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Illustrated Fairy Tales
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© George McGinn
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New Fairy Tales
Pondilly & I

by George McGinn

author

Professor George Anthony McGinn was born in Mayfair London in 1839. He wrote extensively of a mysterious and faraway place which he called 'The Forgotten Woodlands of Pondilly'. The Woodlands, he said, were divided up into Fairydoms with each overseen by a nymph maiden who personified various aspects of nature. The Professor said there were many nymphs, but the one with whom he was most familiar was Belle Fleur of Forgotten Green. She was the guardian of plants, flowers and trees.

According to the Professor, Pondilly (full name Pondillier and sometimes contracted to Pondle) is a real place you unknowingly drift into when daydreaming. It is neither here nor there but somewhere in between. It exists not before or after but alongside the present moment in time. Your visit is usually momentary before being quickly dissolved into a forgotten memory. Some awaken briefly within this wonderous place but are involuntarily winched back to the world from where they came. They are left with nothing but a residual imprint of what they perceive as a daydream. The Professor maintained that if you could learn to grasp the ephemeral moment in which you were caught when your head was in the clouds, you might be lucky enough to stay a little longer and perhaps even forever.

Many of the Professor's contemporaries at the time were skeptical of his claims of another world pointing out that he was a professor of cultural studies with a strong interest in folkore and fairy tales. Some compared him to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was infamously fooled into believing in the existence of the Cottingley fairies. Others compared him to those who fooled poor Sir Arthur.

The Professor mysteriously disappeared in 1894 raising speculation that he had fled the grey and mind-numbing monotony of the real world for his beloved Pondilly. He was never to be seen again; that is, until now. After more than 100 years since his untimely disappearance, the Professor has returned to the modern world. How do I know this? I am Professor George McGinn. I decided it was time to come back and share with everyone my hand drawn illustrations and accounts of this wonderous place I have lived in for the last century. Perhaps, I can inspire and encourage others to visit the fairy tale that is Pondilly.

 

About G. A. McGinn

I am a professor in cultural studies and literature with a specialist interest in old and new fairy tales of the folkloric genre in both preliterate and literate societies. My late wife was Lady Agness de Beaufort who was a highly respected writer and illustrator of short fairy tales. My second wife is Lady Philippa Carminow to whom I remain happily married. A life long devotee to antiquarian research into a cornucopia of never-ending fairy tales, I have held many prestigious posts including Librarian Royal to Her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1867 and Principal Curator at The Natural History Museum in 1881. It was at this acclaimed museum where I personally oversaw a major campaign to save and preserve historical books in fairy-tale folklore and contemporary illustrated fairy tales for the nation and for future generations. During my various careers, I attracted the attention of great fictional writers of their time including Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling and Bram Stoker as well as folkorists Joseph Jacob and Jeremiah Curtin among others. I was good friends with Lyman Frank Baum and the illustrator of his book 'The Wizard of Oz' William Wallace Denslow. All of these luminaries found a way to visit the ethereal world of 'Pondilly' which they knew by different names.

If you are interested, you can switch over to 'Old Fairy Tales' by clicking on 'Old' in the title of the main illustration display box or using the main menu at the top left of the page. There you will find a selection of some of my favourite old fairy stories. I hope you enjoy them. But before you take a look at those timeless fairy tales, please read my account of a young Pondillian boy with an obsession for his boots:

 

Edward de Moots

Edward de Moots loved his purple boots
Which he wore day and night.
His mother tried to prize them from him
But not without a fight.

He wore his boots in the park
Playing hopscotch and other games.
But everyone made fun of him
And called him nasty names.

Edward really hated school
For there his boots were banned.
Instead, he wore a pair of shoes
In which he could not stand.

Without the support of his boots,
Edward wobbled on his feet.
This caused him great anxiety
Which kept him firmly in his seat.

He decided to take action
For he missed his boots so much.
To his feet he glued his boots
Which the teachers could not touch.

He ran outside during break
And chased a ball on the green.
He moved so quickly and scored a goal
In a way no one had ever seen.

He was spotted for his talent
And signed up to a football squad.
Very soon he became a star,
Indeed, a football god.

People came from miles around
To see little Edward de Moots.
They loved him for the goals he scored
But even more for his little purple boots.

 

 

© George McGinn

 

 

 

 

 

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New Fairy Tales
The Mallow Path

by George McGinn

vignette mallow path natural

In a far away land there was a vast mystical woods whose trees were tall and twisted with no leaves except, that is, at the centre where they were green and abundant with fruit, nuts and berries all year round. The woodland protected herself behind a giant wall of brambles which intertwined with the trees to make an inpenetrable dense thicket through which only the animals could navigate.

