the wise woman

Once upon a time there was a girl whose father treated her the best he knew how, and whose stepmother made a few mistakes, so she took herself off for a long walk in the forest to search for truth. She met talking foxes, as you do, and burning birds, and all manner of smallfolk who pointed the way in various directions until she was thoroughly lost. Which is a good thing - it's the direct path to truth. But then, at a place where roads came together and the dark old trees shrank back, she met Jezibaba.

You know the one. That dreaded stone-toothed bone-dealer. The wicked witch.

My goodness, but she was beautiful.

She was sitting on a rocking chair out front of her little house, feet propped up, hair all tumbling wild, and she offered the girl some soup.

Well, the girl, she kind of knew it was Jezibaba, but then again she did not want to know, because she was thirsty. So she sat herself down, and the witch put a handstitched quilt over her, and a handknitted scarf around her, and massaged her feet. And the witch really was so very beautiful - I think I've mentioned that. So the girl drank some soup.

Guess what, it tasted good.

No poison in that soup.

The witch got to talking. Oh my life is so hard, she said. Wicked's just another word for wise, but people don't get that. They're scared of me. And she sighed and smiled until the girl was all easy and mellow.

I sure am sorry for your troubles, said the girl. And you so beautiful and all. Why can't they see that?

Oh but enough about me, said the witch. You've gotta rest. Those parents of yours with their efforts and their errors, they've just about ruined you, my lovely one. Look at your feet - go on look. Don't be upset. They're all covered in scars. Too much walking, my pet. It's true, but you won't see it. I can see it though. I have the truth. Oh poor thing, oh such dreadful suffering you've been through. But I can fix that. Come rest in my heart. Come, come now. It's a nice soft dark heart, never mind these stone teeth and this house made of bones. Come.

The girl hesitated just a little. Seemed to her the scars were actually just scratches. And now that she got to thinking, her parents weren't that bad after all. But the witch - beautiful, remember? And so confident in her sayings. So the girl murmured, I don't know ...

That's right, said the witch, grinning. (All those teeth!) You don't know. But I do. I know you better than you know yourself. I am wise, I can help you, I can heal you.

And she reached forth to take the girl's heart.

But then something happened. Don't ask me what, because the girl herself couldn't understand it. Kind of like she just woke up, and realised she had been sleeping. Or she heard a scream from the forest and realised she'd been deafened up til then. Or another variety of inexplicable and sudden thing. (Most likely, though, she had certain instincts about keeping her heart inside of herself.) She got up from the witch's comfortable chair, threw off her quilt and scarf and ever so kind companionship, and high-tailed it out of there.

The witch laughed and shouted after her - You can have a gorgeous life, you know! You can be rich and loved and joyful! You can live like a tsarina in a golden house. It's all in you!

The girl got home eventually. She followed light as it shifted across the ground and compromised shadows. She glimpsed the road from the corner of her eye and ran. And once she was home she settled down, bought herself a pig farm, had a good life.

But it was a long, long time before she found a way to be happy. The witch's benediction haunted her. She had pigs, and a house, and all what of goodness ... but she could have gold, somehow, if only she knew how to manifest it.

As for Jezibaba, well she went on sitting comfy on her porch, offering up soup and truth to passersby. And she really did believe she was wise, not wicked. I'm not sure what that actually makes her. Not wise - but not wicked either, I reckon. It's no fault of hers she was born with stone teeth and beauty. Besides, this isn't about Jezibaba. It's about the girl and what she did with what she heard.


18 comments:

  1. oooh...that chilled me and made me smile at the same time. I think I've meet Jezibaba...

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  2. And don't pay attention to other people's wishes for you.

    Love this line so much.

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  3. wow... everytime you leave me in awe. you are an inspiration. truly.

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  4. Sarah this is wonderful.
    i'm intrigued, confused, disturbed!

    oh, and the irony..

    '...Don't trust people who say they are telling you the truth. It's not something that can be seen direct. You have to find it askance in stories. If someone tells you they know, ask them for their story instead. Listen to what they've experienced, not what they've learned. For that matter, listen to your own story, your own experience.

    And don't pay attention to other people's wishes for you.'

    hmmmn..don't tell me what to do, lol. :-)

    seriously this story is brilliant!

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  5. This story was frightening...and comforting. I loved it through and through. You are really talented, Sarah.

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  6. Thanks y'all. I so much appreciate your feedback.

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  7. Yes Ari, I laughed at that too.

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  8. It's absolutely beautiful, Sarah.

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  9. You are so sweet :-)

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  10. I loved this story. I keep reading it over and over, getting something new from it each time.

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  11. this is a wonderful, chilling tale. i want to know more about jezibaba and the girl(not them together, but them apart). i want more background. i want to read the whole book.

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  12. Dawn, wow, thank you, I think that is the best compliment I have ever received for a story.

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  13. thank you melissa ... I have been thinking about this very thingbut I don't think the style of writing suits anything longer than a short story ... ?

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  14. i love this story...
    just came back for another read..tis so much nicer reading here on your blog than in reader. don't know why..more atmosphere perhaps??

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  15. thank you, I think ;-) I'm not sure what you mean by edit, though :-)

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