A Bedtime Story: On The Subject Of Faeries

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who did not want to go to bed. This was the same little girl who on a recent occasion shunned sleep for the sake of a pair of new shoes. She lived with her faerie nursemaid in a small cottage with a blue door at the edge of a great wood. This was, of course (for this is a bedtime story) no ordinary wood; it marked the boarder between our world and faerieland (as nearly all the houses of all children who live in bedtimes stories usually do.) Once you had quite lost sight of the house among the trees, you were in the land of the faeries and there is no telling where you might end up. The little girl’s name was Kaelyn (KAY-lynn). Her faerie nursemaid called her Kae, which was the call of a particular little red bird who, (when the weather was fair), perched in the topmost branches of the young trees at the outer edge of the garden. These saplings marked the beginning of the wood, so it was likely the little red bird lived in faerieland proper and only came out to its edges to see the little girl. In summer they would play hide and seek and make up songs together, so the faerie nursemaid felt certain that he was calling to his friend, where he chirped among the cherry blossoms.

On this particular evening, Kae sat alone on the stoop of the cottage admiring the faerie wood. It was the very first perfect evening of summer when, despite the dusk, she felt not the slightest chill, clad only in her thin white shift. Her new shoes, no longer new, had been set aside for summer, and she wiggled her bare toes in the silken grass below the front step. An enchanting (and possibly enchanted as well—this was very near faerie land) little breeze whistled as it strolled among the last crocuses and snow drops and the first of the summer daisies of the garden. It stopped to kiss each sleeping rosebud and whisper colors into their ears before delighting Kae with the sweet fragrance of lilacs and tousling her curls. She was not very old, and in her short existence, the faerie forest had never held any particular interest for her. The garden was delightful and very close to the cottage (containing her faerie nursemaid with her fantastic stories and all manner of good things to eat and plenty of other enticements,) and the wood was always a bit ominous with its many dark trunks, wider than she could wrap her arms around, and so tall she could not see the tops even if she lay on her back beneath them. But on this first magical evening oftrue summer, the wood had never looked fairer.

“Faerie Nursemaid?” She called into the cottage without averting her gaze from the lovely trees (she had grown considerably since the incident with the shoes, and no longer addressed her faerie nursemaid as “Effem.”)

“Yes, my Love?” The faerie nursemaid called back from her favorite rocking chair (the one beneath the window that overlooked the garden so she might always watch over her charge as she knit.)

“Before the sun has quite slipped behind those hills, might I take a walk into the edge of the wood? I see a bit of a path just there beyond the garden, between those two great oaks?” It was a sweet, childish request asked in the purest innocence, but when she heard it, the faerie nursemaid stopped her knitting, rested her hands on her apron and breathed a deep and ancient sigh. It was the sigh of long held sorrow. The sigh of a hundred thousand autumns fading into winter. A sigh that carried the whole world on its shoulders and still searched for more to bear. It was a question she knew in her old heart would come someday but each morning and evening that passed in its absence she treasured like a perfect jewel. For the day will come in the life of every child when he or she must walk through faerieland, and the old faerie nursemaids can no sooner stop them than go along with them. She loved the beautiful, fair-haired child, with her luminous green eyes hung like harvest moons in her face, as she loved the wind and the grass from which she was born. Her old heart ached to think of the dark road that lay before so sweet and fragile a creature. She left her knitting on the worn cushion of her chair and came out to the doorstep next to the child. With great care she lowered herself down until her old crooked toes were nestled in the grass beside the young pink ones, and her deep, sincere eyes, of the richest blue could gaze into Kaelyn’s green ones.

“My Child, if you took an evening stroll in among those trees, I fear you would not be home in time for bed.” She tucked her sorrow back into her heart and did her best to delay the inevitable.

“But I shouldn’t even lose site of the house. See? As soon as it grew nearly dark, I would just turn around and follow the same path home.” It seemed a perfectly logical solution.

“My Darling Kae, you have spent your life in the land where all roads lead in two directions at once. In our world you can always come back by the way you went in. In faerieland, things are not so simple”

“How do you mean?” Kae asked, her brow furrowed.

“All roads in faerieland lead only one direction. You can never return by the way you arrive.” Her faerie nursemaid replied.

“But even if the path disappears, I would recognize the trees. I would remember each one I pass and look for them again to come back.” When she was very small, she and her faerie nursemaid made games of guessing and naming the trees. She knew them as well as most children know the names of their friends. Another very small sigh escaped the faerie nursemaid’s lips before she continued to explain,

“My Love, the trees and paths in faerieland are as alive and full of mischief as the acorn sprites and daisy pixies.” One or two daisy pixies always took up residence in their garden of a summer, and once when Kaelyn was just learning to walk, an acorn sprite had bitten her on the ankle. It had not hurt her much, but quite startled her and she had sat down so quickly she did not attempt to walk again for some weeks. “That silvery little path you see between those two fair oaks, winding away among the trees would sooner lead you into a dragon’s cave than home again, once you had given it charge of your feet. Once you enter faerie land, my dearest, the only road to follow is the one ahead of you, and you cannot hope of finding your own garden again until the forest itself decides to bring you there. For all you can tell when you set foot in that country, you could be all grown up and gray, like me, before I would see you again.”

The little girl was gazing at the forest with round and shining eyes. The moon was just rising and bathed it all in such lovely silver, she imagined she could almost see the silken, fluttering dresses of the wood nymphs as they flitted to and fro among the trees. The stately trunks looked like the pillars of an ancient and mysterious hall that had stood for eons witnessing the beauty, bravery and sorrow of which legends are knit. I am sorry to say that the gentle warnings of her faerie nursemaid did not serve to deter the little girl from her curiosity as they were intended. Instead the desire to enter that terrible and magnificent place burned ever more fiercely in her young heart. Though she dutifully follow her faerie nursemaid back into the cottage and allowed herself to be undressed for bed, her mind lingered at the edge of that forbidden path. As she lay on her pallet in front of the open door (where the loveliest, blossom scented breeze would ease her as she slept) it was many hours before her eyes finally closed. She was watching the two oaks sway in the moonlight, their long branches like fingers beckoning her to come join them.


~ by ifindthisamusing on February 23, 2008.

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