A little village lay on the edge of the woods. The folk who lived there could not enter the woods because of the brambles, but they could smell the fruit whose sweet irrestistible aroma drifted on the winds and drove them to risk their lives to find a way in. Some had tried to hack through the brambles only to be entangled and shredded to death by the sharp thorns. However, the villagers knew of a rare and unexplained phenomenon they called the Mallow Path. The path was composed of thousands of little flowers of the same species which bloomed together unveiling a secret route through the woodland and to the otherwise untouchable fruits.

The path was not though without significant dangers. Milky mauve in colour, the Mallow Path would never flower in the same place twice. Those brave enough to walk it had to be quick on their feet or risk being lost in the darkness forever for the path could wither away at any time and be replaced by the twisted trees and jagged brambles which would close in once more. Most never returned, but a small number made it back with their arms full of the forbidden fruits. Sadly, these home-comers were all reduced to speaking gibberish and moved around in the strangest of ways. Some galloped on all fours and dug holes where they crouched whilst others hopped around or perched on window sills looking bemused. It seemed this odd behaviour was a forfeit the villagers thought worth paying just to sink their teeth into the soft juicy fruits brought back by these poor souls.

A guard was posted in the bell tower at all times ready to alert the villagers of the appearance of the Mallow Path. One day, the bell tolled. Everyone flocked to the edge of the woodland and waved off a hopeful contender whose name was Adam. Wasting no time, he sprinted down the soft path of petals into the darkness of the woods.

Very soon, his path was blocked by a wild boar. 'If you wish to pass' said the boar 'you must give me your hat'. Fearful of the creature's huge tusks, Adam gave his hat to the boar who trotted off. Scratching his ears, the young man continued his sprint.

Soon he met an aggressive crow flying around in his hair. 'If you wish to pass' said the bird 'you must give me your shirt'. Mindful the path could disappear at any moment, he did not hesitate to hand over his shirt to the crow who flew off into the trees. With a twitch of his nose, Adam resumed his course.

Further along, Adam's journey was interrupted by a grizzly brown bear. 'If you wish to pass' growled the bear 'you must give me your shoes'. Adam reluctantly handed them over, but felt a lightness of being as his feet trod nimbly between the fallen thorns of the brambles.

In the distance, he could see the end of the Mallow Path leading to the fruit whose aroma was now completely overpowering. However, a giant frog jumped out in front of him. 'If you wish to pass' croaked the frog 'you must give me your trousers'. Adam handed over his last piece of clothing to the frog who hopped off before plopping into a near by pond. Adam then lept up on to a tree with amazing agility and picked as many fruits as his little arms would carry. The fruits seemed unusually large and heavy.

Sitting on a branch, Adam paused and surveyed the lush greenery of the woodland. He felt his ears rotate at the slightest sound and his nose twitch to a myriad of woodland scents carried on a breeze. He noticed all the creatures of the woods including the boar, the crow, the bear and the frog were staring at him. He peered into their eyes which seemed strangely human and then he looked down at the pond below. Staring back at himself, he saw his reflection which was not that of a young man, but of a squirrel. It dawned on him that the animals were those villagers who had never returned from their venture into the woods. They had been transformed into wild animals. He tried to say something, but could only produce a raspy squeak. He scuttled off along a branch and thought nothing of his metamorphosis for he was now a fully fledged squirrel doing whatever squirrels do.

 

~The End~

© George McGinn

 

 

 

 

 

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Tree in the Well

by George McGinn

vignette glitter moon

There was once a jealous king who could not bear the idea of anyone looking at his beautiful daughter. He locked her up in the deepest chamber of his castle where there were no windows. The servants were forbidden to go near her and all her food was liquified and served by straw through the keyhole of her door to prevent any direct contact.

The princess bided her time with needle work hand stitching magnificant tapestries of the great outdoors to hang on the walls and to compensate for the lack of windows in her chambers. One day, she noticed a beetle scuttling out from behind one of her wall tapestries. As she pulled back the corner of the fabric, she spotted a tiny crevice in the wall and felt a hint of fresh air funneling through. Using one of the biggest needles in her bejeweled sewing box, she scratched away the mortar to losen the bricks and eventually formed a small hole big enough for her to crawl through. But she soon realised that she had merely conveyed herself from one prison to another as she was now at the bottom of a very deep and dry well. It was not in the princess' nature to be down heartened as she was grateful for the fact that she could for the first time see the sky which appeared no bigger than the size of a penny coin at the entrance of the well high above. Over the months, she would escape to the well to view the sun which occasionally passed over. One day, as the princess was sipping broth in the dim daylight , she felt a piece of grit catch between her teeth. Slightly irritated, she spat it out on to the earthy floor of the well and shouted 'Oh, I wish I could escape!' before returning to her chambers to sleep.

