"The Lindworm" by Naomi Butterfield
AMAZING OBSCURE FAIRY TALE, MUCH? OKAY OKAY OKAY, HERE:
A King and Queen ruled in a time of peace and abundance; the only mar upon their happiness was that they had no children, through their youth and even into their middle age, despite many fervent hopes and prayers. One day the Queen went walking on a forest path without her attendants. There, in the dark quiet of her despair, an old woman found her.
"My dear," asked the woman, "why are you so sad?"
"It doesn’t matter," answered the Queen, gently. "It wouldn’t make a difference if you knew."
"You may be surprised."
"The King and I have no children. He lacks an heir, and I have always wanted a child of my own to care for. But you see, that’s not something you can help."
"Of course it is," nodded the woman, for naturally she was a witch. "Listen and do as I say; take a drinking cup and place it upside-down in your garden tonight. In the morning, you will find two roses beneath it - one red, one white. If you eat the red rose you shall give birth to a son, and the white rose shall give you a girl. But remember that you must not eat both."
"No," the woman said.
Astonished, and not a little suspicious, the Queen agreed. That night she did as the old woman had instructed, and in the morning she discovered two small roses under the cup’s brim.
"But which one should I choose?" thought the Queen. "If I have a son, he may grow into a man who marches off to war and dies. If I have a daughter, she may stay longer with me, but I will have to see her given away in marriage. In the end, I may have no child after all."
At last she decided on the white rose, but it was so sweet to the taste - and the thought of losing a daughter to marriage was so bitter - that she ate the red rose as well, hardly remembering the old woman’s warning.
Shortly afterwards, as happens in such stories, the Queen was found to be with child. Her husband was traveling when the time came for her to give birth, and so he did not bear witness to what happened, which was this:
The Queen’s first child was no child at all, but instead there tumbled forth from her body the long, scaly one of a lindworm, a hideous dragon with a venomous bite. It scrabbled out the window on its two legs, even before the terrified midwives could move to do anything, and amidst the chaos the Queen delivered a second child as well. This one was a fine, handsome boy, healthy and perfectly formed, and the Queen made her midwives swear that they would tell no one what they had seen. And when the King arrived home, joyous at the news of his son’s birth, not a word was said.
Years passed, so that the Queen wondered if it had not been a terrible dream. Soon enough it came time for the prince to find a wife, and he set out with his guard to a neighboring kingdom to ask for its princess’s hand in marriage. But suddenly a great lindworm appeared, and laid itself before the prince’s horse, and from its jagged-tooth mouth came a voice:
"A bride for me before a bride for you!"
The prince and his company turned about to flee. The Lindworm blocked their passage and spoke again.
"A bride for me before a bride for you!"
The prince journeyed home to tell his parents. Distraught, the Queen confessed that it was true. The Lindworm was indeed the elder brother of the prince, and so by rights should marry first. The King wrote to the ruler of a distant land, asking that they send their princess to marry his son: but he did not say which one.
A lovely princess journeyed to the kingdom, and did not see her bridegroom until he appeared beside her in the Great Hall, and by then (naturally) it was too late. The next morning they found the Lindworm asleep alone in the bridal bedchamber, and it was quite clear he had devoured his new wife.
A second princess was sent, and a third. Both met the same fate, but each time the prince dared to embark on a journey, the Lindworm would appear again and speak:
"A bride for me before a bride for you!"
"Father," the prince said, " we must find a wife for my elder brother."
"And where am I to find her?" asked the King. "We have already made enemies of the men who sent their daughters to us. Stories are spreading fast, and I am sure no princess would dare to come now."
So instead the King went to the royal gardener’s cottage, where he knew the old man lived with his only daughter.
"Will you give me your daughter to marry my son, the Lindworm?" asked the King.
"No!" cried the gardener. "Please, she is everything I have in this world. Your monstrous son has eaten his way through three princesses, and he’ll gobble her up just the same. She’s too good for such a fate.”
"You must," the King said, "You must."
Distraught, the gardener told his daughter everything. She agreed to the King’s request and went into the forest so that her father would not see her weeping.
And there, in the dark quiet of her despair, an old woman found her.
"My dear," asked the woman, "why are you so sad?"
"I’m sorry," answered the girl, kindly. "It wouldn’t make a difference if I told you."
"You may be surprised."
"How can that be? I’m to be married to the King’s son, the Lindworm. He’s eaten his first three brides, and I don’t know what will stop me from meeting the same end. That’s not something you can help me with."
"Of course it is," nodded the woman again. "Listen and do as I say. Before the marriage ceremony, dress yourself in ten snow-white shifts beneath your gown. Ask that a tub of lye, a tub of milk, and as many birch rods as a man can carry be brought to your bridal chamber. After you are wed, and your husband orders you to disrobe, bid him to shed a skin first. He will ask you this nine times, and when you are left wearing one shift you must whip him with the rods, wash him in the lye, bath him in the milk, wrap him in the discarded shifts, and hold him in your arms."
