We aren't embarking (ha, ha--em"bark"ing) on our tree journey for a few more days yet, but I still want to do a few tree-related entries for my own personal pleasure in preparation and in anticipation for the coming quest. I recently found an old copy of compiled fairy tales on a thick and low tree stump while walking down a narrow dirt path through the Golden Seed Grove not far from Riversleigh Manor
. I don't know who left it or why, but I'm glad they did. I've always loved myths, legends, fairy tales and other folklore. And it's always a delight when I discover new tales I've never known about before. I'll take good care of this newfound treasure of mine.
The cover's gone and so is the title page. The pages are yellowed with age and crackle as they are turned, so I had to be careful as I perused the book. I sat down on the tree stump as I began noting the Table of Contents. My treasure, I saw, is divided into national, continental and cultural categories, such as Africa, China, Denmark, Holland and Native America to name several. As it is a habit of mine I turned to the back of the book, being mindful of its age, interested in finding out any other information I could about the author or editor, publisher and the contents. What I found was an appendix of the tales, which further categorized them by the type of tree involved in the different stories. My treasure, then, is a book of tree fairy tales or folklore! I thought excitedly to myself. Never before had I heard of such a thing.
Turning gently back to the Table of Contents, the yellowed pages crackling, I ran my index finger down the first page till I stopped at a title that caught my eye: The Lady in White. A Czechoslavakian children's story. I noted the page number: 213, found it and began to read.The Lady In WhiteEvery day, from spring until fall, young Bethushka took her flock of sheep to graze near a grove of birches. In her pocket was a spindle for spinning flax into thread. But she much preferred to roam and explore in the woods. Sometimes she went down to see what new wildflowers had bloomed in the meadow. And occasionally she would make up a little dance, just for the fun of it, and twirled about under the trees.
One spring day a beautiful woman suddenly appeared before her. She had long blond hair and was dressed in a silky white dress and she wore a wreath of flowers on her head.
"I see you like to dance!" said the woman.
"Oh yes," said Bethuska, "I could dance the whole day! But my mother had given me this flax to spin."
"Tomorrow is another day," said the lady, "Come, dance with me! I will teach you some steps!"
So Bethushka lept up and joined the lady. Laughing and singing, they danced through the trees and out into the field. So light were their steps that the grass was neither trampled nor bent. Near evening the lady vanished as suddenly as she had appeared.
Bethushka gathered her flock and headed homeward. When her mother asked about her spinning, she pretended to have misplaced the spool. She said nothing about the lady in white.
The next day Bethuska went back to the same place, this time determined to do her spinning. Again the lady appeared. "Will you dance?"
"I cannot. I must do my spinning. Or else my mother will be angry with me."
"If you will dance with me, I'll help you to spin."
So once again, Bethuska joined the lady and together they danced through the day. Near sunset, the beautiful lady smiled, waved her arms and lo!, like magic, the spool was filled with fine linen thread. That evening Bethuska's mother was pleased to see the thread. But still Bethuska said nothing about about the dancing.
The third day the Lady in White was waiting for Bethushka near the woods. They danced as never before--pirouetting and curtseying, skipping and swooping, whirling and laughing, skimming over the ground as lightly as the wind. When the day was over, the Lady in White spun the flax again.
"You are a fine dancer, Bethushka! I have enjoyed myself!"--and she handed Bethusha a pouch with a mysterious pattern embroidered on the outside. "Take good care of this," said the lady. Bethushka peeked inside and saw that it was filled with dried yellow birch leaves.
When Bethuska arrived home, she gave her mother the new spool of thread. This time her mother looked at it more carefully.
"Where did you get this from? Surely you did not spin it yourself?"
So Betushka told the whole story of meeting up with the beautiful lady dressed in the long white dress.
"Why, Bethushka--that was the Wild Lady of the Birch Grove! It's very good luck to meet up with her!"
"She taught me some wonderful dances!" exclaimed Bethushka "And look--she gave me this pretty little pouch filled up with old birch leaves!" But when Bethushka emptied out the pouch for her mother, her mouth fell open in astonishment. The birch leaves were made of solid gold.
Once done and smiling at my good fortune at having found the compilation of stories, I stood and made my way back to the Manor and my garret.