Fairy Tales and Stories
Here’s a great cat story from Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland, by Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde, published in 1887.
A most important personage in feline history is the King of the Cats. He may be in your house a common looking fellow enough, with no distinguishing mark of exalted rank about him, so that it is very difficult to verify his genuine claims to royalty. Therefore the best way is to cut off a tiny little bit of his ear. If he is really the royal personage, he will immediately speak out and declare who he is; and perhaps, at the same the, tell you some very disagreeable truths about yourself, not at all pleasant to have discussed by the house cat.
A man once, in a fit of passion, cut off the head of the domestic pussy, and threw it on the fire. On which the head exclaimed, in a fierce voice, “Go tell your wife that you have cut off the head of the King of the Cats; but wait! I shall come back and be avenged for this insult,” and the eyes of the cat glared at him horribly from the fire.
And so it happened; for that day year, while the master of the house was playing with a pet kitten, it suddenly flew at his throat and bit him so severely that he died soon after.
A story is current also, that one night an old woman was sitting up very late spinning, when a knocking came to the door. “Who is there?” she asked. No answer; but still the knocking went on. “‘Who is there?” she asked a second the. No answer; and the knocking continued. “Who is there?” she asked the third time, in a very angry passion.
Then there came a small voice–“Ah, Judy, agrah, let me in,–for I am cold and hungry; open the door, Judy, agrah, and let me sit by the fire, for the night is cold out here. Judy, agrah, let me in, let me in!”
The heart of Judy was touched, for she thought it was some small child that had lost its way, and she rose up from her spinning, and went and opened the door–when in walked a large black cat with a white breast, and two white kittens after her.
They all made over to the fire and began to warm and dry themselves, purring all the time very loudly; but Judy said never a word, only went on spinning.
Then the black cat spoke at last–“Judy, agrah, don’t stay up so late again, for the fairies wanted to hold a council here tonight, and to have some supper, but you have prevented them; so they were very angry and determined to kill you, and only for myself and my two daughters here you would be dead by this time. So take my advice, don’t interfere with the fairy hours again, for the night is theirs, and they hate to look on the face of a mortal when they are out for pleasure or business. So I ran on to tell you, and now give me a drink of milk, for I must be off.”
And after the milk was finished the cat stood up, and called her daughters to come away.
“Good-night, Judy, agrah,” she said. “You have been very civil to me, and I’ll not forget it to you. Good-night, good night.”
With that the black cat and the two kittens whisked up the chimney; but Judy looking down saw something glittering on the hearth, and taking it up she found it was a piece of silver, more than she ever could make in a month by her spinning, and she was glad in her heart, and never again sat up so late to interfere with the fairy hours, but the black cat and her daughters came no more again to the house.
“Kwan Yin is one of the most universally beloved of deities in the Buddhist tradition. Also known as Kuan Yin, Quan Yin, Quan’Am (Vietnam), Kannon (Japan), and Kanin (Bali), She is the embodiment of compassionate loving kindness. As the Bodhisattva of Compassion, She hears the cries of all beings.”
Kwan Yin and the Swallows
by Dharmadasa Karuna
The cloud blue crests of Jianshan Mountain leaned into the morning light. Flaxen rays reached into the window of a young woman sleeping on a bed of straw. Her hair was the color of the night sky, and lapped over her belly and hips. Her skin was the color of the sun. She awoke and walked outside. The nest of swallows on her windowsill was empty. It was the end of summer.
Her bare feet pressed into the fallen leaves on the ground. She entered the woods in search of a cluster of white flowers with purple stems. Mother seemed unsure of herself this week, and Dong Quai would calm her nerves. She closed her eyes and let the forest guide her. She found the flowers in the silence.
“Kwan Yin, where are you? Talking to your birds again?”
“Coming mother.” The young woman emerged from the woods. “I was gathering a tonic for our tea.”
“I have to go wash clothes at the river for Mrs. Lim. Save the tea for lunch. We’re having visitors.”
“Madam Hong and her son.”
“Why are they coming? We don’t need visitors.”
