Hi! I’ve taken time away from blogging to complete my apprenticeship in crafting fairy tales, but I’m back now! Here’s a taster of what I’ve been up to. It’s a fairy tale I wrote on a 10 week workshop in Cardiff. Enjoy!
Once upon a time, in a snow globe world of swirling autumn leaves, there lived a noble couple and their fair daughter. To an outsider, they appeared to possess every privilege a couple could wish for, yet there was one blessing that eluded them. They had failed to produce a male heir to continue the family name of Dafydd-Ellis.
The absence of a male heir sent the Lady Guinevere into a deep melancholy, especially on the event of her daughter Madeleine’s fifteenth birthday. She became withdrawn, refusing to leave their manor house. She wouldn’t eat and began to waste away.
Her husband, the Lord Gwillym, wrung his hands in despair. “I have given your mother everything but this one thing that would her happy. What am I to do?”
“Father, I have an idea,” said Madeleine.
Lord Gwillym glanced down at his daughter, waiting for her to continue.
“I have a solution, but it means venturing into the dark forest.”
“I must forbid you from doing that,” her father replied. “The woods are no place for a young girl. Witches hide in them. They prey on the young and the frail. No, you mustn’t go.”
“But father, it’s our only hope! If I do not go, we will lose her!” Madeleine protested, and at last her father conceded.
And that very night, as the full moon rose, Madeleine wrapped herself in a thick cloak, and headed for the forest.
The trees started to whisper as she approached. She trembled as she fought through the tangle of branches, which threatened to tear at her flesh. The thicket grew murkier and murkier until at last she reached a clearing.
She heard the steady drip, drip of water, which was the only clue as to her location. She had to fight through a mass of brambles before collapsing exhausted by the side of an ancient stone wishing well.
“Oh ancient Well,” she proclaimed, “grant me this one wish that will bring to my parents great joy.” She thought the rest as a silent prayer.
Madeleine’s wish was soon granted and a baby was born in the spring.
But still the family didn’t have everything that they could wish for. Lady Guinevere had proven too frail to survive the labour. She never heard her baby’s first cries or those of her grief-stricken husband and daughter.
“Oh, who will look after the little infant now?” said Lord Gwillym.
Little did they know that a hag had seen these events unfold as she stared into her crystal ball somewhere in a cave far above Lord Gwillym’s estate. As she watched, she formulated a plan so cunning that she ended up cackling and the villagers in the valley below ran for shelter in case of an approaching storm.
As it grew dark, Imelda, for that was her name, rushed into the valley, through the tangle of trees and brambles, until she sat at the edge of the wishing well.
She whispered, “Oh wishing well, make me a beautiful maiden that I may win the heart of Lord Gwillym, that I may gain the one thing I wish for most of all, an infant I can call my own.”
While Imelda waited to see if her wish would be granted, Lord Gwillym buried Lady Guinevere, and his daughter Madeleine planted a rose bush over her heart.
“Who will look after the baby now?” Lord Gwillym said.
“I will father,” Madeleine replied cradling baby Bryan in her arms.
“But what about finishing school?”
“My duty is to my family foremost,” the wise girl replied.
Lord Gwillym didn’t argue with her, although he wouldn’t hear of her sacrificing her studies to look after the baby. The next morning, he placed an advert in the Daily Scroll for an Au Pair who could also look after the infant.
Then two days later, as Madeleine took Bryan out for his morning stroll, the most graceful elfin maiden came knocking on Lord Gwillym’s door.
Lord Gwillym became dazzled by her blue eyes and rose bud lips, which unfurled in a perfect smile as soon as he let her into his house. She flicked her long golden locks and as she did so his entrance hall filled with the scent of lily of the valley reminding him of his mother who had long since passed away. Before she even introduced herself, he hoped that she had come about the vacancy. She soon informed him that this was the purpose of her visit.
“When can you start?” he said.
They shook hands. Once more her smile enchanted him and he became lost in her eyes. He leant forward and felt the warmth of her lips on his. She slipped into his arms, into his heart, and instantly he knew she was the one.
