RAVENELLA: a Fairytale by Steven Augustine

ravenella

 

RAVENELLA

a fairytale by Steven Augustine

 

-Preamble-

Eine frischvermählte junge Frau läuft vom Wasserholen aus der dörflichen Quelle durch den finsteren Wald nach Hause…

A newly married young woman was walking home through the forest after a trip to the village well. She was blonde as straw and white as moonlit snow, with eyes more blue than a teapot. Out of boredom she took an unfamiliar path through the forest and glimpsed, over a high garden wall, a ripe red bunch of cherries. Seeing the ripe cherries, she realized how hungry she was, and, putting down her bucket of water, climbed the garden wall to partake. In the midst of straddling the wall and partaking, she was startled by a hideously black man in a large hat, the master of the garden. The hideously black man, or mannikirk, had her fast by the toe, never to let her to go.

Let me go! Cried the newlywed. But the mannikirk only laughed and cried the word “higher!” and seized her by the ankle instead.

Let me go! Cried the newlywed. But the mannikirk only laughed and cried the word “higher!” and seized her by the calf instead.

Let me go! Cried the newlywed. But the mannikirk only laughed and cried the word “higher!” and seized her by the knee instead.

Finally, the poor newlywed fainted in a rapture of sheer terror. When she came to again, the ugly black creature agreed to grant her freedom, but only if she promised her first-born child in exchange for this clemency. Failing to take such a promise seriously, she made it easily, and the mannikirk freed her. She hurried home with the bucket of water and revealed nothing of the matter to her husband, the handsome woodcutter. The handsome woodcutter was blonde as butter, and white as milk in the morning, with eyes more blue than a Robin’s eggs.

Monate vergehen und die wunderschöne Frischvermählte erwartet ein Kindlein…

Months went by and the beautiful young newlywed became heavy with child. She had forgotten all about the funny black man in the very large hat, when, quite unexpectedly, the very creature appeared at the door of her cottage. With the pomp and confidence of the mayor himself, he presented himself to the young woman’s husband, the handsome woodcutter, staking his claim on the child soon to be born.

Knowing nothing of the black creature’s prior encounter with his young wife, the husband laughed and prepared to fetch the mannikirk a bracing kick to the seat of his britches. The mannikirk, however, asserted his claim, and the wife was forced to confess, in tears, to her husband. The black fellow allowed that the only way out of the bargain was to guess his true name before the birth of the child, which he was quite confident was an impossible thing to do.

Aber der Ehemann ist klug und folgt dem Mannikirk zu einer dunklen Höhle im Wald…

The handsome woodcutter, however, cleverly followed the mannikirk to a cave in the forest, in front of which boiled a pot. Concealed in the bushes, the brave and clever husband kept a close eye on the mannikirk until nightfall, whereupon the peculiar black creature removed its large hat, revealing a pointy bald black head, and danced around the boiling pot, singing a song, confident that no one could see or hear it:

Call me hipche Flederlitz,
Purzinigele, Cavallius,
But if you want to solve my puzzle
Call me little Hopfenhütel!

A fortnight later, close on the birth of the child, the mannikirk appeared before the cottage driving a fine black carriage pulled by fine black horses, wearing a fine black coat and the finest black overlarge cap with a raven’s black feather in it, patiently waiting to collect its prize. The husband came out of the cottage and greeted the black creature as Little Hopfenhütel, its proper name, whereupon the mannikirk flew into an unimaginable rage. It accused the young couple of cheating to default on a promise, abused them with blasphemous oaths, and rode off in a fury, at which the astonished young wife and husband could do nothing but laugh with relief and dance with joy, singing:

Call him hipche Flederlitz,
Purzinigele, Cavallius,
But if you want to solve his puzzle
Call him little Hopfenhütel!

Es ist allerdings der Mannikirk, der am Ende lacht…

It was the mannikirk who had the last laugh, however, as the fair young mother, whose hair was blond as straw and whose skin was white as moonlit snow and whose eyes were more blue than a teapot, gave birth, the very next day, to a babe as black as a raven, even blacker than the blackest night in the black forest.

