Tale #12: The Old Woman Who Lived In The Woods

There was an old woman who lived in the woods.

“Are you a witch?” asked the crow.

“I am, my dear,” she said, and the crow cawed and shared with her its breakfast.

“Are you a witch?” asked the cat.

“I am, my dear,” she said, and the cat purred and shared with her its lunch.

“Are you a witch?’ asked the priest.

“I am, my dear,” she said, and the priest fell silent and kept for himself his dinner.

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Notes:

1. Written on August 9th, 2014

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The Crow

There’s this crow that sometimes comes in our garden and I’ve been slowly befriending it.

At first it’d only come along occasionally and you’d only see it out there when the garden was empty and you looked out the window and there it’d be, prancing about, sniffing out some food, or lounging around on the bench out there.

Then a few times I was sitting in the garden and it would leap up onto the fence and then look a bit startled when it saw me, and it’d back away, and usually then go back down and disappear, although sometimes it would just sit there on the fence and warily watch me.

After a while though it got brave enough that if I was in the garden and it saw me there it would still come down into the garden but sort of skirt around me in a big circle, always keeping a big beady eye on me, as it went about it’s business. And if I ever made any sudden movements or startled it in some other way it would squawk at me and flee.

But I never made any sudden movements. And I never will.

Now it’s so thoroughly used to me it’ll hop up onto the table when I’m out there and sit on the keyboard of my laptop so I can’t do any work and then it’ll let me stroke it and it’ll purr and purr and purr

I think it’s a crow

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1. Written on July 16th, 2016

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Tale #1: The Unhappy Bride

A young woman was betrothed against her will to the son of a wealthy farmer. No matter what she said, nor how unhappy she became, nothing would change the minds of her family or his, and the marriage quickly came to pass.

On her wedding night, after her husband had fallen asleep, she rose from bed, went outside, and wept bitterly beneath the moon.

A crow looked down at her from a nearby tree and said, “Why are you, who are still in your wedding dress, so unhappy?”

“I did not wish to be married, and I do not love my husband, and I have been betrayed by those who should love me, and so now I am all alone.”

The crow flew down from the tree and stood beside the bride.

“I can help you,” the crow said. “First, take off your dress.”

The young woman did as she was told, removing her wedding dress and dropping it to the ground.

“Now, let me cut off your hair.”

The woman nodded her agreement, and the crow hopped onto her shoulders, and with a quick bite of its beak cut the hair clean from her head.

“Now, let me give you my feathers.”

The crow pulled a feather from its wing, and plunged it deep into the woman’s arm. The crow then pulled a feather from its other wing, and plunged that deep into the woman’s other arm. And in this fashion the crow continued until it was completely bald and the woman was clothed in a thick black coat of feathers.

“Now, take my beak.”

The woman pulled the beak from the crow’s face and placed it carefully over her own mouth.

“Finally, fly away.”

And the woman flew away into the night.

The crow watched the unhappy bride leave, and then dressed itself in the woman’s dress, and placed her hair like a crown upon its head, and went inside her new house and climbed into bed with her husband.

The years passed, and the husband passed away, and after he was buried, the woman sat outside in her mourning dress and wept bitterly beneath the moon. A crow looked down at her from a nearby tree and said, “Why are you, who were never even truly married to this man, so unhappy?”

“I saw myself in this dress and remembered being a crow.”

The crow flew down from the tree and stood beside the widow.

“I can help you,” the crow said. “First, take off your dress.”

The young woman did as she was told, removing her mourning dress and dropping it to the ground.

“Now, let me cut off your hair.”

The woman nodded her agreement, and the crow hopped onto her shoulders, and with a quick bite of its beak cut the hair clean from her head.

“Now, let me give you back your feathers.”

The crow pulled a feather from its wing, and plunged it deep into the woman’s arm. The crow then pulled a feather from its other wing, and plunged that deep into the woman’s other arm. And in this fashion the crow continued until it was completely bald and the woman was clothed in a thick black coat of feathers.

“Now, take your beak.”

The woman pulled the beak from the crow’s face and placed it carefully over her own mouth.

“And finally, crow, fly away to your old freedom, and let me return now to mine.”

The crow, no longer a woman, flew away into the night. The woman, no longer a crow, pulled on her mourning dress, placed her hair like a crown upon her head, and went inside her old house and climbed into her old bed and slept soundly until morning.

And when she woke she rose anew.

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Notes:

1. Originally written in October 2013, although it’s been revised a few times since then
2. Illustrated by Holly English, who very kindly drew pictures for a few of these stories when I was putting a small anthology together in 2015 (for which this was the title story)
3. I like crows

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