A fairie tale
Jacob was fond of his father and mother and they were always kind to him and granted all his wishes.
One Sunday they brought him along to the forest. It was a fine day and the rays of the sun warmed up the soft moss and made the many flowers stretch and reach up and emit such lovely fragrance. The Parents sat down in the shade of a gnarled old oak while Jacob picked flowers in the meadow. He wanted to gather a big bouquet with one of each kind to be found in the forest. At first it was easy to find new ones, but as he looked for more he removed himself further and further from his parents.
At length he thought he had all the ones that he could remember, but when he now looked around he discovered that he was deep in the forest. It was quite dark and sinister around him, but Jacob was not frightened; his big bouquet of flowers wholly intoxicated him and when he saw a distant gleam behind the trees he confidently set out. He did not think of anything; the chirping of the birds filled his ears and the freshness of the forest air lightened his step. The closer he came to the clearing, the stronger was the gleam from it and when he stepped forward from the shadow of the trees it was as if his heart would stop, for anything as dazzling, as splendid, he had never seen.
A golden castle studded with sparkling gems stood before him. It was more radiant than the sun itself and it blinded him with a bliss surpassing all he had known. For a long time he stood as petrified before he slowly set out towards the radiant vision. When he came close he caught sight of a girl who was playing in the tall grass in front of the castle. Her skin was like copper, her eyes like black diamonds, yet so mild that Jacob’s heart was warmed and its violent beats felt like small leaden weights in the body.
Now he felt he weariness after the long ramble in the forest and it was almost impossible for him to walk the last distance up to the little princess – for a princess she had to be. Maybe that is why his heart became so heavy, for he was quite an ordinary boy and his parents were not of royal blood. How could he hope to be loved by the most lovely of princesses?
And to be loved by her, that was his wish.
As always when he fervently wished for something, he thought of his parents, but now he understood that this wish they could by no means grant him. All these thoughts made him quite dizzy and he slumped into the grass right in front of the princess; the strong light blinded him and became a deep, deep darkness into which he fell and fell. Then he did not know anything until he heard his name called: “Jacob --- Jacob!” It was his mothers voice and he opened his eyes. There he was again in the meadow by the old oak and his mother was nearby. He ran up to her and she hugged him and comforted him, for he cried and cried. Where were the golden castle and the princess? He was in despair, but his mother just thought he was frightened because he had been alone.
Since this day Jacob was changed. All his toys and all the tasty treats he was given to eat were like nothing against the memory of the radiant castle, and even his parents’ care could not make him forget his love for the princess. Sometimes he was afraid it had only been a dream, but then he clearly remembered that he had placed his bouquet of flowers at the feet of the princess and that it had not been there when he woke up again in the meadow, and then he knew that the castle and the princess were real enough. He had to find her again or he would never be happy.
So, he told his parents about his adventure in the forest and he asked for permission to set forth to find again the princess. But his parents would not hear of it.
“It is only a dream,” said his mother, “Here you get all you wish for; why would you leave us and suffer for the sake of a dream?”
“But it is not a dream,” said Jacob, and he told about the flowers he had left with the little princess.
“But even if it was not a dream,” said his father, “The summer is over now and it is cold in the forest; you would freeze to death out there.”
However much Jacob begged and pestered they would not let him leave. In the end the father got angry and the mother wept.
“You are an ungrateful wretch,” they said, “Everything we have done for you and you will only cause us grief.”
Alas, how sad Jacob felt. Though he understood what his parents said, he could not forget the princess or believe that he had only dreamt about her – yes, even if it had been a dream he was convinced that she was real and that he could find her again.
That night he lay awake till it was late and the half moon rose, big and yellow, and looked into his room. Then he dressed while he took care not to make noise, and with his shoes in the hand he slipped out the front door. It was freezing cold outside, but he paid no heed for he was warmed by the thought of the little princess, and now he walked swiftly down the road where the moon shone for him.