Search as they might, high and low, in the village and in the forest, the poor young couple could not find the mannikirk to relieve them of the terrible duty of raising the changeling as their own, leaving the young wife to regret her greed, and the husband to regret his cleverness, forever.

 

RAVENELLA

ravenella

 

Once upon a time, on the edge of the forest, there lived a girl who was pretty as a doll, but who had turned black in the womb as the result of a wicked spell. The poor little girl did not appear to belong to her mother at all, for her mother was blonde as straw, with skin like moonlit snow. Nor did she appear to belong to her father, who was blonde as butter, with skin as white as milk in the morning. Because of this wicked spell that had turned the child black, her parents kept her locked in a little room at the top of their simple house on the edge of the forest. The room’s only entrance was a window her father climbed in and out of, on a tall red ladder.

Every night, long after the Sun had set and the Moon had replaced the bright star in the throne of the heavens, up the red ladder her father would climb, bearing a lamp, a basket of food, and a key to the lock on the shutters. Unlocking the shutters, her father would lift his lamp to her open window and call,

“Awaken, my child, the day has begun, and all hath arisen along with the Sun!”

Whereupon the little girl received her father with great happiness, as if the day was just beginning, and the Sun was bright in the sky. She believed that the Moon was the Sun, the Night was the Day, and the supper she ate was her breakfast.

“Can we play a game now, father?” asked the little girl, after the supper she thought was her breakfast, in the night she thought was the day.

“Yes,” said her father, “But only until I win it,” and they played a game that her father was sure to quickly win.

After making certain that there was enough oil in the child’s lamp to burn until daybreak, and that she’d eaten enough to fill her belly as long as the oil would last the lamp, and that her hair was combed and her buttons were straight and the toys in her chest were not broken, her father would climb back out of the window in order to take his place in bed with his wife until early the next morning. Awakened by the first light of the Sun, he would then climb back up the ladder at dawn to tell little Ravenella the bedtime story that would put her to sleep.

The bedtime story was always the same, about a fair princess with hair as blonde as straw and skin like moonlit snow, but whose eyes could only see gold. In this story, the King decreed that all in the Kingdom be painted gold so that his daughter would finally behold its totality: the carts and their oxen, the birds in the sky and the fish in the stream and every subject young and old, man and girl, beautiful and ordinary, of the Kingdom. So the smiths melted down all of the King’s gold and made a precious paint of it. And the artisans then worked day and night to cover the Kingdom with gold. When the painting was finally done, the princess was delighted, for now she could finally behold the totality of the Kingdom. But the oxen with their carts, and the birds of the sky, and the fish in the stream, along with all the subjects of the Kingdom, including the King and Queen themselves, lay cold as coins, dead in their glittering coat of gold. The princess saw naught but the glittering dead wherever she ran to.

This bedtime story her father told her always made Ravenella weep the most beautiful tears, which shone on her black cheeks like glass beetles on velvet.

No one in the village or the forest or the greater countryside around them had any idea that such a little girl as Ravenella existed, for her supper was everyone else’s breakfast, and her bedtime story was everyone else’s morning prayer, and her night was the day they were all just waking to toil through. None but this handsome woodcutter and his beautiful wife knew of the existence of the bewitched child who was black as the birds that rule the night. Neither did the child know of the world, happy in her dreams behind the locked shutters of a room only her father could enter with the use of his tall red ladder.

One day it happened that the handsome woodcutter and his beautiful wife had another child, a child who was not bewitched. This child, a boy, was beautiful to behold, for he was fairer than his mother and father combined, with fine hair like gold, and eyes much bluer than a robin’s eggs. The handsome woodcutter and his beautiful wife were overcome with joy.

Still, every night, Ravenella’s father climbed the red ladder to her room at the top of the simple house, calling,

“Awaken, my child, the day has begun, and all hath arisen along with the Sun!”

In time the little girl grew tall, and keen of mind, for she had amused herself by thinking. She was so like a porcelain doll in her features and so innocent in her aspect and so perfect in her grace that despite her terrible blackness, she was not so hard to look at. Though none but her father had gazed upon her in as many years as there are months in each year plus one, she could inspire no emotion harsher than pity in any good soul who might glimpse her.

