Friday, October 21, 2011

Re-post: A Russian Tale

nce upon a time in a land now called Russia but then called something completely different, there lived a wood cutter with his five daughters.  The oldest daughter was about 20 years old and the youngest was 15.  The mother had died in childbirth and the woodcutter was forced to raise five girls all alone.  The girls did most of the work around the house, including most of the actual raising of each other.  Since they lived in the woods, they had no real neighbors to speak of and rarely went to the nearest village.

One morning, the woodcutter set out early to cut trees.  He told his daughters he would be late.  Around mid morning, the oldest daughter said that she should take father some food and wine, for he would be hungry after all his hard work.  She fixed a basket and set off to find her father.  An hour past and she did not return.  The other daughters grew worried.  Their father was a hard man, a demanding man.  If their oldest sister had gotten lost, then he would be angry that he did not get his lunch and would take it out on them.  So the next eldest daughter fixed a basket of apples and bread and headed out in search of her father.

The sun reached its zenith, and just as the first, the second daughter did not return.  The middle daughter then packed some cheese and milk and she too, set off.  The sun began to go down and the next daughter then packed a rabbit stew that she had been fixing for dinner and set off into the woods.  The sun set and neither she, nor her sisters, nor her father returned.

The youngest daughter was frightened.  She did not pack a dinner, but instead set out to find her family.  The moon was almost full and there was plenty of light, even in the dark woods.  The young girl searched for a while before she heard sounds of tools off in the distance.  As she got closer, she heard her father talking to himself and shoveling dirt.  Wary, she eased her way closer.  It took everything she could not to gasp.

She saw her sisters scattered around, their bodies twisted and their throats ripped out.  The girl did everything she could to supress a scream.  She watched, unable to move, while her father spent most of the night digging a large grave and dumping her sisters into it.  Late into the night, he stopped, sat down on the edge of the grave and began to drink one of the bottles of wine that one of the daughters had brought.  While he did so, he sang a sad song in a language that she could not understand.  At one point, the wind shifted.  He immediately stopped singing and stood up, sniffing the air as he did so.  "Finally.  You made me wait.  You know how angry I get when I have to wait."

At this the father began to painfully transform.  His nose and mouth elongated into a snout.  Hair began to rip through his skin.  He let loose a howl that almost paralyzed the daughter.  She fought it and began to run.  "Really?"  Even through the growl she could recognize the voice of her father.  "You really think you can outrun me?"  The half-man half-wolf leaped and covered half the distance.  He loped beside her, toying with her until her bracelet ripped on a tree branch, falling to the ground spilling the beads all over the forest floor.  The father stopped and immediately began to pick up the beads as is the curse of all lycanthropes to pick up things dropped to the ground.  The daughter, not certain why, but not questioning fate, ran with all her might.  She was running deep into the forest in a direction she had never gone before.  It was not long before her father caught back up to her.  She threw off one of her shoes.  Again he stopped and went back to pick it up.  This went on.  The daughter lost her other shoe, her necklace, her hair bow, her skirt, her shirt and finally her undergarments. 

As the girl ran out of the woods, the sun was coming up, revealing a farm in a land hse had never been to before.  She saw a haystack and hide inside it.  The father also found the farm and began to sniff, looking for where she went.  Since she had been sweating profusely, he was able to pick up her scent easily.  He looked around and found a pitchfork and raised it up to the pile and was about to deliver the death blow when his ears pricked up to the sound of hunting dogs.  "Don't worry honey.  I'll be back for you."  With these words, he left.

The dogs were going crazy at the weird scent they were picking up combined with the woman's sweat.  They surrounded the hay stack and barked, waiting for thier master to arrive.  When he did, he took a sword and began to poke the stack to see what his dogs snagged.  His surprise was great to see a nake woman leap out of the hay.  His first action was to praise his dogs.  His next was to drape his cloak around her.  He could tell that she had some traumatic experience and he did not bother to ask her any questions.  Instead he led her to his horse and took her to his home - which just so happened to be the local castle.  The young prince received many weird looks as he brought home the nearly naked woman.  Nobody questioned him and instead followed his   orders to get her taken care of. 

She was bathed and dressed and fed.  He spent the next several days with her.  Days turned in weeks and months.  He never asked her about her past and she never brought it up.  They fell in love and got married.  The whole kingdom loved her.  Soon after, the prince's father died in battle and the prince became king and the young girl became queen.  She gave birth to twin boys and the kingdom rejoiced.

Tragedy struck one night when the father returned.  He climbed straight up the castle wall and entered into the bedroom of the king and queen.  He walked down the hall to the nursery, looked at his grandsons, and then took a knife and slaughtered them.  He then trailed blood back to the bedroom and placed the knife under his youngest daughter's pillow before leaving the way he came.

The king was awakened by the screams of the royal nanny.  He raced to the nursery to see the blood splattered walls and the corpses of his two boys.  He  then followed the blood trail back to his bedroom where he saw his wife holding the bloody knife, staring at it in confusion.  It didn't take a genius to realize what had happened and he cursed himself for marrying a woman that he didn't really know.  He decreed to the kingdom that nobody would kill her unless she ever came back into the kingdom.  She was to walk away and never to return.  She pleaded her innocence to no avail.  To make matters worse, he tied the corpses of the babies to her neck and made her walk among the people who cursed and spit at her as she passed.

The head castle guard did not believe the queen was guilty and continued to search for clues.  He found grass and dirt on the outside of the castle walls.  He saw tracks leading off into the woods.  Taking a small detachment with him, he hunted down the werewolf father and killed him right after he was forced to confess.

The king rejoiced at hearing this news, for the thought of his beloved being a killer was too much for him to bear.  He sent his fastest rider out to collect her and bring her back.  She had been forgiven, could she forgive him?

The young woman blamed herself for not telling her husband her past and forgave him. And they lived happily ever after.

Or at least that is how I remember this story going.

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