A Patchwork Fairy Tale: the one with the trolls, the amulets, and the animal lords.
When her little sibling gets taken, a brave girl crosses three different animal kingdoms in an attempt to find them.
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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 trolls, the amulets, and the animal lords.
The Girl Who Went to Find her Sibling
Once, when the human race was still young and had not yet forgotten a lot of things it no longer knows today, a family lived in a log house in the middle of the woods. There was a mother and father and their three children. The eldest, who grew up to be a boy, the middlest, who grew up to be a girl, and the baby of the family, who did not call themself either.
First this youngest child had learned to laugh and they did it so well the sky seemed to light up whenever they did. Soon as well as laugh, they had learned to babble, and very soon they had begun to talk. And all the while they were learning to stand, then to walk, then even to run, but before they could learn to climb, they were gone. Because one bad morning their little bed was empty and there wasn’t a trace of them to be found.
The mother searched, the father searched, the brother and the sister searched. But their little one was lost.
Now a great gloom settled over the family. The mother cried in silence and the father cried in the dark and the brother grew grave and the sister grew angry. So angry that one day she could bear it no more.
“Brother,” said the sister. “I am sorry to leave you here where there is so much grief, but if you will stay, I shall go out into the wide woods to find our youngest sibling.”
“You can’t go!” cried the brother. “Then we’ll lose you too!”
“No I must go!” urged the sister. “For if I do not I shall lose all of you, all the while standing right beside you. I shall lose mother to the silence, father to the dark and you to the graveness. No, I shall go and I shall bring our sibling back.”
So the girl set out with in her bundle nothing but food, water and the only shoes she had: three different pairs. For they were not rich and she was used to walking barefoot. And barefoot she walked until she did not know the trees anymore, did not know the ground anymore, hardly knew the sky anymore. She walked without thinking of thirst or hunger, of fear or fatigue. She walked until she reached a forest entirely new and different.
The girl smelled the smells and heard the sounds and knew at once that this was a forest where the deer reigned. It had grown cold around her. So she took from her bundle her one pair of boots, that had been lined with the fur of a wild cat, and put them on. So shod she carried on.
Soon she was deep into the forest and she heard the deer stir all around her. She walked carefully, but fearlessly, and went on. She walked until there was a little fawn before her that looked at her pleadingly and called out to her. She did not understand her, but followed the little fawn to a big buck that was caught in the thickest of brambles with his four hooves. He thrashed with his antlers when he saw the girl, but she held up her hands and spoke:
“I can help you, proud king of this forest, and I will if you let me.”
The buck calmed down and the girl pulled the brambles from his hooves with her strong hands. Finally free, the buck kicked and jumped. But he soon settled down and stood before the girl, looking down at her with large, black eyes.
“Thank you, little maid,” spoke the buck in a deep voice. “I am indebted to you.”
The girl did not doubt his powers of speech, but bowed deep and said: “I need no thanking, if your majesty would only answer me a question.”
“Ask,” commanded the buck.
“Have you seen a child with chestnut eyes and hazel skin and hair with all the warmest autumn colours?” asked the girl.
“I have seen such a child,” answered the buck.
“Then you have seen my little sibling! Tell me where they are!”
“Your sibling has been taken away by a white buck that does not belong here,” said the lord of the deer. “It was him that led me into these brambles when I chased him. I shall help you follow them if you so wish.”
“Oh please,” begged the girl.
So the buck took the girl upon his back and followed the tracks of the white buck. They followed them all the way to the edge of his forest.
“Further I cannot take you,” said the buck. “But my forests stretch far and not all borders are forbidden to me. So if you need my help, call for me and I shall find you.”
And the buck taught the girl the call of the deer: buck, doe and fawn alike, so she could always call upon his subjects if she ever needed help.
The girl thanked the lord of the deer and once again walked until she came to a forest entirely new and different.
She heard the sounds and smelled the smells and was certain that cats reigned over this forest. No longer did she feel cold, so she took off her boots lined with wild cat’s fur and put on a pair of sandals made from cork and embellished with feathers. So shod she calmly entered the forest.
