|The first tale in the book
||[Mar. 1st, 2009|08:52 am]
Who is that boastful bard who thinks he can spin a tale as fine as Twp? Here he comes in lively livery, that colorful creature welcome in every faire and hall. He stands at command of King Henry, the greatest king that ever lived, and in Henry’s court he shall tell any tale the royal court commands.
On this fine faire morning he answers to the most noble Queen herself, the Good Queen Matilda. She is gracious and she is wise, and she has called upon Twp to tell the children her favorite story: the story of The Magic Bag.
Be warned – he says the tale is true, and at the end he will offer proof!
The Magic Bag
Part 1 The Braid
Once upon a time a little boy went to Faire, where he met a little girl who turned into a silver-winged gryphon and flew him to a far-away kingdom where he became a prince.
Has that ever happened to you at Faire? No? Well let me tell you how it came about.
Not long ago children, but quite before you were born I am sure, there was a poor man lived on the edge of this city, with more children than he could count and nothing to feed them. Along came a wizard, disguised as a proud and handsome man, riding on a proud and handsome horse. The father and all the children watched and wondered, as well they might, for they had never seen a horse so fine before, nor indeed, a horse at all. The man was daintily dressed and richly bejeweld. Yet he addressed the poor man with all courtesy when he asked for hospitality.
“You are welcome to what I have” said the man, “but I have nothing. Indeed, I have more children than I can count and nothing to feed them." “Very well,” spoke the proud and handsome man. “Since I am going far into the deep woods to live in solitude, give me one of your children to serve as my housekeeper, and I will give you one gold piece for each of your remaining children.”
Well, very soon it was decided, and Ira, the oldest daughter, was bundled up to go away with the young man, whether she would or no.
Now as I have told you, this handsome, well-dressed man was a wizard in disguise. What kind of wizard was he? Why, he was the handsome, well-dressed kind. He was a young, proud man who had, in his pride, made many other older wizards very angry, until his sister sent him away and told him to take himself deep into the woods and practice his magic -- and practice and practice and keep practicing until he got it right! His fine horse he had conjured by magic, and from a magic bag he conjured another one, and put the young woman upon it.
He was not unkind to her, and spoke to her fairly, and yet she wept to leave the fair city. “How long must I be your servant?” she said. “And when may I see home again?” He touched her long, beautiful chestnut hair and said,
“Your tresses are so fair –
but when you first see
long, grey hair
you may leave me,”
and off they went over the mountain and into the far forest to be seen no more.
There in the depths of the forest the wizard lived conjuring great magics, stirring up wonderful enchantments, pondering deep ponderings, studying ancient tomes and sorcering the greatest sorcery. Ira cleaned up afterwards. So they lived quietly for many years, and if ever Ira became lonely for the company of other people, she would ask, “When will I be paid for my service, and when can I return to the city?” And the wizard would say
"When you are grey
You will have your pay
Take all my gold, and there
You may leave me when I see
One long, silver hair."
Years past for Ira, but not for the archmage, for it was his doom to be forever young and handsome. He was not very cruel to her, but neither was he very kind. After some time she bore him a son, whom she named Vonya.
But as the boy grew up alone in that wild place, his mother grew very unhappy. She longed to journey back across the mountain and live among people again.
So it was that, as she brushed her hair every morning and every night, she looked for grey hair, until one night, she was delighted to find a single, silver strand. She braided a lock containing that grey hair. The very next morning she packed her things in a bundle, with all the gold she could find, and took her son and left. She cut off the lock and left it behind, laying upon her pillow.
Many years had passed since Ira had come to live in the wilderness, and on her way back she quickly found herself lost. And even worse, as she made her way through that thickening forest, what should she happen upon, but a grazing gryphon!
The monstrous bird stood on lion’s legs as tall as a haystack, with great greedy talons tearing at his prey, and a great bird’s beak cracking and crushing bones. It paid no heed to mother and son, so what was she to do? but journey forward as if the gryphon were only a shadow, wondering at her good fortune.
The next day clever Ira found her way, and as the small family traveled out of the forest and up to the mountain, what should they spy, but a winged lion!
The brutal beast rose before her, beautiful, but vicious, and vigilantly searching for some large game to catch up in its cruel claws. But even as Ira stood agape and unguarded at the forest fence, the winged lion paid her no heed. It silently soared away, looking elsewhere for it’s monstrous dinner, leaving the mother to marvel at her good fortune.
When Ira crossed the mountain top, she was overjoyed to see below her the Fair City where she was born. As she descended the mountain, what should she see there but a long and loathsome dragon drowsing on the mountainside, his scaly body as long as three houses, his shining scales as sharp as scissors! He looked at mother and child with a yawning yellow eye, but made no move. So what else was Ira to do? She journeyed past the drowsy dragon as if he were only a dream, and continued on her incredible journey.
