A Patchwork Fairy Tale: the one with the vow, the four winds and the frozen tears.
Three siblings each make a wish about who they wish to marry when they grow up and the middle child finds her declaration most unexpectedly answered.
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[Gentle theme music]
Laura: Hi, you can call me Laura, I’m here to tell you a story if you like. If you want to read as well as listen you can find a transcript and mp3 download on patchworkfairytales.wordpress.com. You found one of my Patchwork Fairy Tales. This is the one with the vow, the four winds, and the frozen tears.
The Girl Engaged to the Northern Wind
Once, on a very lucky day in the middle of autumn, a father of two met a mother of one in the marketplace. Neither of them was looking for someone to fall in love with again, but as they had both been in love before, they at least knew what it felt like when it happened anyway.
So after pondering it for a good long while, the two young families moved in together. Luckily the three children got along very well and because everyone was a great deal happier living like this the father and mother decided to marry.
The wedding day was bright and cheerful and came with so much excitement that the three young children did not know which way they should run first. Because they yelled as well as ran, it was not long before one of the grown-ups told them to go do it outside.
So the children ran into the garden, already all dressed up in their best clothes, and ran and yelled until they were too tired to keep going.
They all sat down in the grass, the two girls on either side of their younger brother, and decided that wedding days were much better than normal days.
“When I am grown I will marry too,” the oldest girl said.
“So will I,” her stepsister agreed.
“And I,” the brother nodded.
“Who shall you marry then?” the oldest asked. “I would like to marry the wide blue sea.” Because she had seen the sea only once as a very little girl and had been in love with it ever since.
“I will marry the bright warm sun,” the little boy said, because he was never happier than when he was climbing onto the sun-warmed stones of the garden wall.
Now it was the turn of the middle child, but she had a hard time thinking of anything she loved well enough to marry. Finally she said: “Then I will marry the strong northern wind, because it chases off the summer heat and leaves diamond frost on every leaf and branch.”
“That’s decided then,” the eldest nodded solemnly and the three children vowed to each other that they would marry exactly as they had decided they would that day.
As it often goes with childhood vows, the three children soon forgot all about them. They grew up, each into their own person, until they really couldn’t be called children anymore. Only then did the three siblings remember their childhood fancies, because that was the time the eldest of them decided to leave home and become a sailor.
Her parents were quite distressed, but their daughter was determined to go, and promised them that she would be the captain of her very own ship before they knew it. Her siblings supported her and laughingly told their mother and father that she really had no choice, because she had promised to marry the sea.
Happily the eldest sibling set off for her new profession and all the news they received from her was good.
“So the sea’s bride was called,” the middle girl quipped. “When will the northern wind and the sun call theirs?”
And her brother laughed, because he was a young man now and far more interested in reading and dancing than in climbing sunny walls. Except one evening at one of his dances, there was a girl that had come from far away.
She had a laugh that crackled like fire and never had he seen such golden-brown skin and such bright amber eyes. So he asked her to dance and she said yes. Just like she did when he asked her if she would want to meet his family. And again when he asked her if she would be his wife.
Of course by that time there had been plenty of time for his sisters to grow to love her also, so they were quite prepared to agree with him when he exclaimed on his wedding day:
“Isn’t she every bit as warm and bright as the sun!”
It was a very merry wedding. The groom danced with his bride, the young sea captain danced with the best man and the middle child danced with all the bridesmaids, until she was as cheerful as she was over heated and had to steal away for some fresh air.
She breathed with relief when a cool gust of wind touched her cheek as soon as she stepped outside and with a laugh she noted that the wind blew from the north.
“See here,” the girl called out. “My brother is convinced he has finally married the sun, but where is my northern wind?” She shook her hair in the breeze. “You are a most unreliable betrothed.”
And with that she cheerfully went back inside.
Now, with both her siblings out of the house, the middle girl felt like having a place of her own as well, so she rented an attic in a large house at the edge of the town. It was a sweet set of rooms, but the landlady warned her that it could get terribly drafty.
“Oh I don’t mind a draft,” the girl assured her and even though her parents worried that she would feel quite different come the wintertime, she moved in there all the same.
