Storytime Friday: East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Part 9
Here come’s part nine of “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” for your reading enjoyment. You may have noticed that this and the last Storytime Friday are a little smaller than usual. Well, that’s on purpose. I don’t want to lose steam again, and I know that you’d rather have short but regular updates over long but sporadic ones. At least, I hope you do. Anyway! Enjoy!
She traveled for many days. She lived off the land, eating what roots, bitter herbs, and berries she could find. When her family was in their lowest poverty she had to learn to forage. There wasn’t much to find in the woods though.
She got used to going to sleep hungry.
The mountain loomed larger and larger before her. As her path became steeper, she wondered whether this had been a wise choice. What was she going to do? Climb the entire mountain and look around for far off castles? Lacking any better option she trudged onward.
As she crested a foothill she spied a cottage sitting by a brook not far away. It was a small building, built of pine that had aged into a dull grey. The roof’s shingles were falling apart in many places, some hanging by only a nail. Still, someone had patched up any leaks in the roof as best they could, and smoke was drifting slowly out of a crooked slate chimney. An old black horse was grazing in a patch of weeds beside the house. Beside the front door was an old wooden chair, carved with images of rabbits and birds and little bearded men. In the chair sat an old women, dressed in plain clothing that had no holes but had been patched and sewn up many times.
As she approached the house she saw that the old woman was holding something in her hands. The woman would polish it, and stare into it, and occasionally throw it up into the air and catch it in her lap. As she got closer she saw that it was a golden apple, gleaming like frozen sunlight. The woman showed no sign of noticing her as she approached. It wasn’t until she was only a few feet away that the old woman spoke.
“Odd thing, you showing up.”
She was taken aback. “I’m sorry. What’s so odd?”
“Nobody shows up, that’s what’s odd. Not out ere’. Specially not someone your age.” The old woman set the apple in her lap and peered up at her with small, cloudy blue eyes. “Where’d you come from that you’d end up on my doorstep?”
“I’m…I’m looking for a place. It’s very far away, I’m told.” She decided she might as well ask for help. What did she have to lose? “It’s a castle that lies east of the sun and west of the moon.”
“Why’d you want to go to a place like that?”
“Well, you see, I need to find a prince who lives there with his stepmother. If I don’t get there soon he’ll be forced to marry a…well a troll, who I’m told has a nose as long as his arm!” She felt embarrassed to tell such a wild story, but it was the truth. There was no avoiding it.
“How do you know about that!” the old women cried, to her surprise.
“Well, how do you know about that?” she answered back.
The old women looked at her out of the corner of her eye and said “It’s my business to know things.” She snapped her fingers. “I’ve got it! You’re her! You’re the lady who was supposed to get him! You’re the one that looked, ain’t you?”
She shuddered. “Yes. Yes, I’m the one who looked. But I’m trying to find him now, since he can’t come to me. Can you help me?”
“Huh.” The old woman began sucking on her knuckle. “Hmmm…don’t know about that. Don’t know at all.” She rocked back and forth in her chair. “Well I suppose it would be nicer for him to have a girl like you than that nasty troll. Still, all I know is that the castle is east of the sun and west of the moon, wherever that may be, and you’re sure to get there late or never. But I will lend you my horse. On him you can ride to my neighbor, a very old friend of mine. Perhaps she can tell you; she knows a lot of things that others don’t.” The women got up from the chair, grabbed the apple, and led her over to the horse. “When you get to her house just give my horse here a good whack under his left ear, and he’ll come home again.” The crone helped her get up onto the horse, and then held out the golden apple. “You better take this too. It might help! You never know.” Before she could refuse the old woman gave the horse a sound slap on its rump and the beast was off and running.
End of Part 9