So it was that mother and son returned to the Fair City, and when Ira opened her bundle, there she found her own lock of hair, with the strand of silver in the braid. “Look at this,” she said to her young son, “Your father put this in my bundle with his magic. Surely this is what protected us from the gryphon, the lion, and the dragon. Keep this braid with you always my son, for it shall protect you from every harm.”
Part 2 The Fair
Now Vonya and his mother lived in our fair city, but after a time; a long time or a little time, his mother died, and Vonya found himself all alone. No one in the town would speak to the boy, nor meet him in any manner, for they all knew he was the son of the fearful wizard that lived in the far forest. They said that his grandmother was the ancient witch that lived in the nearby forest, the one called The Duchess of
Deer Wood, but Vonya did not know how to find that woman, or even where to look, and soon all his gold coins where gone, and the boy found himself in a house with nothing to eat, and no way to work for a living, for no one in that city would employ him.
Now our fair city has a fair Faire, as you know, and when Faire time came Vonya took his last coin and went to the festival to see its many wonders, and now I will tell you what happened to him there!
At the Faire of King Henry and the Good Queen Matilda there are many fine sights to see; both camels and elephants and swift-swinging chairs, fierce jousting horses and hearty knights to wield a sword. As Vonya stood on the hill, wondering what to do first, who should he see but a lovely little girl, just his size, and she was surely the fairest child he had ever seen. She came up and took his hand and, all smiles and sunlight, said that they would be fast friends, and see all of the Faire together!
And so they did, with little Vonya as happy as a king. They watched the jugglers and the acrobats and the dancers that prance around the merry mistrals. They listened to the singers and the pipers and the calls of the merchants and the ringing of a hundred bells. And the smell – who can resist it? Where-ever they turned, there were wonders.
But, alas! They had nothing to spend, but only Vonya’s last gold coin in-between them. But as they sat with the great crowd that had gathered to watch the joust, the pretty girl showed Vonya her magic bag. “Look at this!” she said, and she placed his single coin in the bag. When she reached in the bag, she pulled out two! “Look! Whoever puts coins in this bag will surely pull out twice as many. Now your one coin is two, but we need fresh coins to make more. Do you see that boy who sits beside us, with his purple purse hanging so loosely about his belt? When the joust begins, let us cut it off his belt, and take it away! Then, however many coins are in his purple purse, we will have twice that amount, and we can buy anything that we see!”
Little Vonya thought not at all, but quickly said to her, “I have a better idea! Let us take the boy aside and show him what the bag can do with our coins. When he sees this magic, he will surely want to be our friend, and double all his coins too!
“Then we will take our coins and ride on the camels, and pay for any other child who will ride the camels with us, whoever comes about! We will take all comers and make a merry party! What a wonderful time we will have!”
But the girl only pouted. “That is no fun at all” she scolded, and she did not speak to him for the rest of the joust.
After the horses were spent, the evil knight defeated and shinning knight crowned victorious, the great crowd began to move on. Vonya and the girl searched through the faire with a will, looking for something good to eat! What a time they had, following every delicious smell! Soon they decided upon a small turkey leg, bought with Vonya’s two coins, and split it between the two.
When the little leg was done they went to sit at the stage, where singers dressed as villainous pirates sang villainous songs. There the girl picked up an apple core from off of the ground and put it in the magic bag, and what do you suppose? But out of the magic bag poured ripe red apples, two, three, even four! and they were surely the most delicious apples you have ever eaten. “Look! Whoever puts scraps in this bag will surely pull out whole food, enough for a feast. Do you see that damsel before us, with her basket behind her, filled with her dinner? When the singers are at their loudest, and the whole crowd is loudly laughing, let us pick it up and take it away! Then, whatever little bit she brought to eat, we will have three times that amount, and nicer too, and we can feast like kings and queens!”
Vonya, without a thought, said “We must never steal the damsels dinner! but let us only take her aside and show her what the bag can do with our apple cores. When she sees this magic, she will surely want to be our friend, and double all her good food too!
“Then we will sit on the hill and have a great banquet. Any child who comes about, any and all, they can put their food in the bag, then have some to eat and some to share! We’ll take all comers – what a merry group we will make! What a great feast it will be!!”
“I am not even hungry now!” said the pretty girl, and she did not speak to him until the pirates had sung their last ribald note.
Then off they wandered again to see the dancers dance their last pavan, for the light was beginning to fade. Vonya and the pretty girl walked hand in hand to see all that could be seen as the crowded lanes began to empty like a leaky water-jug, for it was the last hour of the last day. King Henry and his court had all ready returned to their castle for another year, and everywhere children mourned to see their Faire ending.
It was then the pretty girl leapt forward and cried out – “See yonder man who sells those garments of silk and velvet? Listen! Whoever puts fine clothes in this bag will surely find that anything will fit inside, even the heaviest winter cloak! But, look! Whoever pulls that cloak out again will find it fits him as smart as a sheath fits its own sword! Even the tiniest child would find those fine clothes will fit her, if it is her hand that pulls them from the magic bag.