Winter seemed to arrive early that year, the days turning chilly far sooner than people expected it. There was a lot of fussing and fretting, but the girl in her attic simply wrapped an extra shawl around her and stood at the window admiring how the trees bowed low in the swelling winds. It was a beautiful sight, but her landlady had spoken the truth, she felt a cold draft blow straight through the window casement. So the girl threw an extra quilt on her bed and went to sleep nice and snug.
No sooner had the night truly fallen however, all velveteen and darkness, or the wind began to whirl. The girl started awake in her bed, because the wind howled around the little attic with such noise that it seemed to shake.
Her bedroom window rattled in its casement and the girl buried her head into her pillow.
The wind kept on singing though and at length it began to sound as if there was a rhythm to the rattling that had not been there before. Silently the girl lay listening in the dark and there, suddenly clear as day, she heard someone knocking on the glass.
For a moment she lay very still, holding her breath, and in the silence she was almost sure she had imagined it. But there it was again, a soft knock on the window, and no more rattling of the latch.
Cautiously the girl stepped out of bed and tiptoed to the window. She saw nothing outside, heard nothing but the whistling of the wind, but eventually she reached out and opened the window, if only to prove there was nothing there.
And there, sitting on the windowsill, was the most attractive young woman she had ever seen. Her face was round and her eyes large and black, her hair was a dark, sparkling grey and it danced so wildly in the wind that it framed her tan face on every side.
“Oh!” the girl gasped. “Who are you! And how did you come to be on my windowsill?”
“What a question!” the beautiful girl laughed and her laugh was like icicles tinkling in the breeze. “I am the Northern Wind, of course.”
That answered both questions at once and the girl felt a blush jump to her cheeks that was impossible to fight down.
“Look at that!” the Northern Wind laughed. “Roses blooming in winter.”
The poor girl did not know where to look, but the Northern Wind smiled apologetically and told her that she would fly away and disappear as quickly as she had come, if her surprised hostess wished it.
“But I had to come,” she said. “If only to not be called a disappointing fiancée any longer.”
The girl gave a startled laugh and began to make an apology, but the Northern Wind shook her head.
“As the coldest of the winds I am quite used to all manner of insults,” she said. “This was by far the pleasantest I have had in a long time. And so prettily spoken too!” And her dark eyes were like black gems with the way they shone.
“Well,” the girl blushed. “Since I’m being so rewarded for my insolence, I’m not very likely to change my ways.”
The Northern Wind laughed and around her the wild whirling swelled with it.
The girl was beginning to feel cold, standing by the open window in her nightgown, but her heart beat so to warm her up inside that she did not notice. She talked to the Northern Wind until she had gone quite pale with cold, but then the Northern Wind said:
“Now I must go, or I will freeze the roses off your cheeks.”
Suddenly the girl felt how cold she was and she nodded.
The Northern Wind lifted up her beautiful face, swinging her feet off the windowsill and said:
“Won’t you kiss your childhood sweetheart goodnight?”
But the girl drew back hastily. One could not just go around kissing beautiful women wrapped up in the force of nature, she knew that much.
The Northern Wind smile reassuringly. “May I wish you goodbye then?”
“I hope it isn’t farewell,” the girl murmured before she could stop herself.
“The winter has only just begun,” the Northern Wind twinkled, leaning in through the window as far as she could. “I will be here for a long time yet.”
And when the girl bowed her head she pressed a soft kiss on her left cheek, threw her head back in wild delight and let herself slide off the windowsill, flying off into the night.
Only when she had disappeared into the dark did the girl see that she had left frost on the window and snow covering the whole windowsill. But the spot that the Northern Wind had kissed glowed with heat.
Silently the girl closed the window and hurried back to bed, drawing the quilts up to her nose with her heart still beating up a storm. Outside the wild wind sang and howled and even though there was no more rattling at the window the girl did not sleep. She lay in the dark and dreamed with her eyes wide open.
That following day all the townsfolk grumbled that it was very cold all of a sudden and that there had been such a storm last night, it was really unheard of. The girl hid her face whenever someone spoke of it and that night she waited eagerly for night to fall.
Sure enough, when it was dark the wind began to swell again. Harsh cold crept up under doors and windows and the wind rattled all the window latches of the street. But there was only a knock on one window and the girl blushed again as she hurried to open the it for the Northern Wind, who looked as glitteringly beautiful as she had done before.
