THE FERN GIRL

CATEGORY: MORE PORT TOWNSEND

I did not write this story, but it is my favorite story for story telling.

Once upon a time, long ago and far away, in the land of Siberia, near the edge of Mongolia—–there lived an old woman—WHO—was the Mistress of Four Cows!  She lived in a little round hut called a yurt that was all made of skins and had a smoke hole right in the center.  And she kept her cows in a broad field nearby where they ate grass every day in the summer time.

One day when she was out in the field tending her three cows she found a fern growing in the grass.  Now ferns are extremely rare in Siberia and considered very good luck, so the Mistress of Four Cows was overjoyed!  She picked the fern; she took it home and put it under her pillow.  The next morning when she awakened, what should be sitting beside her on her bed but a beautiful maiden dressed all in green.  This maiden was more beautiful than mind could conceive or words could describe.  The Mistress of Four Cows embraced the girl and said, “Now I have got myself a daughter.  Your name will be The Fern Girl.”  And she loved her as her own child.  

Now in that same land, there lived a stalwart and handsome young man who was also the prince of the kingdom.  His name was Gorno Kyren; and Gorno Kyren was a GREAT HUNTER.

One day Gorno Kyren was out hunting.  He had gotten a long way from home without finding any game, when suddenly he saw a squirrel.  Well, it was only a squirrel, but Gorno Kyren was a GREAT HUNTER, so quick as only he could be, he put an arrow in his bow, he drew back the string, he shot the arrow—-szzzz-st

And he missed.

The squirrel ran over the ground and right up a tree and into another tree and Gorno Kyren ran after it—and he put a second arrow in his bow.  He took aim and szzzz-st——–

He missed again.

The squirrel jumped out of that tree and into another tree, and out of that tree into another tree and out of that tree into another tree.   Now when Gorno Kyren missed the second time, sparks flew from this eyes and thunder roared deep in his throat—-because HE was a GREAT HUNTER.  He ran after that squirrel again and when he saw it he put a third arrow in his bow.  He drew it back with all his strength and szzzz-st, he shot the arrow.  It went up and up.  It MISSED the squirrel.  It went on up, and then down, down, down—and it fell right through the smoke hole of the yurt that belonged to the Mistress of Four Cows.

Well Goro Kyren was a young man of some passion, and also of great determination (and besides he was a GREAT HUNTER) and so with mighty strides he went right up to that yurt and, without even knocking, he opened the door with such power that he made the whole yurt tremble.  And there, sitting in a chair, sewing a sampler, was the Fern Girl dressed all in green.  As you already know, she was more beautiful than mind could conceive or words could describe.

Gorno Kyren became very still.  Then he turned around and quietly walked out of the yurt and quietly closed the door.  He stood there in deep thought.  In all his life he had never encountered anything like the Fern Girl.

After Gorno Kyren had thought for a very long time, he went to the field and found the Mistress of Four Cows, and he said, “Where did you get the girl who is in your yurt”?  The Mistress of Three Cows said, “She is my daughter.”

So Gorno Kyren went back to his father’s kingdom and he told his father about the Fern Girl and said that he wanted to marry her.  Then his father sent for all his wise men, and his advisers, and his counselors, and his holy men and magicians, and he instructed them to go and investigate this matter.  They formed a great procession and off they went to the yurt of the Mistress of Four Cows.  And when they saw the Fern Girl, they all became very still and could not utter a word for, as you know, the Fern Girl was more beautiful than words.  Then they went to the Mistress of Four Cows and they said, “Gorno Kyren wishes to marry your daughter.  How much do you want for her”?  I am sorry to say this, but that is how things were done in those days.  The Mistress of Three Cows said, “I want seven cows”!  So they all went home and the seven cows were delivered the very next day.

Then Gorno Kyren got a magnificent white horse.  On its head he put a silver bridle; on its back he put a silver saddle, and on its tail he put a silver snood.  Then he took a silver sword and a pair of silver boots.  He leaped upon his own shining stead and, leading the white horse, off he went to the yurt of the Mistress of Eleven Cows.

He came to the yurt, he opened the door, and there was the Fern Girl dressed all in green.  He lifted her up tenderly.  He put the silver boots on her feet.  He strapped the silver sword around her waist.  He sat her on the silver saddle, put the silver bridle in her hands and they rode away.

First they rode through spring.  Then they rode through summer.  Then they rode through autumn.  And they rode just into the edge of winter.  Everywhere there was snow on the ground, and there in the snow was a silver fox.  Now Gorno Kyren was a GREAT HUNTER, and when he saw the silver fox he said to the Fern Girl, “It is necessary for me to follow this silver fox, so you must ride on ahead of me and I will catch up with you later.  You will be alright if you follow my instructions.  Ride on down this road until you come to a fork in the road.  Take the left fork where you will see the sign of the eagle.”  And off he rode after the silver fox.

The fern girl went on down the road, but her thoughts were so endearingly focused on Grono Kyren and how handsome he was and how happy she was going to be as his wife, that when she got to the fork in the road, she had forgotten which way she was supposed to turn.  She looked to the left and there, mounted on a pole was an eagle.  She looked to the right and there mounted on a huge stump was a mighty bear.  She thought, “Gorno Kyren is a GREAT HUNTER, and surely this mighty bear was slain by him and placed here to mark the way to his kingdom, so she turned down the right hand road.