He moved away from her slightly bashfully, fearing he had misread the signals, and then caught sight of her captivating smile once more. The vapours of her enchantment unfurled around him and hypnotically, he uttered the words: “Will you marry me?”
As Lord Gwillym fell under Imelda’s spell, Madeleine, still troubled by her father’s grief, returned to the wishing well although she knew it unlikely that it would grant her more than one wish.
She reached the edge of the woods and took Bryan out of his cot. Holding him close, she fought through the branches. The trees began to whisper. Eyes appeared everywhere, and she heard one name, “Imelda”.
A branch brushed against her shoulder, causing her to shudder, but she raced onwards through the brambles until once more she sat at the ancient well. Once there, she felt uneasy, sensing that someone else had been there since her last visit.
Among the brambles lay an old cloak. She feared that there could be someone in these woods suffering from the cold without this cloak to protect them and she forgot all about the wish she intended to make.
Then the sun sunk behind clouds and darkness filled the woods. She shivered and decided to slip the cloak on, just until she reached home and could return it to the rightful owner.
Opening her front door she discovered her father with his new maid discussing the laundry schedule. She gasped as she witnessed her father following this woman around like a lovelorn puppy. Lord Gwillym turned to face her but didn’t recognize her. “Get out you hag,” he shouted at her.
“Hag? Father it is me, Madeleine!”
“It is Imelda of the caves,” said the maid.
“Get out!” he screamed. He extracted the baby from her arms. He pushed her through the door and into a puddle. Picking herself up, she noticed that the skin on her arms had withered. She was no longer the young daughter. No wonder her father hadn’t recognised her.
Madeleine murmured to herself, “wait a minute, did not the maid who enchanted my father call me Imelda, just as the trees whispered to me earlier? Perhaps the trees will come to my aid?”
Madeleine rushed back to the woods, returning to the whispering thicket.
She called out to the trees as they tried to grab her and stall her progress, “Who is this Imelda that you must murmur about amongst yourselves?”
All was silent.
“Why will you not talk to me?” she asked.
One tree coughed, another said, “Do not tell her, she is trying to trick us. Imelda will have us for tinder.”
But one kindly tree called out, “Look to your feet!”
Looking down, Madeleine spied a long thread joined to the hem of her cloak. She followed it to the caves where she discovered the crystal ball and the stagnant waters that Imelda called home.
Through the ball she saw right into her father’s home, saw Imelda bathing, saw the red mark shaped like a dragon on her back, that could only be a branding mark inflicted on those who performed acts of witchcraft. Then she saw in the flickering of a lightning strike the same mark upon the cave’s wall painted in blood.
As Madeleine watched, Imelda pronounced, “I shall marry Gwillym in the morning, and then the baby shall be mine.” The image in the ball became misty, then vanished.
Madeleine knew she had no time to waste. She had to find her father before their family was torn apart forever. But would he recognize her? What was she to do?
She came up with a plan. She took a vial of cave water and returned to the wishing well. The well’s waters healed her withered skin.
Then she returned to her father’s house still wrapped in the cloak.
She slammed through the doors just as her father was about to say, “I do.” Madeleine rushed towards the imposter who she now knew to be Imelda. Lifting her veil, she threw the vial of stale water in her face. Her features melted away to reveal the greying skin of a hag. Madeleine then tore the bodice from her back revealing the red tattoo of scarred skin.
Lord Gwillym gasped as the village priest pronounced, “This woman is a witch. She would have stolen your child. We must burn her.”
Madeleine blanched at the suggestion, “No we will not burn her on the condition that she repents her wicked ways and becomes our willing servant.” Her father acquiesced.
News of Madeleine’s compassion spread far and wide. Imelda the hag had been transformed into to a kindly grandmother figure. The news spread right to the edge of the snow globe, prompting a nobleman from those parts to pay Lord Gwillym a visit. He instantly fell in love with Madeleine and asked for her hand in marriage.
In the autumn they wed, and in the spring a baby boy was born. Lord Gwillym rejoiced at his daughter’s happiness. He also swelled with pride on witnessing his son Bryan taking his first baby steps. And his household was filled with the scent of sweet petals as roses bloomed over Lady Guinevere’s grave.