“The fortune teller said you were a good match for Madam Hong’s son.”
“Mother, you know I don’t want to marry.”
“You are a woman now, and while your hair still falls down your back and your breath is sweet, you must take a husband.”
“I’m going to enter the nunnery.”
“That is a child’s dream, Kwan Yin.”
Kwan Yin looked down and did not answer.
“We are poor Kwan Yin, and the Hongs are wealthy. They are an honorable family. Do you understand?”
“You have never been with a man and….”
“I know it is my duty to care for you.”
“They are not all as kind as your father was. After you clean the house and cook the meals, they will make you cut wood, carry water, and milk the goat. Then you must lay with them every night. Your work is only done when you sleep.”
“Mother, I know. I know what I must do.”
There’s been a lot of talk of late about Pancake Marion, and the whole “Shrove Tuesday” phenomenon. But just who is she? And why did she do the horrible things that she did? Historian Marcus Ploughmans looks back at the history of one of England’s darkest secrets.
“Pancake Marion, Pancake Marion
Now’s the time to fry them
Pancake Marion, Pancake Marion
Now’s the time to fry
Don’t you dare to drop them
On the table plop them
Tuesday’s day is pancake day
We dance our cares away”
The ever-popular children’s nursery rhyme is now only ever really associated with cooking pancakes. But there was once a time when it was sung to remind children of the dangers of going into the darkness of Marionwood, Herefordshire.
The Raven-Barrow Family Portrait
In 1854, Jonathon Raven-Barrow (a wealthy industrialist from Westminster, London) lost his entire fortune to bad investments made in overseas property. Jonathon, his wife and their daughter, Marion, were homeless and destitute. They were forced to live in makeshift accommodation in the woodlands of Hereford, surviving by eating scraps, scavenged from the dustbins of the local townsfolk.
But, unknown to the Raven-Barrows, the villagers had grown tired of the rogue family’s presence. They saw the family as vermin. The woods were once a play area for children, but had become a no-go area since the Raven-Barrows had taken over. The villagers conspired to trap the family, and, on the night of the 14th of February 1857, caught them deep within the woods.
One by one, they were boiled alive in a vat of rancid eggs and lard…ingredients that were consistently stolen. As Marion was being executed she managed to escape. The villagers assumed that her fierce wounds would finish her off. But they were wrong. She lived. Albeit deformed and unhinged. Her mind twisted by the sight of the murder of her parents.
She fed off wild animals…to begin with! When the animals ran out…she turned to the children of the village. And anyone else who was foolish enough to go into the woods. All were captured…tortured and eaten alive, covered in boiling batter. They called her Pancake Marion.
Armies of men would march into the woods, all carrying weapons…but none would return. In a five year period she claimed over 200 victims. Eventually, the woods were burned to the ground. It seemed the only way to end her reign of terror. And the name of Pancake Marion became a thing of folklore.
Here is a story about a Dryad by Hans Christian Anderson.
We are travelling to Paris to the Exhibition. Now we are there. That was a journey, a flight without magic. We flew on the wings of steam over the sea and across the land. Yes, our time is the time of fairy tales.
We are in the midst of Paris, in a great hotel. Blooming flowers ornament the staircases, and soft carpets the floors.
Our room is a very cozy one, and through the open balcony door we have a view of a great square. Spring lives down there; it has come to Paris, and arrived at the same time with us. It has come in the shape of a glorious young chestnut tree, with delicate leaves newly opened. How the tree gleams, dressed in its spring garb, before all the other trees in the place! One of these latter had been struck out of the list of living trees. It lies on the ground with roots exposed. On the place where it stood, the young chestnut tree is to be planted, and to flourish.
It still stands towering aloft on the heavy wagon which has brought it this morning a distance of several miles to Paris. For years it had stood there, in the protection of a mighty oak tree, under which the old venerable clergyman had often sat, with children listening to his stories.