Surrounded by the sounds of wild cats the girl walked on, until she saw a little kitten blocking her path. It looked at her with sad eyes and mewed deploringly. The girl followed the kitten and was brought to a big wild tomcat, stuck in a narrow tunnel in the ground. He screamed at the girl when he saw her approach, but the girl said:
“I can help you, proud king of this forest, and I will if you let me.”
The cat followed her distractingly with his eyes while she knelt down and dug away at the earth with her fingers. But soon she had freed the tomcat and he shook his fur and hissed at the hole and finally turned to face her and spoke:
“I must thank you for freeing me, little maid.”
“I require no thanks,” the girl answered with a bow. “I only wish your majesty to answer me a question.”
“Ask then,” said the tomcat.
“Have you seen a child with chestnut eyes and hazel skin and hair with all the warmest autumn colours?” she asked.
“I have seen such a child,” answered the tomcat.
“Then you have seen my little sibling! Tell me where they are!”
“Your sibling has been taken away by a white tomcat that does not belong here,” said the lord of the cats. “It was him that lured me into that hole when I chased him. I shall help you follow them if you so wish.”
The girl gladly accepted and the tomcat ran, following the white tomcat’s tracks and the girl ran after him. They ran without stopping until they reached the end of the wild cat’s forest. The cat turned to the girl and told her that he could go no further. But he promised that she could call on him for help, should she ever be in need of it. And he taught her the calls of the cats, so she would always know how to call him and his kind if she was ever in need.
The girl thanked the lord of the wild cats and set off alone once more. She walked, once more, until she came to a forest entirely new and different. She heard the sounds and smelled the smells and thought that this forest must be reigned by birds.
So she took off her feathered sandals and took from her bundle her shoes made of soft deerskin. Those she put on and so shod she entered the birds’ forest. This time she met a little chick that brought her to a large, noble bird whose wings were badly hurt. The girl took water from her flask and leaves from the trees and bound the bird’s wounds. Once again she had met the king of the forest and once again she asked if he had not seen her sibling.
“Your sibling has been taken away by a white bird that does not belong here,” answered the lord of the birds. “It was him who wounded me when I chased and almost caught him. I cannot bring you to him, but I shall send all my courtiers with you to show you the way.”
The girl thanked the bird earnestly and a flock of birds came to show her where the white bird had gone with her sibling. They brought her right to the edge of their forest and then a little bit further still, until she could see a stone house upon a far hill.
“That is where the false bird took the autumn coloured child,” chirped one of the birds.
“Then that is where I shall go,” said the girl.
But before they would let her go, the birds taught the girl all the bird calls she could possibly remember and told her that she could always call on any of them, should she ever need their help.
The girl thanked them all and went on her way, her eyes now fixed determinedly on her destination.
She reached the house just as the darkness began to fall and as she peered through one of the brightly lit windows she saw a large troll sitting in a chair near an enormous fireplace. Above the fireplace three chains hung from iron pegs. On the first chain dangled a deer’s hoof, on the second a cat’s paw and on the third a bird’s claw.
The girl looked from the troll to the chains and understood very well that these must be powerful amulets. The strange white animals that had gone through the three forests must have been this troll and those amulets where what he had used to change his form.
There was a burst of sudden noise and a troll woman, much larger even than the troll, entered the room. And our poor girl’s heart almost jumped into her throat, because on the troll woman’s arm sat her little sibling. Their round face was wet with tears and their hair was all in knots, but it was her little sibling clear as day. So the girl watched the troll and his wife talk to each other and waited patiently for them to go to bed.
“When they are asleep I shall steal my sibling back,” she thought.
But when the trolls finally went to bed, the troll woman put our girl’s little sibling to sleep in a cot at the foot of their own bed. The girl couldn’t think of a way to get in and get her sibling out without waking at least one of the trolls.
“I must outsmart them,” she thought. “But first of all, I must steal away that trolls magic.”
