14th of December: Jean Gill
Jean Gill is an award-winning Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two scruffy dogs, a beehive named 'Endeavour, a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Wales. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.

You can find her on her homepage and on amazon.

The Guardian and the Fir Tree

An Alsace Folk Tale

Translated by Jean Gill

In olden times, on a night when magical creatures crossed the valleys on invisible bridges, when terrified villagers stared into the freezing night at a thousand fireflies dancing amongst the rocks, when the Taenchel wept icy tears and the snow covered the last dead leaves of autumn, exposing the bare branches to the savage winds, a young hind sought shelter on the bleak mountainside.

Exhausted and footsore, no shelter could she find in all the forest, not one tree which had kept its leaves. Unable to move one weary hoof further, she saw a carpet of moss at the foot of a fir tree, where she curled up close to the trunk, in a desperate attempt to escape the storm.

Much later, in a long white robe spangled with precious stones, her hair gleaming and her veil floating in the breeze, her magic wand in her hand, the Guardian of the Taenchel appeared. Moved by the sight of the little doe, curled at the foot of the fir, she asked ‘Great tree, what took place here? Are you welcoming the homeless now?’

‘I couldn’t let her die of cold, my Lady, but it is hard to protect her with all of my leaves shed.’

Touched even more, the Guardian waved her wand and, in its magic spark, the fir was clothed from crown to root in green needles.

‘You will keep your leaves always so that you may give shelter as and when you choose.’

The Guardian left.

In the spring she passed by again and found the fir tree bowed down, its branches weeping.

‘Great tree, you seem unhappy. You are majestic, powerful and in leaf all year - what can be wrong?’

‘In the spring-time all the trees leaf and I am just one among many, my Lady.’

‘What do you wish?’

‘Make me a different colour, more beautiful, if you would.’

With one wave of her magic wand the Guardian transformed all the green needles into sparkling gold and then she left.

Thieves came by. They could not believe their eyes when they saw the gold needles but they wasted no time ripping the tree bare and vanishing with their loot. Once more the fir was naked.

Came the summer, came the Guardian.

‘What has happened? You are the only tree in the forest in such a state! At least the sun will keep you warm.’

‘I was robbed. My Lady, please don’t leave me like this. Dress me once more if you will, but this time in something no-one would want to steal.’

Once more the Guardian’s light dressed the tree, this time in needles of sparkling glass, which caught the sun at every breath of the wind.

Came the Autumn, came the Guardian. What a disaster! The poor fir tree was trembling amidst piles of shattered glass. Spiteful gusts of wind blew off all the needles which were lying broken around the roots. Once more the tree was bare.

‘My poor Tree. I can only give three wishes so this must be the last one, What do you wish?’

‘My Lady, I promise to honour my standing, to protect the creatures of the forest and to live in harmony with my neighbours on God’s own mountain, but I beg you, please give me back my green needles.’

From that day to this, the fir trees of the Taenchel watch over the destiny of Humankind - and are evergreen.

 

This story was previously featured in the novel ‘More Than One Kind’.

 

come back tomorrow for more...

If you like this story, find Jean on her homepage or on amazon.

 

© Jean Gill, 2017ff