I wrote this for my Fairytales class: it will mean nothing to you if you are not somewhat familiar with traditional fairytales. Regardless of your familiarity, take a gander at will.
In this place, there are tales of wolves. It is said that they were once men, corrupted and carnal, lusting until they could stifle their hunger no more. They grow hair, the body displaying the beast of the soul, and they use their hands as feet and snatch naughty children from their beds. Some say they eat the children for luncheon, but the trees whispered to me that they teach them their demon tricks and spells and turn them to wolves themselves. They work for the devil, because he does not have claws and teeth and cannot rip humanity apart himself, so he finds men to do it for him. They live in the deepest woods, far from the paths, and hunt by themselves, frightening women and children with their bloody muzzles and matted fur. They are damned, immortally doomed to roam the earth in their sin, like the dark faeries of old. This is a tale of a wolf and a beautiful woman.
There was once a young woman and her father, and they lived in a small town near a river. It does not matter where, for this is a tale for all places. The girl’s father was a lunatic, he scratched his own eyes and broke all the windows of the house, and he slept during the day and screamed all of the night. Despite the burden of her father the girl was beautiful, beyond the grasp of the town, and they called her Beauty, for they knew nothing of her but her appearance. Every day, while her father slept, she slipped out of the front door of their house on the outskirts of town and headed into the woods, whistling at the birds. The women of the town whispered ‘witch’ and reached for their children’s hands, advising them never to enter the wood alone. But the men, full of love for this pure, lovely creature, scolded old wives’ tales and demanded repentance, for no witch could be as lovely and as kind as Beauty was.
There was one man in the village who claimed Beauty loved him, and told every man, woman, and child that he would make her his wife. They warned him of the madness of her father, and advised him to kill the lunatic before bedding the bride. He nodded and grabbed his dagger. He asked for Beauty’s hand, wearing all manner of finery, but she gazed listlessly at the wood and refused. The man was enraged, and swore revenge on Beauty and her lunatic father, and so the next day he followed the girl as she whistled through the wood. She carried a basket and followed a path, like all girls do when they walk through the wood, until she came to a particularly gnarled tree. She stopped suddenly, and the man hid from her sight. Just in time, for she turned around and looked at the expanse of the wood for strangers. Old crones and wood nymphs were said to inhabit the place, and there’s nothing like being too careful. The man looked again to where she was standing, but she had disappeared in an instant. “Poor, innocent girl has been kidnapped!” he said under his breath, “I shall try again tomorrow.”
For three days he followed the girl into the wood, and at the same tree every day she disappeared. On the fourth day he went early, before the sun dappled the leaves, and waited at the tree for her. When he heard her whistling he hid, waiting to see where his love disappeared to. As usual, she stopped and looked about her, silent and still, until she was sure she was alone. Then she whistled once more, and a great beast came and swept her away. The man was so astonished, he almost forgot to follow them, but he was a fast runner and remembered just in time. He lost the pair deep in the heart of the wood, where barely any light could pierce the canopy of leaves. He searched and wandered for six hours, exhaustion and fear taking hold of his heart. Finally, he came upon a small cottage, and saw inside Beauty and a man, sharing bread. The man was naked, and he kissed Beauty, unaware of the peering eyes at the window.
“The devil!” the man said, “the devil has enchanted her,” and he turned in such a fright that he fell on a stone and cut his leg. The stone turned rose red with blood, and he gasped in pain. With his leg bleeding, the man ran as quickly as he could back to the town, but a beast, large and ferocious, roaring so loudly the trees shook with fear, caught him up and ate him slowly, crunching his large bones and laughing at curiosity.
The next day the town stormed the house of Beauty and her father, demanding that the lunatic die for witchcraft and devilry, for they believed he had killed the man who loved his daughter. She laughed and said, “No man loves me,” and fled the mob into the wood. The people slashed her father’s neck and then followed her, felling trees and slaying creatures until they came to the small cottage.
But there was no Beauty there, only a naked man, sitting by the door, peering at the people approaching. They demanded to know what he had done with the girl, but the man stood, crudely, and laughed at curiosity. Then he howled and bent, his mouth growing large fangs and his hair spreading to his fingertips. A wolf stood before them, a terrible monster, and he charged at the crowd. He killed many people, but one young boy knew the story of werewolves, and thrust a silver dagger covered in wolf’s bane through the beast’s heart. Immediately the beast turned back into a man, but he was not dead, for it is very hard to kill a servant of the devil.
The village brought the man, bound and bleeding, back to the town square, where he was to be tried. The council shook their heads and the people shook their fists and before the moon rose they tied him to a stake to burn him. The firewood was lit at the beast’s feet, and he howled as it licked his legs and singed his skin. He died screaming to the sky in the pain of heat and flame.
Suddenly, Beauty was there, amid the fire as if it was a pleasant field of yellow loosestrife, and she cut the beast’s bonds and carried him from the platform. The people were stunned, staring at her terrible beauty among the flames, hypnotized by her splendor. They half fell in love with her again, for her long lashes were dewed with tears and her red lips were the very picture of sadness. She set her lover down and stood, gazing at his fallen figure. They saw one tear from her eye fall to her cheek as she bent and laid a single rose on his still chest. The people were ashamed that they had caused such pain to such an angel. Her eyes closed and she slowly reached her arms to the sky, as if pleading with the moon. The town’s hearts audibly ached, like creaking rocking chairs. She whispered words in a forgotten language, and suddenly her blowing hair and light, clear eyes were aflame with the fires of hell itself. The people watching her screamed and turned to flee, but the fire burning behind her flared and caught on every house, stable, and cart in the town. She walked into the wood by her usual way, but she had no need to whistle, for she walked to the music of the screams of burning flesh.
Moral: Though man and beast be dangerous to all, it is often woman scorned that is mankind’s downfall.