That night, the moisture on the rotund walls of the well glistened brightly as a full moon briefly passed over. The moon's luminosity faded as clouds drifted in and snow flakes sprinkled down. Unbeknown to the Princess, the well was enchanted and what she thought was a piece of grit was in fact a seed which had magically grown into a tree. When she awoke the next morning, she saw something pushing from behind the tapestry which covered the entrance to the well next door. Lifting back the fabric, a branch of a fur tree sprung out of the hole in the wall. Squeezing through to the well, she saw conifur tree had grown during the night. So high was the well entrance above that even the tree fell short of the height and so she was unable to consider climbing up the branches to escape her prison.

Having been locked up in her chambers for many a year, the princess had not seen a tree for such a long time. It was lovely for her to feel the texture of the bark, the needles and particularly the cones which were very tactile. As the tree was big enough for her to climb into, she found a little nook into which she curled up. Inhaling the sweet aroma eminating from the tree, she drifted off into a deep sleep.

Sometime later, she awoke to the feel of speckled sunlight on her skin. Slowly she opened her eyes and could see rays of light peircing through the dense needles from all around. She tasted the air which was fresh and breezy and nothing like the stale and damp atmosphere of her chambers. Then in the corner of her eye, she spotted a bird hopping on one of the higher branches and soon after a squirrel darting by. She also noticed the tree was considerabley bigger than when she fell asleep. The trunk was heavier, the branches were thicker and the space between allowed her to stand upright. She clambered out of her nook towards the edges of the tree. As the branches thinned out, she separated them like curtains to be greeted by the great outdoors. She looked down and could see that whilst she had been alseep, the tree had grown rapidly until it had reached the top of the well.

It was early morning and no one was about. The princess knew she could not stay or she would be apprehended by her father's guards and re-incarcerate in the bowls of his castle. She looked out yonder at the great rolling hills of green pasture and saw a village in the far distance. 'That is where I shall go' said the Princess and off she went.

 

~Not The End~

© George McGinn

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Fairy Tales
The Uninvited

by George McGinn

uninvitedguest

It was a cold winter's night when Belle prepared for bed. She finished up her supper and walked to the window to draw the curtains when she noticed it had started snowing outside. She stared in wonder as the delicate fluffy flakes floated silently down turning the ground into a shimmering blanket of white. She was eager to go out, but it was bitterly cold and she needed a good night's sleep. She hoped the snow would not melt during the night so that she could build a snowman in the morning.

So tired was Belle that when her head touched the pillow, she quickly fell into a deep sleep. A few hours later, she was awoken by an unfamiliar noise coming from the nook above. Belle was aware that the nook was empty after a family of birds had recently moved out. She nipped outside to investigate. It was perishingly cold and she saw the big lolloping feet of a little troll poking out of the nook. Belle's heart sank as she realised big feet meant heavy stomping. Holding back her displeasure, she said to the troll: 'Are you sure the nook is suitable for a strapping troll like yourself?' Squeezing himself out and crashing to the ground, he replied: 'It's too poky in 'ere for me. I'm off.' With his big feet, he ploughed through the snow into the mist. Belle was relieved as woodland rules forbade her from preventing any woodland creature from taking up residence in an empty home.

Fleur was about to drift back into sleep when she was again awoken by another unfamilier sound. She got out of bed and went outside which was colder than before. Through the blizzard of snow, she saw a tall skinny goblin scuttling up the trunk to the nook. It was common knowledge that all goblins were anti-social creatures particularly at night when they got up to mischief. They could soon turn a quiet friendly tree into an undesirable home which would attract other undesirables.

Belle knew she had to act quickly. She diplomatically said to the creature: 'Are you sure the nook is suitable for a towering goblin like yourself?'. The goblin poked his head out of the nook and hurled a torrid of abuse at the nymph: 'What kind of a place is this? The ceiling is far too low!' Belle sighed with relief as the lanky goblin disappeared into the snowy mist.