The young chestnut tree had also listened to the stories; for the Dryad who lived in it was a child also. She remembered the time when the tree was so little that it only projected a short way above the grass and ferns around. These were as tall as they would ever be; but the tree grew every year, and enjoyed the air and the sunshine, and drank the dew and the rain. Several times it was also, as it must be, well shaken by the wind and the rain; for that is a part of education.
The Dryad rejoiced in her life, and rejoiced in the sunshine, and the singing of the birds; but she was most rejoiced at human voices; she understood the language of men as well as she understood that of animals.
Butterflies, cockchafers, dragon-flies, everything that could fly came to pay a visit. They could all talk. They told of the village, of the vineyard, of the forest, of the old castle with its parks and canals and ponds. Down in the water dwelt also living beings, which, in their way, could fly under the water from one place to another—beings with knowledge and delineation. They said nothing at all; they were so clever!
And the swallow, who had dived, told about the pretty little goldfish, of the thick turbot, the fat brill, and the old carp. The swallow could describe all that very well, but, “Self is the man,” she said. “One ought to see these things one’s self.” But how was the Dryad ever to see such beings? She was obliged to be satisfied with being able to look over the beautiful country and see the busy industry of men.
It was glorious; but most glorious of all when the old clergyman sat under the oak tree and talked of France, and of the great deeds of her sons and daughters, whose names will be mentioned with admiration through all time.
Then the Dryad heard of the shepherd girl, Joan of Arc, and of Charlotte Corday; she heard about Henry the Fourth, and Napoleon the First; she heard names whose echo sounds in the hearts of the people.
The village children listened attentively, and the Dryad no less attentively; she became a school-child with the rest. In the clouds that went sailing by she saw, picture by picture, everything that she heard talked about. The cloudy sky was her picture-book.
She felt so happy in beautiful France, the fruitful land of genius, with the crater of freedom. But in her heart the sting remained that the bird, that every animal that could fly, was much better off than she. Even the fly could look about more in the world, far beyond the Dryad’s horizon.
France was so great and so glorious, but she could only look across a little piece of it. The land stretched out, world-wide, with vineyards, forests and great cities. Of all these Paris was the most splendid and the mightiest. The birds could get there; but she, never!
Among the village children was a little ragged, poor girl, but a pretty one to look at. She was always laughing or singing and twining red flowers in her black hair.
“Don’t go to Paris!” the old clergyman warned her. “Poor child! if you go there, it will be your ruin.”
But she went for all that. Continue reading
Snowflake is a Slavonic story from Andrew Lang’s The Pink Fairy Book, published in 1897. This Russian folktale is closely associated with the Russian Christmas which is traditionally celebrated on Jan 6, and also with St John’s Day celebrated on June 24.
Once upon a time there lived a peasant called Ivan, and he had a wife whose name was Marie. They would have been quite happy except for one thing: they had no children to play with, and as they were now old people they did not find that watching the children of their neighbours at all made up to them for having one of their own.
One winter, which nobody living will ever forget, the snow lay so deep that it came up to the knees of even the tallest man. When it had all fallen, and the sun was shining again, the children ran out into the street to play, and the old man and his wife sat at their window and gazed at them. The children first made a sort of little terrace, and stamped it hard and firm, and then they began to make a snow woman. Ivan and Marie watched them, the while thinking about many things.
Suddenly Ivan’s face brightened, and, looking at his wife, he said, ‘Wife, why shouldn’t we make a snow woman too?’
‘Why not?’ replied Marie, who happened to be in a very good temper; ‘it might amuse us a little. But there is no use making a woman. Let us make a little snow child, and pretend it is a living one.’
‘Yes, let us do that,’ said Ivan, and he took down his cap and went into the garden with his old wife.
Then the two set to work with all their might to make a doll out of the snow. They shaped a little body and two little hands and two little feet. On top of all they placed a ball of snow, out of which the head was to be.
‘What in the world are you doing?’ asked a passer-by.
‘Can’t you guess?’ returned Ivan.
‘Making a snow-child,’ replied Marie.
They had finished the nose and the chin. Two holes were left for the eyes, and Ivan carefully shaped out the mouth. No sooner had he done so than he felt a warm breath upon his cheek. He started back in surprise and looked–and behold! the eyes of the child met his, and its lips, which were as red as raspberries, smiled at him!