"Do I truly have to hold him?" the girl asked, in disgust.
"You must. It may mean your life."
The girl was suspicious, but she agreed to the woman’s plan however absurd it seemed. When the day came for the marriage, she dressed herself in ten white shifts before donning the heavy gown they offered her. When she looked upon her husband for the first time, waiting for her in the Great Hall, her steps did not falter. And when she asked for the rods, the lye, and the milk, she said it with such ease that the servant could do nothing but obey.
Finally, the girl and the Lindworm were left alone in the darkened bedchamber. For a moment she listened to the rasp and click of his scales on stone, and heard his soughing breath.
"Maiden," said the Lindworm, "shed your shift for me."
"Prince Lindworm," answered the girl, "shed your skin first!"
"No one has ever asked me that before," the answer came.
"I am asking it of you now."
So the Lindworm shed a skin, and the girl shed a shift, but she revealed the second shift underneath.
"Maiden," said the Lindworm, a second time, "shed your shift for me."
"Prince Lindworm," answered the girl, again, "shed your skin first!"
They repeated this, nine times in all, and each time the Lindworm shed a skin the girl removed another white shift, until she was left wearing one.
The Lindworm, shivering and weak and bloodied, spoke his request a last time.
"Wife," asked the Lindworm, "will you shed your shift for me?"
"Husband,"answered the girl, "will you shed your skin first?"
And the Lindworm did as she asked of him, tearing himself free of scales and armor even to the bare flesh beneath, and the girl whipped the writhing creature with her birch rods until they snapped; she carried the whole massive length of him to the tubs, lye and milk, washed him clean and bathed him and swathed him in the shifts like a great, terrible child, collapsed to the floor with her husband in her arms, and there she stayed until, exhausted, she fell asleep.
When she woke, it was to the timid knocking of a servant on the door.
"Princess?" asked the servant. "Princess? Are you alive?"
The girl looked about the bedchamber: there in the morning light were the dried skins, and the tubs, and the broken rods, and the blood, and in her arms slept a pale, weary, but very handsome man.
"Yes," she answered. "Yes, I am."
The King and Queen were astounded and thrilled to hear how the girl had saved their son from his curse, and she ruled together with her husband for many long years, and thus closes our tale of the most intense game of strip poker that you shall ever hear.
My Congo African Grey picks up stuff REALLY fast. Sometimes he’ll piece together stuff that’s hilarious.
Yesterday I was sitting next to him reading, and he was preening quietly so I told him he was being really good — giving them attention when they’re not screaming gives them the option of not screaming when they want attention, so I try to do this a lot.
His response? He said in a friendly tone, “You’re a really good Nattie. Haha. I love you, bitch.” My husband and I use obscenities as casual endearments.
Then sometimes he’ll throw stuff together in Engrish-y ways that almost make sense. The other day we were moving, so I put Bongo (the African Grey) and our cockatiel in their travel cages so I could take their huge cages apart to stick in the truck. Bongo didn’t like this, so he decided to lift up his water bowl, which lifts the food cup door, and throw it on the floor. Shocked, I said, “You douche!” Bongo yeowled, this hilarious gibberishy cat-like sound. My husband came in and asked what happened, and Bongo said, “Yes, that became water now.” I want to put that on a shirt with like, a picture of an anthropocentrized flower or something.
Other times he’ll say stuff that makes sense, logically and grammatically, that he’s put together on his own, but it’s just funny. The other day we were sitting in silence for a while, when Bongo suddenly let out this long sigh and said, “Well, I guess I *am* Bongo,” not in a revelatory tone, but in the same grudging way someone takes responsibility, like when someone says, “I guess I *am* the adult here.” I blinked at him and said, “Alright. How does that make you feel?” and he just gave a weary “hm” and started preening, like there was nothing to be done for it so we may as well move on with life.
On a less philosophical note, a few weeks ago we put the birds to bed, which basically means just putting them in their cages and covering them. Most nights, Bongo does not want to go to bed, but that night he REALLY didn’t want to. He tried to scramble back out of the cage but wasn’t fast enough. He then clung to the side as my husband wrapped the blanket around, and, adopting my husband’s raging-at-Mortal-Kombat voice, yelled, “Nooooooooooooooooo!” We cracked up because we couldn’t help it, which he did not seem to appreciate. He fell silent once the blanket was in place. Then we flicked the light switch off, and Bongo said simply, “Fuck.”
