Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fairy Tale: The Tower

Or, Why It's Better Not to Try to Figure Out Fairy Tales

Here is a short fairy tale I submitted a few months ago to Enchanted Conversations.  (It was passed over for publication for more worthy pieces.)

This story sprung full-formed from my mind one day, like the goddess Athena from the head of Zeus, when two friends and I were sitting in a tower overlooking the Shannon River in Ireland.

One of them asked, "What is it that makes you come alive?"

Instead of answering, I told her this:
Once upon a time, there was a young knight who loved a maiden.  He wanted to earn fame and fortune before they married.  So he built a tall tower in the middle of an enchanted wood, and in the middle of the tower he placed his heart inside a wooden box.  He told his love not to remove his heart from the tower on any account.  And he left her to seek his fortune.

The maiden went every day to sit at the foot of the tower and wait for her true love’s return.  Many years passed.

One day, an old hag appeared before the maiden and asked, “What do you do here waiting and wasting the day away?  You are young, and you are beautiful.”

“I am waiting for my love to return,” the maiden said, “for his heart rests inside this tower.”

“But,” said the hag, “wouldn’t it be better if you took his heart out and built a proper place to house it?  A palace gilt and jeweled, and an ivory box to keep it in?”

She replied, “My love told me not to remove his heart on any account.”

But the hag persisted.  “Has he not been gone for so long?  Perhaps if you moved it, it would hasten his return home to you.”

The maiden thought how dearly she missed him and how truly long he had been gone.  The old hag’s words swayed her.  She went inside the tower, climbed the stair to the very top, and found the box in which the heart of her true love dwelt.  She took it down the stair.  The moment her feet crossed the threshold, the stones of the tower moaned.  Its roots shook.  And the tower began to crumble, shuddering to the ground.

The maiden fell to her knees and sobbed.  She opened the box to look inside, but all that remained was dust.

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