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The Ancient Path

by on April 17, 2011

The basket was well packed, with sausage and fine mead. But Nan still looked concerned.

“Where does she live, your cousin?” asked Kirsjan, taking charge. That was his way.

“Oh, you are good children, helpful and well raised. Follow the road that starts by the west gate.”

Lily was rapt: “The misty road, the road that calls your name?”

“Hush, Lily, now. Your nonsense is amiss.” Kirsjan was stern.

“Your sister’s right, that road is full of wiles. Mind you don’t stray, don’t dally or detour, and you’ll be safe.” But Nan looked unconvinced.

Kirsjan sensed this: “That misty road, winding between the ancient sycamores, smells of good mushrooms and of partridge nests. Were we to stray, we would be quite safe.”

“Kirsjan, my boy, you have your city ways. But mind my words: that forest is not mild. The vapours hide mysterious things and stuff from fairies’ tales. Creatures that weave their mounts from morning dew; that harness foxes and sing to fallen stars. An ancient path it is, agreed and safe: but step outside and you are fairies’ prey. They’ll turn you into starlings and teach you how to fly.”

Kirsjan and Lily were thoughtful then. The words rang true. The path was of our world; the woods were not. They looked upon each other, and a choice was made.

And to this day, upon the ancient path, you may still hear a starling’s crystal laugh.

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4 Comments
  1. cbraz permalink

    This is a beautiful fairytale. I began with a strong Little Red Riding Hood sense, probably because of the packed lunch being taken somewhere. Then I was led off to a wonderful tale that was similar (in theme – straying from the path) but different in detail and effect.

    I enjoyed the characterisations of the children, with the boy being serious and all “grown up” and the girl cute. I really liked the paragraph where Nan told the children about the trail – beautiful imagery.

    I love that the children decided consciously to leave the path and change their worlds – a fantastic twist of the typical tale. I didn’t quite get the starling reference immediately, though, and had to read through the text again to understand what the starling’s crystal laugh meant to the story.

    I also found myself wondering why Nan was letting city-born, disbelieving children walk this dangerous path. I would have liked more understanding of why it was necessary, since she was so worried.

    • parfles permalink

      Thank you! Glad you liked it. I see Nan’s request as inevitable, a sort of rite of passage that the children in the countryside all undergo, a test. the cousin is secondary. Now that you live in our village, you must learn to walk the ancient path…

  2. Really enjoyed the fairy tale ideas and how they played against the real feeling ‘city’ characters. This quality makes the unspecified dangers more disturbing; and the fact only the younger, dreamier child seems to be more in touch with the wild dangers works well.

    Loved the paragraph with ‘Creatures that weave their mounts from morning dew; that harness foxes and sing to fallen stars’ especially.

    I liked the ending but feel it was a bit sudden, till that point esp Kirsjan seems happily ‘of this world’ so the turn about at the end seemed sudden for him if natural for Lily.

    • parfles permalink

      Thank you! Ah, the sudden ending in the 200 word limit… what can I do?

      However I saw the ending as more balanced – both the dreamy and the practical child make the same decision. somehow they both arrive at the same thought that all those warnings sound wonderful, and other than there being an accepted wisdom to staying on the path, the arguments seem to be in favour of stepping off…

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