Lucinda was a very practical, serious, and scientific 10 year old. She never believed fairy tales. She always dismissed them. Taking the plot apart, “Not plausible,” she would say. As to fairies, elves, and wood sprites: “No such thing exists. If so, they wouldn’t just appear in silly stories.”
So, you can imagine her opinion of princesses and princes, witches (good and evil), fairy godmothers, talking animals including unicorns and dragons, and the cast of characters that inhabit a fairytale kingdom.
Ten was to be her big adventure. That summer she would travel, by train and all by herself, to visit with rural relatives. Then time in the woods with family friends. She could practice science all summer; one suit case held all her “lab” gear.
As the train pulled away from the station, Lucinda waved at her parents, then turned her attention to a map of the train line and it’s schedule. She began to record immediately in her journal about miles travelled, time checks, and other observations.
And, that was to be her summer. Experiments of the scientific and practical. While weeding the gardens, she recorded plant growth. Making pickles was a food experiment. How much each chicken ate based on time of day, in relation to the moon, and personality. Did this or that really act as insect repellant.
Her only disappointment was after supper story telling time. Fairy tale telling time. Local legend story telling time. Lucinda was polite enough not to show or share her feelings of the subject with her hosts.
Her distain was made even worse when they visited the family friends who formed a small community in the woods. Here, it was story circles; story cycles. Young and old were enjoyed to participate. Lucinda did not. She did her experiments by day, and dreaded night.
Under a full moon, with a thousand billion stars, the circle by the bonfire was larger than usual. Which meant more stories. Lucinda could hardly wait! As the flames turned more to embers, Cedar told the story of the “death head flowers.” When in bloom, anyone who went to that part of the forest was never seen again.
Knowing it was rude, Lucinda got up from the circle, and walked away head down as quickly as she could. She needed space to breath as the practical, scientific, serious 10 year old she was!
Slouching back to the barely glowing embers, Lucinda was surprised Solstice, Cedar’s oldest daughter, was waiting for her.
“You don’t believe in anything, Lucinda.” Lucinda shrugged.
“All these stories began with a meaning – for oral cultures to pass knowledge along to the next generation. Stories of survival, warning, unexplained events.
Stories of local lore that over time developed into morality tales to ensure children obeyed their parents, servants, their masters. To control and inform society.
Europeans brought their stories with them. Memories of home.
Native North Americans had hundreds of stories: creation, trickster tales, animals, dream quest. Some to train, some to entertain.
These stories blurred lines with those from Europe. There were already similar characters and situations than made the blending that much easier. And, in a “new to them world,” people needed new survival stories, new stories that informed and warned of dangers from landscape, to creatures, to plants.
Even today, we need local lore. The death head flowers might be extremely poisonous, even to the touch. They could grow in seeping bogs. Attract dangerous insects or predators.”
During Solstice’s lecture, Lucinda had been stirring the dying embers with a stick. Okay, some the historical stuff made practical sense. But to still maintain that death head flowers in bloom made humans disappear, while their accompanying horses or dogs returned to home. That was just stupid!
So, Lucinda decided to get up early the next morning, taking her camera to where the death head flowers were in bloom. Take some pictures to prove it was a just a myth.
Lucinda was never seen again. By humans that is.
You see the dense bushes full of flowers like screaming, writhing skulls was a boundary; a fence made of nature. Lucinda pushed her way through that barrier to find she, not the stories, had been foolish and silly.
There was a fairytale kingdom with a castle; a princess; a prince; visiting dragons (mostly friendly); fairy dance parties with lightening bugs as strobe lights. And so much more from the tales Lucinda had dismissed. All true. All practical. All serious.
Why should she bother to come home. She had a whole new magical place to experiment in.