Authors: Nonie Wideman,Robyn Wideman
copyright ©Nonie Wideman
Published February 2016
Publisher: Nonie Wideman
Primary Author: Nonie Wideman
Secondary Author: Robyn Wideman
raven haired little girl with lips as pink as rosebuds and eyes of sparkling blue captured her mother's heart with her luminous eyes. “Tell me a story, Mamma.”
Lady Shy mother arranged the furs over her daughter, tucking her into her straw ticked bed with tender loving care. She had put a warming stone beneath the blankets and furs to warm her daughter’s bed. Little feet touched the stone tentatively. The stone was not too hot. The little one let her toes rest against its smooth warmth.
“Tell me the story about the evil king who forced the beautiful young princess to marry him.” She clasped her little hands together and placed them above the bed coverings. She looked expectantly at her mother.
“Once upon a time ...” her indulgent mother began. The little girl wiggled down, settling herself into the cozy bedding. Her imagination was carried away by the melodic sound of her mother’s voice. “...there was a handsome but arrogant king who journeyed to far away kingdoms seeking the most beautiful princesses he could find to choose his queen from. In the most distant kingdom he travelled to, he found a beautiful exotic princess. The young king was vain, proud, and boastful. He was like a peacock strutting and preening, thinking himself quite a desirable catch for any young princess intelligent enough to see his worth. The young princess was not impressed, for she was wise to want a husband who had a kind heart, a husband who would be a good father, a king who would rule his kingdom with wisdom. No matter the gifts he offered, the promises he made, the princess turned down his proposals. Unable to win her heart, the cunning and unscrupulous king took the young woman as his wife against her will with trickery and deceit…”
The princess story was the little girl’s favorite. Akira was always mesmerized from start to finish, her emotions pulled in one direction, and then another. The little girl would be so very sad her eyes would mist over, then she would be angry, and she would frown fiercely. Sometimes in parts of the story, the little girl would notice unshed tears in her mother’s eyes. The little girl’s expressive eyes would tear up too. Her mother told the story so convincingly, with so much emotion, her young daughter never failed to feel the sorrow of the young woman in the story. It always tugged at her heartstrings.
Lady Shy would continue with the storytelling, describing how a marriage to salvage family honor was arranged despite the young woman’s tears, protests and denials; denials that she had not willingly wanted to be married to the evil king.
The little girls’ indignation was slightly appeased when her mother assured her the king got his evil way in small measure only. He took her home with him, and tried to make her be his queen, but he did not possess her heart, no matter how hard he tried. Sometimes in the story, the evil king would be killed by an avenging relative of the young woman. Sometimes in the telling, the foul and evil king would be imprisoned for his dastardly deeds. The little girl always started to feel better during this part of the story. It seemed just that the evil king did not get everything he wanted.
As the story progressed her eyelids would get heavier and heavier and by the end of the story she would beam a sleepy smile at her mother and snuggle down deeper into her bed. A smile would tug at the corners of her mouth. The happy endings always lifted her spirits. The princess would escape. The king would die and the princess would not fear him anymore...the king would be imprisoned...a knight would save the princess. The ending with a knight rescuing the princess was her favorite.
Her long lashed eyelids would reluctantly flutter down and she would drift into slumber. The story always had a happy ending. Right triumphed over wrong. Good overcame evil. The beautiful princess would always escape and live happily ever after reunited with her family. Her beautiful mother would lean down and tenderly kiss her little girl’s forehead, pick up her candle and quietly retreat.
The little girl was not told all of the story. For, as her mother knew, little girls do not need to know the true reality of everything of good and evil. Her mother loved her daughter’s innocence. She hoped to preserve it for as long as possible, for the world did not have enough innocence, and it would greedily snatch it away soon enough.
It was not many years before Akira started asking why and how questions during the stories, as inquisitive children are well known to do. When she finally associated the evil king with her father and recognized the beautiful princess in the story as her mother, she had at first been sad, then she was angry. She no longer wanted bedtime stories. Her young mind recognized the parts of her favorite story that never changed were the accountings of how her mother came to be the wife of her father, and the happy ending was not true. For several nights after she made the connections between the fictitious characters and her parents, she childishly pushed her mother away at bedtime. She accepted quick hugs and kisses but did not want to extend their bedtime rituals with stories. Her mother had been mystified, and the hurt in her mother’s eyes made the little girl ashamed.
The little girl’s anger did not last long as her tender heart needed her mother’s warm hugs and kisses. The little girl recognized her mother needed hugs and kisses just as much as she did. The fierce looking father she saw so little of, who favored her brothers and frightened her with his temper became even more loathsome to her. She was seven years old, not so little anymore, and a first layer of innocence was stripped away. She did not like the man who made her mother cry when she thought no one could hear her. Now she understood the sad faraway look she saw in her mother’s eyes when she looked to the west. Her mamma was homesick. Her mamma did not like papa. She did not say it. But Akira knew. Stories had ways of teaching lessons, exposing truths best hidden for safety’s sake.
