Tale #47: The Old Lady And The Woodcutter

There was an old lady who lived in the woods. Her house was all on its own in the middle of a vast forest, which over the years had grown up huge and dense around it.

A woodcutter stumbled upon her house one day as he was making his way through the thick undergrowth looking for a place to make his fortune. He cut a path to her door and knocked and when she answered he said, “I’m a woodcutter and I cut wood. Let me work for you for the next three days. I shall take what I cut to the market, and then great riches we can share.”

The old lady agreed and said, “What shall you cut down today?” The woodcutter replied, “I will clear away the new growth that has tangled itself around your crops and strangled the pretty flowers of your garden to death, and made it so that you cannot even leave your home.”

And he spent the day cutting through the brambles and the thistles and the thornbushes that surrounded her house like an impassable castle wall.

That night he picked up the bundles of twigs and branches and thorns and flowers that he had cut down and carried them back to the town, where he sold them to a merchant for a fair and equitable price.

The woodcutter kept half for himself and the next morning he showed the old lady the rest of the money and said, “This is what the merchant gave me for my work and your wood.” And he gave her half of what he held, and she put it in her purse.

“And what shall you cut down today?” she said. The woodcutter replied, “I shall cut down the old growth that has grown up so high and spread out so wide it has blocked out the sky above and kept your house in perpetual darkness.”

And he spent the day cutting down the old oaks and pines that grew up like guard towers around her house.

That night he loaded up the cart he had brought with him that day, and brought the huge piles of wood back to the town, and he sold it all to a shipbuilder for a vastly inflated price.

The woodcutter kept two-thirds for himself and the next morning he showed the old lady the rest of the money and said, “This is what the shipbuilder gave me for my work and your wood.” And he gave her a quarter of what he held, and she put it in her purse.

“And what shall you cut down today?” she said. The woodcutter replied, “I shall cut down the deadwood that lingers in this house like an old and rotten stump, and with it breathe new life into this cold, dead house.”

And he took his axe and chopped the old lady into kindling. He took the kindling inside and put it on the fire and set it alight and let the flames from her body heat his new house.

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Notes:

1. Written August 4th, 2016

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