Volume 3 Number 3
Gormlo the Green lived in a hole between the roots of a willow by a quiet stream. No bigger than two hands, he wore a bright green suit and yellow vest. One day, Gormlo sat contentedly in the sun and watched butterflies and dragonflies flit past.
Suddenly, a tiny fairy maiden with a silver cap on her golden hair flew out of the underbrush. Her pink wings fluttered frantically, her white dress was torn and her face desperate with fright. "Oh help me!" she cried. "You've got to hide me! A dreadful old witch kept me locked in her cupboard. I finally escaped, and she's chasing me."
Gormlo instantly fell in love with the pretty creature. He expanded his yellow chest and gave her his most charming smile. "My name is Gormlo, and of course I'll help you, fair damsel. You can hide in here." He pointed to his hole under the willow roots.
To his dismay, the fairy maiden's face crumbled. "Oh, but it's as dark as the witch's cupboard. I'm afraid to go inside. I could be trapped."
To reassure her, Gormlo said, "You'll be warm and cozy and safe. You can have a cup of tea and sit in my rocking chair while you wait for the witch to be gone. I swear on my honor no harm will reach you."
The maiden's brow wrinkled even more. "But the witch is tricky and strong, and you are small and weak."
"She will never get to you through me. I'll sit right here in front of the door, and I won't move no matter what. I love you, and I'd give my life to keep you safe."
"Oh dear!" Her wings fluttered. "I can't imagine loving you. You are, well, homely. And I could never repay you for endangering yourself for me."
Gormlo had thought of himself as just a little bit handsome. He sighed. "You are so beautiful that all the world must seem ugly to you. I love you too much to ask anything but a chance to earn your regard."
Just then they heard bushes breaking and a voice shouting, "Come out, you ungrateful wretch! Come out here right now!"
The damsel glanced around. She had no choice but to crawl into the hole.
Once she was inside, Gormlo sat down, plunk, on his door stone and blocked the entrance.
The next moment, a hideous crone came limping along, beating at the bushes with a stick. "Come out, you wretched thief! I know you're there! No use trying to hide from me."
When she saw Gormlo, she stopped. "Where is my daughter? She tricked me and stole my treasure and ran away. I've followed her here." She flourished her stick. "I'll beat that wretched girl for all the trouble she's caused."
"Your daughter?" Gormlo scratched his ear. "I've seen no daughter of yours."
"She doesn't look at all like me. She's a fairy, very pretty with yellow hair and pink wings."
Gormlo blinked his gold-brown eyes. "How do you come to have a fairy child?"
"I was not always as you see me," the witch said slyly. "Necessity and life: they do change one."
"If she is a thief, then what did she steal?"
"My thimble. My silver thimble. It belongs to my sewing kit." The end of her apron string was prickly with needles and pins. "That ungrateful wretch hopes I'll prick my finger and bleed to death."
You don't die from that, Gormlo thought.
"I had to keep my daughter locked up," the witch said. "She's a feckless fool who gets herself into endless trouble. She mixes up my spells, and I've even had to pull her out of the well."
"If she's that foolish and a thief, why do you want her?"
"Because...." The witch's toothless mouth worked. "Because she's mine! And she's beautiful. I've got to have something beautiful to give me hope."
This ugly creature did not deserve his pretty little fairy. Gormlo looked up and down the stream. "Well, I don't see your daughter. She must have gone another way."
"She came this way. And she's nearby. I can smell her. I can smell my magic thimble." The witch shook her stick in his face. "You're hiding her. Let me have her."
Gormlo gripped the edges of his door stone with both hands. "You'll never get to her through me."
The witch's eyes squinted into little black beads. "All right. I'll make you a bargain. I have the power to grant wishes. Let me talk to my daughter and I'll give you what you want more than anything in the world."
"You can't give me what I really want. I want the one I love to love me," Gormlo confessed, "and I want her to be with me forever. You cannot make somebody love."
