Mythical Monday: Dwarves, Dragons and Danes by Mae Clair

I finally had a chance to catch up with the second part of The Hobbit last night, The Desolation of Smaug. I’ve been a fan of Tolkien ever since my tenth grade English teacher gave me his copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. That’s when my love of fantasy really took off. Tolkien’s books are loaded with all things mythical and marvelous—elves, dwarves, enchanted forests and lakes, wizards, and walking trees—just to name a few.  After watching The Desolation of Smaug, I thought it was an appropriate time to shine a spotlight on dwarves. Admittedly, Thorin and Kili might have had something to do with that. :D

Not all dwarves were heroic warriors. Some were simple folk, concerned with agriculture and common tasks like smithing, baking and spinning. The Danes tell a folktale about a human farmer who leased a homestead that had seen numerous ill-fated owners before him. None had any luck tilling the land or raising a profit from livestock. Drought had struck the crops repeatedly, and disease thinned every herd. This farmer—a man, with a wife and two young children—hoped for better luck.

Summer rural scene with old wooden abandoned barn in green mountain meadowOn the night he arrived—a fine balmy summer evening—he addressed the farm with what he hoped was a respectful greeting. “Good evening, farm.”

“Good evening,” a voice immediately returned. Sounding much like the croak of a toad, the voice came from the direction of the cowshed.

The farmer peered through the twilight, searching for the source, but saw no one about. Unsure if he had imagined the reply, he shrugged and added, “Well, whoever you are, come to the cottage at Christmas and show yourself.”

The next day he set to work, patching walls and re-thatching the roof, for the farm had fallen into a horrible state of disrepair. He stabled his herd in the cowshed, but not long afterward, one of his best cows mysterious went dry. In the back of his mind, he feared the curse of the farm would plague him as well.

Still, when Christmas Eve arrived there was a fat goose for the family feast, and plenty of ale. In the middle of dinner, as the family enjoyed their holiday fare, the door suddenly burst open with a gust of cold air.

A small gnarled man dressed in gray stood on the threshold. He surveyed them for a moment, taking in the shocked faces of the children, then called out a Christmas greeting. The farmer instantly recognized the croaking-toad voice he had heard the evening of his arrival, and invited his strange visitor inside. He offered the dwarf a plate of goose, and a mug of ale.

“You must come to the cowshed on New Year’s Eve so I may return the favor in kind,” the dwarf informed his anxious host after he had feasted.

The farmer was wary, but feared insulting a supernatural being. When New Year’s Eve arrived, he went to the cowshed as promised. The dwarf pointed out a hole in the earth ringed with loose soil, then vanished into the dark passageway. Growing ever more fearful, and not seeing how he could ever fit through such a small opening, the farmer nonetheless stuck his foot into the hole. He immediately dropped into a low chamber composed of clay walls and gnarled roots. Furnished with oil lamps and a table, the small space was cozy and inviting. The dwarf bade the farmer to sit, then gave him a steaming bowl of porridge. Before the farmer could take a bite, a fat drop of foul-smelling brown moisture plopped onto the table from the ceiling.

“You see why I curse the land now?” the dwarf asked. “The first owner built his cowshed directly over my home, and ever since the muddy floor has oozed through my ceiling and ruined my food. I bear no malice to mortals, but have blighted crops and cursed cattle as a result of my spoiled porridge. ‘Twould be better if we lived in peace. Move the shed at first thaw, so that we both may prosper.”

Beautiful old farmstead surrounded by lush greeneryThe farmer did as the dwarf requested, moving the cowshed as soon as the weather permitted. In return, his crops flourished and his dry cow gave an abundance of milk. Not only did he prosper, but his harvests where plentiful and his herds enjoyed good health and long days. The dwarf’s animosity became rich blessings instead, allowing the farmer and his family to thrive on the farmstead where all others had failed.

It’s interesting that there aren’t that many tales about dwarfs out there. I think some tales where imps are involved (like Rumplestiltskin) could also be interpreted with dwarves. Can you think of any fairy tales or myths that include dwarves? Do you have a favorite?