Once again they talked and talked until the girl was chilled through and then the Northern Wind took her leave and flew off into the night.
The next night the girl made sure to dress in her nicest woollen clothes so she could not get cold so quickly. The Northern Wind flattered and teased her about it until she was quite warm and they talked nearly the whole night away.
So it went, night after night, until the seventh night the girl said shyly:
“You need not sit on the windowsill all night… You could come in, if you wanted?”
The Northern Wind’s smile was as glitteringly brilliant as morning frost and with a rustle of snowy skirts she slipped off the windowsill and through the window, into the girl’s room.
No sooner had her white boots hit the floor or outside the whirling winds grew quiet. And that night the wind laid down not to rise again until the morning.
The winter was very long and very cold that year, but whenever people complained the girl boldly proclaimed that winter was her very favourite season and that she absolutely loved the cold.
That she had fallen in love with the cold Wind of the North she told no one, not even her friends and family, who were beginning to be quite certain that she was either in love or getting ill. It can sometimes be very hard to distinguish the two.
The sleepless nights were perhaps a bit tiring, but apart from that it was the happiest winter the girl had ever known and every night the Northern Wind seemed more eager to stay with her, even if as long as she was hidden away in her lover’s room the winter world was still outside and the snowflakes drifted calmly down through the still night air.
Winter, however long it may stretch, does not last forever though, and one night the Northern Wind took her darling’s hand in hers and told her that she must go back to the North.
“Not already,” sighed the girl, who had been dreading this moment for weeks.
“I must,” the Norther Wind said regretfully. “I would stay for you if I could, but the seasons command me.”
“Then will you not take me with you?” the girl pleaded. “Surely you can’t leave behind your betrothed like this!”
The Northern Wind’s face shone at those words, because it was the first time the girl had called herself her betrothed to her face.
“Oh I would carry you with me, my love,” she said. “In my arms, all the way to the far North. But you would freeze before we would get there.”
“I would not,” the girl promised her. “I’m not a frail little thing! I will come with you, no matter how cold.”
The Northern Wind was very uncertain, but the more the girl begged her, the weaker her protests became and finally she agreed.
“I will come back tomorrow night, but then I have to go,” she said.
“I’ll be ready,” she promised and that morning early she kissed the Northern Wind goodbye so sweetly that the whirling breeze sent all the towns weather vanes spinning out of control.
All the following day the girl was busy writing letters to her mother and father, brother and sister, and all her friends, to explain she had to go away, but that she would return next winter. It made her unbearably sad to say goodbye so many times, but when she thought of the Northern Wind she was determined.
So that night the girl dressed in layers and layers of wool, in quilted petticoats and heavy shawls, all to keep the cold from getting to her so that the cold Northern Wind could keep her. All bundled up she waited in her open window, sitting in her windowsill until the snowflakes came wildly whirling down and her beloved flying right behind them.
“Oh you’re here,” the Northern Wind breathed as she jumped through the open window, her black eyes shimmering wet. “I am late to leave and here you are already waiting.”
“Of course I am!” the girl said stoutly. “For I will go with you wherever you go.” And she kissed her on the edge of her smooth cheek.
“Then hold onto me tight,” the Northern Wind whispered. “And don’t let go, whatever you do.”
She took the girl in her arms and as the Northern Wind held her tight the girl wrapped her arms around her neck. With a swoop the Northern Wind carried her to the window and then, in a whirl of wind, she leapt into the cold night air.
For a moment the girl closed her eyes in fright, but she was safe and secure in her lover’s arms and a moment later she was looking out over the whole town as she was carried through the air.
The Northern Wind flew on her breeze, her hair and mantle fluttering wildly around her as she flew higher and higher and away towards the North.
In her arms the girl shivered with the cold, despite all her layers of clothing, but she wasn’t scared. At least not until she looked down. Underneath her the world was so far that it made her sick but there she suddenly saw another figure in flight, going the other direction, quite some way away.
“Oh, who is that?” she called out to the Northern Wind, her breath being cut off sharply by the cold.
“That is my sister, the Southern Wind,” the Northern Wind replied. “But do not look down like that or you might startle and let go of me!”