"Oh, come." The witch's wrinkled face softened and her voice grew milky-sweet. "If I talk to my daughter and get my magic thimble back, you'll get your wish. Promise-on-a-stone." She touched a grey pebble on a cord around her neck.
Gormlo heard a faint gasp behind him.
"All right." The witch smiled. "I see you're a sensible fellow. Move aside and let me talk to my daughter. She is behind you in that hole?"
Gormlo didn't stir. "Your daughter has your magic now, and I cannot accept my own happiness at another's cost."
The witch's face turned a furious red. "You stubborn little twerp!" Pulling a long needle from her apron string, she pressed it against his vest. "Let me see my daughter now."
Gormlo shut his eyes. He'd sworn to protect his love with his life. "No. I will not."
The witch pushed the needle until it pricked his skin. "Step aside or I'll run this through your little yellow heart."
She smelled so foul, of decay and corruption, Gormlo thought he'd faint, but he gripped the door stone even tighter. "No. I cannot."
The witch shoved her needle straight into his heart.
With the last of his strength, Gormlo seized the needle in both hands, pulled it out, and pricked the witch's foot as he toppled over.
"Help! Murder!" she screeched, hopping about. Drops of yellow blood oozed from the scratch.
"You've killed her! You've killed my mother!" The fairy maid rushed out of the hole. "My hero!"
She stopped short, seeing Gormlo lying there clutching the needle. "My poor Gormlo!" She wrung her hands.
The witch stopped shrieking and cackled. "I lured you out, you little fool! Your protector could not save you from yourself. You were a fool to trust him. He tried to kill me, and he'd end up killing you."
The damsel stared at the witch, mouth agape. "But he ... but I ..." Her chin quivered. Her wings drooped. She knelt over Gormlo, blinking away tears.
"Come here, girl. Would you let your old mother bleed to death? Give me back my thimble, dear, then we'll go home. I'll keep you safe from your foolishness."
The maiden stopped trembling. Her wings lifted, and her chin firmed. She stood straight and faced the witch. "No, Mother, I won't. I heard what you told Gormlo. I've got power against your magic now." She tossed her head, making the silver thimble twinkle.
"You give me that!" The witch snatched it and put it on her finger. Instantly her foot stopped bleeding.
"You treacherous -- !" The fairy shook her tiny fist. "You bring Gormlo back to life or I'll ... I'll run away again!" She poised for flight.
The witch's lips twisted. "Very well, then, if it'll bring you home." She pointed a finger at Gormlo and started to hum.
Breath shuddered through him. Once ... twice ... thrice. His body swelled. His lower jaw protruded. His chest turned yellow, and the rest of his skin, a shiny green. He looked up at the fairy damsel and blinked bulging golden eyes. As he reached toward her, webs grew between his fingers.
"What are you doing? You stop it, Mother! Stop it right now!" The fairy touched Gormlo's brow. "You've given me nothing. This poor fellow loved me enough to give up his life for me."
Gormlo smiled up at her. His mouth went on stretching until his smile almost reached his ears, while his nostrils shrank into slits.
The witch cackled. "How do you like your lover now, my sweetling?"
The damsel looked down at Gormlo and up at the witch. Her mouth hardened. "I won't let you hurt him any more, Mother. I should have tried to stop your wickedness long ago." She seized the needle. "Now I have a weapon." She darted forward and drove it at the witch.
The witch blocked her with the silver thimble. "Ungrateful wretch! I'll fix you, too!" She pulled out a long pin.
Back and forth they fought. The fairy maiden darted, thrusting. The witch used the thimble as a shield and stabbed back with her pin.
Helpless to intervene, Gormlo got onto his four feet and hopped to the edge of the stream. Seeing his reflection in a quiet eddy, he gave a despairing croak. The maiden could never love anyone as ugly as he.
