Wonderful Fairy Tales. The Raven Queen by Adreyo Sen

Wonderful Fairy Tales. The Raven Queen by Adreyo Sen

Wonderful Fairy Tales. The Raven Queen by Adreyo Sen… Once upon a time, in a little valley that woke to the sight of majestic mountains, there was a little bit of land populated entirely by girls…

Wonderful Fairy Tales. The Raven Queen by Adreyo Sen

Raven on the branch. Photo by George Hodan

The Raven Queen.

Once upon a time, in a little valley that woke to the sight of majestic mountains, there was a little bit of land populated entirely by girls.  Some of these girls were teachers and thought they were grown-up.  But they weren’t. In each, was a lovely and loving deficiency, a lack that made them still the strange, puzzled creatures that once crawled onto their mother’s laps and begged for bedtime stories.

One of these girls was a strange little creature, squat and solemn and too old for her years.  She was very unhappy.  The other girls didn’t understand her and as all children are wont to do, they made fun of that they didn’t understand.

The little girl wanted to grow up to be good.  To be a good woman, a good wife, a good mother.  Goodness is an ambition unfashionable in these fashionable days.  It was the same in the valley.

It was on the hockey field that the little girl came into her own.  To the game, she brought all her capacity for seriousness, all her sweet, old-fashioned sincerity.  The other girls laughed at her efforts.  She continued to play and strive, but her heart grew bitter.

One afternoon, the little girl was sitting on a bench, nibbling at a biscuit and enjoying an aloneness that was all hers.  A raven squatted down next to her and eyed the biscuit mournfully.  “Kaark,” it said, and flapped its tiny wings.  Its eyes settled on the girl with idiotic affection.

“Go away,” said the little girl crossly.  It was one of her bad days.  “Kaark,” said the raven and stood on one foot and then the other.  “Kaark,” it said ingratiatingly.

The little girl tore off a very tiny piece of her biscuit and placed it on the bench.  The raven gobbled it up instantly and returned its gaze to the girl.  “Kaark,” it said, with a tone of loving insistence.

“Fuck off!” cried the girl, throwing the biscuit hard at the raven and stomping off on her squat little legs.  The raven slumped on the bench and wiggled its tiny feet in the air.  “Kaark,” it said mournfully.

That night, sitting at her little desk in a large room full of little desks, the girl was assailed by an awful feeling.  It was as if two large and frighteningly black dogs were on either side of her, barking and clawing at her.  This was the first time the little girl knew guilt.

Ever since then, the little girl looked for the raven.  She could not find her.  She lost interest in her books and meager toys.  She lost interest in hockey.  And when the other girls laughed at her, she could not hear them.

“This cannot go on,” she told herself one day, “Perhaps I’ll get a chance to say I am sorry, perhaps not.  But I must pick up where I left.”  She placed her dearest, broken belongings in her secret place and returned to her little desk.  She began to play and play well again.  The other girls watched her with silent admiration.  She could not hear their silent praise.

One late evening, when the stars were fixing themselves into a diadem above the mountain peaks and the gargoyle above the church was preparing to fly over the world as its malevolent guardian, the little girl came across a raven splayed on her favorite bench.

“Hi!” she said, ignoring the titters of the other girls and running towards the raven.  “Kaark!” said the raven with impotent hatred and tried to shuffle away.  “I’m sorry,” cried the little girl, “Please forgive me.  I’ve been looking for you all over the place.”

“Kaark!” intoned the raven with disgust and closed its hate-filled eyes.  The girl stared at it with tears in her eyes and then picked it up gently.  “Your wings are broken,” she sobbed and clasped the raven to her breast, kissing its head.

The raven was silent.  And then it sprung out of the girl’s arms, rubbed its head against her neck and flew into the darkening sky. The girl gazed after it, broken-hearted.

There were no more ravens in the valley from that day.  No one remarked upon that.  No one but serious little girls with a fragile and extraordinary tendency for heartbreak can notice the strange and wonderful forces that keep the sky from crumbling.

But every now and then, usually in the most silent hours of the night, the little girl would feel a feathery kiss on her nape and wake to find something in her lap.  A crown made of tiny wooden logs.  A tiny doll house.  A book of advanced calculus.  Carefully, she would place them in her secret place.

The  little girl grew to a subdued happiness, a gentle joy akin to sorrow, serene in her knowledge that somewhere in the world, in a black gown threaded by the silver needles of Hope and Faith, her mother was watching her.

The little girl never became a wife.  The little girl never became a mother.  The little girl never grew up, for she never managed to fill the strange absences that made her so quiet.

She gave to the plain, rough-sewn clothes that was her uniform, her testament of trust, all her frightening dedication.  With noiseless feet, she brought a forever peace to neighborhoods fraught with discord.  With blind eyes, she allowed brothers and sisters to know each other once more and step, new born and frightened, into the world.  With aching hands, she creased out the pain from the foreheads of festering children who had been homeless even when they had a home.

She was loved.  She was loved greatly.  Unable to love herself, she never felt that love, just the scorn of those who had disdained her simple ways.

It was when she was guarding a spoilt child unaware that it was falling under her influence that someone fired at her.  She closed her eyes in mute resignation.  She opened them again to find a raven struggling feebly at her feet.

She burst into tears and picked up the little thing almost too tiny for the frenzied thudding of its heart.  “Why?” she sobbed, “Why?  Why did you have to save me?”  “Kaark,” said the raven sadly and was silent.

The little girl placed the raven in the black box that had been the last of her mother’s gifts to her and travelled back to the valley that had once been her home.  She found her secret place, hidden in a growing wildness of wildflowers, and cremated the raven there.

She returned to her work and to her uniform.  Never one for words, she grew more silent.  She forgot how to speak.

Not long after, the little girl fell sick.  She had no money of her own.  She had given everything away.  She was sent to the place all her children had gone, the children whose strange absences she had known and forgiven.  They were her own absences.

They placed the little girl in a little bed of her own next to the tiniest of windows.  They brought her chocolates and expensive gifts.   They sang to her.  She returned their love with a blank and anxious courtesy more painful than rejection.  The little girl was very tired.

Gently, they left her alone.  Slowly, they forgot about her.

The little girl slept.  Sometimes, she would wake just in time to see the stars shake off their bangles and clamber into formation, or witness the shining black plane ferrying its passengers to worlds they once knew.  And then she would fall asleep again.

A forest grew around the little girl.  Tiny saplings clustered around her bed and great oaks formed a bower over her.  Sometimes, half-awake, she could hear her mother singing.

And then one night when the moon was gaping with ovoid curiosity at the squat little girl with beautiful eyes, there was a tiny rap at the window.  Painfully, the little girl turned her head.  There were ravens clustered all around the window, some of them somersaulting with glee, others wiggling about and some rubbing their tired backs against the ledge.

For the first time in her life, the little girl smiled.  She stretched her tiny arms out to the ravens.  And then she died.

And in a valley entirely inhabited by little girls who think they are grown-up, in a valley that will forever be a valley of children, in a quiet place untrodden for years, surrounded by a pile of broken toys, there is a black marble statue of a woman with giant wings under which countless marble children play in a peace that is eternity.

Her smile is the dawn breaking over the valley.

It is time to sleep now, my darling.

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Adreyo Sen, based in Kolkata, hopes to become a full-time writer. He did his undergraduate work in English and his postgraduate work in English and Sociology. He has been published in Danse Macabre and Kritya.

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