From then on, in her childish make believe games, the little girl became a warrior. She became strong, stronger than her brothers in her daydreams. With her trusty pointed willow stick turned sword she would vanquish evil men trying to steal maidens from their families. A shorter stick was a dagger. The old scraggy looking wolfhound that followed her everywhere transformed into a wolf that protected her in life as well as in her fantasies. The little girl did not want to play with dolls, play at being a mother. She looked at her playmate, the daughter of the servant lady who was in charge of the laundry and said, “I don’t want to be the princess. You be the princess. I’m going to be a knight. I will rescue you.” Her playmate was happy to be the princess, for in life she was just the servant’s daughter. It mystified the playmate that Akira would not want to be the princess, but she happily played out her role as captured princess.
Akira would sneak and watch her older brother’s practice fencing. Then she would practice sword play with her imaginary friends. That she was a warrior princess was her secret. When she grew up, she would save her mother, and no man would tell her what she could and couldn’t do. She would poke her imaginary villain of the day with her sword and sic her wolf on him. In her daydreams, she would rescue a powerful mage from sinking sand, and he would become her ally. In other daydreams, she would find a magic wand and turn evil men into toads, conquer dragons that dared return to the kingdom, and she would outwit ugly stinky ogres. The knights that protected her imaginary kingdom from evil creatures would welcome her into their ranks.
Sometimes, she would tell her mother of her play day, conquering evil men, and would ask her mother to be the princess in one more game before bedtime, and she would rescue her. Lady Shy would indulge her. They would laugh together at the end of the game. Her mother always hugged her and thanked her for the amazing rescue. She would tickle her darling daughter, and make her promise to not talk of magic, for it was a dangerous thing for a little girl. The little girl did not see any danger but she obeyed her mamma. She did not want to put a sad or fearful look in her mama's eyes. She did not speak of magic anymore. But she did think of it.
She knew magic was real, for one time she day dreamed she could fly. She wished she was as light as a bird. She wished with all her heart. Laying in soft meadow grass, with the warm sun caressing her face, with and a ladybug safely tucked in her apron pocket she freed her thoughts. She accidentally, and innocently channeled into some hidden recess in her mind. When her hair stood up on her arms, when the hair around her face started floating upwards, it seemed funny. She giggled. She felt strange, light headed. Her arms lifted. She had not physically lifted them on her own. No muscles moved in her body. Akira felt a cool sensation underneath her body as cool air replaced the firm warm earth beneath her for a few brief seconds. The shock brought her back from the place her mind had wandered into. She had not thought to lift her arms at all. She sat up quickly, frightened. Her quick rise made her feel even more light headed. The grass looked blurry. She blinked to clear her vision. The impressionable child was suddenly frightened.
Is this magic?
Her heart thudded loudly in her ears. Her eyes were wide and luminous. Magic was dangerous, so dangerous adults did not want to talk of it.
I must never let myself feel like that again!
Her father had mages visit him regularly. Her mother feared them. Akira fingered the protective amulet she wore around her neck. She brushed the grass from her skirt and looked around the meadow, hoping no one had seen the strange occurrence. Her mother was still picking wild strawberries. Akira ran to her and impulsively hugged her mother around the waist. Her mother laughed and returned the hug, popping a juicy berry into Akira’s mouth. “What is this you do? Are you trading hugs for berries?”
Akira looked up. She dared not tell of her disconcerting experience. She felt guilty and naughty. She did not want to disappoint her mother. “I was afraid, Mamma.”
“Of what, Akira?”
“I’m not sure. It was a feeling, but it is gone now.”
“Well that is good. I think perhaps a few more berries will keep that scary feeling away.” Akira’s mother looked about the meadow. Nothing appeared amiss. “Now come and help me find some more berries before it is time to walk back to the manor. She handed her young daughter her basket.
While Akira picked berries in the comforting presence of her mother, she thought about the forbidden subject, magic. When the dark robed mages visited, her mother would whisk her away from their sight. It puzzled the inquisitive child, but she knew for some reason her mother was protecting her from something evil, and in this matter, the precocious child obeyed her mother with no questions. She stayed out of sight and out of mind when the mages came to meet with her father. When dark robed mages had been vanquished in years past, the threats from strange beasts and dragons had all but disappeared, and as a generation passed, the accounting of beasts became mythical stories to frighten children and keep them safe near their homes. Some of the grandfathers of her village playmates warned the children the stories were real, and if dark forces returned to invade the kingdom, the return of the dangerous creatures would not be far behind.
Akira believed the village grandfathers and she swore she once saw a dark beast fly overhead when the black robed mages met with her father. She told her mother about the dark shadow that really looked like a grotesque bird big enough to carry a child off and eat it for a snack. When her mother did not say the shadowed figure in the sky was a figment of her imagination, young Akira became frightened. The worried look on her mother’s face confirmed Akira’s suspicion that her father was strangely connected with things her mother feared. She decided magic, all magic, must be evil.
And so it was when Akira tapped into what she believed to be magical abilities, she felt guilt and fear. She did not want to be evil. She did not want her mother to fear her own daughter. Akira decided she would never let her mind wander in that direction again.
Akira popped anther berry into her mouth. She studied her mother as she bent down to another patch of red berries. She looked around the lush green meadow. Had some evil thing or person cast a spell to make her float? She looked at the towering evergreen trees edging the meadow. She looked suspiciously at the shadows between them. She wondered if there was such a thing as good magic to protect them from whatever it was that made her mother nervous and fearful. Akira rubbed the amulet hanging from her neck on a leather strip. There must be good magic she reasoned. For why else would one wear an amulet? Akira felt better. With her childish trust she counted on the protection of the amulet, and the wisdom of her mother to protect her.