‘What is it?’ cried Ivan, crossing himself. ‘Am I mad, or is the thing bewitched?’
The snow-child bent its head as if it had been really alive. It moved its little arms and its little legs in the snow that lay about it just as the living children did theirs.
‘Ah! Ivan, Ivan,’ exclaimed Marie, trembling with joy, ‘heaven has sent us a child at last!’ And she threw herself upon Snowflake (for that was the snow-child’s name) and covered her with kisses. And the loose snow fell away from Snowflake as an egg shell does from an egg, and it was a little girl whom Marie held in her arms.
‘Oh! my darling Snowflake!’ cried the old woman, and led her into the cottage.
And Snowflake grew fast; each hour as well as each day made a difference, and every day she became more and more beautiful. The old couple hardly knew how to contain themselves for joy, and thought of nothing else. The cottage was always full of village children, for they amused Snowflake, and there was nothing in the world they would not have done to amuse her. She was their doll, and they were continually inventing new dresses for her, and teaching her songs or playing with her.
Nobody knew how clever she was! She noticed everything, and could learn a lesson in a moment. Anyone would have taken her for thirteen at least! And, besides all that, she was so good and obedient; and so pretty, too! Her skin was as white as snow, her eyes as blue as forget-me-nots, and her hair was long and golden. Only her cheeks had no colour in them, but were as fair as her forehead.
So the winter went on, till at last the spring sun mounted higher in the heavens and began to warm the earth. The grass grew green in the fields, and high in the air the larks were heard singing. The village girls met and danced in a ring, singing, ‘Beautiful spring, how came you here? How came you here? Did you come on a plough, or was it a harrow?’ Only Snowflake sat quite still by the window of the cottage. Continue reading
There was the snow, and the snow fell from the heavens, slowly, thoughtful and deliberate, silent contemplation of a million spirits, crystalline and filled with logic, diversity infinite, and yet, each one did come to bless the child.
There was the night, and she was quiet, she was holy, as all nights are, and even when the nights were dancing, loud and full of whirling stars and northern lights performed for all to see or no-one there at all, and winds rush treetops and they tell their tales of night, of all the nights, and know so much, foreshadow even more …
There was the lake, and it was frozen deep and mirror smooth and mirror still, slow water, sleeping water, perhaps it dreams of spring or it may simply rest and think, and gather wisdom of each other, and of time …
There was a thought, a very special wind arose and it could only be right here, right now, and it came softly, lightly, it exhaled the finest mist of white, creates the forms and functions, sculptures in a living dance, they flow and they touch everything, reach into everything, make the connections, make something new, now hush and listen, for the time of magic is upon us, it is nearly here …
There was the child, it stepped in light and whitest shine into this night, and here, the snow did kiss its face, did kiss its hair, and laid itself beneath its feet to be a carpet, be a path, a path that leads in all directions, where you walk, there it becomes.
The night began to sing, so quietly, so full of admiration; the stars awoke and paid attention, sent their light and love to touch the child; the lake became the mirror for it all as now the wind did breathe the future into being and then the child began to smile – his welcome was the holiness, and holiness did enter into all the land touched by his light, it filled the world with hope, with beauty of a different order, the new, the unexpected, a newborn star of purest light.
And there I was, and there were you, and always, ever, always new, there is the snow for us, there is the night, there is the lake, there is wind, and always new, there is the child.
Source: SFX Solstice 2009
A group of little Faeries huddled in their home deep under the roots of a giant oak tree. They were safe and snug in their tiny underground cave lined with dandelion fluff, bird feathers, and dried moss.
Outside, the wind blew cold and the snow fell softly down to cover the ground. “I saw the Sun King today,” the faerie named Rose said as she pulled her mossy cloak tighter about her. “He looked so old and tired as he walked off through the forest. What is wrong with him?
“The great oak said he’s dying” answered Daffodil.