Bongo is awesome. Parrots are awesome. When we lived in Texas, there was a breeder who said that her breeding parrots would speak some human to their chicks, like “good girl” and “here’s some nummies” when feeding them. Bongo uses both when he talks to our cockatiel, which is positively creepy since they hate each other; he’ll climb on Precious’s cage to harass him, and say, “Come here Precious” and snicker, and when Precious starts squawking in outrage, he says, “Calm down, Precious,” or (more rudely) “Shut up, Precious.” What’s especially amusing about this is we practically never said those things to Precious because Precious didn’t scream as much as Bongo used to; we’d say “calm down, Bongo” instead, but he says Precious. He also tries to blame his own screaming on Precious if I’m out of the room: he will scream a lot, and if I eventually say anything back telling him to knock it off, he says “shut up Precious.” And then screams again. (He doesn’t scream much anymore after I started being more alert to enforcing and ignoring certain things.) Precious also does this horrible, scratchy barking sound in imitation of an alarm clock we had when he was a baby, and Bongo will start whistling La Cucaracha whenever Precious starts in on this because Precious LOVES La Cucaracha and will instantly start singing instead.
It is always interesting to me to see different ways Bongo figures out how to use sounds to change stuff around him. One of my favorite things he likes to do is sit on the back of my wooden office chair, and he will start banging his beak rhythmically on it, which is a normal bird thing, especially with male birds (Precious does it too). But if I start making percussive beat boxing noises, he will keep banging his beak AND make a clicking sound AND put his wings up and dance a bit. The rhythm is shaky but it’s super cute. If he wants to get my attention, he knows I will do that with him for a while. He also likes to sing, “Boooooongo, Booooongo biiiiird,” in it sometimes, just whatever notes he feels like.
But what’s been REALLY great, is Bongo’s about to turn six, so for the last year or so he’s been transitioning to adulthood more fully. He seems to have gotten much smarter — like, quicker to understand things — and mellowed out over this time. The other week I was sick and lying in bed, really tired, but Bongo was freaking out wanting to see me so my husband brought him in the bedroom and left him on the chair I mentioned earlier. Bongo started gibbering and laughing and talking to me a bunch, which cheered me up, and I didn’t want him to feel ignored so I kept up for twenty minutes or so. Finally, though, I was just too tired, but Bongo kept talking. I tried to think of a way to explain, not really knowing if anything would work, but not wanting to upset him. When we put the birds to bed at night, we say, “It’s bedtime!” so that seemed like an option. Then he knows that “mommy” is me, plus he had started using it as an adjective — he started saying “want mommy kiss” a year ago.
So I try, “It’s mommy bedtime.” To my surprise, he stops talking abruptly, then says, “Okay.” And he stayed completely silent while I took a nap. When I woke up, he said in a bright British accent, “Hullo!”
Birds are the best.
do you ever look around at the big crowds of people around you and realize everyone has a story and memories and family and troubles and achievements and a first kiss and a broken heart but you’ll never know any of it and every human life is really intricate and expansive but oh they’ve walked into a shop and you’ll never see them again and you’ll never know just what they were thinking
I think about this a lot
There’s a word for this:
Okay so there’s this website called litographs that prints entire(or almost entire) books onto t-shirts. I mean seriously. look at this shit.
They have Le Mis
They have the phantom of the opera
They have the adventures of sherlock holmes
They have Leonardo da Vinci’s note books
They even have EDGAR. ALLAN. FREAKING. POE.
I AM SO EXCITED GUYS YOU HAVE NO IDEA
you can get them here
STOP IT. ALL OF YOU. NO MORE TRAIN PUNS. AND I SWEAR IF YOU MAKE A PUN ABOUT YOU DRIVING ME CRAZY I WILL YELL AT MY COMPUTER SCREEN FAR AWAY FROM WHERE YOU CAN ACTUALLY HEAR ME.
Whoa, calm down buddy. You’re getting a little loco.
No need to get so… steamed. ¬w¬
Here’s an awesome little piece of history:
Archaeologists in the Burnt City have discovered what appears to be an ancient prosthetic eye. What makes this discovery exceptionally awesome is the striking description of how the owner and her false eye would have appeared while she was still alive and blinking:
[The eye] has a hemispherical form and a diameter of just over 2.5 cm (1 inch). It consists of very light material, probably bitumen paste. The surface of the artificial eye is covered with a thin layer of gold, engraved with a central circle (representing the iris) and gold lines patterned like sun rays. The female remains found with the artificial eye was 1.82 m tall (6 feet), much taller than ordinary women of her time. On both sides of the eye are drilled tiny holes, through which a golden thread could hold the eyeball in place. Since microscopic research has shown that the eye socket showed clear imprints of the golden thread, the eyeball must have been worn during her lifetime. The woman’s skeleton has been dated to between 2900 and 2800 BCE.
So she was an extraordinarily tall woman walking around wearing an engraved golden eye patterned with rays like a tiny sun. What an awesome sight that must have been.
SOMEONE DRAW HER PLEASE
CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW AN ANCIENT CRAFTSMAN WAS PRESENTED WITH PEOPLE LOOKING FOR HELP TO NORMALIZE THEIR DISABILITY. AND THEN SAID ‘NAH FUCK THIS WE’RE GOING TO MAKE YOU LOOK BADASS.’