And the most important question—what do you think of Thorin and Kili? :D

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mythical Monday: Beware the Bunny Man by Mae Clair

Although this nefarious character is usually spotted near Halloween, I couldn’t resist the bunny connection with Easter. It just seemed a good time to blog about an urban legend related to well… bunnies.

Before I go any further, let me state emphatically that I adore bunnies. And Easter is my second favorite holiday, after Christmas. I love it for its religious significance and also the sense of rebirth it brings with the newness of spring. It’s one holiday I would never want to associate with anything “soiled” for lack of a better word.  Then I stumbled over the urban legend of the Bunny Man.

According to folklore, in 1904, the residents of Clifton, Virginia petitioned to have a nearby mental asylum shut down and its patients relocated. In hindsight, that was probably a bad idea. For proof, I offer the following nugget of wisdom:  Any urban legend that includes the mention of “mental” and “asylum” usually doesn’t end well and this one is no different.

Norfolk Southern Freight Train at Colchester Overpass.

Norfolk Southern Freight Train at Colchester Overpass. Photo credit: By Kohlchester via Wikimedia Commons

The residents of Clifton got their wish, but in the process of transferring the patients to another facility, the vehicle used to move them was involved in a crash. A few of the prisoners died, many others escaped and took to the countryside.

The authorities immediately launched a search and were able to round up all of the escapees with the exception of a man named Douglas Grifon. Grifon had supposedly been institutionalized for murdering his wife and children on Easter Sunday.

In the days following his escape, the residents were horrified to find the skinned, half-eaten carcasses of rabbits dangling from the branches of surrounding trees. Their fear transitioned to terror when the body of a man named Marcus Wallster was found in a similar condition not long afterward. His mutilated corpse was discovered hanging from a tree near a railroad overpass.

Prompted by the grisly discovery, the police began another frenzied search, this time managing to catch up with Grifon near the bridge. Before they could apprehend him, he ran onto the railroad tracks and was struck by an oncoming train. The horrific scene turned spine-tingling when the train passed, rattling down the tracks. In the unnatural silence that followed, the police were spooked by the sound of sinister laughter.

Train and vehicular traffic at Colchester Overpass aka Bunnyman Bridge

Colcehster Overpass. Photo credit: By Kohlchester, via Wikimedia Commons

Thereafter, the locals referred to the site as Bunny Man Bridge, dubbing Grifon the Bunny Man. For years after his death, carcasses were found hanging from the overpass in the days preceding Halloween.

Should you like to explore this legend yourself, all you need do is visit the southern railway overpass that crosses Colchester Road near Clifton, Virginia. But beware should you go exploring— the bunny man’s laughter is still heard echoing through the trees.

 

Mythical Monday: The Merry Wanderer of the Night by Mae Clair

I’ve had an affinity for Robin Goodfellow (or “Puck”) ever since reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream in high school. How can you not love a cavalier mischief-maker? Every mythology has a trickster or devilish imp, and when it comes to English folklore and faeries, Robin Goodfellow takes the crown.

Rendering of Puck in field coming upon two human children

Photo courtesy Arthur Rackham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A nature sprite, Puck (as he’s nicknamed by country folk) is a mischievous knave who inhabits woodlands and delights in leading night time travelers astray. He’s also been known to engage in tomfoolery at homesteads, souring milk in the churn, pinching lazy housemaids and blowing out candles to steal a kiss from young maidens. He delights in confusing mortals with pranks and practical jokes but isn’t opposed to lending a hand with minor housework such as grinding corn or churning butter if treated well.

If not in the woods, you can find him lurking about farmsteads and barns. Small gifts such as milk and sweet cream may gain his favor for a time, but at heart he is a free-spirited soul who never tires of watching the foolish antics of mortals. One of his favorite tricks is to replace a sleeping infant in their cradle with an elfling child.