“Quick, now, and do not defy me! Come with me to that vendor, and see how clever we can be! I will cry in front of his tent, and tell him that I have lost my mother. Then while he tends to me, fill up the little bag with the finest finery you can find! No man will know what you have done, for surely, anything you pull out of the bag will only fit you just as if it were mother-made. Hurry! We must run to him before he packs his wares away!” and she pulled his arm so violently Vonya could scarcely stand upright.
Little Vonya, without a thought, cried out (as best he could) “Won’t you listen to me? Let us go and show the clothes-seller what the bag can do. When he sees that I can turn my own tunic into a man’s tunic, or your pretty shoes into a woman’s shoes, he will sure hire me at once to be his faithful servant! Then I can live in his house to be his apprentice, and when I am grown I will be a fine tailor, just as he is! Then I will never be alone!”
But when she heard this the pretty little girl stomped her foot, shook her fists and said “Why will you always vex me!” and she ran away, leaving Vonya broken-hearted and alone.
Little Vonya wandered the closing faire, where the crowded lanes became as empty as a poor woman’s purse and each busy vendor became a lonely man, packing up his wares to wander on to other bright cities and faraway festivals. Even the sun sheds tears at teardown time. Anyone who saw Vonya must have thought the boy mourned to see his Faire fading.
He wandered out past the jousting field to where there were no trees or tents or pavilions, only the scraps and the traces of the great joust that had happened there ….. when who should she see but the pretty little girl sitting before him. “May I always be a little girl, and never a woman, if I do not become your fastest friend – but kiss me quick for all I have given thee!”
But when Vonya leaned over to kiss her cheek, what do you suppose? As suddenly as a silver cloud turns into a storm, the little girl was gone, and before him sat a grown woman, strange-faced, richly jeweled and wise-eyed. “Have no fear of me, Vonya,” said the woman, and she held his hand to keep the boy from bolting, “For have I not told you I will be your fastest friend? Truly I am your own stepmother, for I am now the wife of Jayi, the archmage who is called the Wizard of the Far Forest, the man who is your father. But when I found that my bridegroom had a little son who lived alone and lonely in the city, I scolded him and would give him no peace until he gave me some good thing to bring to you.
“And so he gave me this magic bag, and bade me to find you to see what it was that you wished for the most; be it for gold or fine food or beautiful clothes. Whatever you wished for the most, that is what you would find in the bag.
“But I longed to learn if you were a scoundrel like your father, and so I devised a test:
“If you had cared for pretty clothes, this bag would have surely given you the finest garments anyone had ever seen! But if you had been willing to steal from the cloth-seller, those clothes would have been very itchy.
“If you had cared most for food, this bag would have provided you with a feast whenever you wished. But if you were willing to steal from the girl’s basket, the only food it would have given you would be withered beans!
“If you had cared for gold the most, the bag would have given you thirteen gold pieces a day. But if you had been willing to cut the purple purse, each piece of gold would cost you one sneeze!
“But honest Vonya, I found that you wanted neither food nor gold nor garb. For at every turn, the only thing you really wished for was a friend! So now I see that you are not poor, but lonely, and this I will amend before the sun sets.”
“Will you take me to my father,” asked Vonya, “And may I live with you?” “This I can do,” replied his strange stepmother, “But what will you do there? For we live in the forest far away from friend and foe, and you will be as lonely as before. For this reason your mother left when you were born.”
“Then what of the Duchess of Deer Wood,” asked Vonya, “is she truly my grandmother, and can I live with her?” “The Magess Betten was once married to Jayi’s father so very long ago. She would certainly take you in as her true grandchild, but what will you do there? For she lives deep in the forest of Deer Wood, and no one seeks her unless they come for medicines, and then they have her medicinals they leave again. You would only be as lonely as you are now.”
“Is there no place for me, then?” asked the mournful young man.
“Did I not tell you I would give you your greatest wish?” spoke the strange enchantress. “Doubt not my magic, but climb on my back, and I will take to you to a far away land, where a good and noble King and Queen reign over a happy and prosperous kingdom. They have twelve children among them, and every one an adopted child. Come with me and I will make you the thirteenth child, with six brothers and six sisters, and any number of noble cousins and chamberlains and court-folk. There you will be a prince, and never lack for food or gold or clothing, and there you will never be lonely again.”
And Little Vonya, without a thought, quickly climbed upon her back as she bid, and the enchantress turned into a silver-winged gryphon, just as I promised, with a gentle grey lion-body and a noble, steal-beaked eagle-head. She spread her shining wings and rose up above the Faire much to the surprise of all who saw her, and watched in great wonder as she flew away.
Who could see such a thing, you ask, when the Faire was over and the court gone?
Well, it is true that King Henry and Queen Matilda had left the Faire by that time. But I alone returned when I found I had forgotten my hat. (You know I cannot be seen without my hat. )
And if my hat is on my head
It is proof of all I’ve said!