Posts Tagged With: Elves

Tale of Lake Echo

Johan the Fiddler was one of the most legendary patrons of the Stag and Dragon, greatest of the inns along the Forest Road.  Heroes and villains alike could be found under its wide eaves, but from time to time this aged musician seated himself by the fire and ordered hot mulled wine.  He would produce his lap fiddle, and weave a sad song over the heads of all in the room.

He pulled his hood down, and without fail he said “Once, when I was a younger man, I traveled far from paths and roads.  I sought the Blackwood, and the things within it.  During my travels through the southern mountains, I met a man who showed me the sublime truth of music, and I turned myself to its study forever after.

“It was high in a mountain pass, with the mountain’s firs hung heavy about me, where I met him.  I had lost my way, and stumbled blindly upward.  I found a stream trickling down, so I traced it to its source.  I climbed a waterfall and skirted a pair of trolls to do it, but I came to a great and beautiful lake.  Like a hound, it was wrapped around the feet of the mountains beyond, which rose into the morning mist and left sight.  The lake was still as the forest around it, and quiet settled over all.

“That’s when I saw him, a man of noble dress seated on a stump at the water’s edge.  He held a lap fiddle in his arms, and he looked out on the water in equal stillness.  I approached him, blade bare, but never did he glance at me or move one inch.  He merely picked up the bow of his fiddle, and began to play.

“The fog pressed in around us in those first, mournful notes.  I felt the burden of a heavy heart, the kind that only lost love can create.  I seemed to see her in the mist, and hear her melancholy in the lap fiddle’s song.  She cried, but no solace came, for her light, my light, had left.  It left her in a world of rain and misery as she walked, jostled by every passerby, beaten but unbowed.

“Then the song changed, and the abiding sadness was swept up into a fiddler’s passion.  I felt all the thrill of life from every leaf and branch, the lake cleared like air and I saw its every depth, and the call of every bird seemed to be held in the fiddle’s vital playing.  It was sturdy music, timeless as the trees themselves, and I saw the frivolity of the lives of men.

“But finally, a third movement arrived.  This one combined the first two, with a third theme that was forever transfixed between them.  I felt the need to choose, to reach out and grab hold of something, anything, but my own nature would not let me.  Lacking this, I wanted to make my life a monumental bridge between two worlds, to sway between them until the world’s end.”

The music would stop, and the patrons would be spellbound by the song he had played for them.

“With his last chord,” he would say, and only then would the patrons realize he had not spoken for some time.  “I understood the power of music, when before I had only heard its beauty.  I cast my sword into the lake, fell at his feet, and from that day these hands have held nothing but this lap fiddle.”

And then he would drink his wine and watch the patrons from a snug corner. From time to time he would play a new song on his lap fiddle, but never did they have the same effect on patrons as the Tale of Lake Echo.

Categories: Blackwood, Folklore | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Dinner With the Elves

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.

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The Hollowback

Once, there was a man with three sons.  Each were young men, and one day the man got it into his head to send his firstborn boy out into the woods.  His firstborn son was tall and strong, and the man knew he could kill a great deer that had been spotted in the woods nearby, and bring it back for a feast.

“I will kill it, father,” said the first son, “and we will have meat for many days.”  He set out with bow and arrow, and for many days he had followed the deer, eager to kill it and bring it back to his family.

It happened that as he was walking through the forest, he came upon a stream and decided to stop for a drink.  Just at that moment,  a beautiful maid stepped out from behind a tree.  She was wearing the simple dress of a farmer’s daughter, and held her hands coyly behind her back.

“Where are you going?” the girl asked the firstborn son.

“I am hunting a great deer,” said the son.  “I have no time for silly talk.”

The firstborn son saw that this made the girl angry, and he began to laugh at her.  “Did you want a kiss from me?” he asked, making fun of her.  “Come here, and I will give you a kiss.”

But just at that moment, the firstborn son saw that the girl had the tail of a fox, and was hiding it behind her back.  It flicked to and fro, and the girl grabbed him by the arms and pulled him apart in her anger.

After many days, the man began to fear that his firstborn son had left for a larger village.  So he sent his second son out to hunt the deer.  This son was even larger and stronger than his older brother, but he was foolish, and had never learned anything in his life.  “I will go, father,” said the second son.  “But I hardly know what a deer looks like.”

The second son blundered through the woods for some time before he too came upon the young woman.  He waved to her, and said “Have you seen a deer in these parts?”

The girl smiled a shy smile, and said “I have not seen a deer,” then she walked closer to the boy and laid a hand against his cheek.  “But you are very handsome.”

The second son, being foolish, did not understand what the girl wanted, and said “but I must find a deer for my family!”

“I will tell you where there is a great deer,” said the girl.  “But first you must take me in your arms and give me a kiss.”

“I can do that,” the boy said, because his arms were very strong.  So he scooped her up, but when his hands touched her he found that her back was all hollow, and she was made of wood on the inside.

“You are a Hollowback!” the second son yelled, pushing her away.  “I want no part of your woodland magic!”

This too made the girl angry, and she grabbed the second son by the arms and pulled him apart, just like the first son.

After many more days, the man feared that his second son had also fled to a larger village.  “You are my last son,” said the man.  “You must go and find the deer and bring it back.  My other sons have run away.”

So the third son set out.  He was not as tall or as strong as his brothers, but he was a polite young man, and had learned much in his years.  He walked through the forest for a few days, then stopped at a stream to examine some tracks.

Just at that moment, the Hollowback appeared before him, stepping out from behind a tree.

“Hello,” the third son said, thinking her to be a farm girl.  “Have you lost your way?”

The Hollowback blushed and touched his arm, and as she did the third son caught a glimpse of the tail sticking out from under her skirts.

“Excuse me,” the third son said, looking away.  “It would seem that your skirts are ruffled.”

The Hollowback stepped back and fixed her skirts.  “Thank you,” she said, hiding her tail.  “You are the brother of the two men who came here earlier.  They were hunting for a great deer.  Come with me, and I will show you where this deer is.”

The boy graciously agreed, and when the girl turned around he saw that her back was all hollow, and that she was made of wood on the inside.  The girl looked back at him, but he just smiled and said nothing.

As they were walking, the Hollowback stopped and turned around.  “This is the spot where the great deer will be,” she said.  Grabbing the third son’s hands, a great wind rushed up and blew all of her clothes away.  The two of them laid down, and after a time the great deer approached.

Quickly, the Hollowback leapt up and pulled the head off of the deer.  “Here is your deer,” she said.  “It is time for you to return to your home.”

So the third son returned to the village with the deer, and his father was very happy.  They mounted the head in their cottage, and had meat for a long time.

But one day, the third son opened the door of the cottage to find a baby on the doorstep.  He took the baby in and cared for it, because he knew it was his child from the Hollowback.  When the baby grew to be a young man too, he was the strongest and most handsome man for many leagues around, and many girls wished to be his wife.

Categories: Blackwood, Folklore | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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