May 19
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Fairy Tale Retelling: Brother and Sister

       There once was a brother and sister whose mother was the most beautiful witch. She tied flowers into the sister’s hair and taught them to make potions. Though the brother did not believe in magic he enjoyed the smell of herbs and watching the cauldron bubble. Their mother was taken before her time, and they always wondered what a kind woman had done to deserve such an illness.

    Their father remarried quickly, to the sister of a rich and powerful man. Though the power and influence of their family had been dwindling and their new uncle, Arthur was desperate to get it back. He was delighted when their stepmother became with-child. If he were a boy he could restore honor to the family by having a noble occupation. And if the baby were to be a girl, she could marry a king. Arthur’s youngest sister, a plain-looking girl, had no chance of attracting even a baron. The new child was now the only child in the family Arthur cared about. He disliked the brother and sister taking up space in his home. He insulted and belittled them and their mother, detesting her for being a witch. Neither their father, their stepmother nor Arthur’s youngest sister did anything to stop this, though his youngest sister watched him with quiet horror. When the brother and sister would tell their father of their sorrows, he’d act as if they’d insulted him. “Do you think me an awful father for marrying into this family? Do you dislike me now?” He’d accuse.

    One day the brother and sister could endure no more. They snuck out in the night and ran into the woods with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They walked for a very long time until the brother got thirsty. When they reached a stream he bent down to drink but his sister stopped him. “I have the most terrible feeling, it’s as if the water is telling me it isn’t safe to drink.” The idea of water telling anyone anything was ridiculous, but he trusted his sister enough not to drink, and they continued on. At the next stream, he once again bent down to drink. “Do not! There is something malevolent about the water!” His sister warned. Again he reluctantly listened. It was a long time before they saw another stream. The drier the brother’s throat got, the more frustrated with his sister he became. When they finally reached the next one he immediately cupped his hands and filled them with water. “Don’t-” his sister began. But he was sick of her silly talking streams and malevolent energies. He gulped greedily. Arthur was a hateful and hypocritical man. He’d sought out a witch, and had her enchant the streams. The brother’s mind grew unfamiliar, words would no longer come to him. The sister watched as her brother turned into a doe. She sunk beside him and wept. The brother wanted to comfort her, but couldn’t. After some sniffling, she untied their mother's bright red ribbon from her hair and fastened it to her brother’s neck. That way if he ever ran away she’d be able to find him easier. They walked on in solemn silence.

    The sister and the doe found an abandoned cottage in the woods. They settled themselves in. Every morning the sister would pray to all of nature for warm weather and food. She was answered by an abundance of berries growing on the bushes and temperate nights. Her brother’s new legs were quick and he spent his days bounding around, exploring. Sometimes his sister joined him trying her best to keep up, other times she just kept track of the sight of his ribbon. They were as happy as they could be. Though she missed her brother, it was a strange thing to miss someone you slept next to every night.

    The sister was sitting on a stump watching her brother far off in the distance when she heard the pound of hoof prints. The king’s hunters saw her brother and took chase of the doe, he darted off and the hunters followed the sight of his ribbon, out of the sister’s sight. She leaped up and rushed to stop them but did not know which way they had gone. She continued desperately, with little thought to the direction she was going. A horse barreled towards her and almost too late she dove out of the way, landing hard on her back. The king got off his horse and helped the sister up. “My br- My pet deer, your hunters are in pursuit of him. You must stop them!” She begged. The king agreed to help and slung her onto his horse. They found the hunters resting, with three deer slung over their backs. None wore red ribbons, but had it been removed or fallen off? 

    When panic died and formality settled in, the king asked the sister to come for dinner, and she could not decline. They served the deer they had caught. To the sister, each corpse on the table was her brother. She watched the others eat, feeling sicker than she ever had in her life. The king hardly noticed her displeasure, he was distracted by her youthful beauty. 

    The king decided she would be his bride. And after many months of illness and not eating, the sister birthed a sickly baby girl. While she cared little for the king, the sister instantly loved her daughter, holding her close and breathing life onto her small purple face.

    When Arthur heard news of the new queen he was furious. Again he sought out the witch to make him two disguise potions and a fire spell. He and his youngest sister snuck into the castle as the sister and the king. His youngest sister went to the queen’s room and laid in her bed. Arthur found the sister standing by the lake. He asked if she’d like to go for a walk. She despondently agreed. They left the castle grounds. Once they were in the woods Arthur cast the witch's fire spell and shoved her into it. The sister hardly had time to be shocked, for the fire was so hot it burned even her bones. Arthur stomped out the fire, digging his feet in the queen's ashes.

    The secret new queen invited her father and stepfamily to move into the castle. They ate the best foods and slept in grand rooms. But Arthur's little sister could not make the baby girl stop crying. She kissed and rocked the girl, but only her mother could comfort the baby. And as much as the youngest sister looked like the queen, she was not her. The guilt of the evil act she had aided in became so all-consuming, she could not enjoy the luxuries she had stolen.

    The sister’s spirit returned to the cottage in the woods. Where she found her mother tidying the place up. The spirits embraced. Soon a doe nudged the door with its nose. He had been living in the woods since his sister left him, and checked the cottage often to see if she had returned. Finally, she had, along with their beloved mother. They spend their days free in the forest. Since the women had worshipped the elements they allowed them to take their shape, so the mother and daughter would be wind in the leaves, streams, while the brother could only remain a doe. The women flew, they ran, they laughed, they kept grass in their pockets and fed it to the brother. He ran along with them and did happy circles around them. They were together as a family again, and so all was well.

    Arthur’s youngest sister could live with herself no longer. She confessed what she and her older brother had done to the king. The glamour fell from her face, revealing her to be quite simple looking. The king was horrified. She and Arthur were put before a judge. It was decided, the real queen’s father, stepmother, and their son would be banished from the kingdom. Arthur and his youngest sister would be hung.

    Arthur’s youngest sister came incredibly close to death for it to leave her untouched. She was hanging, slowly losing all her air when a stream suddenly filled up beneath her feet. Her rope snapped and she fell into the currents, which carried her to the cabin in the woods, before immediately drying up.

    The sister and her mother visited the castle every night, flying in through the nursery window. They took turns holding the baby girl and whispering how much they loved her into her ear. A maid spotted the women and asked the guards if they had seen two women enter the castle, they hadn’t.

    One night when the mother and daughter came to the nursery, the king was sitting by the crib. Upon seeing the spectral figure of his wife, he instantly died of fright. The sister gently picked up her baby and carried her back to the cabin in the woods. There, the three women, the doe and the baby lived happily ever after.