Tale #19: The Three Doors and the Fourth

There was a woman who was married away by her family to a man she had never met. Their wedding was brief, and he left as soon as the vows were complete, for he had a great many interests to attend to, few of which, if any, could be delayed or delegated away.

Once he was finally free for a while from his obligations, she travelled the great distance from her home in the city to his in the mountains, alone and unaccompanied by any except for the taciturn driver of her husband’s formal carriage. Even when she arrived at her new home there was no-one around to greet her.

She approached the house and knocked on the door and when there was no answer she knocked again. When her third knock went unanswered she opened the door herself and stepped across the threshold.

She was greeted apologetically inside by her husband, who looked resplendent in the uniform of his office. He told her much about his life and his ambitions, and showed her the many rooms and halls of the house. But there were three doors he forbade her from opening. “Enter them,” he said. “And there would be no turning back.” But of what lay beyond he would not talk.

The next day he left to attend to the important matters of his office of state, as well as to his business affairs. And his pleasures, too, no doubt, although what they might be his wife had no idea, for he had confided in her little beyond the pleasantries of everyday acquaintance. And so she was left alone in the house.

It was too cold outside to venture far, and too remote for visitors to arrive uninvited or unannounced. She wandered the halls and the corridors of the house alone, sitting occasionally in front of a fireplace or beside a window, reading perhaps a book or studying the art that hung forgotten on the walls.

Eventually to overcome her boredom she sought out the first of the forbidden doors and stood before it. She knocked and when there was no answer she knocked again. When that too went unanswered she opened the door herself and stepped across the threshold.

She was greeted brusquely inside by her husband, who looked tired in the drab grey of his business attire. He told her much of his life and achievements, as he walked with her from room to room and through the halls of his house. There were two doors he forbade her from opening. “Enter them and there would be no turning back,” he said. But of what lay beyond he would not talk.

The next day he left to attend to his interests of business. And to his pleasures, too, no doubt. Although what they might be his wife did not dare to know. And so she was left alone again in the desolate house.

There was too much snow outside to venture far, and the roads were unsuitable for all but the most important journeys. So she wandered the halls and the corridors of the house alone, sitting occasionally by a fireplace, reading perhaps a book to pass the time.

Eventually to relieve the boredom she sought out the second of the doors forbidden to her and stood before it. She knocked. There was no answer, and so she opened the door and stepped across the threshold.

She was greeted inside with fury by her husband, who looked haggard and unwell in the faded velvet of his evening wear. He told her much of his life and regrets as he pursued her from room to room. But when she came to one door he stood in front of it and forbade her to enter. “There would be no turning back,” he said, but of what lay beyond he would not talk.

The next day he left to attend to his pleasures, the details of which his wife knew more about than she cared to know. And so she was left alone in the desolate tomb of his house.

The glaciers pressed in against the walls of the house and there was no escape. She sat in her bed and stared at the walls. Before her stood the third of the doors.

She stood before it.

She opened the door.

She stepped across the threshold.

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Notes:

1. From May 2015
2. A variant of Bluebeard, by Charles Perrault (among others)

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Tale #8: The Three Wishes

In the country hereabouts there lived a poor farmer with twelve children and a loving wife. The children ate so much that the farmer always went to bed hungry and one day he said to his wife, “I wish, just once, that I could have a whole meal to myself.”

That week a sudden snow fell, and all of his children were overcome by illness and died. On Sunday, his wife roasted a turkey but in her grief she could not eat, and the farmer had it all to himself. He packed it in a basket and took it out into the woods with him for lunch.

Under a willow tree he sat down, and remembering his ill-spoken wish, wept with guilt and said, “I wish my children were here with me now to share this meal.”

The basket by his side began then to shake and looking inside he saw the turkey begin to judder and dance, and then, one by one, all twelve of his children emerged from the turkey’s ragged carcass.

They stood around him in a circle and he fed each one in turn until there was no more meat left. Seeing them all before him again, the farmer was overcome with joy and said, “I wish that all of you will always have enough to eat, no matter how little is left for me.” At this, the children grabbed hold of their father and pulled him deep beneath the ground and in the dark places there fed forever upon his soul.

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Notes:

1. Written on October 9th, 2013
2. The premise of this is taken from (I’m probably supposed to say inspired by) the short story Macario, by B. Traven, published in 1953.
3. There’s also clearly an element of The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs (first published in 1902)
4. And also of course Charles Perrault’s The Ridiculous Wishes (from 1697), and all other fairy tale variants thereof.

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