Puck is one of the brownie faeries, also called a hobgoblin, and is able to shapeshift at will. He uses echoes and lights to confuse travelers on their journeys through the woods at night, and is capable of stringing humans along like circus animals with his bewitching piping.

Though it would seem this ill-behaved imp is capable of hurtful pranks, most of his tricks are of a harmless nature. He may cause chaos, such as when he bungled who loves who in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but in the end, matters are usually resolved. Described by Shakespeare as “that merry wanderer of the night,” Puck is endearing and bewildering, a roguish and wayward pixie who is both charmer and scamp.

What do you think? Love the guy or avoid him? Are you a fan of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Mythical Monday: Elephant Graveyards by Mae Clair

Remember in the Lion King when Simba and Nala discovered the elephant graveyard?

Eons ago, when the world was young and all animals roamed free, elephant graveyards existed in parts of India, Burma, Africa and Thailand. Secreted in deep valleys, sheltered by towering mountains, their location was known only by the elder of each elephant tribe. When the time came for an elephant to depart this life, the tribe gathered for a ritual farewell.

Elephant 208AAfterward, the departing elephant lumbered into the jungle alone, lured by the call of the graveyard. For days the mighty beast would travel, following a secret path through dense foliage, emerging at the base of the mountains.

Weary, but compelled by the supernatural draw of his ancestors, the elephant would climb upward into the hidden valley. A narrow entrance, just wide enough for one to shamble through, opened into an isolated dell. Within, cradled among beds of wildflowers and whispering grasses, lie the bleached bones of his ancestors. The elephant would select a spot among the skeletons, lie down and wait for death with dignity.

Throughout the centuries, men have sought these secret places, hoping to reap a fortune by harvesting the ivory tusks. But elephants are wise, and know the locations must remain hidden. Many are hunted and destroyed before they are able to make the final journey. For those fortunate enough to partake in the trek, they would rather die on the trip than lead an interloper to the resting place of their ancestors. For this reason these mythical graveyards have never been located by man. Many expert trackers and hunters have tried.

Elephant AffectionSome return after following an elephant for days, only to realize the mighty beast has led them in circles. They are dehydrated and confused, near death themselves, no match for their elusive quarry. It is said elephants mourn their dead. Perhaps that is why their ancestral graveyards remain a myth.

These devoted and familial animals are wise enough to ensure men will never discover their final resting place.

As it should be.

Mythical Monday: Pennsylvania’s Yellow Monster by Mae Clair

It’s Monday, and that means it’s time for a bit of myth! Digging around in some old folktales, I found another related to my home state of Pennsylvania. This one comes from Berks County in the eastern half of the state. It relates to a creature so bizarre, it was never even given a proper name other than to be tagged the “yellow-what-is-it.”

Early in October of 1879 in the tiny town of Topton Station, the son of the local prison inspector, a Mr. Schmel, set a hunt in motion with his tale of an unidentified monster.  On a brisk fall day, he raced into the local motel and breathlessly told his story to the hotel’s owner, Mr. Hinnershitz.

Country Yard showing side of barn and wagon wheelSchmel was backed up by his friend, Jared Rissmiller. Together, the two men had been herding cattle when they spied a yellow creature in an open field just outside of town. According to Schmel it was about four feet tall with long arms, and two fingers on each arm resembling claws. No mention of hands, but its feet were said to be flattened lumps without toes. Its head was furrowed, its body smooth. The creature was male, naked, and covered in dirt or clay. When spotted, it ran toward Schmel as if to grab him, then abruptly changed its mind and fled into a cornfield.

Shaken but fueled by adrenalin, the two friends quickly secured the cattle and set off in search of the beast. Not long afterward they found the creature curled into a ball on the opposite side of the cornfield.

This image conjures such a pitiful picture in my head, it makes me think the “monster” was more frightened of them than vice-versa. It isn’t specified, but I’m sure the men made a fearful sight, probably armed with rifles, pitchforks or clubs. When it realized it was discovered, the poor beast leapt to its feet and stood blinking at them. Perhaps it was confused or too terrified to move. Whatever the delay, it allowed Rissmiller a closer look.

