Children's fable, for a story. A girl lost in the woods, but help is there if she looks.
| It was twilight when a little silver-haired girl realized she had lost the woodland path that brought her deep into the winter woods. She turned this way and that, made circles around the spot where she stood, scouring the ground. But it was no use. The path must have ended while she was looking around distracted.
Pulling her shawl up over her head she began to worry. She was dressed warm enough for walking during the day, but night would bring a deep chill she was not prepared for. She thought of her father, standing at the window, wondering when she would return with the firewood. Perhaps he was starting to worry she hoped. Perhaps he would have sent her brother to look for her by now…
A sudden movement of color caught her eye and she looked up. A tiny green bird with a bright yellow beak had just landed on a branch a few paces from the girl. The pair looked at each other for a moment. The bird chirped sharply, startling her. The bird seemed to be pleased and began to sing.
“You silly bird, shush now! Can’t you see I’m trying to think!” she chided. The little bird was silent for a few moments, head tipped to the side. Then, more excitedly then before, the song started again.
“Hush now I say. You pesky bird, be off! I can’t think what I should do with you twittering in my ear.” The girl was getting cross and found it hard to think what was best to do. If she stayed her she might freeze in the night, but at least she could make a twig shelter. If she started to wander about she might just get more lost.
The little bird flitted off, but just as it did a beautiful woman walked out from behind the tree. She wore a rich velvet dress in the same green shade as the bird. She seemed to glide over the snow. The girls gasped softly and stepped back.
“That was quite rude of you.” It was the girl’s turn to be chided. “Why would you yell at an innocent bird so?”
“I… I didn’t know,” the girl apologized. “I was frustrated and I didn’t know what else to do.”
“Oh, and because I am not just a pesky bird you are sorry. I see. You’re mother or father should have taught you by now to listen to the animals. I would have let you out of the forest by now had you simply followed me.”
“Lead me out!” the girl exclaimed. “Oh please do. I can’t stay the whole night in the forest. I’ll freeze.”
“Hush little one. It is not so easy as that. You must learn your lesson. You may not understand now, but in the future you will thank me.” The woman unwrapped a silky cloth from her waist. “Take this, it will keep you warm through the night. I will return to you in the morning if you have not found your way. If you have, you must leave my gift upon a branch for me.”
The girl took the gift and put it around her shoulders. Before she had even secured the front closed she felt as if the cloth was warming her body. She thanked the mysterious woman but was still frightened and confused. The woman walked behind the tree and the bird flew off from behind the other side. The girl was alone again, or so she thought.
After feeling hopeless for a several minutes she noticed a shuffling sound a little ways off. Very carefully and quietly she approached the source. A badger was rooting around sapling trees, looking for food hidden in the roots below the snow and leaves. The badger looked up at the muffled crunch of leaves. He snorted before trundling away.
“Wait please!” the girl shouted in desperation. The badger paused to look back at her, then continued to lumber along. The girl stood motionless thinking to herself that the animals were useless; they could tell her nothing. Out of desperation she followed the badger, certain that she was only headed deeper into the woods. The air against her cheeks was getting colder.
The badger stopped finally and looked back at the girl. She caught up to him and watched disheartened as he clambered into his den at the base of a tree. “Well good night to you to,” she mumbled crossly. She spun around, ready to stalk away to who knows where when a shadow streaked across her vision. She ran towards it, not caring what it was. If she was supposed to look to the animals she had to hurry after this one.
Stumbling over fallen branches she finally saw where the shadow had paused. It was a fox, white all except for the end of its tail and paws. It stood panting, facing her. She tripped over the last branch that lay in her path. Her hands slowed her fall but the cold snow stung her face. As she sat up she fought not to cry. It would only freeze on her face and make matters worse. After a time she came to her senses and sat up properly.
“You silly old fox! Why must you make me run?” The fox yipped and rabbit bounded from a nearby bush. The girl leapt forward, not wanting the fox to hurt the rabbit. The fox however had gone to the spot where the girl tripped and was investigating the dirt she stirred up. The girl realized the rabbit must be followed next.
For several minutes she ran. Only catching glimpses here and there of the rabbit’s tail and back feet as it bounded along. Suddenly the girl slowed and stopped. She had reached the edge of the woods. She still had a long walk ahead of her, but she could see grey smoke rising from the chimneys of her village. She smiled and started running towards the hill that stood between her and the safety of home.
She suddenly changed direction and ran to the nearest tree. She hurriedly untied the silky cloth that had kept her warm through the cold night hours. With a desire to keep the cloth slowing her hand, she carefully placed it on a branch just above her head.
She ran home with energy she didn’t know she had. She could see a light still on downstairs. As she got closer, watching the window the whole time, the curtain pulled back briefly. A moment or two later her father hurdled around the corner of the house to her. When they reached each other he scooped her up, kissing her forehead and immediately started back for the house.
“Where have you been, it’s been hours since you started out for wood. You must be frozen solid by now.” He brought her inside and set her on the couch, pulling blankets around her. “Bring your sister hot tea,” he said to the young boy standing in the room.
“I’m not cold Padi, really. I met a woman in the woods who gave me a cloak. It kept me warm.” Her father made her tell the whole story before he was sure she was ok.
“You are a lucky girl, my little one. You must have met the Green Lady, the protector of the woods. It was good to follow her instructions; she will not ever lead you wrong if you are willing to believe her. Rest tonight, your brother will get the firewood tomorrow.”
Several days later, perhaps a week or more, the little silver-haired girl once again found herself gathering firewood along that barely visible path into the woods. She looked down it, though she would not follow it tonight. A flutter caught her attention. She walked over to the branch the little green bird was perched on.
“Thank you so much.” With that the bird fluttered off into the treetops. There was a note hanging from the branch, written in beautiful flowing script.
This may come of great use to you one day. Keep it well and do not be
selfish with it. It is not a possession but a gift to all who may find a need for it.
The girl picked up a bundle from the ground. It was the same silky cloth as the simple warm wrap she had wore the night she got lost. Now it seemed to be fashioned into a cloak, long enough to cover her head to foot. She put it on and spun around. The cloth shimmered with reflected light. She was determined not to disappoint the Green Lady. This cloak would be put to good use.