The Bird from Faraway by Megan Baffoe
There once lived a maiden who wanted for almost nothing. She was kind and clever and beautiful, with thick curling hair and lashes like the wings of a bird. She slept every night beneath silk sheets on a feather-stuffed mattress, and in her tower-room there was all manner of books, an array of wonderful instruments, and a wardrobe full of gowns sewn so beautifully that you would gasp to look at them. But despite all this, her heart was very heavy; for her father, who provided all these things, had ensured that it was all she knew in the world. The room was inside a great tower of emerald, which lay behind thick walls of granite, and several iron doors. She never had a visitor, for fear they would take her away, so spent her days entrapped and mostly alone.
As the young maiden grew older, she grew more and more depressed. She stopped her reading, her playing, and her embroidery, instead spending all her time staring out of her solitary window. Her father had ordered gardens to be grown, thinking that the views would bring her pleasure, but they were more of a torment; she wanted desperately to be amongst the flowers, but could only make do with bouquets that her handmaidens gathered for her. Some of them dared to plead with their master, suggesting that his daughter was growing dangerously unhappy, but he was a hard-hearted man and ignored them all.
Winter that year was crueler than ever, and all the garden was soon buried beneath ice and snow; still, the maiden liked to look upon it, and think about being free. One day, as she was watching as she always did, she noticed a bird lying amongst the snow; it was brightly colored, and looked to be from a warmer place. It was lying quite still. When she saw the animal, the maiden entreated one of her servants to bring it into the tower-room, and they abided by her request. She was enchanted with the creature, and nursed and spoke to it all through the Winter. But once the crocuses began to break through the white again, and the Sun began to shine, the maiden had it released. The loss of her confidant made her weep, but she would never inflict entrapment upon another. Little did she know, her affections were returned; the bird was not just a bird, but a Prince of a faraway country, and he felt equally devoted to the maiden that had saved his life.
Knowing of her desire to be free and amongst others, he returned often to the tower, bringing her flowers and fruits from foreign gardens, or trinkets from bustling market-places; but he could not take the maiden with him, although the two of them wanted it dearly. Seeing her sadness, and feeling his own, the Prince finally decided to consult a witch— a clever and formidable woman, that he had learnt of during his travels.
“If you wish to heal your maiden’s heart,” she instructed him, “you must prove yourself its match in devotion. The warm months have nearly left us; you must spend the colder ones with me. When the Snow falls, you will gather up all the flowers in my garden, and send them to your maiden with instructions to spin them into a gown for her to wear. When the garment is complete, she should put it on, and then you will have your wish.” The Prince’s men said that she was mad, and that flowers would barely grow in the Snow; but the Prince agreed to spend the Winter with her.
Her garden was larger than he had ever seen, with all manner of strange herbs and plants in it. She told him to ignore all those, however, and simply wait for the Snow. So, he did – and, you can imagine his surprise, that every time a drop touched the ground, from it sprung a cloud-like flower, with a silver stem all covered in thorns! They made a wondrous sight, but the Prince did not let his amazement deter him. Their thorns pricked him until he bled, and the weather turned his fingers first red and then purple with the cold; but every day, he gathered so many that he had to call upon many common birds, doves and crows and sparrows, to help deliver the flowers to the maiden.
She was amazed at the sight of so many birds, and more still by the strange flowers, and the instructions; but, desperate for her freedom, and suspecting now that her bird was much more than that, she matched her Prince in diligence. She and her hand-maidens began work at once, spinning a beautiful dress that was soft and sparkling as snow. When it was finished, she sent word back to the Prince with a dove.
When he received the letter, the Prince hastened to the tower, stopping only to thank the witch, leaving her presents of gold and jewels. The maiden was waiting for him, and when she saw him in the distance, she asked that she be helped into her dress. Once on, the Snow-gown melted, and she with it; flesh became feathers, and she a silver bird, with wings that stretched as widely as the Prince's. And so, the tower could not hold her— the two of them soared out the window, free birds at last. They descended to his homeland under the light of the Sun, where they were pronounced King and Queen; and, still, the people say, sometimes you will see them flying together as birds, away to beautiful and faraway lands.
Megan Baffoe is an emerging freelance writer currently pursuing English Language and Literature at Oxford University. She is keeping track of her published work http://meganspublished.tumblr.com.
Cover Design: Amanda Bergloff