Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ravenswood Stories: The Girl with the Crimson Raincloak

In which I mutilate a well-loved fairytale.

The Girl with the Crimson Raincloak

Once there was an old woman who lived in the Ravenswood. When she fell ill in the chill spring, her family sent the granddaughter out to her with a basket of food. Dressed snugly in her crimson raincloak against the showers, she set off through the forest.

Along the way the girl sang to the birds and chirped to the squirrels. So it didn't surprise her when a wolf stepped out of the undergrowth and spoke to her. He said "Where are you going my girl, with your basket and your brightly coloured cloak?"

The girl replied "I'm the Red Princess of the Ravenswood, and I'm on my way to see my Granny. She's ill, so I'm taking her some food."

"Ah," said the wolf, "Perhaps I can walk with you."

"I don't think so," said the girl, who wasn't quite as foolish as she seemed. "It's not far, just over the brook."

So the wolf left her, and ran through the forest and across the brook to the Grandmother's house. There he killed and ate the grandmother, leaving some blood in a jug and some meat on a platter on the sideboard[1]. Then he dressed himself in the Grandmothers nightdress and got into bed to wait for the little girl and the basket of food.

He waited and waited, until the sky began to darken, and then the girl's father and brother came in. "Is Scarlett here?" asked the father, "she should have been home hours ago."

"I haven't seen her," croaked the wolf.

"Even with those big eyes?" asked the brother. "Where did you get this wine? It smells very... strange."

"Can't smell," murmured the wolf.

"Even with that big nose?" said the father. "And why have you been gnawing on raw meat?"

"Not eaten a bite," whispered the wolf.

"Even with those big teeth?" said the father. The brother was staring at the sideboard in shock and horror, even as the father saw what he was looking at in the bed.

They killed the wolf, and cut him open, but could only find the remains of the grandmother. They tore down the cottage and use the stones to build a tomb, and the wood to burn the wolf carcass. The little girl could not be found anywhere.

A week later, when they had given up all but the faintest hope, the little girl appeared at home in tears, saying that Granny's house had been pulled down. Strangely, the food in the basket was still fresh, although the honeycakes and wine were gone. When everyone had calmed down, the girl told her story.

After she had met the wolf, she had thought she heard some cries from the forest. Passing through the undergrowth, she thought she saw where someone had forced their way through the branches. She'd followed the signs like this for a while, until show found herself lost.

At that point, a fairy and a cat passed by. She'd curtsied and the fairy had bowed. The fairy had asked her what she carried, and when she told him, he asked if he might have the honeycakes and the wine, for he was on his way to dinner, but had no guest-gift. She'd given them over, then asked if he knew the way to her Granny's. The fairy had told her to follow the cat, who, with a feline look of disgust, led her three times around an oak tree, to the stepping stones across the brook. She'd thanked the cat, who looked back disdainfully, then she went on her way.

She met the cat again, years later, but that's another story.

If you're wondering what's going on here, I introduce the Ravenswood here, talk about fairies here, and reference tracks that don't go anywhere here. As for the rest, if it makes no sense, that's all my fault.

[1] This gruesome detail comes from some of the earliest versions of the tale.
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