Returning to her bed, an exhausted Belle slipped back into a tentative sleep when she was startled by a great thud of a noise outside. 'Who is it now?' Belle asked herself. She climbed out of bed and went to investigate. She was aghast at the sight of a scruffy ghoul mindlessly banging on the side of the tree. Belle pinched her nose to escape its foul smelling stench which was known to be powerful enough to kill a small animal and render unconscious a tree nymph such as herself. Not even the nooks and crannies ventilating the tree would be enough to neautralise a ghoul's unsavioury body odour. Mindful of the woodland rules, Belle said to the ghoul: 'There's very little food in this part of the woods during winter. Most of the animals go to the far side of the Forgotten Woods'. Of course, Belle was not telling truth, because she would never endanger the lives of other creatures elsewhere. She had guided him towards the caves where at least the ghoul could spend the night out of the cold snow. The ghoul took no notice and licked its lips as it eyed up the nymph as a tasty morsal. Belle was not one to use her magic powers gratuitously, but when needs must, she had no complusion to take action. Raising her hand, she mustered up a strong gust of wind which threw the ghoul out of the forest in the blink of an eye.

As she shook the snow flakes out of her hair and once again turned her thoughts to sleep, she saw in the corner of her eye a small squirrel traipsing through the deep snow like a wondering nomad. She soon realised he was heading for the tree. What a relief, she thought to herself. Perhaps now I will get some sleep. Her relief was shortlived as a pair of wooden clogs on his feet came into focus. Belle knew that she could not keep turning away the woodland creatures who had a sacred right to take up abode in an empty home. Downheartened, she decided not to intervene and went back to bed. Expecting the clipperty clop of clogs to keep her awake, she lay there with her eyes wide open. But the scuffling of hard heavy clogs was not to be heard. The minutes past and the silence continued. She decided to venture back outside and saw that the squirrel had left his clogs at the foot of the tree. 'How considerate' Belle said to herself. She smiled and thought of all the wondeful times she would have with her newest neighbour.

 

~The End~

© George McGinn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Fairy Tales
The Clockwork Girl

by George McGinn

vignette swiss clock girl falling

There was a tin lady
In a clock tower,
Who only went out
At the stroke of the hour.

With the jerk of one hand
She struck the brass bell,
And then went back in
As if under a spell.

Inside the tower
Her chores were a grind
Such as giving the clock
A regular wind.

Oh the monotony
Of living in a clock.
The deafening chimes.
The endless tick-tock.

She had had enough
Of this dull routine.
She wanted to live,
Not be a machine.

But a secret she hid
From the folk in town.
It troubled her deeply
And caused her to frown.

She held captive a boy
And felt such a fiend
But behind closed doors
He was not what he seemed.

She yearned to free him
To end his heartache
To give him the life
She wrongly did take.

She shuffled back in
Along her metal track.
But when re-emerged
She was on the attack.

From high up above
She stood tall and proud.
"I am what I am!"
She screamed at the crowd.

"Was that the wind?"
said a person below.
"Not sure." said another
"Could be a crow."

But the eyes of the crowd
Looked up at the clock.
For what they saw next
Left them in shock.

The little tin lady
She was no more.
Knocked from her place
Onto the floor.

 

~The End~

© George McGinn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Fairy Tales
Jenny Downhill

by George McGinn

vignette jenny down poppy garden desktop version

What a beautiful day thought Mrs Downhill as she filled up her watering can from the pond outside her cottage and sprinkled her poppy blooms. She thought fondly of a friend whose garden was similarly abundant in flowers. Then in the corner of her eye, Mrs Downhill spotted Belle Fleur emerging from the tree opposite. 'Hello!' said Belle. 'Are you leaving?’ What a strange question thought Mrs Downhill who had no plans on moving. She loved all her lovely friends here in The Forgotten Woodlands of Pondilly. Before she had a chance to respond, she saw that Belle had already dashed back inside to attend to a whistling kettle on the stove. Mrs Downhill returned to her gardening for the rest of the day for it was spring time and much work was needed.

As the sun disappeared over the horizon, the first stars of the night began to twinkle in the twilight sky. Exhausted from toiling in the garden all day, she retreated inside to make a cup of hot root tea and put her feet up by the fire. With a chill setting in, she was about to close the windows, but not before glimpsing Mr Plonquee riding speedily by on his penny farthing. ‘When are you going?’ called out Mr Plonquee who had already disappeared into the distance before Mrs Downhill could ask him what he had meant. She scratched her forehead in bewilderment.