“It was yellowish brown in color with no hair, small eyes and face, arms about fourteen inches long, legs somewhat longer, the hands and feet resembling those of a human being.” Rissmiller also said it had two horns on top of its head. He and Schmel tried to capture the beast but it was able to escape, scurring into the woods beyond a fencerow.

Several days later the yellow-what-is-it was spied by another resident. Mr. Heckman supported the description given by Shcmel and Rissmiller but thought the creature might be an escaped gorilla.

Hmmm . . .clearly, Mr. Heckman hadn’t encountered many gorillas in his day, because:  one, the description wasn’t even a distant match and two, there was no news of an escaped gorilla anywhere in the vicinity.

dirt road leading into woodsThat didn’t prevent the local residents from taking action,however. Fired up by the thought of a creature haunting the countryside, they diligently combed the area. In the days that followed, reports filtered in of odd footprints discovered around town, strange tracks in plowed fields, and bizarre cries echoing from the woods at night. Some townspeople whispered their fear of being followed when their path led them on darkened roads after twilight. The growing terror eventually prompted armed patrols. Men with rifles began traversing the area at night, accompanied by dogs.

Yet despite all these efforts, the yellow-what-is-it, was never captured or seen again. The unidentified creature remains a mystery tucked into the annals of Pennsylvania’s dusty folklore. Perhaps, realizing it was no longer safe, it moved to another area. Or perhaps it was ill and eventually perished. There are no accounts of the beast actually harming anyone, despite all the hysteria it generated. For that reason, part of me can’t help but feel sympathetic toward it. What do you think?

Mythical Monday: Chasing Leprechauns by Mae Clair

Top ‘o the morning to ye and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Although I ran this post last year, I thought it worth re-sharing on this splendid day marking the wearin’ of the green.  Last year St. Patrick’s Day didn’t fall on a Mythical Monday. This year, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity when the date coincided so perfectly (maybe the wee folk had something to do with it)! So enjoy a virtual green beer on me while I trot out a much beloved figure from myth.

Leprechaun Sitting on ToadstoolRemember when you were a kid, and you wanted to catch a leprechaun? If you were like me, it had nothing to do with that legendary pot of gold. What was gold to a kid? The allure was the idea of a magical wee creature who could move between worlds. Spying a leprechaun meant maybe, just maybe, the veil between everyday reality and a hidden otherworld grew thin enough to cross over. What child wouldn’t want to explore a fairytale realm where enchantment was king?

Shoemakers by trade, Leprechauns were mostly solitary, but they enjoyed a good reel with the fiddle and tin whistles at night. Kindred to the Fair Folk, they were descended from the great Tuatha Dé Danann, and squirreled their gold away in buried pots. If you were crafty enough to catch a leprechaun and kept your eye fixed on him, he’d have to reveal the location of his gold when asked. One blink, however, and he quickly vanished from sight.

When I was a kid, there was a huge open field across the street from my house. It backed up to the rear yards of the homes on that side, and stretched the full length of the neighborhood. It was a magical place fully of whimsy. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was an enchanted realm all its own. There were walnut trees and wild flowers, clusters of honeysuckle and patches of sun-sweetened strawberries. When dusk settled, my friends and I gathered to watch bats launch from the tops of snarled dark trees. In the winter, we donned skates and glided on frozen ground water beneath a full moon. Autumn was perfect for gathering acorns and trekking to the “big hill” that sprouted from the earth like a mythical fairy mound.

Pot of GoldI never did find a leprechaun in that magical kingdom, not that I ever put any great energy into the search. I preferred to imagine one of the wee folk watching from beneath a shaded leaf or a plump toadstool. The problem with magic is that when you leash it, the enchantment fades. Perhaps that is why leprechauns and pots of gold only exist at the end of rainbows for rainbows have no end.