The girl did her best, but the longer they flew the colder her beloved Northern Wind seemed to grow. Suddenly there was a gust of wind that seemed to push her another way and the girl’s cold, stiff arms shifted as she looked where it came from.
There flew another figure, deep below them, in another direction.
“Who is that?” the girl asked, but she shook so that she could hardly speak.
“That was my brother, the Eastern Wind,” the Northern Wind said worriedly. “But you must hold on tighter, my love, we have so far to go still.”
The girl tried, but she was so cold not what she felt no strength in her arms at all. Her breath froze as soon as she exhaled it and the chill hit her cheeks so sharply that even the memory of kisses did not warm them.
It wasn’t long before her grip began to slip and the Northern Wind cried: “Hold on to me, dearest, do not let me go!”
But the poor girl was half frozen and she could hardly move. She felt the Northern Wind’s strong arms hold her close, but the tighter she held her the colder she felt. All around her felt like snow and ice and even the howling of the wind in her ears grew muffled. She did not hear her lover pleading for her to stay awake, she did not even feel the icy sting anymore. Only numbing cold.
And then, suddenly, she felt a breath of a gentler wind below her and without realising it, she looked down. Deep below her someone in a green cloak flew right underneath them and at that very moment the girls arms lost their grip around the Northern Wind’s neck and she slipped out of the wind’s embrace.
The Northern Wind gave a cry of horror, but she was in full flight to the North and nothing could stop her now. She grabbed at her sweetheart, but she slipped through her fingers and in despair the Northern Wind cried out:
“Brother! Brother Western Wind! Catch my beloved for me!”
And no sooner had the girl opened her eyes wide in fright or she felt two arms close around her with a shock and a friendly face looked down at her from behind a mass of brown curls. Immediately the girl felt the chill start to drain from her limbs, but no sooner did she wake form her doze or she let out a cry of sorrow.
High above, being carried off by the will of the seasons, her love looked back at her one last time, her dark eyes filled with regret. The girl felt tears stinging in her eyes. And as the Western Wind carried her off, she saw the Northern Wind reach out once more and blow her a kiss, which hit her in the face like a gust of cold wind, before she disappeared from view.
And so the Western Wind brought the sorrowful girl back towards home. Carrying her in a wide circle until he had found the right town. But as the girl silently sobbed her sorrow, the sight of her very own home far below made her feel everything and everyone she had almost given up. She missed her seafaring sister so dreadfully already, how could she ever have born missing them all? As the Western Wind set her gently down in front of her house, with her hair all windblown and her eyes cried wet, she felt the air around her warm for the first time in a long time and she could not be sorry for it. In all her relief she might have been truly happy, if she did not now have to miss her dear Northern Wind without so much as proper goodbye…
Except here she was mistaken. Because when she began to take off her woollen coat, something tumbled out of the folds of her shawl. As single tear-shaped gem, bright and glistening like a diamond. It was one of her own tears, that the Northern Wind’s goodbye had frozen into a crystal on her cheek.
No one in the little town could ever understand why from that year onward, winter arrived so strangely early. It was the most peculiar thing, every year the cold rushed in as if in the greatest hurry, but there was never a single snowstorm at night. No one knew what to think of it, but all agreed it was best not to wonder. So they simply shook their heads about it. And none of them ever thought to ask either the captain at sea, the young father in his garden, or the young woman sitting in the windowsill, who had a new diamond shining on the string round her neck with every passing winter.
Laura: And with that last word stitching up the very last sentence, this story has its proper end.
It’s been a while since I had an original fairy tale to tell, thank you for sticking around! You can follow this podcast on podcatchers like Spotify, iTunes, or Stitcher, but for an mp3 download, transcripts, themed tags and summaries, you can check out patchworkfairytales.wordpress.com, where you can also contact me and find out about my other projects. Like my book Coffee and Faerie Cakes and my webcomic The Fisherman’s Favour. You can also find me on Tumblr and AO3, where I am laurasimonsdaughter, and support me on Ko-fi, where I am Laura Simons.
There’s another tale to tell some other day, but until then…
Keep your vows, sing with the seasons, and be safe~
Copyright Laura Simons, please do not copy my stories without my permission, lest you insult the fae.