Path of the Willow
Once upon a time, a young girl woke up on Christmas morning, and with a grin running across her face, she raced from her room. She flew down the stairs as quietly as she could to the living and adorned Christmas tree. She ignored the presents under the tree, choosing to lock her gaze upon the hanging stockings packed with wonderous goodies. She picked her stocking up and found a thread running from the edge of her stocking into a nearby closet. Opening the door, she followed the thread into the closet. Instinctively she knew she should have reached the wall across the door, yet it never came. Her mind was further befuddled when her foot stepped into a puddle. She knelt and confirmed the presence of water with her free hand. Turning around she couldn’t find the door, though she felt fabric brushing against her. Keeping the fiber in her grasp, she found a coat, pants, and boots that would fit her.
Once on, she continued to follow the thread until she was able to see light breaking through the thickening darkness. That light drove her forward, and as she pushed through the confining darkness, her eyes were shocked by the bright sun. Once accustomed to the sudden brightness, she discovered that she was in a wondrous forest clearing. Snow fell around her, and she cautiously lifted her hand watching as snowflakes fell upon her palm. She was so obsessed with the snow that she didn’t notice the small bird on her shoulder until it spoke. “Hello, little one.”
The girl jumped back yelping in surprise as she turned to look at the voice, with her eyes upon the little-winged creature, she asked, “Who are you?”
“I’m your guide,” the little creature sung.
“My guide?” The child asked with a mixture of wonder and disbelief.
The bird tilted its head and chirped before declaring, “You’re here to save the forest.”
“What?!, How am I supposed to do that?” Inquired the child.
“Come the wise one will answer your questions,” the bird answered as it leapt from her shoulder.
Despite the unease within her, the girl forced herself to follow her guide to the wise one. When they reached a cave, the bird landed upon her shoulder. The girl pulled upon strength she didn’t know she had and explored the cave until she found the wise one. She hadn’t been prepared to see an enormous wolf, yet one lay in front of her. The wolf’s snow-white fur had large streaks of grey peppered about it. The girl halted, but with a gentle squeeze from the bird’s claws, she tentatively walked to the wolf.
Standing in front of the majestic creature she waited in silence until the wolf spoke, “Welcome little one.”
“How am I supposed to save the forest?”
“It was prophesied long ago that a brave and pure child would stand against the enchantress and bring about her downfall with a single strike.” The wolf said with warmth filling each word.
“You will go to the enchantress’ fortress, on your way remove a branch from the first Willow tree you find.”
“How will a branch help me?”
“Trust that it will, little one. “ As the girl nodded, the wolf commanded, “Follow your guide to the enchantress’ fortress.”
With another nod, the girl left following her guide, and they quickly found the willow tree, and she marveled at its beauty. When she walked towards the tree, one of the long drooping branches wiped out striking her eliciting blood, a cry, and a tear. Falling to her knees another branch whipped over her head. When she saw another flying towards her, she began crawling toward the tree. Once there she climbed to the first jutting limb of the tree, then she scooted forward until she could remove one of the flailing switches. With her switch in hand, she dropped to the ground continuing her journey unmolested by the tree. When the fortress came in sight, a woman appeared wearing a flowing dress and holding an imposing and bejeweled staff. The girl stopped, and her guide whispered, “The enchantress, remember what the wise one told you.”
Before the child could take another step, the enchantress cried out, “So this is the thing that is supposed to be my downfall? There is nothing impressive about her.”
When another squeeze from the bird’s claws, the girl was roused to motion once again. The enchantress’ eyes began to fill with hatred, and she lifted her staff to the sky and thunder filled the world. Terrified the girl steeled herself and walked towards the woman when a streak of lightning came rushing towards her to be knocked away by the willow branch.
The child’s confidence grew, with the branches’ defense, and with each step lightning came only to be deflected away. When she was within arm’s reach of the enchantress, she could see the frown and terror on the woman’s face. The enchantress prepared to strike the girl her with the staff, so the girl instinctively lashed out with the switch, and when it struck the enchantress a flash of light erupted followed by a peal of thunder. When the light faded the child was standing in the clearing, she had entered, with the wise one in front of her and her guide circling her head. She looked down at her empty hands and heard the wise one speak to her. “Thank you for your bravery little one, you’ve done more for this world than you will ever know.”
The girl smiled and hugged the great wolf as it continued, “I have brought you back to the clearing that brought you here. Follow the thread back to your home with our thanks.”
The girl nodded against the wolf’s body before she grabbed the thread and followed it back to her home finding her parents looking for her. She raced from the closet embracing them as she cried out, “Mommy, Daddy, Merry Christmas!”