This is the tale of a young woman who lived in a small village, a very long time ago.
The village was build inside the belly of a beautiful big forest, full of oak trees, elms and pines.
Around the village the people had build a strong high wall to protect themselves against the bad things that were roaming the wilderness on the other side and it was not often that folk would step foot outside these walls,
out of fear for what might lurk there.
Life was pleasant and safe in this small village and everything one needed existed within it.
Farmers grew their vegetables and kept their cattle, there was a small school, a nursery and a church, two doctors, a priest, a baker, a tailor, some carpenters, a goldsmith and a wise old herb woman.
There were a few tradesmen who traded produce from the village for things from the outside world, such as salted fish, some spices and sugar and pelts.
Whenever these men would return from their perilous journeys,
their horse carts filled with exotic foods and objects from far away places, the villagers would gather around the market square to welcome them back and to look, smell and taste all the strange and magical things they had brought with them.
Other than this there was very little contact with the world outside of the village walls,
and nobody was expected to change this.
But there was one girl who simply did not fit in.
She was wilder than the flowers in the meadow and she could not be tamed by teacher nor priest.
They said she had a restless soul like the clouds in a stormy autumn sky,
with eyes wide and green like those of a feral cat and hair as black and messy as tar.
So when she reached the marrying age, her family decided she were to wed the strongest man in the village, a farmer by trade,
so he could hopefully turn her into a good wife and mother, and finally set her wild soul at ease.
The preparations for the wedding were made in the wintertime.
This was unusual as weddings were favourably held in the spring and summer.
But the parents of the young woman were impatient to see their daughter wed,
so they arranged for a ceremony the very winter she turned eighteen.
Children were send to the fields to pick snow drops, the baker was busy preparing the fruit cakes and the tailor put a final hand to the dress he had sewn from silk white as snow, covered in beautiful sweet-water pearls and finally a crown of white flowers with a long veil of the finest lace.
On the morning of the wedding, the young girl, still in her parents house, was attended by her cousins and aunts, who were fussing about combing her wild, knotted black hair, cleaning the dirt from under her fingernails and scrubbing her skin with big bars of soap as if they were trying to make it disappear completely.
All this time the young bride was letting out tears of sorrow in sad anticipation of her future life not chosen by her, but not a soul was to notice her quiet weeping in all their business and fuss.
All the villagers had come together in the candle lit church where the ceremony was to be held. Weddings were one of the highlights of the year, and everyone dressed in their finest clothing with hats and gloves to match and silk flowers in the buttonholes of their jackets.
There was a joyful chit chattering coming from the crowds and a choir of children sang holy songs in the church balcony.
But then the final guest swept into the church in a manic rush.
It was the old wise herb woman.
With her a big black crow flew in, disturbing the peaceful chatter with his unnerving presence.
‘This wedding is false!’ she shouted in a broken voice. ‘False is this union, I tell you!’
Some people tried to calm the old lady down and forced her to sit and be quiet,
some others were curious to know what it was that she meant.
‘There cannot be only one heart at a wedding!’ she spoke out ‘And one heart is all there will be on this day’
The atmosphere among the crowd changed from pleasant and joyful to a nervous and anxious one.
The groom and his guests waited in the church for what felt like an eternity,
but the young bride she did not come.
Then the cousins and aunts were sent to search for her,
but they found her dressing room icy cold and empty.
You see, the young woman had asked to be on her own in the final moments before the wedding, to gather her thoughts and courage, she had said.
And so her cousins and aunts had left her in her room, all dressed up and ready.
There she sat by the mirror into which she had been staring at her reflection as if she was observing some kind of stranger.
Never again, she thought to herself,
never again would she be running around the meadows like the child she once was, never again would she be swimming in the stream naked with the wild trout, never again would she be climbing the trees in the church yard so carelessly and free, and never again would she be lying on her belly in the sweeping grasses under the autumn skies, alone, but never lonely.
She could not bare these unnerving thoughts pestering her mind with such gloom and an overwhelming urge to escape it all flooded over her like an ocean’s wave crashing on some distant rocky shore.
There was a small window in the room where she sat which overlooked the fields that stretched out to the edge of the village.
In her white dress and veil, the bride climbed out of the window and leaped towards the hard, cold ground.
She started running through the fields like a wild horse, the ghostly white fabric of her dress blowing all around her like clouds whilst she ran, but it did not hinder her and she quickly approached the village walls that had surrounded her for all of her life.
Like the big arms of a giant these walls had kept everything and everyone within its small world. Whatever existed outside of it was but a dream to the young bride.
Sometimes this dream was beautiful and kept warm promises of trees and animals and freedom. Other times this dream was dark and filled with fear of the unknown, but it was on that day that she would face whatever it was that existed on the other side of her familiar world.
With her agile strong hands and feet she started to climb up the stone wall, much like in the way she would climb the trees in the church yard as a child.
Her lace veil tore on the sharp edges of the stone whilst she made her way up and up and up, until she reached the very top.
There on the other side she saw what she only dreamed of all of her life.
Never ending treetops and rolling hills as far as the eye could see.
The small stream of silver water that flowed from the village joined a big mighty river cutting its way through the forest. And at the horizon she could see the pointy mountaintops covered in snow which painted a sharp contrast against the dark, moody winter sky.
All this natural beauty and the anticipation of freedom she so longed for all these years filled the bride with a childlike excitement and delight.
Without hesitation she leaped to the ground and landed on the forbidden side of the wall where she ran into the unknown world, her white dress flying behind her.
When she reached the deep belly of the woodlands she met a wolf and a fox.
She followed them even deeper into the forest to where the oldest and biggest oak tree lived.
It was a giant of a tree, full of wisdom and kindness, his branches crooked but strong, bearing no leaves but the small buds of a promise, that of a distant spring to come.
Exhausted but happy the bride lay down at the foot of the old tree, and she curled herself up in the white lace of her dress like a small animal.
Then it started to snow and the soft cold flakes covered the young bride who had now fallen into a deep sleep.
Slowly she started to disappear within the white world of winter,
in a slumber that would last for months to come.
It is said that she still sleeps there until this very day, but that her spirit awakens when the young spring leaves unfold their faces to reach for the sun that, with her golden rays of light, melts the white snow on the forest ground. It is then that the bride awakes and runs wild through those woodlands in her white dress and veil.
And when the leaves turn golden again and the skies change from yellow to blue,
she lies down at the foot of the oak tree and falls again into a deep rest.
There she sleeps until the snow covers her face and dress for another season,
just as it did on her wedding day.
The day the Bride of the Woods married the old oak tree with only the wolf and the fox as her witness.