By and by she came to a clearing and in the clearing was a yurt made all of iron.  What the Fern Girl did not know was that it was the yurt of the Witch of the Seven Devils!  The Witch of the Seven Devils was at home.  She looked out the window and saw the Fern Girl and she smiled an evil smile.  Then she ran out and grabbed the Fern Girl.  She snatched the silver sword from her waist.  She tore the silver boots from her feet.  She stripped off all her clothes.  THEN:  She tore off the Fern Girl’s face, and she tore off her hair, and she threw what was left of the poor Fern Girl into the snow to die.

Then the Witch of the Seven Devils put on all the Fern Girl’s clothes.  She strapped the silver sword around her waist.  She pulled on the silver boots.  THEN: she took the Fern Girl’s face and put it on over her own face.  She took the Fern Girl’s hair and put it on over her own hair.  She got on the white horse with the silver bridle and the silver saddle and the silver snood on its tail and she rode to the fork in the road and beyond it down the road of the eagle.  Soon Gorno Kyren, with a silver fox fur tied behind his saddle, joined her and they rode on to his father’s palace.

Now Gorno Kyren had many brothers and sisters and when they heard that he and the Fern Girl were coming they all went out and lined up on both sides of the road.  And when they saw the Witch of the Seven Devils, who of course looked just like the Fern Girl, all of his sisters said, “Oh look!  She is so beautiful!  When she speaks red berries will fall from her lips and we will gather them and string them into beads and we will all have necklaces.”  And his brothers said, “Oh look!  She is so beautiful!  Wherever she walks, sables will spring from her footsteps and we will have fur and meat for years”

So the Witch of the Seven Devils was given the loveliest rooms in the palace.  They all started preparing for the wedding, and Gorno Kyren went off to kill a wild boar for the wedding feast.  BUT: Whenever the Witch of the Seven Devils spoke, vipers come out of her mouth, and where she walked, toads sprang from her footsteps.

Soon news of this reached the king and he called in his counselors and his advisers and his wise men and his holy men and his magicians.  And when they saw that it was true they knew that she was the Witch of the Seven Devils.

First they collected all the toads and vipers and boiled them in a big pot.  Then they invited the Witch of the Seven Devils to tea.  But into HER tea they added thirteen drops of the broth they had made in order to stifle her power.  Then they took her far, far into the woods to the great goblin grove where no birds sing and no animals dwell.  There, beside a huge Grunyon Tree, was a bottomless pit.  And they threw the Witch of the Seven Devils into the bottomless pit, and she is still falling to this very day.

When Gorno Kyren came home, he discovered that his bride was gone!  No one could tell him what had happened to her and he fell into such gloom that the whole sky became dark and the sun refused to shine.  Everyone thought that, not only he, but the whole kingdom would perish.

Soon after this, in that remote part of the kingdom where there was still light, the Mistress of Eleven Cows was walking through her field when she saw a fern growing out of the grass.  So, of course, she picked it, she took it home; she put it under her pillow, and in the morning, whom should she find sitting on her bed but the Fern Girl—dressed all in green.

The Fern Girl was just as beautiful as ever, but she was crying.  The Mistress of Eleven Cows said, “Come now my child, what is the matter”?  And the Fern Girl said, “We were riding along and there was a silver fox and Gorno Kyren had to hunt the fox and he told me which road to take but I forgot and there was a terrible witch and she tore off all my clothes and my face and my hair and threw me in the snow to die.”

The Mistress of Eleven Cows sent a message to Gorno Kyren and when he came and saw the Fern Girl, he was secretly so overjoyed that he became dizzy in his head.  But outwardly he made his face long and crossed his arms and turned his back for he was a proud man and he was deeply hurt.  The Mistress of Eleven Cows said to the Fern Girl, who was still crying, “Tell him what happened”!

The Fern Girl said, “When I got to the fork in the road, I forgot the way you told me to go and I thought because you were a GREAT HUNTER I should go the way of the bear and I came to the witches yurt and she tore off all my clothes and my face and my hair and the silver sword and the silver boots–and she threw me into the snow.  Then she put on all my clothes and the silver sword and the silver boots and my FACE and my HAIR and she went to meet you and left me to die.”

Well when he heard this, Gorno Kyern’s heart melted like butter.  He turned to the Fern Girl and embraced her with tears in his eyes.  Then he went and got the white horse.  He put on it the silver bridle and the silver saddle and the silver snood on its tail.  He got the silver boots and the silver sword.  He went to the Fern Girl and lifted her up tenderly.  He put the silver boots on her feet and the silver sword around her waist.  He put her in the silver saddle, put the silver bridle in her hands and they rode away.

First they rode through spring.  Then they rode through summer.  They rode through autumn and they rode just into the edge of winter.  And there in the snow they saw a silver fox.

Now Gorno Kyren was a GREAT HUNTER.  He looked at the silver fox.  He looked at the Fern Girl.  Then he took the Fern Girl’s hand and they rode on together through winter.  When they came to the fork in the road they turned left onto the road of the eagle.

When all Gorno Kyren’s brothers and sisters heard they were coming they ran and lined up on both sides of the road.  And when they saw the Fern Girl all the sisters said, “Oh look!  She is so beautiful!  When she speaks, red berries will fall from her lips and we will gather them and string them into beads, and we shall all have necklaces.”  And his brothers said, “Oh look!  She is so beautiful!  Where she walks, sables will spring from her footsteps and we will have fur and meat for years”!

So the Fern Girl was given the loveliest rooms in the palace and everyone started preparing for the wedding.  Gorno Kyren went off to kill a red deer for the wedding feast.  AND: When the Fern Girl spoke, red berries fell from her lips and wherever she walked, sables sprang from her footsteps.  So Gorno Kyren and the Fern Girl were married and they, and all the families of the whole kingdom, lived in beauty and abundance for the rest of their lives.