Mrs Downhill's thoughts soon turned to her friend whom she missed dearly. ‘I must go and see her soon’ she said as she prepared for bed. That night, She had the most peculiar dream in which she met up with her friend who was looking very sad. ‘You poor thing. What has happened?’ she asked. ‘There was a terrible accident out on the field where William was working’ replied her friend. At the very mention of the man’s name, Mrs Downhill felt herself being abruptly dragged out of the dream. She awoke with eyes wide open, but could remember nothing.

The next morning, Mrs Downhill ventured out into her garden to water her plants before the sun got too hot when she was overcome with a sense of deja-vus. ‘I’ve been here before.’ she thought. She looked up in anticipation of Belle Fleur calling out ’Are you leaving?’ She even predicted that Belle would rush back inside to attend to a whistling kettle boiling away on the stove. However, this time, Mrs Downhill did not carry on with her gardening and instead gingerly walked over to Belle’s tree.

Mrs Downhill knocked on her neighbour's door which mysteriously opened by itself to the sound of an eerie creak. She peered in, but the lights were out and a thick blanket of fog obscured her view. She felt a sense of otherness as she cautiously stepped inside. As the fog thinned out, she saw before her what seemed to be a catacomb of spiral stairways going in all directions. She did not know which way to turn, but was unable to turn back as the door through which she arrived had disappeared.

A noise simmered from the spiral tunnel in front of Mrs Downhill. It reminded her of the waves gently lapping up against a shingled beach. A different sound emerged from the tunnel to her side - it was birds chattering in a tree whose leaves rustled in a gentle breeze. All around, the spirals produced a cacophony of pleasantness except for one where she saw a shadowy figure walking towards her. A familiar voice whispered in the distance ‘Hello Jenny. It’s me William’. ‘Is that you?' murmured Mrs Downhill responding to her first name. Without warning, she opened her eyes and screamed at the sight of the shadow which stood before her. She ran down one of the spirals which was heavy in fog. ‘No! No! No!’ she shouted with her hands over her ears. She knew not how long she had been running. Maybe minutes. Maybe hours, but her journey came to an abrupt end as she found herself back on the doorstep of Belle’s tree. Mrs Downhill decided to return to her beautiful home. Looking back over her shoulder, she said cautiously ’Maybe I’ll visit Belle tomorrow’.

 

~The End~

© George McGinn

 

 

 

 

 

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New Fairy Tales
The Red Pillar Box

by George McGinn

vignette pillarbox

A bright red pillar box
In the woods appeared
As if out of nowhere.
It was very weird.

On its snow capped top
A Robin redbreast perched proud
Guarding his domain
Near which no one was allowed.

'To post' warned the bird,
'You must three times knock.
If your letter is wanted
The door will unlock'.

Pushing the letter full in,
The boy stood in suspense
As the post box clicked and whirred
Leaving him physically tense.

Then the noise came to halt
And the door swung open wide.
Feeling a little cautious,
The boy climbed slowly inside.

 

~The End~

© George McGinn

 

 

 

 

 

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New Fairy Tales
The Frightful Sprite

by George McGinn

tree sprite gramophone

There was a frightful sprite who often held round the clock parties at his home in the shallow nook of a great oak tree. The music on his gramophone was unbearably loud and guests were raucous. After his parties, the sprite would go to bed without clearing up leaving his party leftovers strewn accross the forest floor. At best, he would gather up some of the debris, but then dump it in a nearby brook. It would take weeks for the other woodland creatures to dredge the rivers and to purge the woodland of the sprite's trash only for the sprite to hold another disruptive and messy party. His anti-social behaviour angered the other creatures and particularly those who shared the great oak tree. A bleary eyed squirrel who lived on the top branch decided to write a complaint to the High Council. Sometime after, an Elf officer called upon the sprite and asked him to stop his parties. After his request fell on deaf ears the Elf cast a spell so that the gramophone played only soothing lullabies. The sprite soon fell asleep and so did all the other animals who shared the tree.

 

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Mr Squirrel
The Nest on The Oak Tree
Forgotten Woodlands of Pondilly

2nd day of the timeless year

 

Madam Belle Fleur
The High Council
The Oak Tree

Dear Madam Fleur

I wish to bring to your attention the conduct of Mr Sprite whose nightly parties on the ground are keeping the residents of The Great Oak Tree awake all night. I am but a mere squirrel who cannot hear himself think above the appalling din of Mr Sprite's music system. His new fangled gadget called the gramophone is a great source of misery to me and my family who wish to live quietly in our nest on the top branch. These parties are a gross invasion of our privacy and the rubbish they generate is polluting our woods. I look forward to your response in the hope that you may find a solution.

