The Folk Tale of the Witch & The Woodman
Late in the evening, with the last of the sun flickering through the trees, The Woodman lays down his axe, and walks home to his cabin in the glade, dreaming of the fire in his hearth. In his mind he can feel the heat of it warm his cold bones, and it sooths his tired limbs.

In the glade, startled, he hears a rustling of leaves, and then a low sighing and weeping.

There, to his astonishment, sits his Queen, magnificent, cloaked in her forest mantle of greenery, and she tells him of her sorrow. The wicked Baron has stolen her emerald jewel, the root of her power, and she is overthrown…cast down.

Would that I was restored’, she says, ‘I would grant he who would assist me his heart’s desire’, for the emerald jewel had the power to grant that wish to anyone who possessed it, for good or ill.

Your Majesty, I promise with all my strength and will to do this obeisance to you. I am yours to command’, says The Woodman, for he is keen and pure of heart.

At his fireside, The Woodman ponders his fate. He hears the crackling of the embers, and sees the dancing light of the flames.

He remembers how, as a child, he had heard the tale of a powerful Witch who could be summoned by whispering her name, only by those with a keen, pure heart, and of whom it had been told had the power to transform or destroy those who offended her.

The Woodman braces himself, and whispers…

Before him appears The Witch, terrifying and wonderful.

The Woodman steps back, in awe of her, then feels pity, seeing her eyelids lowered in sadness.

I know of the fate of our Queen’, says The Witch, ‘and of your task, and I will help you in this, for you are keen and pure of heart. My due shall be to sit at the feet of Her Majesty; to be no more feared and rejected’.

In a moment, The Woodman finds himself in the palace, The Witch beside him. He can smell the fear in the air. The faces of the courtiers look drawn, and wan with woe. The Woodman somehow knows that he cannot be seen. He knows that, in the dank dungeon, Knights and Ladies who oppose the Baron are held, miserable and captive. In his mind he can hear their pleas. His task presses down upon him like a yoke.

The Witch’s face is still and calm. He takes courage.

Next, he finds himself in the throne room. The sight of the Baron, seated on the Queen’s throne, fills him with a rage without precedence. His axe is in his hand. He strides towards the Baron at a pace. He raises his axe above the Baron’s head, about to strike. He is frozen.

That is not the way this jewel shall be regained’, The Witch says. ‘The Baron must give us this jewel willingly. Ours is the harder task’.

The Witch reveals herself to the Baron.

The Baron stands to confront her, and the hate shows in his eyes. The courtiers, who cannot see The Witch, think the Baron overcome with delirium.

I am not afraid of you’, the Baron says to The Witch, but The Witch knows that he is afraid.

Our Queen is overthrown and you wreak havoc in our land and over our people. You must give the emerald jewel to The Woodman and our task will be done.

The Witch speaks the spell that would awake the soul:




In an instant, the shadows in the hall become filled with light, and the Baron shrinks back, in horror.

The Baron sees revealed before him the moment his heart was hardened and his soul forced to flee. He sees himself, a young man, his father hanged and his mother taken from him. 'Have mercy on this boy’, The Witch says. The Baron feels compassion, and remembers his sadness.

The Baron falls to his knees and, with a wounded cry, rising from his aching heart, the tears flow down his face like a river.

This is the gravest of cruelties you have inflicted upon me’, the Baron says to The Witch. ‘This humiliation, I had forgotten.

The Woodman watches as the Baron’s soul, as a white cloud, descends, and enters him, like a ghost.

The Witch and The Woodman are revealed to the courtiers, who are sore amazed.

The Baron, restored to himself, hands to The Witch the emerald jewel, shining out as a star in the night sky.

The Witch, in all her wisdom, then hands to The Woodman the emerald jewel, no more feared and rejected.

The Woodman, as surely as the night will follow the day, will hand to his Queen this emerald jewel, for he is keen and pure of heart.

And thus is peace restored.

Written by Sandra Twitchett © 2014

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