Once there was a man who lived in a village at the edge of a great dark forest. His wife was dead and the man had no family at all save his only daughter, the apple of his eye.
One day the girl came to him and said "Father, the flour sack is empty and there is no food left in the house." So the man took his gun and went into the forest.
Now this forest was a wild and forbidding place, and the people thereabouts avoided it assiduously, because they knew that no one who went into it ever came out again.
As a boy the man played among the outer trees of the forest but he, like
the others had never gone far
Into it, and so is was no long tome before he became hopelessly lost. He walked and walked until he came to the end of his strength and could go no further. Finally, crazed with thirst and hunger; he lay down and prepared to die like all the others before him, thinking of his daughter and wondering what would become of her without him.
The man heard a voice that seemed to come from everywhere around him,
"What would you give to live?" it asked.
"I would give anything to live," he said.
"So be it" said the voice, and in a flash the man found himself standing at the edge of the forest, within a view of his own house. Not only that but the carcass of a fine stag lay at his feet.
From behind him once again came the voice, "Live then, as you have wished," it said. "And in your stead, send me your only daughter, the apple of your eye, to be my bride."
When the man approached his house, dragging the carcass of the deer, he had no strength to carry it-his daughter came rushing out and threw her arms around him joyfully. "Oh father!" She cried, "Nine full days you have been gone and I feared for your life!"
"Better you had feared for your own." The man told her sorrowfully. "I have done a shameful deed today." And he told her all the sorry tale.
"Give me nine days to prepare a wedding dress," said the girl.
The meat of the deer sustained them both through all the days of sewing and ready making. And on the ninth day, all the village came and led her in her wedding dress and bridal wreath to the edge of the forest. And a woeful walking it was, more like a funeral procession than a wedding procession.
When they came to the edge of the forest, a handsome great stag came to meet them; they all marveled at its size and beauty.
"Since you have given of yours, I will give of mine. The forest
and its treasures open to you now as bride-wealth. But woe should you waste
what I offer you: it is your family inheritance." And to the girl he
"Come beloved." She went into the forest with the stag, and they were never seen again.
But since that day it is given to us to enter the forest and make use of its bounty, and each year at the eve of May we go there to dance and make merry in honor of the Girl Who Married the Forest.
©Stephen Posch 1999