Saturday, 9 October 2010
Who am I?
"You really must be careful," Elise told her son, "You might get hurt running around in the woods."
Tom nodded and told his mother that he would be careful. He had just turned 10 and felt that his mother ought not to fuss when he was so much older than his sister, Catherine. He turned and walked carefully away towards the trees until he was sure Elise could not see him. Then in the green shade of the woods, he ran among the trees laughing to himself. He understood in a way only children and dogs can the pure joy of just running around until you were breathless. Even being breathless from doing it was blissful, though it stopped you for a while.
He went up the slight slope, leaping forwards until he saw the rocks. Behind them the ground continued to rise, but Tom was more interested in the rocks. He clambered over them and pulled himself up, feeling the damp mossy surfaces and the hard unyielding stone beneath his fingers.
Just to one side, he suddenly noticed the small cave formed by the rocks and gasped with excitement. It was only momentary, for suddenly a hand reached out and grabbed him around the waist. He felt the strong, long bony fingers and cried out, but he was too far into the trees to be heard.
"Who are you clambering over my rocks?"
The voice was crackly and quiet, like the crackling of dry twigs underfoot. The arm that held him was large and almost mossy itself. Tom said nothing at first, he was too frightened, but then he remembered what his grandmother had told him and said slowly and in as deep a voice as he could,
"I am slugs and snails and dogs tails. I am damp moss and cold iron. I am all these and sorrow's bane too."
He did not know what a bane was, but his grandmother had told him to say it so he did. The owner of the mossy arm thought this over and told him,
"And who am I? Tell me this and I shall let you go, but make one mistake and I shall bite you."
Tom did not like that, he was only 10 and did not know who the thing was. But his grandmother had told him once a story about a troll in the woods called Tatterdemallion Green. Tom did not know for sure, after all his grandmother had told him that the troll had lived a long time ago and he did not know how long trolls lived for. He shut his eyes tightly and said quickly,
"You are not heard, you are not seen
I do believe you're Tatterdemallion Green."
The voice grumbled and muttered, but then the long fingers released him and he tumbled backwards until he fell and rolled down the slope. He was breathless and dusty and his body ached, but he got to his feet and humphed. Now that he was free he was quite cross and determined that he would conquer the troll. He grabbed a large stick and was about to climb back up the slope when a young woman appeared suddenly as if she had been sitting on a rock all that time. Her hair was wild and red like holly berries and her eyes were dark and deep. She wore a long, green, shimmering dress that looked as if it were made from leaves and her feet were bare. She laughed softly and shook her head.
"That would be a bad idea my child," she told him, "A very bad idea indeed."
Tom was now astonished at her beauty, for he was not used to women paying any attention to him as such. He felt a little shy, but then a thought occurred to him and he asked her,
"Are you a faery?"
The young woman smiled and there was something slightly dangerous about that smile. She stood up and her figure seemed to fill out that dress rather strangely as if she were both inside it and not inside it. She bent over and put her face close to Tom's.
"I am and if you like, I will take you with me to faeryland where there are all sorts of wonderful things. Would you like that?" she said brightly.
Tom stepped back and shook his head nervously. He clutched nervously at the steel toggles on his coat and suddenly the woman stepped back with a frown. She sighed then and turned away, but as she did so, Tom asked her,
"Is it true what is said about Tatterdemallion Green?"
The faery turned and stared very deeply into his eyes. He saw a beautiful castle and a garden full of roses and camellias. He saw drowned men and children who were quite empty of any feelings inside. He saw decay and death there and shook his head.
"Who am I child?" she asked him.
Tom decided that he did not like that question any more. He bowed his head and pretended to think about it, but he did not know who she was at all. He strongly suspected that she knew it too. But as he thought, he watched a spider in her hair spin a web and he shut his eyes again and said quietly,
"You are seen in mists and in the hedge
You are the woven one, Cobweb."
He waited for her to turn him into something dreadful but she gave a little cry and when he opened his eyes he was alone in the woods again. By now he was really quite cross. He had been grabbed by a troll and called 'child' by a faery and asked who they were when he did not know. It was all quite maddening and he was angry now.
He took up his stick and walking back up the slope he reached out with the stick and tapped the rocks above the cave. The mossy arm came out and grabbed the stick.
"Tatterdemallion, Tatterdemallion Green,
The faeries are come and you are seen," Tom said in his deepest voice.
"I'm not afraid of faeries," the troll answered.
"You have their treasure deeply hidden
And they come for you, er, unbidden," Tom said quickly.
He was suddenly very nervous and hoped unbidden meant what he thought it did. The troll suddenly threw out of the cavern a small box, a necklace, a chalice, a rough looking small table and a few other pieces of jewellery.
"Tell them to take it and go away," the troll said gruffly.
Tom gathered the things up and carefully walked out of the trees back to where his mother was waiting. The jewellery was in his coat pocket along with the chalice. The box and the small table he carried with him.
"Oh Tom! You do look a mess. Where on earth did you get that table and the box from?" Elise asked him.
"A troll gave them to me," Tom answered truthfully.
Elise sighed and shook her head. At least he had an imagination, she thought. So many children these days seemed to grow up too fast in her opinion. She dusted his coat off at the back and led him back to the car. Tom looked back and smiled. He did not mind being truthful but it was better when his mother didn't believe him, he thought. He knew that his grandmother would believe him though.