Once, a long time ago, there was a girl who lived in a village deep in the Wood. She was a restless girl, who finished her chores early and liked to skip along the edge of the village, near the flower and herb gardens of the woman who lived alone. She was just like you.
Her friends never wanted to follow along. “She is a witch! She will capture us and cook us into a stew!”
That little girl said the same things you did. “I am not scared of some old woman.” She said. “I like the flowers, and to prove I’m not scared, I will pick some for my mother.” So the girl went into the flower garden, and when her friends screamed because the witch was looking out of her window at the girl, the girl paid her no mind and gathered a big bouquet for her mother.
When she got home, she said “Look, mother. I have brought you a bouquet of beautiful flowers.”
But her mother knew exactly where the flowers came from, just like I do, and she threw them out the window. “You have been a bad girl!” Her mother screamed, brandishing the spoon with which she was stirring the night’s stew. “Go to your bed, and do not set foot upon the ground until I tell you!”
So the girl sat on the bed, crying to herself as the sun started to fall from the sky. After what seemed like a very long time, the girl was startled by a strange noise. She peered over the corner of the bed just in time to see a tiny pair of boots disappear underneath her bed. “Who’s there?” she said, straining to look into the darkness beneath her.
“It is I!” a small voice said, as a man about the size of a potato walked out from under her bed. He wore small yellow boots, and his clothes were made out of leaves. His hair and eyes were the color of moss, and small butterfly wings sprouted from his shoulders. “Your mother is a mean woman, but if you close your eyes I’ll take you my home, and you can roam wherever you like!”
The girl laughed at the little man. “But you are so small! How could I fit into your home?”
But the little man just hopped up into her lap and pinched her nose. “Silly girl, my home is big enough for anyone! Won’t you come see?”
The little girl thought about the flowers lying broken on the ground outside, then agreed to go with the little man. “Take me to you home!” She said, and the little man smiled and placed a log under the sheets of her bed. “So your parents will never know you have left!” He said, eyes twinkling. She closed her eyes, and no sooner were they shut than she felt very sleepy, and laid down her head for a nap.
When she awoke, she found herself in the Wood. She was next to a well, and the day had not yet fallen into dusk. The little man was standing atop the well, and he beckoned her with his hands. “Come down the well, and you will see my home!”
So the little girl hopped into the well with the little man, and splashed into the water at the bottom. There was a door at the bottom, and when the little man opened it she stepped out into a cozy room with a fireplace and a table with lots of food. There were many strange men and women around the table. Some were tall and some were short, and some were fat and some were thin. Some had hair of many colors, and others had no hair at all. Each wore different clothing, and all of them looked quite silly while they sat and talked.
“Who are these people?” The girl said, walking toward the table.
“Why, these are my brothers and sisters! Come sit, and eat with us!” And so the little girl sat and ate, and the little man’s brothers and sisters told stories and danced and made the little girl laugh for a long time.
The little girl was having such a good time that she never noticed when the little man and his brothers and sisters started to change. It happened slowly, but some of their eyes darkened, and the room darkened with them. Some of them became hunched and their teeth sharpened, and the room sharpened with them. Some of them changed to very strange, upsetting colors, and the room changed with them. But the little girl was having such a good time that she never noticed any of it, because the Elves are such great tricksters. She only learned what was happening when they brought out their sharp forks and knives, and they threw her in their stew pot, and used her screams as a spice for their stew.
And her poor parents never knew she was gone until many years later, because that log under her sheets changed into a creature that looked just like her, but it was a much nastier child than she ever was.