Thalia’s mother had taken her trick or treating, allowed her to snack on some of the loot, given her a bath, and now Thalia, with Teddy dragging behind, is in my study, a demonic gleam in her eye.
“Tell me a scary one.”
For a moment I consider Blue Beard, but judging her tender years, I settle on another.
“How about The Fitcher’s Bird?”
“A bird? That’s not scary.”
“It’s got a sorcerer, a skull, other body parts, and . . . ” Now I sell it. “And blood.”
“Tell me.” Thalia and Teddy settle into my lap.
A sorcerer kidnaps young women with the intent of marrying them if they can pass his test. He declares he must journey for a few days and leaves the girl with an egg, which she must carry with her, and the keys to the manor, which she may explore with the exception of one room. He even points out the key it is she must not use on pain of death.
The sorcerer has captured the eldest of three sisters and puts her to the test. Inevitably, after her explorations of the manor, she finds herself in the forbidden room facing a basin filled with the hacked-up bodies and the blood of the women who entered the room before her.
Trembling at the sight, she drops the egg she carries and it falls into the bloody basin. No amount of cleaning will removed the stain on the shell, giving her away upon the sorcerer’s return.
“You went into that chamber against my will,” he says, “and now against your will you shall go into it once again. Your life is finished.”
Thalia’s thumb is in her mouth. She hasn’t done that for some time. I am hoping I haven’t crossed the line with this choice.
The sorcerer returns to the abode of the sisters and steals the second eldest and the scenario repeats itself. The third and youngest sister, in true fairly-tale fashion, is a different matter. She stashes the egg safely away before heading directly to the forbidden room.
There, with unexplained wisdom, she pieces the body parts of her sisters back together, restoring them to life, then hides them in another room.
“Whew!” Thalia is relieved and her thumb released from duty.
Appearing to have passed the test, the bride now demands the sorcerer carry a basket of gold to her parents before the wedding. In the basket she conceals her sisters, instructs the sorcerer/bridegroom not to rest or tarry, and says that she will be watching him from a window. She puts a decorated skull in the attic window as her decoy, but it is her sisters’ voices from inside the basket that goad the carrier on, allowing him no rest.
Meanwhile, the bride dips herself in honey, rolls in white feathers, and goes outside to greet the wedding guests, the sorcerer’s nefarious companions. The sorcerer himself does not recognize her, thinking she is the bejeweled skull in the attic window looking down on him.
Help, sent by the sisters, quickly arrives, shuts up the house with the sorcerer and wedding guests inside, and burns it down.
Content with just the right amount of fright for a Halloween night, Thalia and Teddy toddle and drag themselves off to bed.