I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in my veins – - I’m Italian and German with a smidgen of Brit mixed in – - but I think all of us feel a connection to the Emerald Isle, especially during the month of March. So whether you’re Irish or just honorary for the day like me, here’s hoping your day is filled with rainbows and the blessings of the wee folk.

Was there a magical place you remember from childhood? Do you have any special St. Patrick’s Day traditions?

Mythical Monday: The Moon Woman of New Zealand by Mae Clair

I’ve been fascinated by the moon and the heavens in general ever since I was in grade school. I can still recall how excited I was when in second grade we learned the names of the planets and I was able to recite them in order. At six years old (I started school early) I was apt to share this little gem of information with anyone who’d listen. I’m sure my parents probably got tired of hearing me recite them, but they never let it show.

When I was seven my dad bought my older brother a telescope, which opened a brand new door of wonder to the heavens (despite my brother trying to convince me he’d seen little green men dancing on the moon). Eventually, a few years later, my father bought me my own telescope seeing my interest in stargazing wasn’t just a passing phase. I remember going out at night with a sketchbook and trying to replicate what the surface of the moon looked like after I magnified it through the lens. That telescope lasted through the years into my late thirties. As an adult I didn’t use it nearly as often, but there were still occasions when I dragged it into the back yard and angled it to capture a glowing moon.

mysterious worldMaybe it’s because I love that silvery orb so much I find it hard to believe anyone would curse it, but that’s exactly what the Moon Woman of New Zealand did. A Maroi girl by the name of Rona, she made a habit of trekking from her village to collect water from a nearby stream each day. One day she forgot to complete her task during the hours when the sun was high, and had to venture out at night.

The chore wasn’t trying at first for the moon shone brightly, lighting her way. But as Rona neared the stream, it slipped behind a cloud plunging her into darkness. In the sudden nighttime shadows, Rona tripped and fell. Perhaps she skinned her hands and knees; perhaps she hurt herself badly or broke her water pitcher in the fall. Whatever the reason, she grew horribly angry and began hurling insults at the moon for concealing its light.

Incensed by such blatant disrespect, the moon swept down to the Earth and attempted to carry her away. Realizing her danger, Rona wrapped her arms around a tree, refusing to let go. But the moon was so angry with the girl it ripped the tree from the Earth, roots and all, and carried it off with Rona still clinging to the trunk.

According to legend, when the moon is full, Rona, the tree, and her water pitcher are visible on the surface of the moon. Look closely and you will see the Moon Woman of New Zealand still lamenting her fate.

Mythical Monday: The Mummy’s Curse by Mae Clair

I recently finished a book by Lincoln Child called The Third Gate, a fictional account about an expedition to locate the tomb of an ancient pharaoh. A bit slower moving than most of Mr. Child’s work, it nonetheless held me riveted for three days with its combination of Egyptology, examination of NDE’s (near death experiences) and archaic curses. It also made me recall an urban legend about a mummy’s curse.

In the 1890s, four young Englishmen were touring Egypt when they met an antiquities dealer in a bar one evening. He regaled them with tales of the goods he had collected during his travels, including a sarcophagus containing the intact mummy of a princess of the Thirteenth Dynasty. Offering to show it to the young men, he suggested they visit his warehouse the next day.

old egyptian parchmentEager to see such a prize, the men met him as promised, and were instantly taken with the gorgeous sarcophagus. The lid was inlaid with precious stones and had been painted with a portrait of the princess as she’d looked during life, a beautiful woman who held the men mesmerized. After examining the mummy, the four men pooled their resources and asked the antiquities dealer to sell them the sarcophaguses. After some haggling, they agreed on a price.

“Before we conclude the deal, I must warn you the mummy is said to be cursed,” the antiquities dealer told them.

Scoffing, the men dismissed the warning, saying they didn’t believe in superstition. They thanked the dealer, paid him his money, and had the sarcophaguses shipped to their hotel. Later that evening, three of the men met in the bar for dinner, but the fourth never arrived. One said he’d observed their friend walking toward the desert and assumed he had just gone for an evening stroll. But the man never returned and was never seen again, despite several searches by the local police.

