Fearless

THE PYGMY TREE
            There once was a beautiful maiden who lived in a small cottage in a small town at the edge of the kingdom with her father. They had little money to spend on extravagance, so they made their living by knitting hats and selling them to traders that came through the town on their way to the royal palace. One day when the girl was out to the market, a proud and arrogant queen came by their cottage to buy a hat for her son, the prince. She had heard this cottage had the finest craftsmanship of all in the kingdom and thus demanded that the father hand over his most beautiful hat that had taken him seven years to make. The old man hesitated and timidly asked if he could receive some payment for the hat that was his prized possession. The queen was outraged and turned red with anger. “How dare you ask a queen for payment? I’ll show you what it means to talk back to me that way!” The queen was trained in magic and put a spell on the cottage that froze it in time. The clock stopped ticking, the water stopped dripping and the old man was frozen in his tracks. The queen took the beautiful hat and said,
“No one will ever be able to undo this spell.
To do so he’d have to find the pygmy tree,
And complete the tasks the tree asks of he,
Or not for seven years will this curse reverse,
But no one knows this but me, me, me!”  
            When the maiden returned to her cottage, she found everything very still. When she saw her father was frozen and unable to move or speak, she sunk down to her knees and began to sob. At seeing such a beautiful girl cry, two mice crawled toward her and told her they had heard the queen say how the spell could be undone. The maiden vowed not to return until she had found the tree that could save her dear old father.
            She set off into the forest to find the pygmy tree. She searched long and hard, walked for miles and miles, but could not find any tree that looked unlike all the others. When night came, she thought it best to rest so she could search again the next day. The next morning, she again searched long and hard, walked for miles and miles, but could not find any tree that looked unlike all the others. When the second night came, she again thought it best to rest so she could search again the following day. The third morning, as she awoke and began to search, she saw a small tree in a clearing in the forest that was surrounded by a magical glow. She approached the tree and asked, “Are you the pygmy tree?” The tree shook and extended its branches and said, “I am the pygmy tree. I know the queen has put a curse on your house, and I will offer you a spell to undo it if only you complete for me three difficult tasks.” The maiden promised she would do anything to remove the curse. The tree said to this,
            “If this is so, then first fetch me the apple from the highest branch of the tallest tree in the forest. Only if you can do this, can I help you lift the curse.” The maiden was shocked to hear this task, for there was no chance she could reach the highest branch of the tallest tree. She sat and she wept, until a bird flying through the forest heard her cries. At seeing such a beautiful girl cry, the bird found the highest branch of the tallest tree, and brought the girl the apple in its mouth. The maiden thanked the bird and brought the apple back to the pygmy tree. The tree was impressed, and asked the maiden to complete a second task.
            “You have done well, but now you must find me the stone as pure as gold from deepest, darkest hole in the forest. Only if you can do this, can I help you lift the curse.” The maiden was shocked to hear this task as well, for there was no possible way for her to climb back up once she had gone down the deepest, darkest hole in the forest. She sat and cried once more, until a mole crawling around the forest heard her sobs. At seeing such a beautiful girl cry, the mole crawled into the deepest, darkest hole in the forest and brought the girl the stone in its mouth. The maiden thanked the mole and brought the stone back to the pygmy tree. The tree was amazed she was able to complete such a difficult task, and asked the girl to find one last thing.
            “You have amazed me with your ability, but now you must do the most difficult thing of all. Bring me the heart of the oldest rabbit in the forest. Once you do this, I can help you lift the curse.” The maiden couldn’t believe her ears, for this meant she would have to kill to save her father. She sat and cried, trying to decide what to do. At seeing such a beautiful girl cry, the oldest rabbit in the forest told her that she should take his heart because he would die soon regardless. The idea of killing the rabbit was unthinkable to the maiden because of how pure she was of heart. He assured her that she was indeed worth the sacrifice and cut out his heart so she could take it. The maiden wept over the loss of the rabbit as she brought the heart back to the pygmy tree. As she placed it down next to the apple and golden stone, winds started to sweep around the tree and surround it in a white fog. Once the fog had cleared, the girl saw that the tree had disappeared, but in its place stood a tall man wearing a cape and hood. He said to her,
            “I am a wizard from a far-away land. The queen turned me into a pygmy tree when I visited the palace for she was threatened by my magical powers. By bringing me the apple, the stone and the rabbit’s heart, you have saved me.” The maiden replied, “But what of the rabbit? He sacrificed his life for me.” The wizard was kind so he said, “For your pure heart and his bravery, I will bring him back to life and give him the gift of youth.” The wizard said a spell and the oldest rabbit in the forest that had died came back to life and became a young rabbit once again. The wizard then said to the maiden, “You have saved me so I will give you a spell to lift the queen’s curse. When you return to your cottage, touch the front gate with two fingers and say the words,
‘Abble, babble, friends below and above,
Free my home from stillness so my father I again may love.’”
The maiden thanked him and hurried back to her cottage to free her father from the queen’s curse. She stood at the front gate, touched it with two fingers, and repeated the spell the tree had given her.
“Abble, babble, friends below and above,
Free my home from stillness so my father I again may love!”
            Suddenly, the cottage shook slightly and the girl heard her father call out her name. She ran inside and embraced him. At that moment, the prince of the kingdom came into the cottage in search of another beautiful hat for his brother. His mother, the queen, had told him of a tiny house at the edge of the kingdom where she had gotten one for him. Right as he entered, he saw the young maiden and was overwhelmed by her beauty. He proclaimed that they marry at once and took her back to the royal palace with him. They were married with great festivities and splendor and lived together happily for the rest of their lives. As for the queen, the wizard she had turned into a pygmy tree returned to the palace and turned her into a mouse to forever scurry around in the courtyard. While many thought the queen had left the kingdom on a long trip, she stayed in the courtyard for years, eventually gobbled up by the royal family’s cat. 

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