Yours Sincerely

Mr Squirrel

 

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Mr Squirrel
The Nest on The Oak Tree
Forgotten Woodlands of Pondilly

29th day of the timeless year

 

Madam Belle Fleur
The High Council
The Oak Tree

Dear Mr Sprite

I wish to inform you that I will be exercising my right to station a High Court approved inscriber outside our tree. The inscriber will document any anti-social behaviour committed around the tree.

I have felt forced to take such drastic action as a result of your ongoing ignominious conduct which is causing me great distress. You will of course recall that you urinated at the base of the tree causing an unpleasant odour which wafted up into my nest. Furthermore, you continue to hold regular parties at which you play your music loudly and deposit rubbish in the surrounding area. The Council have also ordered that your name be placed on the register of offenders so that others are aware of your behaviour.

I have done my best to reach out to you to find a way where we can share this oak tree in harmony, but you continue to show contempt.

I hope to see an improvement in your behaviour.

Yours Sincerely

Mr Squirrel

 

~The End~

© George McGinn

 

 

 

 

 

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New Fairy Tales
The Water Witch

by George McGinn

vignette water witch

There is a place known as Craggy Bay
Clouded by mist and ocean spray

Which is the distant breath of a water witch
Whose desire to eat men is as strong as an itch.

So stay well clear of the edge of the cliff
As all she needs of you is just one whiff

Before she rushes to you from the depths of hell
Like an animal under a lustful spell.

At the edge of the cliff she will whip
And snatch you with a firm grip.

To herself she will tether
As she squeals "I'VE TAKEN YOU FOREVER!"

She has no sense of your grief
As she drags you beyond the reef.

And swallowed up by the deepest wave,
She drags you down to a watery grave.

 

~The End~

© George McGinn

 

 

 

 

 

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New Fairy Tales
Matchstick Crown

by George McGinn

water witch

Would that it could be made of gold wished the king as he fixed the very last matchstick to his model kingdom. It had taken him many months to construct. His courtiers took a deep breath as they feared the king's subjects could not afford yet another tax rise to pay for his majesty's extravagence.

An old sorceress appeared by chance at the palace gates at the very moment the king made his wish. She announced that she could grant the king his most desirous wish in return for a forfeit. The king was excited and made his wish without a second thought for the consequences. Uttering a few enchanted words, the sorceress cast out her hand to create a glittering dust cloud which descended on to the matchstick kingdom. The cloud slowly cleared and the king's face lit up in awe when a golden kingdom emerged.

Sidling up close to the king, the sorceress asked 'And what about your end of the bargain, your majesty?'

'Pray tell, in return for such a wondrous thing of beauty, what must I, a king of these poor people, sacrifice?' he replied as he gave nothing but a cursory glance out of the window towards his impoverished kingdom before gazing at a heavily bejeweled ring on his finger.

Looking around the king's sumptuously decorated palace, the sorceress observed wall to wall oil paintings, gold embroided tapestries and a feast of sparkling jewels as well as other priceless works of art, but she had her beady haggish eye on the king's ultimate treasure. 'The gold crown on your head!' demanded the sorceress as she withdrew to a safe distance.

Old woman, you have now overstepped the mark!' shouted the king who went on to to exclaim 'My crown defines who I be!'

At that point, the sorceress cast out her hand again to create a second dust cloud which enveloped the king's head. The king coughed and sneezed but when the cloud had dispersed, he was aghast to see that his model kingdom was returned to matchsticks. He realised that the woman had tricked him by covering it with nothing but a thin layer of gold dust which he had blown away with his sneeze.

The king ordered his guards to draw their swords and kill the sorceress, but she had already disappeared along with his most prized treasure. All that could be heard was an echo of her parting words 'You do not get something for nothing in this world'.

'What could she mean?' asked the king who had no idea that upon his head was nothing but a worthless matchstick crown.

 

~The End~

© George McGinn

 

 

 

 

 

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New Fairy Tales
Last Incantation

by George McGinn

water witch

There was once a little castle at the top of a hill where the courtiers and subjects spoke very loudly. So much so, they generated a cacophony which could be heard for miles around.

At the bottom of the hill, there was a run down cottage in which there lived an old witch. She was tired of the never-ending racket emanating from the hill.

'I'm trying to have my afternoon nap!' screeched the bleary eyed witch as she pointlessly waved her broom stick in the air at the hilltop. The castle inhabitants were too far away to hear or care about the rants of the old woman.

