I made this story up for my girls and they liked it so much I decided to write it down. I hope you enjoy :)
Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a small log cabin in the middle of a wood.
The little girl lived with her mother and they spent their days growing vegetables, spinning cloth and caring for the trees, plants and animals of the woodland.
They were so honest and pure of heart that even the animals came close to them unafraid, often feeding from their hand or gambolling among their garden.
Sometimes, on summer nights, when the moon was full and gold and round as a penny the little girl could even talk with them.
Using the language of the trees and the wind she would converse with creatures both feathered and furred and she would, in turn, hear the stories and songs that are kept secret from most people.
The girl grew up and became as beautiful as she was kind.
One day a prince rode through the glen.
He dismounted his horse and led it to the open sunlit glade to eat and rest when he heard the most beautiful singing.
As he peered through the trees he caught sight of the girl. She was singing the song of the waterfall, a song that most humans cannot hear. But somehow the Prince's ears were open that day and he was drawn as if by enchantment towards the beauty of the sound.
On hearing his footsteps the girl was startled, for she knew not whether he meant her good or ill. So she ran into the deepest part of the woods and the dwelling place of her little cottage.
However hard the Prince searched he couldn’t find her. Weary and desolate, he returned to his castle by the thin light of a crescent moon.
The next day he returned to the woods intent on finding the girl with the beautiful voice.
He searched and searched until the sun began to set beyond the trees turning them all to kindling and charcoal upon it’s ruby fire.
As the moon swelled and the stars alighted upon the ink black sky he knew he only had a little time left to find the girl.
He was to sail across the sea to the land of faraway the very next morning to be married to the princess of the realm who aboded there. And although she was meant to be the most beautiful girl in the world and the cleverest too, her heart was hard and cold.
She used her great wealth to build the tallest turret of the known and unknown worlds upon her mountaintop castle. Every year the turret would get higher and higher until it almost seemed to touch the moon with its icy pointed finger.
As the prince made one more search into the deepest darkest part of the wood. He heard footsteps stumbling behind him.
He could see hardly anything in the dark. Thorns were tearing at his fine silk clothing and he felt his heart beat faster and faster.
Suddenly his foot became caught in a briar and he fell to the ground.
The figure hovered over him, dim and mute. He prized his eyes open in terror only to see it was a little old woman carrying a heavy basket of logs on her back.
“Please could you help an old woman with a heavy load” enquired the hag as the prince staggered to his feet.
The prince saw the pained look in the old woman’s eyes but his thoughts could not be kept from the beautiful singing girl of his dreams.
“I am sorry” he faltered, “ I have so little time left to complete my quest, I cannot help you, but I bid you all the best dear old woman.”
The Prince was just about to continue on when something pricked his heart. It was a faint pang and he could have easily disregarded it. But it was the pang of compassion the most powerful, yet hard to keep of all emotions in the human heart. As he was a good, noble and gentle prince he could not ignore it for long.
The Prince turned and began to retrace his steps to find the old woman carrying the heavy basket of logs upon her old, bent back.
With every slow, painful step, he knew he was getting further and further from his destination and the ethereal voice of the beautiful girl. His legs were aching after two days of walking and riding, the cold night air was biting his fingers and face and his stomach was empty and hollow from lack of food. Yet he obediently followed the old woman’s stumbling steps as she couldn’t walk very fast. Her old achy legs were gnarled as twisted tree limbs.
Although he was keenly aware of his own discomfort he began to realize that the old woman was weeping under the burden of the logs she carried on her back.
“Old Woman, what gracelessness I have shown you, please let me help you; I fear the pursuit of my quest had blinded me from seeing you rightly.”
The woman smiled gratefully and silently.
The Prince heaved the heavy basket of logs upon his back and followed the little old woman as she hobbled along.
Yet a funny thing began to happen as they walked.
Slowly, slowly, slowly
Silently, silently, silently
The old woman’s appearance began to alter.
Her old ragged clothes frayed and work worn spun into the smoothest satin beneath the twinkling stars. The prince could not work out whether this was his own imagination or not.
But then her crooked back unfurled like a butterfly from a cocoon into a pair of delicate wings. The prince was startled! Were they not simply cobwebs that laced themselves between the tree branches of this ancient wood?
But then her silver hair shone gold as the harvest moon.
And her gnarled and twisted limbs flowed free as a stream.
And he knew this was no trick of his mind.
The Prince was astonished!
For many moments he could not speak. In fact he remained silent for so long that a thousand years past by without him even noticing.
When he finally awoke from his dismay it was morning and all things were different in the wood. The dense bracken and briars had opened up into a wildflower meadow glade and the sun poured like a waterfall onto the cloth of his skin.
Beside him sat the girl with the shining wings and the gold hair.
“Dear maiden!” he exclaimed “Pray tell, what has become of the dear old woman?”
“Ahhh, she is me and I her,” replied the fairy maiden with a quiet smile.
“And as a reward for your compassionate heart I am here to be a lantern for your feet to guide you safely through this knotted wood to the home of your true love.
For if you hadn’t shown compassion you would have been lost in it’s dark depths forever.”
And all she said was true, for it wasn’t long before they came to the log cottage in the middle of the wood.
As the Prince walked up to the porch the animals that were resting there scattered quickly behind the trees.
When the Prince saw the girl he fell to his knees and asked for her hand in marriage. For although they had never spoken with words his heart knew hers.
Yet the girl wept.
“Why do you weep?” asked the Prince.
“I weep because cannot leave my home, you must come to live here if we are to marry” she whispered soft as a falling feather.
The Prince’s mind raced. He thought of his fine clothes and his grand palace. He remembered the roar of the crowds on parade days and the wonderful banquet tables brimming with exotic foods.
“I cannot leave all that behind” thought the Prince. “What am I without them?”
So he returned to his palace that night feeling more lost and alone than he ever had before.
As the stars began to dissolve into the first light of dawn his heart was still in a state of sorrow and confusion.
The Prince tried to sleep but in all his dreams he was tangled in the knotted roots of the wild wood and the roots were pulling him down, down, down into the darkness of the earth.
The next morning the Prince’s man servants came in to ready him for his voyage across the sea to wed his princess bride. They dressed him in his finest clothes, embroidered silks, satins and taffetas. But the clothes felt tight and uncomfortable as if they belonged to some other man. That morning the Prince could not speak a word or eat even a morsel of food. The palace chefs brought him the sweetest of delicacies but each bite turned to sawdust in his mouth.
The only feeling he had was one of homesickness,
And his thoughts wandered aimless in the deep wood of the singing girl.
He felt a prick in his heart like a dull thorn and it kept reminding him of her waiting for him there.
Without a thought he mounted his horse and rode away, following the tracks he had left the previous night.
When he found the girl he fell on his knees to beg her forgiveness.
“The only thing the matters is you returned to me” was all she said as they embraced.
Then slowly, slowly, slowly
Silently, silently, silently
The animals returned from their hiding places and surrounded the couple.
It is said they lived as prince and princess of the woodlands for the rest of their days and maybe they are still there now.