He had walked for many hours when the sky began to turn pale and the stars to be extinguished. He was both cold and tired and hungry and the road went through a desolate landscape with rocks and low scrubs. Then he saw a cottage on top of a hill not very far off and at once he left the road and walked toward the cottage. How hard it was to walk on the sharp rocks and how the thorny bushes tore at his clothes. At length he sat down in a hollow and cried bitterly. Oh, had he only listened to his good parents! Now it also appeared to him that the golden castle was a dream and that he never should see neither the black-eyed princess nor his father and mother, whose kindness he had so badly repaid.
With the cheeks streaked by tears Jacob fell asleep, and perhaps he would have frozen to death as his father had predicted, had not the old wizard, who lived in the cottage on top of the hill, found him – but that he did! The old wizard always rose with the sun and when he went down to fetch water from the brook he found Jacob all gray from cold and he carried him up to the cottage where a nice fire burned on the hearth.
Here Jacob woke up and was thoroughly frightened when he saw the old wizard, because he looked nasty with warts on the nose and a long grey beard full of bits of food. But he was not so nasty, you know, he was actually a good-natured wizard who only practiced magic for the fun of it, because he was living all alone. So he was really happy to have Jacob in his house and he put him in his warm bed and made hot gruel for him so he could recover.
In the evening Jacob told him his story and the old wizard listened and nodded his head, but he didn’t say anything for he had now become so fond of Jacob that he wanted to keep him in the house. Instead he made a warm drink, a real sorcerers brew with herbs of oblivion and passion fruit, and that he gave to Jacob before he had to sleep.
When Jacob woke up next morning he had forgotten his parents and he remembered neither the golden castle that he had set out to find, nor the lovely princess that he had loved more than anything else. Now it seemed to him that he only knew the old wizard and loved the old wizard – and that was a curious feeling! Every night he had a glass of the sorcerers brew, for its effect was only limited, but the wizard said it was to keep him warm at night. Otherwise he was good to the boy and abundantly returned his love; he showed him all his conjuring tricks and taught him to make kites that could fly high, high up in the clear air.
One day Jacob made such a kite of yellow material while the wizard was out gathering firewood. When he flew it and it caught the rays of the sun, it shone so golden that it seemed to remind Jacob of something – but he could not think of what is was. At the same time it was like the kite tore and tugged the string so Jacob had to jump along on the rocks to keep hold of it, and further and further did he get away from the cottage. When he finally got the kite down and wanted to go back home he could not at all see the cottage anymore. He climbed the closest hill to look further, but neither from here could he see the cottage, and now the sun was setting. The kite was like a little yellow tent and Jacob crept in under it and lay down to sleep. Then he would find his way home to his dear wizard next morning at daybreak.
When he woke, the sun was shining right on the kite and Jacob, lying underneath, was steeped in golden light. Then he remembered the golden castle studded with gems and the little princess whose skin was like copper and whose eyes were like black diamonds, and he was quite taken aback that he thus could have forgotten her long, long time, and had loved an old wizard with warts on the nose and bits of food in the beard, and he decided immediately to set out again to find the forest where the castle stood.
Since it was the kite that had helped him to escape from the wizard’s cottage and had restored his memory, he decided to let it show him the way. He therefore set it up and like the day before it pulled him along, jumping till he was nearly out of breath, until finally it went down next to a river meandering between the low mountains. The clear water rushed over round stones filling the valley with thousand little voices and the sun stood high in the sky warming with such blessing that Jacob realized it was springtime again. All winter he had been with the old wizard.
He now quenched his thirst and ate some fresh shoots of the tall rushes that grew here and there at the edge of the water. “Now you must lead me further,” he said to the kite as once more he launched it up in the air, and right away it dashed along down the river so Jacob had enough to do avoiding to get stuck in the bushes and trees.
The rest of the day they traveled like this; Jacob was very tired but the kite seemed to be more fit the more it flew. Suddenly it tugged so hard that the string snapped and it soared up and up until it was a tiny point shining like a star against the darkening sky. Jacob stood staring after it; he had so much hoped that the kite would guide him all the way to the princess’ castle and now his eyes filled with tears because it had failed him – or maybe it was just because he stared for such a long time. He carefully noticed the direction in which the kite had disappeared and drew an arrow in the sand before he lay down to sleep.