The witch had in the past cast many spells to stop the noise such as placing an impenetrable sound bubble around her cottage. Her spells though had one fatal flaw which was that they were only potent when she was wide awake. The moment she fell asleep, the spell was broken.

However, at the end of her spellbook, the witch had at her disposal one very special incantation which lasted forever. It was known as 'The Last Incantation'. She had never cast the spell which came with a severe warning of a grave and unknown forfeit. Erring on the side of caution, she avoided the spell.

In any event, the witch rarely used her regular magical powers which were now waning in her golden years. She just wanted a quiet life in her retirement. Determined to find another way to stop the noise without using up her limited quota of magic, she decided she would go on a long journey to meet in person with the King and Queen of the castle on the hill. She threw on her hooded cape and gathered her things including a raggedy bag in which she kept her spellbook. She also took with her a scruffy broom stick which she gave up flying many years ago and so tended to drag it along the ground.

The volume of the din from the castle above dramatically increased as the witch trudged higher up the hill. Why do they shout so loudly she thought? She could not even hear herself think. She pulled out of her bag two dead spiders and squeezed them into her wrinkly old ears to help muffle the sound. After many hours of travelling, she eventually arrived at the castle gate.

'Halt! Who goes there?' bellowed the gatekeeper. One would expect a man in such a position to shout, but this one shouted louder than usual in order to be heard above all the other subjects of the castle.

'I wish to speak to the King and Queen' said the witch.

'Speak up old lady!' yelled the gatekeeper. 'I can barely hear you!'

Politely coughing before hand, the witch repeated her request with a raised voice. The gatekeeper laughed and told the old woman to go back home. The witch said she would leave but asked if she could have a cup of water before her long journey back. Taking pity on the old woman whom he saw as no threat, the gatekeeper went away to fetch some water. Meanwhile, the witch climbed over the gate and disappeared into the castle grounds, but not before casting a small spell on her cape to appear as a ghostly impression of herself walking back down the hill. The unwitting gatekeeper returned with a pale of water in hand. Seeing what he thought was the old woman leaving, he thought nothing more and returned to his post.

The witch meandered her way through the busy castle grounds. She pulled out of her bag a head scarf which she wrapped tightly around her ears to muffle the noise. She eventually arrived at a grand door above which was a royal crest. She assumed this must be where the King and Queen lived. She knocked, but no one answered. Gently pushing the door open, she cautiously walked in. At the very moment she stepped over the door threshold, the noise outside came to an abrupt end. She put one foot backwards and the noise resumed. After repeating this process several times, she realised that a curse had been placed on the royal chambers.

The witch was in awe of the spacious room in which she stood. It was lavishly furnished to the highest standard with exotic treasures in every corner. Her eyes fell upon a young man standing by the fireplace. He was dressed in fine silken clothes and wore a crown on his head.

'Your Majesty' said the witch giving a curtsy as deep as her old knees would allow.

Looking up, the King smiled with joy and whispered 'Guislaine, my lovely daughter! You've come home'.

She assumed that the part of the room in which she stood was poorly lit and that consequently the King had mistaken her for someone else. Either that or she thought he must be partially blind.

Then the witch's eyes fell upon a young woman whom she assumed was the Queen seated in a golden chair next to the King. The Queen stood up and with arms out stretched, she too whispered 'My darling Guislaine. We've missed you so much'.

For a few moments, the witch was lost in thought as she realised that she vaguely recognised the name by which she was addressed. Who did I know by the name of Guislaine, thought the witch? The realisation gradually emerged from the darkest recesses of her mind. It then came to her in a flash: 'I am Guislaine'. She had not heard anyone call her by her birth name since childhood when her parents mysteriously disappeared and she was left alone to fend for herself in the cottage.

'But you are young' said the witch 'I am an old woman'. I could not possibly be your daughter'.

'I will explain' whispered the King. 'As an infant, you cried day and night. We tried everything to calm you from lullabies to sweet aromas'. As a last resort, the King continued, they summoned an old witch who lived in a run down cottage down the hill. 'Not you Guislaine' interjected the King. The King said they knew they were taking a huge risk, but that they had been driven to their wits end in the pursuit of peace and quiet. The witch granted them their wish for the silence they craved, but had not told them of the consquences until after the spell had been cast. The spell had robbed them of their voices which were now barely audible above a whisper. Another forfeit was that they were unable to leave their royal chambers which had become a prison and over the years, they noticed they never aged a day more than when the spell was cast.