From that point forward, troubles quickly followed. Another member of the party had to have his arm amputated when a servant accidentally fired a hunting rifle while packing the weapon for the trip home.  During the voyage, another received devastating news that bad investments had destroyed his family’s fortune, and the final succumbed to an illness no doctor could diagnose or cure.

Vintage photo of happy familyThough they had laughed at the curse initially, the two survivors immediately put the sarcophagus up for sale. In London they found a buyer who had a passion for Egyptian antiques. A businessman, the new owner had the sarcophagus moved to his home where he hoped to showcase it among his collection. Shortly thereafter, the man’s wife and two of his children were severely injured in a carriage accident. To compound his misery, a fire swept through his house, destroying all of his belongings and every item in his antiquity collection…with the exception of the sarcophagus.

Anxious to be rid of the thing, he donated it to the British Museum anonymously. It wasn’t long before accidents started occurring: a man slipped and broke his leg, workers reported hearing hammering and sobbing coming from within the sarcophagus, a char woman who scoffed at the curse, lost her only child to a deadly case of measles. Another worker dropped dead of no apparent cause, and a foreman who had supervised the move was found dead at his desk.

Learning of the curse, a photographer snapped images of the sarcophagus. When he developed the film, he found the beautiful face of the princess on the lid superimposed with a ghastly image of decaying flesh. That night, he locked himself in his room and shot himself in the head.

For twelve years the sarcophagus was bandied about, passing from owner to owner. Most scoffed at it’s curse initially, but like the young Englishmen who’d brought it back from Europe, quickly realized it left a trail of tragedy and violent death in its wake. Eventually, it was purchased by an American collector who transferred the sarcophagus to a passenger liner in early April 1912. Eager to be back in the States with his prize, he booked himself a luxury stateroom on the same vessel which was making its maiden voyage. Unknown to the collector, he and the princess would ensure the ship lived forever in the annals of history.

The sarcophagus had been stored in the hull of the Titanic.

~ooOOoo~

If you liked this tale, check out Alligators in the Sewer and 222 Other Urban Legends by Thomas J. Craughwell

Mythical Monday: The Ghost Ship of Loch Awe by Mae Clair

bigstock-Lighthouse-In-Dense-Fog-23759474In the northern waters from Scotland to Iceland, a ghost ship is often glimpsed, riding the sea a day’s journey from the rugged coastline. Known as the Ghost Ship of Loch Awe, she resembles a passenger liner of the early 1900s.  It’s uncertain why she is attributed to Loch Awe, Scotland’s third largest freshwater loch which has never received a vessel larger than a coastal cargo ship.

The phantom boat appears only when the water is calm but swaddled in layers of fog. She materializes from the mist, smoke curling from her chimney stacks, her decks ablaze with lights.  It’s been reported she passes so close to other vessels those onboard can see passengers strolling on her decks.

Most spine-tingling of all, she passes in utter silence, swallowed quickly by the fog. Not a sound is heard in the unnatural hush. From the waves breaking against her hull to the ratchet of noise that should rise from her engines, there is nothing but eerie stillness and calm.

Despite the relative serenity of her passing, calamity follows in her wake. According to legend, within twenty-four hours of the vessel’s appearance, catastrophe will strike. She is the harbinger of a collision at sea, the tragic death of a crew member, or some other dire misfortune.

Oddly, the Ghost Ship of Loch Awe has never been identified as the phantom of an actual vessel. There is no account of any ship to fit her description, no maritime record of a lost vessel that resembles her. She is a whisper of myth, an omen that is perhaps born from the water itself, serving as warning to those who spy her that tragedy awaits.

Mythical Monday: White Cat Castle by May Clair

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a fairy tale on Mythical Monday. Although somewhat obscure, I think you’ll find the theme of White Cat Castle familiar.

