Some centuries ago, there was a young slave girl who was given to a cruel master. The sound of his steps always stirred fear and hatred in her, and she bore his misery for many years. Her warm heart was nearly turning cold, for in her eyes there could sometimes be found the beginnings of a resentment towards all happy people. But when her eleventh birthday came and went and was forgotten, she finally left her chains behind, and ran away.
She found her way to our forest and laid down, exhausted and starving, waiting to die. Rarely did trees help those that wandered our wood, but there was a collective sigh of compassion for this girl. She had an air of life about her, even as she was so close to death.
With our very branches, we grew her a sturdy cabin as she slept that night, with fruit and nuts to sustain her. She awoke and discovered her new home and at once understood that the trees would care for her.
And for the rest of her life, we did care for her. She dwelt among us and among our fauna. She had joy. She held a special love for the deer of our land, because she felt they understood her most of all. She went into town as she desired, but mostly, she simply communed with us.
One day, many years later, the High King of the country was on the hunt in our forest with some of his hearty men. A majestically crowned stag was spotted by the king in the distance, but in his excitement to pursue it, he got tangled in a thick briar. His jovial lads halted to wait for him. They were eager to chase the running game, but remained unsure of leaving their sovereign alone and vulnerable. He assured them that he would catch up, so, being merry, they sped away.
With some muttering, the King removed himself from his trap and ran to return to his festivities. Yet again in his hurry, an unwatched foot landed in an unseen hole. His leg gave a crack and he gave a yell. He called out, but he had taken too long in the briar—his companions couldn’t hear. As he was several miles into the forest, he was not sure what he would do.
Our daughter (as we called her) happened to be passing by, and brought him to her cottage. Over the course of a month, she took care of him, nursed him to health, and showed him the wonder and beauty of her life. They would go walking all throughout the glens and hillocks, marveling at butterflies and flowing creeks. He was entranced, as was she, and they fell in love. His desire was to remain with her forever.
However, the King held an unfortunate and unwanted secret; there was already a Queen. Therefore, when the King was fully healed, he left the glade without a parting word, never to return, never to speak to anyone of our daughter and our forest.
A weeping darkness took our daughter, and not even the deer could console her. It is the judgment of the trees that the only thing that sustained her in this time was the discovery that she was to bear a child. As the weeks pressed on, her thoughts of the man grew less and less, while her thoughts of the child increased. She gave birth to a son, and he became her new joy.
She taught him kindness and respect, and showed him the secret wonders of the woods. She taught him also about the town, and gifted him freedom to choose his own path in life. She had been a slave, and wished never to enslave another. Often on warm nights, she would tell him the story of his father and his father’s great deeds (for though the King had betrayed them, he did rule the land with justice and mirth), and she would tell the boy that he was the son of a King. His eyes always filled with awe and dignity.
As years went on, he grew from being a child to a young man, and as his stature increased, so did the words he heard. The town knew our daughter’s tale of her month with the King, but they discarded it as the fable of a lost woman. They had different theories about her son’s origin. With time, the son also began to wonder if his mother was all that she had told him.
He became frustrated with her and her way of life, thinking her silly and foolish to live alone in the woods. Even his noble heritage he eventually doubted. He finally left his mother, never believing that he truly was the son of a King.
Our daughter grieved once more, but this time with no new happiness to arrive. Her bereavement soon took her from this world. It is for trees to grow old, but our daughter had grown older than humans were ever meant to grow.