The King said that he and the Queen attempted to escape many times, but were able to go only a few yards beyond the threshold of their chamber doors. They were also confronted by a wall of ear-splitting noise as shouting had become the common parlance of the King's subjects under the spell. It appeared that the price for their child's silence was this cacophony. Their only choice was to retreat inside where they appeared to be magically shielded from the unbearable din outside.

They soon discovered that Guislaine and a royal maid, who was present when the spell was cast, were immune from incarceration. Feeling it was unfair to keep their child locked up indefinitely, the King and Queen put Guislaine in the care of their maid whom they instructed to flee the castle for the forest beyond the hill.

The King continued his sad account. 'We told the maid to bring you back if the spell were ever to be broken as we tearfully waived goodbye to you'. The maid placed two small waxed pine cones in Guislaine's ears for protection from the noise before she and the child made a quick dash through and out of the castle grounds. However, that was the last time the King and Queen ever saw their daughter or the maid.

The King went on to reveal that at the time the maid and Guislaine fled, his brother the Prince happened by chance to be fishing on the great river near the witch's cottage which was beyond the influence of the devastating effects of the spell. When he returned to the castle, the Prince reported to the King that he had seen the maid fall into the river and then carried off by a strong current no doubt to certain death. The King sent his brother back to the forest to find Guislaine, but his brother sadly never made it past the castle gates. Disorientated by the noise of everyone shouting, his horse bucked and the Prince fell from his saddle instantly killing himself.

Guislaine thought back to her childhood. She had a vague recollection that she was raised briefly by an old woman whom she thought must be the witch to whom her parents referred. What happened to her, thought Guislaine? Perhaps the old woman was not completely evil after all as she took Guislain into her home saving her from perishing in the forest at least until she was old enough to fend for herself.

By now, Guislaine felt terrible for the King and Queen whom she began to accept as her parents. How awful that they had lost their child whom they would never see grow up. It must have been a shock for them to see her as an old woman whilst they remained young and youthful. She flicked through her spellbook for anything which could undo this terrible curse upon her parents, but there was nothing; except, that is, The Last Incantation. In that moment, it dawned on Guislaine that she had been raised as the witch's apprentice and that the spellbook she held in her hands was the very same one which brought misery on her parents. She pondered for a moment before slamming the book down on the floor and turning to the table of contents; but she found nothing. She then jumped to the back and scoured through the index. There buried in the small print was the remedy:

'The Greatest Spell of all that has been invoked can only be undone if the issue of those cursed chants the Spell in reverse'.

She weighed up the risks. Her parents were deeply unhappy forever trapped in their royal chambers and literally unable to move forward with their lives. On the otherhand, she herself was an old woman with most of her life behind her. Without hesitation, she uttered the unhallowed words of The Last Incantation backwards - words which cannot be revealed to the good readers of this story for fear of the harm those words will cause.

As she cautiously read through the incantation in reverse, mindful that the slightest mistake may cause the wrong outcome, Guislaine felt the room gradually spin around her until everything was a blur and then nothing. Bit by bit, the room came back into focus and all was still. The King opened the chamber windows and stepped back to the sound of loud cheers from the crowds which had gathered outside. Guislaine was concerned that the spell had not been lifted. With arms outstretched, she walked towards her parents and with each step, she saw the old saggy skin on her hands gradually rejuvinate and everything around her including her parents appear to grow in stature. She grabbed their hands which seemed unusually large until she caught a glimpse of herself in a side mirror which revealed she was a child again. With their young daughter by their side, the King and Queen walked out of their royal chambers for the first time in many a year to be greeted by even louder cheers. However, the cheering was not the cacophony brought about by the spell, but a natural cheer of a joyful crowd celebrating the end of the curse and the start of a new life with their beloved King and Queen who had been given a second chance to be a family once more.

Many many years later when the King and Queen had died of old age, Guislaine ascended the thrown. She too had a long reign until she was once again an old woman. One day, she decided to return to her former home the cottage at the bottom of the hill. Was it still there she thought? Did it ever exist? She packed up her spellbook and slipped out of the castle grounds unseen in the darkness of night. After long hours of travelling, she arrived at her destination and was delighted to see her little cottage in front of her. It was not a dream afterall she thought to herself. Strangely, it looked exactly as it was the day she left all those years ago for she had expected time to have taken its toll. She opened the door and stepped inside. All was in its place. The lamp was shining bright and the logs on the fire were crackling. It was as if she had never been away.

 


 

 

~Not The End~

© George McGinn

 

 

 

 

 

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