When morning came poor Jacob had very sore feet, but he could not give up since he had the direction of the arrow to follow. It pointed across the river and laboriously he climbed the slope, and when he reached the top he entirely forgot his weariness, for there, not very far, was the edge of the forest, and behind it a golden light gleamed. Finally he was at his destination! At once he started running as fast as he could until he reached the forest, but when he entered it the gleam disappeared. He then ascended a hill to look around, and now he understood how cruelly he had been taken in, for it was the light of the rising sun he had mistaken for the radiance of the castle. First he was dejected, but then he thought that perhaps, after all, it was a sign or an omen that both the kite and the sun had shown him the same way, and so he went on.
A light mist veiled the forest and as the sun ascended in the sky its slanting rays fell through the branches creating golden columns among the dark trees. Jacob thought it was like a greeting from the princess and it cheered him so that he forgot both hunger and sore feet. Pluckily and lightly he walked along a narrow path straight toward the sun. Then he heard a voice saying: “Where are you going in such a hurry?”
He looked around and there, in the shade, stood a girl who was a bit taller than him. She was slim and strong and had long auburn curls and green eyes twinkling merrily. She also smiled a little.
“My name is Usuk,” she said, “What is your name?”
“My name is Jacob,” said Jacob, and now he told where he was going, how he had come this far, and that now he finally felt that he was close to his goal. Usuk didn’t think he was! She lived not far from here and she had never heard that there was a castle nearby. If he would come with her home they could ask her mother, and when her father came home they could ask him too. Maybe they knew something, and then he could also get something to pick him up before he continued the journey.
Jacob should like to, and Usuk took his hand and led him in between the quiet shadowy pines. They went rather far, thought Jacob, but now and again Usuk lightly squeezed his hand and then he didn’t want to say anything. At length they reached a small clearing with a green field and a thatched farmhouse from whose chimney a thin blue column of smoke rose in the air. In the fields stood a cow the same color as Usuk”s hair. They went up to the house and into the kitchen where Usuk’s mother was busy testing the brandy, but she had never seen any castle, she said, and besides she didn’t have time to take care of them, so Usuk would have to make sandwiches for Jacob. Jacob ate salami and cheese and tuna and then cheese and tuna and salami and finally tuna and salami and cheese. Oh my! How tired he got, but Usuk wanted to show him the farm. They looked at the chickens and the pigs; they tried the weight of the tools and climbed up in the hay.
The hay was nice to play in and they wrestled and rolled around, but Usuk was the strongest and Jacob had eaten so much that he became quite limp. Then Usuk pulled her shirt out of the pants and said: “Put your stomach against mine, it feels good.” So Jacob also pulled his shirt up, and indeed, it did feel good! It tickled so sweetly in the whole body when Usuk rubbed her soft warm stomach against his that he kind of dissolved inside. “I love you,” said Usuk, “You may touch here.” But then Jacob was startled for Usuk wasn’t a girl at all, but a boy like himself. He was glad that it wasn’t a girl that had defeated him, and so he liked Usuk even better. Like this they played with each other for a long time, but the scent of the hay was so strong that at last they fell asleep.
Jacob was all bewildered when he woke up, but then he found Usuk by his side and he was so beautiful that Jacob thought he looked like the princess – especially when his eyes were closed.
Jacob now stayed with Usuk and his mother while he waited for Usuk’s father to come home, for he was out traveling. Perhaps he knew the castle. Meanwhile Jacob and Usuk were always together, they played together, they ate together, they slept together and at first they never disagreed. Jacob thought he had never had such a good time – and the princess and the castle was a dream, he supposed, even though it was a beautiful dream. But about that Usuk would not hear anything.