The exception to this rule was her own mother, the handsome woodcutter’s beautiful wife, who wished the blackened child away from the house. As Ravenella’s brother, unknown to her as she was to him, grew into the strength of his youth, the mother of both children dreaded the notion that her offspring, the first bewitched into blackness, the second blessed with an unsurpassed fairness, should ever by accident meet. Neither child must know of the existence of the other.

She put this to her husband, the handsome woodcutter. “She is old enough to live on her own. Take her into the heart of the forest until she is lost and leave her there.”

“But where shall she sleep?” asked the handsome woodcutter.

“She shall sleep on a pile of leaves like all the children of the forest,” said the beautiful wife.

“But what shall she eat?” asked the handsome woodcutter.

“She shall eat berries as black as her skin,” said the beautiful wife, “And drink water from the stream in the forest.”

Heartbroken, but unwilling to defy his wife’s wishes, the handsome woodcutter did as he was told, and climbed the red ladder that very midnight, unlocking the shutters and calling to his daughter,

“Awaken, my child, the day has begun, and all hath arisen along with the Sun!”

Hearing the sorrow in the man’s voice, the good-hearted child asked, “Father, what is it that troubles you?”

“It is time for a great journey,” said the handsome woodcutter. “In this basket we must gather your possessions, and carry them from this room, and travel to a place that your heart has never dreamed of.”

Being an obedient child, Ravenella gathered the simple possessions that her father had given her over the years. These included a silver comb, a silver mirror, and a silver cross on which to pray at her bedtime. Packing the basket with these objects, along with as much food as he could fit in it, her father helped her down the tall red ladder, and her slippered feet touched the earth for the first time in her existence.

Father bade her keep silent as the Moon itself, which she thought was the Sun, and they made their way to into the forest under cover of the night, which, of course, she thought was the day.

Far into the darkness they journeyed, and when she tired, her father made Ravenella a bed of leaves, deep in the forest beside a stream. The whisper of the water was a powerful lullaby which put the girl to sleep as the sun was rising, and the woodcutter, with a breaking heart, left his daughter in the care of her deep and innocent dreams as he began the long walk home.

The years went by, and though the poor woodcutter eventually died of his broken heart, which turned to a stone in his chest and stopped beating, his son grew strong and tall. The fair young man soon acquired a reputation as a remarkable hunter, second to none in both his bravery and the accuracy of his arrows. Not only did he stock his mother’s larder with the wild game he killed every day in the forest, but provided most of the meat for his village, and the mother and soon son grew prosperous.

Being both famous for his skill, and prosperous as a result of it, the young hunter soon enough came to the attention of the King. The King sent a courier to the house in which the hunter lived alone with his aged mother, inviting the young man to the palace. The mother of the hunter, who had once been the woodcutter’s beautiful wife, but now was old and gray, swooned with pride and delight. She knew, as did every old mother with a son in the kingdom, that the King had several daughters of a marrying age, the eldest of which was at an age to be in desperate need of a husband.

“O, to be the mother of the husband of a princess!”, thought the old woman, and she clapped her hands with joy. She dressed the young hunter in his finest garments, and sent him off in the company of the page for his audience with the King.

Just as the old woman had predicted, the King offered the handsome young man the hand of his eldest daughter in marriage, but the offer came with a twist, for it was only on the condition of the completion of a dangerous task.

“In the very deep dark of the heart of the forest,” said the King to the handsome young hunter, “there lives a witch called Ravenella, black as the birds she is named after. She is a terrible witch who has lured many a young man to his death in the stream that runs through the forest. Kill this witch, and bring me her heart as the proof that you have killed her, and the hand of the princess is yours.”

