The Youth and The Crone

Once upon a time, in a distant land long ago there lived a couple, happy and in love. This couple farmed the fertile land and lived in a cute cottage, happy and in love. And then one day the couple had a baby, and all three were happy and in love. In the next three summers the wife gave birth, once, twice, thrice; and all six were happy and loved each other very much.

But the fourth summer never arrived and the family went hungry for a year, but they were content and sustained on each other's love.

But when the fifth summer failed to show its face in the land of men, the once happy family grew frightened, but their love for each other kept death at bay.

But on the sixth year, spring bled into autumn and the family's love for each other was not enough to keep death at bay.

"Husband, oh husband I am so hungry and frightened, a beast lives in my belly and my ribs arch like the halls of death, whatever shall we do?" the wife said.

"Oh wife, dearest, our love must remain strong enough to see us through," the husband replied.

Thus spoke their eldest, nearly a man grown: "Mother, Father, I have a bow and I shall hunt for you."

But the eldest found nothing and the couple and their children grew hungrier.

Then one day the wife lamented, for her breasts were no longer fruitfull and, their love diminished so by the hunger, their youngest would wither and die.

The husband heard this and so resolved that none of his other children would die. And so the husband wept tears of blood, for his tears had all dried from hunger, and slew his youngest son with an axe like a chicken.

The husband chopped up his youngest son and put him in a pot to make a stew. As he did so his tears fell into the pot and mixed with the broth of his son.

That night the family feasted, blissfully unaware of the fate of their youngest, with his delicious savor staving off the husband's guilt.

"Oh father," proclaimed the one who was now the youngest, "this is the most delicious stew I have ever tasted, wherever did you find the meat?"

And the husband could not answer for he was choked with grief.

But the meat did not sit well with the wife, and she grew ill with a pain that she was unable to place.

Later the husband buried the bones of his most innocent behind the cottage beneath the roots of their wedding tree.

After the meal, unable to find her youngest, the wife grew worried.

"Beloved husband, I cannot find our youngest son," she said. "He has been gone for quite some time and I am worried that he may miss his meal time and grow hungry."

And the husband could not answer for he was choked with grief.

Still not able to find her son, the wife began to be afraid.

"Husband dearest, I have not heard our youngest son cry out for milk and I fear he was taken by wolves," she said.

The husband was not able to say anything, for his remorse had choked him and he was dead.

Then the wife, full of a dread she could not fathom, set out on a journey for a year and a day. On the final day she fainted at the scaly feet of a cottage perched high above the marsh.

The wife slept for seven days and seven nights and when she woke she found herself to be under the care of a wizened old crone.

"Oh!" The wife exclaimed. "Oh, dame I have been carying around a weight of pain for a year and a day, can you heal me, oh wise crone?"

And the crone gave the wife seven seeds, and sent her on her way. The spring sun shone warmly on her, and the goblin left her shoulders, leaving her unburdened by worry.

The wife sewed the seeds and in no time at all the family reaped a beautiful and bountiful harvest. It was the most delicious food they had tasted in all their lives, but it did not satisfy their hunger. As the family ate like kings they grew emaciated, as if they ate no food at all.

One day the eldest son, too much a poor and hungry wretch to have a wife, found that the acorns of the wedding tree behind the cottage provided great susteinance and his arched ribs were softened by this secret.

He was then met in a dream by a young man, handsome and strong with eyes like flame, who told him that the family was cursed such that no food they grew would sustain them.

"But", the handsome man said, "the wedding tree grows invigorating acorns because it feeds on my bones beneath it."

So the eldest son slew his mother, sister, and most innocent brother and planted their bones beneath his fields and made their flesh into a stew. And so he rejoiced for never in his memory had he had such a wholesome meal.

But once the man had satisfied his lust for nourishment, he grew regretful and hung himself from the wedding tree behind the house in an effort to quiet his restless soul.

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