He heard a shrill cry and turned. Wings beating furiously, the fairy leaped high and jabbed the needle into the witch's neck -- once, twice, thrice. The witch shrieked and threw up her arms. The thimble flew into the air. The fairy caught it.
The witch fell over, and, as her putrid blood drained, she shriveled into an apron and a worn out black dress. Whatever her blood touched turned to stone -- leaves and roots, ants and worms.
The maiden fluttered over to Gormlo. "I am so sorry Mother turned you into a frog, dearest Gormlo. After you protected me so bravely, I can't just leave you like this." She touched him with the silver thimble -- the top of his head, his heart, and each webbed foot -- crying, "Spell break! Magic undo!"
But the thimble only blocked magic, it didn't make it. Though the fairy kept fluttering around, tapping him with the silver thimble, Gormlo remained a frog. Finally, she sank to the ground panting.
"Thank you for trying," he tried to say but could only croak.
"There must be something I can do." The maiden stared out over the water. Bees buzzed around the lilies that grew by the far shore. "Wait. Mother always said pollen and honey could cure anything. Stay here, Gormlo dear. I'll bring you something to remove the curse." She jumped into the air and flew, dodging among the dragonflies, over to the lilies.
"I love you," Gormlo croaked. His heart thumped with happiness. She had called him "dear." She had magic, and she'd find him a cure.
He watched her flit from lily to lily, gathering pollen. Suddenly she darted after a bee on its way back to the hive.
While Gormlo waited for her, butterflies, dragonflies, and water-hoppers attracted him immensely. Two orange butterflies danced intricate patterns in the air in front of his nose. Suddenly his long sticky tongue whipped out and captured them. Their wings shed tasteless fluff inside his mouth before he swallowed them.
The butterflies just made Gormlo hungrier. A dragonfly flew close. He snapped out his tongue and pulled it in. It buzzed and fought, rousing his appetite even more. He crunched it down and licked his lips. Dragonflies tasted better than butterflies. He snapped up several more.
The shadows grew long, mist rose, and daylight dimmed. The fairy damsel must be lost, Gormlo thought. Growing cold, he hopped toward his hole. Maybe she'd return in the morning.
Suddenly something big flew right at his face. Without a thought, he flicked out his tongue and captured it. Sweetness filled his mouth as an exquisitely delicious creature cried and struggled. He swallowed it whole.
Delight spread through him. His body warmed, and his true self started to return. To his dismay, he heard cries for help! Horrified, he realized the witch's promise was fulfilled and his dear love really would be with him forever.
But Gormlo could not accept his life at the cost of hers. He squeezed his stomach tight, pumped his lungs, and coughed. He spat out the fairy maiden so hard that he fell over backward -- right into the witch's drying blood. Instantly he started to turn into stone.
The maiden landed at the foot of the willow tree. Her wings were wet, and her dress was in shreds. The silver thimble lay beside her. Fearing Gormlo's hole, she put the thimble on her head, curled up in a willow root's protecting arm, and fell into an exhausted sleep.
By morning she'd grown twice as tall, and the magic thimble no longer fit atop her head. She picked up the witch's apron, wrapped it around her, and put the thimble in the pocket.
She looked over at the stone frog lying on his back. "You did your best for me, Gormlo," she said wistfully. "Because of you, I became more than I ever thought I could."
Then her face hardened. "I did love you a little bit, but Mother was right. I was a fool, and I'd be even more a fool to stay with someone who ate me."
Her wings fluttered then stopped. "You saved my life, though, so I can't just leave you like that." She found a long stick and prodded him over onto his stomach. Then she spread her wings and flew away.
Grey and cold, Gormlo sat by the stream. Time passed. Autumn leaves covered him. Winter snows blanketed him. Spring rains washed him. Dragonflies soared past his nose and butterflies lit on his head. Season after season, age after age went by while Gormlo waited. His beautiful little fairy had left a wisp of hope in his heart. Some day she might come back.