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Kathrine ([personal profile] spkathrine) wrote2010-08-30 08:50 pm
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Story Time! The Little Yellow Bird

It's been literally years since I wrote anything original, but I was writing my app for Alma Karma at Marina Asylum and felt kind of Brothers Grimm-ish. This is the story that came of that and I don't think it's a perfect story by far, but it's the first "fairytale" I've ever written, so I like it.

The Little Yellow Bird

There was once a woodcutter who had a young daughter and he loved her very dearly. Sadly, since her mother had died when she was a babe, the girl, Hilde, had to spend most of her time alone in their cottage while her father worked out in the forest. The woodcutter would come home to find his daughter waiting earnestly for him and when he would leave, she would stare forlornly out the window after him. It hurt him deeply to know that she spent all of her time alone, but he did not know what to do.

One day, on his way home with a cart filled with chopped wood to sell in town the next day, the woodcutter was surprised by a old woman standing in the road. She looked very tired, as if she has been walking all day. The woodcutter felt pity for her and stopped his cart.

"It will be cold with the setting sun, why do you stand here alone?" he asked.

The old woman looked up at him with dim eyes and said, "I am old and weak and do not think I shall make it to my home on the other side of the forest before dark."

The woodcutter was a kind man and hearing such words only made him more sympathetic to the woman. He offered to take her to her home and even helped her into the seat of his cart. The woman was very grateful to him and offered an apple pie for his troubles.

Just as he was about to leave after escorting her to his cottage, she stopped him with a request. "If you would but leave half of your wood with me, I would grant your truest wish," she said.

The woodcutter shook his head, but humoured the woman, and replied, "If you had a cure for my daughter's loneliness I would give you all the cut wood I have."

The woman smiled a secret smile and entered her cottage, only to return with a glittering golden cage and inside it on the perch a small yellow bird made of the most delicately carved wood. The woodcutter stared at her in disbelief.

"Such a jest you make," he said.

The old woman stared into his eyes and he could feel as if she was looking deep inside him. "A friend you seek for your dear child, and such a wish is good and pure. This little bird will be all the friend your child needs. It lives on not food nor drink, and will be ever faithful."

He still did not believe her, but she was a poor old woman, he thought, and with the seasons changing, he wondered how she would keep her small little cottage warm. He could cut extra wood to make up for the loss. He set up the wood beside her home and took the cage with the little wooden bird inside. It might provide some amusement for his daughter.

The old woman called out to him as he left. "A great friend it will be indeed, but should she need it no more, she must set it free!"

When the woodcutter returned home, Hilde greets him as she always does and he presents her with the little bird. There was such delight in her eyes and she set it on the small table by the window where the light shown through in the morning.

"The sun will shine on it in the morning and it will be like it is alive!" she told her father before she kissed him goodnight and went to bed.

The awoke the next morning to the sound of a beautiful, lively birdsong. At first the woodcutter and his daughter believed that a bird must be sitting on a sill outside the window for it to be so clear. What a surprise it was to find that it was indeed the little yellow bird in the golden cage singing them a good morning!

"It's real, papa! It's real!" the little girl cried and hurried over to the cage. The little yellow bird just continued to sing to her and flap it's little wings with bright feathers that looked so very soft. Hilde was so delighted that she had to open the cage to touch the little bird.

"Don't do that, he may try to escape," her father warned, but the little bird did no such thing. Instead if climbed right onto his daughter's hand and continued to sing to her. The woodcutter looked at the happiness on his daughter's face and thought of the old woman who lived on the other side of the forest. Was she a witch? Why had she given his child such a gift?

No answers would come, and so the woodcutter decided not to question. His child's happiness was too great.

And so the colder months came and yet there was always warmth within their little cottage. The woodcutter would leave in the morning at sunrise and return everyday at dusk, but no longer did his daughter wait forlornly for him. She spent much of her day playing with the little bird, who would sing and dance and never seemed too tired for her attentions. It was a very happy winter for all.

When spring came, the woodcutter made the decision that Hilde would go to school in the neighboring town. It was best for her, as he did not have the time to teach her himself. The little girl could not bear to be parted from her little yellow bird, the only friend she had, and so her father gave in and allowed her to take it with her the first day. Hopefully, he thought, the teacher would tell her to leave it at home from now on.

Instead, the teacher was also delighted by the happy, singing bird. The children would listen to it sing before class and always asked Hilde to let them touch it, but she would not. The little girl feared what would happen to her only friend, but the attention was so welcome she brought him back with her everyday.

"My little bird is the only reason they like me," she told her father, "but that is all right. I know it is my dearest friend of all."

As spring turned to summer, this began to change. The other children would ask more to play with Hilde instead of her bird, and the little yellow bird did not sing out during class and draw attention to itself as much. And during lunch and the small free time they were allowed, Hilde and the other children would leave the little bird behind in the schoolhouse while they played outside.

"I have so many friends!" she told her father. "I don't even need my bird for them to pay attention to me."

The woodcutter was very happy for his daughter, for her loneliness seemed all but a memory of the past. Still, something was not quite right, for he noticed that the happier his daughter was with her school friends the quieter the little yellow bird became. The old woman's words remained in his mind.

"Your little friend does not sing as much, nor do his fellow shine as brightly," he sad. "Should we not set him free to meet new friends?"

Hilde refused to think such a thing. "No, papa!" she cried. "He is my little bird and I cannot let him go! He's mine!" The little girl could not bear the thought of the little bird no longer being with her, for it was her first friend and brought so much enjoyment to her life.

The woodcutter could see his daughter would not give in and chose to let things be. How could he take away what makes her happy? And so he forgot the old woman's words. They were but words, after all.

One day, the little girl was running late for school, for her little yellow bird had not sang to greet the morning. Her father hurried so they would reach the village in time and Hilde, in her anger at the little yellow bird's betrayal, chose not to bring it with her to school.

"Stay here alone, then, if you will not be a good friend to me!" she cried and hurried from the house. The little yellow bird only chirped after her, but was out of sight once the door shut on their departure. Throughout the day, Hilde's friends asked why she had not brought the little bird to school and she gave them the same reason:

"Because he did not sing, I woke up late for school this morning."

Her friends laughed, because they found the reason funny. "How can you blame the bird, when it is but a bird? You shouldn't depend on it so much," one of them said.

"Maybe its throat was tired," another said. "It sings so much, I wonder how it is not mute by now."

Hilde thought these thoughts throughout the day and by the time her father came to get her after he finished cutting wood, she had all but forgotten the hurt and anger she felt that morning. All she wanted was to get home to see the little yellow bird.

They entered the cottage and it was silent. The little bird did not sing to greet them. Maybe his throat is tired, Hilde thought. She hurried over to his golden cage, but did not see the bird sitting on its perch. What she did find made her start and cry out.

"Papa! My bird!" she screamed.

The woodcutter came to his daughter's side instantly and stared down in shock and confusion at the golden cage. There was no lively little yellow bird, but instead a dirty wooden carving laying flat on its back, feet pointing up to the sky. The wings were spread out and the wood chipped, much of the yellow paint worn away. The carving of a dead bird, stripped of everything that gave it life.

The woodcutter could only comfort his daughter as she cried and cried, but the old woman's words came back and remained burned into his mind.

"A great friend it will be indeed, but should she need it no more, she must set it free!"

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