“Dying? Oh, what will we do now?”, Little Meadow Grass started to cry, “If the Sun King dies, our little plant friends will not grow. The Birds will not come and sing again. Everything will be winter for ever!” Lilac, Dandelion and Elder Blossom tried to comfort their friend, but they were all very sad. As they huddled together, there was a knock on the tiny door.
“Open up, Faeries,” called out a loud voice. “Why are you hiding instead of joining us in our Solstice celebration?” Rose opened the door and the little gnome Brown Knobby pushed inside, shaking the glistening snowflakes off his brown coat and hat.
“We are too sad to celebrate,” Daffodil said wiping her eyes, “The Sun King is dying, haven’t you heard?”
“He is dead you silly Faeries.” Brown Knobby’s round dark eyes sparkled with laughter. “Now hurry, or we’ll be late for the celebration!”
“How can you be happy and laughing?!” Elder Blossom stamped her little foot and frowned at the gnome. “If the Sun King IS dead, it will be winter always. We will never see the Sun again!”
“Silly little child-Faeries.” Brown Knobby grabbed Dandelion by the hand and pulled her to her feet. “There is a secret to the Winter Solstice. Don’t you want to know what it is?”
This is a cute but silly little story about Betsy, Christmas, Pagan Gods, and the Vatican. Enjoy!
Heavens to Betsy! A Christmas Story!
It was Betsy’s thirteenth birthday, which was a bittersweet day for her because it was also Christmas Day. Her parents always told her they gave her twice as many gifts as they would have if her birthday was any other day, one for her birthday and one for her Christmas present.
But their hypocrisy always became apparent when they gave her a pair of shoes, that is one for each foot they said, or a pair of socks, or the weirdest gift of all—a pair of babies. Imagine her surprise and chagrin when Bob and Rob popped into her world on her birthday, which had been upstaged already by Baby Jesus. Now her birthday party and gifts would be divided between two more, and probably it would be much worse because their family was already poor and they claimed it was a stretch of the family finances to even get her some new shoes.
And for Betsy even the word “new shoes” was a cruel joke because those new shoes for her were always the old shoes that were now too small for Jesús, the boy next door named after the original Jesus. Christmas was always boo-hoo day for her.
They lived on an ancient street named for the old Roman god, Saturn. There was still a statue plinth where it was claimed Saturn once stood, but that was removed long ago and put into The Vatican, just a short walk from Betsy’s home. It was squeezed into a display room full of other old Roman gods. There they could be safely ignored, or occasionally on special days like Christmas simply mocked with little gifts placed at the foot of the statues.
It is a strange thing, when I feel most fervently and most deeply, my hands and my tongue seem alike tied, so that I cannot rightly describe or accurately portray the thoughts that are rising within me; and yet I am a painter; my eye tells me as much as that, and all my friends who have seen my sketches and fancies say the same.
I am a poor lad, and live in one of the narrowest of lanes; but I do not want for light, as my room is high up in the house, with an extensive prospect over the neighbouring roofs. During the first few days I went to live in the town, I felt low-spirited and solitary enough. Instead of the forest and the green hills of former days, I had here only a forest of chimney-pots to look out upon. And then I had not a single friend; not one familiar face greeted me.
So one evening I sat at the window, in a desponding mood; and presently I opened the casement and looked out. Oh, how my heart leaped up with joy! Here was a well-known face at last—a round, friendly countenance, the face of a good friend I had known at home. In, fact, it was the MOON that looked in upon me. He was quite unchanged, the dear old Moon, and had the same face exactly that he used to show when he peered down upon me through the willow trees on the moor. I kissed my hand to him over and over again, as he shone far into my little room; and he, for his part, promised me that every evening, when he came abroad, he would look in upon me for a few moments.