So the girl waited patiently until daybreak, her eyes never leaving her sleeping sibling’s face.
When daybreak came the trolls awoke and filled the house with noise, and as they breakfasted they filled the house with smells, but finally the big troll had had enough. He packed some things in a large bag and trotted down the hill and slowly out of sight.
As soon as he was good and gone the girl watched the troll woman through the window and saw to that she had put her little sibling to bed for a nap. Then she bravely walked up to the door and knocked.
The troll woman came to the door and was very surprised to see the girl there.
“Good day, my good troll,” said the girl politely. “I am a travelling fortune teller and do not know these parts, if you would spare me a few minutes I would beg of you that you direct me to the nearest village so I may ply my trade.”
The troll woman was really rather lonely in the house all alone atop the hill, so she immediately let the girl in. “The nearest village is to the east,” she said in a friendly tone. “But perhaps you can ply your trade for me first, I have never had my fortune told.”
Of course the girl agreed to this and when the troll woman had welcomed her to her home, she sat down at the kitchen table. She asked for a bowl of water. The troll woman placed one before her and the girl made the water swirl in the bowl and frowned deeply as she gazed into it. “This is very wondrous,” she said. “I see here that you have recently gotten a child and yet I cannot read that you have celebrated a birth!”
The troll woman looked at her large hands, folded on the table and sighed. “I have a babe in the other room,” she said. “But it’s not my own. You see, my husband and I were never able to have children, so he went and got one for me.”
The girl felt sorry for the troll woman, but not sorry enough, because this was her very own sibling and not a bauble for stealing. “Ah, well,” she said confidently. “There are many things that may prevent the getting of a child. What are those things there above the hearth?”
“Those are my husband’s amulets,” the troll woman said.
The girl made a show of looking at them. “Oh dear,” she said. “Surely they aren’t made of real animal paws?”
“Why, yes they are,” said the troll woman. “Why do you frown so?”
“Do you mean to tell me you don’t know that magical artefacts crafted with animal parts attract evil spirits!” the girl cried out.
“My husband never told me that,” the troll woman said, startled. “Can it do any harm?”
“Well,” said the girl with a big sigh. “It might well be the reason why you were never blessed with a little troll. Your hearth is haunted by the spirits of deer and cats and birds and they have chased away your good luck!”
“Do you really think so?” the troll woman said, looking at the amulets.
“I am positive,” the girl said. “If I were you I would ask your husband to keep them outside, that way they can do you no harm.”
“I will then,” the troll woman made up her mind.
“And much luck may it give you!” the girl encouraged her.
Soon after that she said goodbye and walked off to the east, circled back directly and hid near the house to see the troll come home. When he finally did she could hear the troll woman talk excitedly and the troll answer angrily and soon an enormous row ensued. The troll refused to believe his wife and the troll woman called her husband heartless and they shouted at each other at the top of their lungs. The girl heard her little sibling wail and cry for their real parents and her heart ached, but she kept her head cool and waited.
Finally the shouting stopped and the trolls went angrily to bed.
As soon as they were asleep, the girl crept to their bedroom window and started to make deer calls. First softly, then louder and then as loud as she could. It was a horrible sound and the troll woman started awake and cried:
“There, husband! Don’t you hear them! It’s the deer spirits haunting us!”
“To the bog with your superstition!” cried the troll. “I’ll throw the damn thing out if it will shut you up!” And he thumped out of bed, grabbed the deer amulet and flung it out of the window.
Silently the clever girl caught it, tucked it into her bundle and waited until the trolls were asleep again. This time she made the sounds of the wild cats. Softly at first, but louder and louder until her shriek echoed down the hill and the troll woman nearly leapt out of bed crying:
“Husband, husband! Surely you hear them! It’s the wild cat’s spirits haunting us!”
“You will drive me mad!” the troll thundered and again he got up, grabbed the amulet and tossed it out of the window.