When she had finished the distilling Usuk’s mother became friendlier. Her name was Utsuk and she liked Jacob well; she even cuddled him often. One day she put Usuk to work in the pigsty while Jacob had to help her in the house. When they were alone she said: “I know what kind of games you are playing with Usuk. Show me what you do.” So Jacob showed her how they rubbed their stomachs together and what other things they had thought of, and Utsuk liked it and showed him some more things too. But Jacob was afraid of telling Usuk what had happened, and when he had to watch what he said he became confused and often Usuk got angry with him. He was not as happy as before!
It had now become early summer and Jacob felt sad because a whole year had passed and he had still not found the golden gem-studded castle and the little princess whose skin was like copper and whose eyes were like black diamonds. Usuk didn’t look like the princess at all when he was angry and Utsuk didn’t look like her even when she was at her friendliest. Oh! Whatever should he do? One morning he sneaked out in the forest to think about it and there stood all the flowers nodding at him like they were saying: “You could just pick us and we will show the way.” So that is what he did! He clearly remembered all the flowers that had been in the princess’ bouquet but there was still one missing and he had to have that one too, that was quite plain. He searched and searched and soon he was far from the house of Usuk and Utsuk and had completely forgotten them. Many days did he wander like this and every day he picked a new bouquet of flowers, but always the same one flower was missing.
Then, the seventh day, he suddenly saw the flower he was looking for, but it didn’t grow in the grass, it sat in the hair of a girl who was sleeping in the sun. Yellow it was, in her black hair. Jacob sat down next to her waiting for her to wake up. It didn’t take very long before she opened her eyes, and she had the most beautiful eyes one could imagine. Jacob didn’t know at all what to say to her; he didn’t think he could ask her for the flower, so instead he handled her the bouquet. He could see that she liked that and then he asked her name and where she was going. Her name was Luna, she said, and she was on her way to a golden castle were a prince is living, who is the most wonderful prince in the world. “Oh!” said Jacob, “I am also on my way to the golden castle. The prince I don’t know about, but there is a princess living there and she is the one I am looking for.”
“Couldn’t we go together,” asked Luna, “it is so hard to be alone.”
Yeah, Jacob thought that too, and he would help her as well as he could. So that was settled and Luna got up and asked Jacob to hold the flowers while she brushed off her dress. All summer did they walk together, but they didn’t get on very fast for they had to gather berries and roots to satisfy their hunger, and when autumn came Jacob had to make fire every night rubbing a stick against a piece of wood. He was good at that and meanwhile Luna made a bed of grass and when they had eaten the wild roots, that tasted good when roasted in the fire, they lay down and warmed each other until sleep overcame them. But now winter approached, it got colder and colder. How would they fare when it began to freeze?
One day they came to a strange rock. It stood all alone and thrust its pinnacles toward the sky and all around it there was no trees but tall reddish brown grass. But the most extraordinary was a black hole that, like a hole in an old tooth, sat all the way down on one side. When they explored they found a small cave behind and Jacob thought it would be a good idea to stay there during the winter.
“Then we can gather a store,” said Luna, “of nuts and fruit and firewood.”
They started doing that, and Jacob made a fireplace and a nice table of a flat stone. He really got strength from all that he struggled with. At the end the little cave was warm and cozy and here they passed the whole winter telling each other stories or inventing wonderful games.
One day when they were walking back together from the spring, where they had been drinking, the air was suddenly so mild and the sun warmed them. They looked at each other and they knew that spring was coming. It was quite sad to think of leaving their home, for they had had such a good time in their little cave. But it was impossible to feel sad on a day like this; the light of spring penetrated them, there was light everywhere. It played on the green leaves, was reflected in them, shone through them and ran along the glossy branches and gilded every little bend and knot. They saw how the fresh blades of grass waved and breathed, yes, it was like they could see the air itself. It was like a huge sea that also poured into them, wave upon wave, and made them quite light.
They forgot they were Jacob and Luna, they were themselves and each other. At this moment they came back to their own green meadow where their rock stood, but they had never seen it like this before. The sun gilded its points and pinnacles and gleamed in its thousand crystals. Now they both recognized the golden castle studded with gems, and they understood that they didn’t have to travel further, for Jacob at last had found his princess and Luna her prince.