This promise he has faithfully kept. It is a pity that he can only stay such a short time when he comes. Whenever he appears, he tells me of one thing or another that he has seen on the previous night, or on that same evening. “Just paint the scenes I describe to you”—this is what he said to me—“and you will have a very pretty picture-book.” I have followed his injunction for many evenings. I could make up a new “Thousand and One Nights,” in my own way, out of these pictures, but the number might be too great, after all. The pictures I have here given have not been chosen at random, but follow in their proper order, just as they were described to me. Some great gifted painter, or some poet or musician, may make something more of them if he likes; what I have given here are only hasty sketches, hurriedly put upon the paper, with some of my own thoughts, interspersed; for the Moon did not come to me every evening— a cloud sometimes hid his face from me.
Last night”—I am quoting the Moon’s own words—“last night I was gliding through the cloudless Indian sky. My face was mirrored in the waters of the Ganges, and my beams strove to pierce through the thick intertwining boughs of the bananas, arching beneath me like the tortoise’s shell. Forth from the thicket tripped a Hindoo maid, light as a gazelle, beautiful as Eve. Airy and etherial as a vision, and yet sharply defined amid the surrounding shadows, stood this daughter of Hindostan: I could read on her delicate brow the thought that had brought her hither. The thorny creeping plants tore her sandals, but for all that she came rapidly forward. The deer that had come down to the river to quench her thirst, sprang by with a startled bound, for in her hand the maiden bore a lighted lamp. I could see the blood in her delicate finger tips, as she spread them for a screen before the dancing flame.
There was once a king’s son who had a larger and more beautiful collection of books than any one else in the world, and full of splendid copper-plate engravings. He could read and obtain information respecting every people of every land; but not a word could he find to explain the situation of the garden of paradise, and this was just what he most wished to know.
His grandmother had told him when he was quite a little boy, just old enough to go to school, that each flower in the garden of paradise was a sweet cake, that the pistils were full of rich wine, that on one flower history was written, on another geography or tables; so those who wished to learn their lessons had only to eat some of the cakes, and the more they ate, the more history, geography, or tables they knew. He believed it all then; but as he grew older, and learnt more and more, he became wise enough to understand that the splendor of the garden of paradise must be very different to all this. “Oh, why did Eve pluck the fruit from the tree of knowledge? why did Adam eat the forbidden fruit?” thought the king’s son: “if I had been there it would never have happened, and there would have been no sin in the world.” The garden of paradise occupied all his thoughts till he reached his seventeenth year.
One day he was walking alone in the wood, which was his greatest pleasure, when evening came on. The clouds gathered, and the rain poured down as if the sky had been a waterspout; and it was as dark as the bottom of a well at midnight; sometimes he slipped over the smooth grass, or fell over stones that projected out of the rocky ground. Every thing was dripping with moisture, and the poor prince had not a dry thread about him. He was obliged at last to climb over great blocks of stone, with water spurting from the thick moss. He began to feel quite faint, when he heard a most singular rushing noise, and saw before him a large cave, from which came a blaze of light. In the middle of the cave an immense fire was burning, and a noble stag, with its branching horns, was placed on a spit between the trunks of two pine-trees. It was turning slowly before the fire, and an elderly woman, as large and strong as if she had been a man in disguise, sat by, throwing one piece of wood after another into the flames.
“Come in,” she said to the prince; “sit down by the fire and dry yourself.”
“There is a great draught here,” said the prince, as he seated himself on the ground.
“It will be worse when my sons come home,” replied the woman; “you are now in the cavern of the Winds, and my sons are the four Winds of heaven: can you understand that?”
“Where are your sons?” asked the prince.
“It is difficult to answer stupid questions,” said the woman. “My sons have plenty of business on hand; they are playing at shuttlecock with the clouds up yonder in the king’s hall,” and she pointed upwards.
“Oh, indeed,” said the prince; “but you speak more roughly and harshly and are not so gentle as the women I am used to.”
“Yes, that is because they have nothing else to do; but I am obliged to be harsh, to keep my boys in order, and I can do it, although they are so head-strong. Do you see those four sacks hanging on the wall? Well, they are just as much afraid of those sacks, as you used to be of the rat behind the looking-glass. I can bend the boys together, and put them in the sacks without any resistance on their parts, I can tell you. There they stay, and dare not attempt to come out until I allow them to do so. And here comes one of them.”