Saturday, 23 April 2011
The White Fox and the Flower Maiden - Part 1
Many years ago a king who being unwed and without an heir went out hunting as many kings did in those days. After a while his horse outstripped his courtiers and still he went through the woods chasing a stag. After a little while the stag seemed to have vanished and his hounds suddenly paused and gathered about his king's horse. He dismounted and leaving the horse with his hounds, the king went on foot with his bow and his arrows in his hands.
When he came out of the trees and looked up to the rise he saw a pure white fox. At first he did not realise it was a fox until it turned and looked directly at him. He was about to string an arrow to his bow when the gaze of the fox met his. Suddenly he faltered and lowered his bow.
Without fear the fox walked down the hill towards the king who found he could neither move nor speak. As the fox came near him, it arose up on its hind legs and shook itself. The white fur of the fox fell to the ground and a beautiful maiden stood before him. The king dropped his bow and arrows and fell to his knees.
"Foolish king that believed the beasts of the woods are for him to kill. You are in need of a wife who will teach you wisdom. Go home king and you will find the flowers in your garden are in bloom. Gather the white flowers together with twenty oak leaves before twilight and leave them in a heap. Let nobody go near the garden all night, but tomorrow go into the garden and you will find a wise woman to wed. But you must always treat her with respect and kindness for she deserves no less," the fox woman told him.
The fox woman took up her white skin and turned back into the white fox. The fox ran away over the hill. The king found he could move again and stood up. Astonished at what he had heard, the king returned to his horse and the hounds followed him back to where his companions waited for him. He said not a word, but commanded a return back to his palace.
When he returned the sun was already setting. He went into his gardens and noticing all the white flowers he gathered them up as he had been told. Then he picked twenty oak leaves and left them on top of the white flowers. He placed sentries around the garden and commanded them not to let anyone in.
The following morning he went out into the garden and found seated upon the grass, the most beautiful being he had ever seen. Her eyes were blue as cornflowers, her skin was white like magnolias, her hair was white like camellias and she wore a long green dress. He was bewildered, but asked her to marry him and to his surprise she agreed to wed.
So they were wed to much happiness and surprise, for the people had thought their king would never marry. Now it happened that the king had a councillor who had a daughter. The councillor had hoped the king would marry his daughter, even though the daughter was much in love with the king's gardener. When the councillor saw the new queen he wondered where she had come from, but the king would say nothing. When he asked the queen about her family, she would only say that she was born of many flowers. This the councillor did not understand at all.
But when his daughter told the councillor that she wished to wed the king's gardener he was furious. He was sure that she was being foolish, but she assured him that she wished only to wed the man she loved and that was the gardener. The councillor would not hear of it, even though his wife told him not to be silly.
"Did I not marry the one I loved and he was not the king?" she told him.
Now after some time the king's wife became pregnant and the king began to wonder whether his children would be flowers or people. But he remembered the fox woman's words and remained respectful and kind to her. Nor would he allow anyone else to show her disrespect, not even the councillor whom he rebuked for daring to think ill of his queen.
The king's companions found that he could not be persuaded to hunt with them any longer and after a while they fell away. The king spent many hours with his queen for he loved her greatly and considered himself extremely lucky to have such a wife. She gave him wise counsel when it was required and taught him how to learn to respect other living things from the bear in the forest to the smallest ant in the garden. Not only great oaks, but even those flowers that gardeners call weeds. After some while, he took his counsel from her and not his councillor. You may imagine how this made the councillor feel.
Still, there was little the councillor could do about her, for she was wise enough to see through his politicking and his slyness. Now it happened that one day a guard came to the king and told him that a large white stag had been seen in the wood. The king was immediately reminded of the white fox and decided to go and find the stag.
To his surprise however, his wife advised against it, but she could not tell him why. The king agreed respectfully even though he wanted to go. After a while another guard arrived and told him that a white bear had been seen in the wood. The king was surprised, but suspecting that the bear and the stag were the same as the fox-woman he longed to go. His wife still advised against it and much though he longed to go, he respectfully and kindly agreed not to.
The councillor, believing that his chance had come at last, suggested that he went instead. To his surprise, the queen advised him not to go. Yet, still she could not tell him why, only that for his safety he should stay at home.
"Think also of your wife and daughter," she said.
The councillor replied foolishly that if she could not tell him why his safety was in danger then he would go for he was unafraid. At this the queen bowed her head in sorrow and asked the king to give the councillor's wife ten white camellia flowers the night after the councillor had gone to the wood. The king agreed and you may imagine the surprise of the councillor's wife when the night after her husband had gone into the wood the king arrived with a box of white camellia flowers. She thanked him and he told her that his queen had said the wife must open the box after midday.
The councillor did not return in the morning, nor did he return at noon. Just after noon when the councillor's wife and daughter had dined, the wife took the box into her bedroom and opened it. Instead of the camellia flowers she found the box was full of white gold. She wondered greatly at what this might mean and went directly to the king to tell him. When the king heard of this he began to wonder too. He asked his wife what this meant and she wept and answered that the councillor would never return again for he had met his death.
"If the flowers had remained flowers, he would have returned. But once they turned into gold it meant that the poor man was dead," she said sadly.
The councillor's wife returned home deeply upset and told her daughter that her father was no more. Now the king longed to go and return the councillor's body at least to his wife and daughter. But still the queen advised him not to, for it would put his life in danger.
A few months later, the queen gave birth to two beautiful girls. Both had hair as black as a raven, eyes as blue as a clear sky and skin as white as the white jasmine. They were named Lily and Daisy and were much loved.
Soon after they were born very early in the morning, a white fox entered the chamber where they lay in their cradles. It stood up on it's hind legs and grew up until the fox skin split and out of it stepped a beautiful maiden. The fox skin fell to the floor behind her and silently she kissed them and whispered something in the ears of each of them.
Then she passed through into the bedroom where the king and queen lay asleep and whispered something into the flower-queen's ear. This done, she put on her fox skin again and trotted out of the palace and the city into the wild wood without anyone seeing her.