptly rushes into the room to find her beloved daughter asleep among the sheets. Syalis has returned home! It’s a dream come true! There’s no time to waste; she drags the sleepy princess out of bed and into the hall for the requisite mother-daughter chat before Syalis’s return is announced to the public.
There’s a twist, though: the sleepy princess nestled in Syalis’s sheets is not Syalis herself, but Cubey: that succubus from three episodes back that Syalis trained to be her body double. In his panic as he was trying to hide, the Demon Cleric swapped the princess for the succubus, whom he had brought in a bag for emergency situations like this. And to the demons’ horror, the disguise works. Princess Goodreste is completely fooled, and the real princess wakes up triumphantly from her nap in the demons’ continued custody.
In the end, we never find out if Syalis gets her woolen underwear, and it doesn’t seem like she really cares, either. All she wanted to do was show her new friends her home in the human realm and say hello to her mother before returning. And for their part, the demon boys get their share of embarrassing stories about Syalis, so it’s a win-win for all concerned parties (except Dawner, Syalis’s knight in tarnished armor, who seems to always show up at the most inconvenient times). The Demon Castle gets its yearly Christmas party with the princess in attendance, and it’s a joyful Christmas for all.
Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle isn’t trying to drop some profound truths about the human condition; it’s trying to make you laugh, and it succeeds. But I still find myself reflecting on Syalis’s address to the citizens of Goodreste near the end of the episode: on her words of kindness to the demons, with whom she’s lived for only a short while. Indeed, it’s remarkable how quickly she develops a rapport with the denizens of the Demon Castle, and how quickly they grow to appreciate her presence, to the point that her absence grieves them instead of angering them.
Again, we’re probably meant to laugh at this fact, since it’s almost entirely due to Syalis’s laissez-faire approach to anything unrelated to a good night’s sleep. But I also think we’re meant to pause and ponder here, and take note of the growing relationship between Syalis and the demons in the midst of a world where humans are locked in bitter conflict with demons, where they spend their festivals drinking to the downfall of demon-kind, where any contact between the two groups is laced with fear or fury.
In a previous episode, we learn about the story behind the conflict. According to the human history textbooks, peace reigned on the earth until the demons retaliated against humankind. Yet according to Twilight, the demons were simply acting in self-defense after the humans forced them into the underworld. Each side has their own take on the events, and each side refuses to come to terms with the other. The two sides will fight until the demons or the humans reign supreme.
And ultimately, this is why Twilight kidnapped Syalis. He wanted to bring an end to the conflict, and the only way he knew how was to hasten the crowning of a victor.
But Syalis, for all her faults, knows enough about the conflict to have her own take. And she’s wise enough to know that fighting conflict with conflict just results in more bloodshed. There must be an end to the war, but it can’t come with the crowning of a victor. Instead, it can only come when the swords are laid to rest: when fear is replaced with fascination and fury with genuine love. Peace can only reign in Goodreste and the Demon Kingdom when demons and people learn to dwell together in peace, as Syalis herself dwells together with her captors.
And ultimately, this is why, in her speech to the citizens of Goodreste and of the Demon Kingdom, Syalis makes clear her intention to serve as a model for relations between demons and humans. She wants to bring an end to the conflict, and she knows that the only way to do so is to show her people what peace looks like.
In her friendship with the varied personages of the Demon Kingdom, Syalis paints a picture of the way things were meant to be between demons and humans: a model of mutual understanding and love.
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men.” We sing carols like this every Christmas. And yet, I wonder if we’ve stopped to ask ourselves the question: do we model that in our own lives? Do we show goodwill to all men, or only to those in our tribe? Do we think that we can fight conflict with conflict, vitriol with vitriol, quip with quip? Do we strive to claim the crown of victory over those who hate us? Or do we remember that peace comes only when we humble ourselves to lay down the weapons of war?
It is one of the most remarkable truths of the Christmas story that when our Lord came to the earth, he came not as a conquering king, but as an infant, born to a virgin, raised by a couple of ill-repute, nursed among the stable animals, housed in the unremarkable city of Bethlehem. The Son who was equal with his Father did not count himself too great to lower himself in humble obedience. He modeled the peace that he would bring to his people: a peace that does not come from triumph over earthly powers but from humble surrender to the heavenly one.
Now the question I’m asking becomes a little more serious! For when we think that we can bring about peace through conflict, we claim to be greater than Jesus. We play God when we do not lay down our crowns of victory at his feet, as Christ himself did. In fact, we show that we think we can bring about peace in our own strength: that we can save ourselves. And as Claire pointed out recently, that’s a burden that humans were never meant to bear.
Of course, the conflicts we face in our own lives aren’t as grotesque as that between the demons and humans in Sleepy Princess. Yet Syalis’s example continues to hold the same weight.
If we truly seek for peace, we should seek for the things that make for peace.
If we truly believe that all people deserve respect, we should respect those people whom we really don’t feel like respecting.
If we truly believe Christ’s command to love others, we should respond in kindness to those who revile us.
Truly, it’s a hard task: to show the grace we’ve been given. But it’s worth it. For we look forward to a coming day in which there will be peace. All that we have suffered will be made right. All the burdens we bear will be lifted. The swords will be laid to rest. Our labor will not be in vain. The birth of the Savior on that silent night in Bethlehem reminds us of a silent night to come, when that same Savior will reign over his people—when, at long last, we can sing in truth: “Peace on the earth; goodwill to men.”
Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle can be streamed on Funimation.