 

 

The End

DOWNLOAD AS PDF HERE

ravenella

5 Comments

  1. i like it very much – and there’s room for sequels too – a bildungsroman about ravenella finding her calling [are the rumors true? or the product of envy, misogyny, religious bigotry, and racism?] and of course the climactic confrontation with the unknown brother – will perhaps the spectre of the father appear to one or both of the siblings at a crucial point, a la star wars?

    speaking of giving birth, it is possible you may have access to CNN and may perhaps have seen dr leana wen discussing various aspects of the pandemic

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leana_Wen

    this morning (eastern u.s. time) she was chatting with dr sanjay gupta and anchors john berman and alisyn camerota – i was surprised when alisyn said that that leana is on the verge of having a baby

    Liked by 1 person

    1. MC! I hereby grant you the license to proceed with Sequels (while I get to work on the Prequel). The Ravenella version of a Colonial-Mythos Blowback Deconstruction Workout overlaps neatly with Star Wars’ in that both Ur-Father Figures are Males of Color masquerading as Males of non-Color (ie, the “Mannikirk” with the phallic, Tut-like black head, not the white, quasi-incestuous woodcutter on his “red ladder,” is the biological father, despite the nonsensical “enchantment” alibi… and Darth Vader was, as we know, James Earl Jones and NOT the white guy fronting the voice in the film)… so it will be the Mannikirk who appears (hologrammically) to the brother/sister in the third act of the first sequel!

      Re: CNN: I only watch “caught in the act” vintage Green Screen snippets on YouTube; like all vampires, CNN can’t cross your threshold unless you invite it to! Why would you?

      Like

  2. why would i invite cnn over my threshold? – heraclitus said “Men that love wisdom must be inquirers into very many things indeed”

    dr wen’s story and perspective is an interesting one – she gave a ted talk that has had over two million views – on the other hand her dialog at harvard t.h. chan school of public health, livestreamed on jan. 14 of this year, has had only 250 views so far [does this include livestream watchers, or only viewers since then? i don’t know] – musical prelude goes until 8:00

    leana was born in shanghai – birth name 温麟衍 – she came to california when she was eight – her family was granted political asylum – at points in her childhood they were on medicaid and WIC – they got u.s. citizenship in 2003 – she met her husband while in england as a rhodes scholar – she mentions in the harvard talk that she is pregnant with her second child – if her husband is the father* the child will have a mixed ethnic background – not that there’s anything wrong with that

    *the nytimes story, which goes into detail about how they met and the circumstances of their engagement, states she will be known as ‘dr wen-walker’ – that is not the case at the present time – maybe it was simpler to drop the ‘walker’, maybe they are no longer together, maybe she is still married to him but the child is someone else’s – in any case, i hope mother and about-to-be-born child will be ok

    chances are that any sequels to ravenella will not be written by me – perhaps i will use my period of home confinement to do a second reading of gurdjieff’s magnum opus – an excerpt of which i paste here – the associative link is ‘raven’ –

    “The verbal intercourse of these raven-beings of the planet Saturn is somewhat like our own. But their way of speaking is the most beautiful I have ever heard. “It can be compared to the music of our best singers when with all their being they sing in a minor key. “And as for the quality of their relations with each other—I don’t even know how to describe it. It can be known only by existing among them and having the experience oneself. “All that can be said is that these bird-beings have hearts exactly like those of the angels nearest our Endless Maker and Creator. “They exist strictly according to the ninth commandment of our Creator: ‘Consider everything belonging to another as if it were your own, and so treat it.’ “Later, I must certainly tell you in more detail about those three-brained beings who arise and exist on the planet Saturn, since one of my real friends during the whole period of my exile in that solar system was a being of that planet, who had the exterior coating of a raven and whose name was Harharkh.”
    ― G.I. Gurdjieff, quote from Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson

    Like

    1. “why would i invite cnn over my threshold? – heraclitus said “Men that love wisdom must be inquirers into very many things indeed”

      Heraclitus didn’t live in a technofascist propaganda-jacuzzi, Mr. Charlie, with hot jets of the spurious, the meretricious and the downright noxious pounding the aching muscles of his awareness all day. Or, to shift to a breakfast analogy, just because you like bacon doesn’t mean you have to bite every pig in your cabbage patch!

      Propaganda is much slicker than it once was. Beware.

      Like

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR [letters are vetted for cogency and style]

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s