Again the girl caught it, tucked it into her bundle and once again waited patiently. When the trolls were asleep once more she started making bird calls. Soft and kind at first and then a terribly loud caw that made her own ears ring.
“Oh husband!” cried the troll woman and without even waiting for her pleading the troll got up and threw his last amulet out of the window.
The girl grabbed it out of the air, tucked it away and slowly gathered all her courage. She took off her shoes, bound her bundle securely on her back and stood in front of the trolls house, feet firmly planted into the ground. Then she took a deep breath and called out:
“Woe to the troll who hurt the lord of the deer! Woe to the troll who hurt the lord of the wild cats! Woe to the troll who hurt the lord of the birds! Woe to the troll who took my sibling!”
“What in the black of night!” bellowed the troll and he stormed out of the house.
It was so dark that the troll could not see clearly at first and the girl confused him with her cries of woe and her horrible animal calls. But troll eyes do not take long to adjust to darkness and as soon as they did the troll saw that it was only a small girl that had frightened him and he roared with laughter.
“You’ve given us a fair fright, girly,” he rumbled. “But now you shall pay for your foolishness!”
But the girl had felt the ground move with the pounding of hooves and paws and the air fill with the flapping of wings and she held her head high. The animal lords had heard the girl’s loudest cries and had come rushing to help her.
“You will be the one who pays!” she said and as she spoke the lord of the deer, the lord of the wild cats and the whole court of the bird descended upon the troll. His wife ran outside when she heard him scream and when she saw the swarm of animals in the dark she yelled:
“Run husband! Run! It’s the spirits come to punish us!”
And she ran down the hill as fast as she could. Her husband followed her, bawling like thunder and the animals chased the trolls far away.
Meanwhile the girl went into the trolls’ house and embraced her little sibling. She listened to their fearful babbling and told them how very brave they had been. Then she carefully wiped the tears from their cheeks and stroked their hair until all the knots were untangled, all the while cradling them in her arms. Together they watched the sun rise, until they heard the animals coming back.
“Those trolls shall never come back again,” said the lord of the deer.
“Thank you all,” said the girl from the bottom of her heart. And then she took the three amulets from her bundle. “I have taken the troll’s magic away from him,” she said. “You can take them and destroy them if you will.”
The animals looked down at the amulets and shook their heads. “Our kin have died to craft these items, let them not have died in vain. You take them, little maid, and use them for better things than the troll did.”
The girl thanked them all once again and then she said to her sibling: “Shall we go home then, little tyke? Here, you hold on to my bundle.”
And she gave her little sibling her bundle and lifted them upon her back. Then she carefully hung the deer amulet round her neck. Immediately the girl changed into a beautiful white doe and her sibling rode safely on her back.
This was how they returned home, so quickly that it seemed they had scarcely set out when they reached their chestnut forest. There the white doe tossed her head so the amulet fell to the ground and the girl returned to her former self. She tucked the amulet away, took her sibling by the hand and with faces lit up by the brightest of smiles they ran back to their family home.
Never had there been such joy as that day filled the little log house. First the family rejoiced and then their whole clan rejoiced over triumph of the girl and the return of the little sibling.
And the girl, who from that day on only ever walked barefoot, became an avid student of the magic that granted people the powers of animals. She became a great master in the art. And as long as she lived she taught so many others the calls of animals and the tricks of amulets, that those who can take the voice or appearance of animals are now spread all over our stories and legends.
Laura: And with that last word stitching up the very last sentence, this story has its proper end.
Thank you so much for listening, lovely of you to stop by. 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. You can also find me at laurasimonsdaughter.tumblr.com, or you can follow @patchworktale on twitter. You can contact me on all these platforms, in fact I hope you will, because as this podcast starts to draw to a close, I have an important question: should I turn these fairy tales into a self-published book? Or rather: would you want one if I do? Please let me know.
There’s another tale to tell some other Wednesday but until then…
Stay in the circle of firelight, count your steps on the way back, and be safe~
Copyright Laura Simons, please do not copy my stories without my permission, lest you insult the fae.