According to legend, there was once a greedy king who clung tenaciously to his throne despite having three able sons. One day – perhaps goaded by his subjects who saw an aging ruler – the king announced he would surrender his crown to the son who brought him the tiniest dog in the world. If the task could not be completed within one year, he would maintain his throne.

The youngest son searched tirelessly. Eventually, after many long weeks, he found himself in a strange land, battered by a ferocious thunderstorm. Seeking shelter, he came upon a magnificent castle. Light streamed from the windows as brilliantly as the sun, and gentle music soothed the storm into silence.

When the prince sought entrance, invisible hands ushered him into the castle. There, he was given richly embroidered clothes and guided to a seat at a table where a lavish banquet awaited. All of these ministrations were performed by the same invisible hands.

Famished, the prince ate hungrily. He was about to drink from a goblet filled with wine when a regal cat strolled into the chamber. The feline was exquisitely beautiful with fur as white as newly fallen snow, and a gracefulness any high-born woman would envy. The prince was so overcome by her poise he immediately stood to greet her.

bigstock-Portrait-Of-Turkish-Angora-Cat-1252050

The white cat positioned herself on a golden stool and listened as he shared his tale. When he was through she bade him to drink the wine in his goblet. Upon tasting the sweet libation, the prince instantly forgot all about this father’s quest. He stayed with the cat for almost a year, attended by the invisible hands. During the day he and his feline companion rode through verdant meadows and green hillsides, the prince on his horse, the cat on a white monkey. When the sun dipped below the horizon, the cat sang to him, her voice the sweetest he’d ever heard.

When the year was nearly through she reminded him of his quest, handing him an acorn to present to his father. “Give this to your father, the king, and you will have his throne.”

The prince returned to his own land and offered the prize as instructed. But when a tiny dog stepped from the acorn, the selfish king immediately devised another task.

“This dog is not enough. I will surrender my throne to the son who brings me muslin so fine it will slip through the eye of a needle.”

Once more the three sons set out on a seemingly impossible quest. The young prince returned to the white cat’s castle and drank her wine. Once more he forgot his quest and was attended by invisible hands. This time, when the year was nearly through, the white cat gave him a walnut. Tucked inside was a hazelnut, and inside the hazelnut was a grain of wheat. Within the grain of wheat was a grain of millet, and inside the millet, a length of muslin so fine it would easily pass through the eye of a needle.

“Give this to your father, the king, and you will have his throne.”

Prize in hand, the prince returned to his own land. But unwilling to surrender his throne, the king set a third and final task.

“I must know my kingdom is secure, and will have an heir to continue my lineage. For that reason, I will surrender my throne to the son who returns with the most beautiful bride in the land.”

The prince rode back to the white cat’s castle to share his news. As he relayed the story, his heart quickened. The cat was lovelier than ever, graceful and kind. She had come to mean so very much to him.

“You will take a bride?” She seemed sad, but urged him to drink her wine.

Again, he spent nearly a year with her, more content than he had ever been. When it was almost time for him to leave, the white cat asked for a favor of her choosing.

“Anything.”  It was a promise he made freely for he’d come to cherish her above all else in his life.

“You must take your sword and chop off my head.”

“No. Never!” The prince was horrified. “I have come to love you as deeply as any bride. Do not ask this of me.”

But she insisted, holding him to his vow. Filled with sorrow that he was bound to such a loathsome deed, the prince drew his sword and sliced the head from her body.  Before his eyes, the cat transformed into a bride more beautiful than any on earth. The invisible servants that had tended him through the years instantly became human.

bigstock-Portrait-of-a-dreamy-fairy-gir-32417192

Stunned, the prince listened as the beautiful woman told him how she had been placed under a spell by an evil magician. With the curse broken, she could resume her rightful place as queen of her country. Already deeply in love, the prince needed no coaxing to remain at her side. He never returned to his father’s country. Together, he ruled with the woman he loved, and they became king and queen of White Cat’s Castle.

Can you hear the happily-ever-after in that ending? Don’t you just love fairy tales? :D