And There Was Ninja Moustache (Chapter 68)

    “And now,” said the hag, “I shall become young again. Everyone in the village shall speak of my beauty and fair features. Yes, the prince himself shall marry me. But you, foolish wench, shall be the meat in our wedding supper!”

 Dorottya trembled in the huge cooking pot as the hag laid wood for the fire.

 “Please,” she begged, “let me go, and I shall never again make fun of anyone with tiny ears. I would wish that my own ears were tiny, only do not cook me in a stew!”

 The hag cackled and put the turnips into the water. Dorottya cried for pity.

 “You would like to persuade me with your sorry words and tears,” said the hag, wagging her bony finger, “but you are a swindler. If I let you go, before the sun had set you would be back to mocking me, skipping and laughing all over the village on account of my small ears.”

 “No, I swear to you,” cried Dorottya, “I shall not mock you.”

 “Silence!” said the hag. “Do you think I am as foolish as you? Ha! For insulting me you shall be cooked in a stew!”

 The hag took fire from the lamp and lit the wood beneath the cauldron. Dorottya sobbed with many tears.

 “And now,” said the hag, “while I wait for the water to boil, let me prepare a dish to go with this stew. A goat pie would be just the thing.”

 With that, she went outside, intending to slaughter Dorottya’s beloved pet goat.

    “Ah, now where has that young goat gone?” said the hag, searching this way and that, for it seemed the animal had freed itself of its tether.

 Coming to the front gate of her cottage, the hag started at the sight of the blacksmith standing there with a bow and quiver slung over his shoulder, cradling the young goat his mighty arm.

 “What are you doing here, Blacksmith?” said the hag.

 “I should ask you why my daughter’s beloved goat was tied up outside your house,” said the blacksmith.

 “I do not know where that goat is from,” said the cunning hag, “but it is to be the meat in my pie. Give it to me.”

 “I would sooner make a pie of you!” said the blacksmith, drawing a small knife from his belt.

 “Ha-ha!” scoffed the hag. “For three hundred years I have lived in these woods, protected by secret magic. No blacksmith’s blade can harm me.”

 “My blade does not need to harm you,” said the blacksmith. Gripping the young goat’s ear in his hand, he raised it high. “My blade needs only to harm this kid.”

 With a firm flick of his knife, the blacksmith slit the little goat’s neck. It shuddered and kicked, the blood flowed down its white fur, and soon it hung lifeless. The blacksmith cast it to the ground, where a small red pool formed around its head. From his quiver he took an arrow and dipped its tip into the blood.

 “What is this?” gasped the hag.

 The blacksmith placed the arrow on his bow and drew the string back, so that the bow bent and creaked under his strength.

 “Would you slay an old woman?” said the hag.

 “Your death is long overdue,” said the blacksmith, taking aim.

 “If you kill me,” said the hag, “then you will never see your daughter Dorottya again.”

 “I have four other daughters,” said the blacksmith, “each of them wiser than Dorottya.”

 He released the bowstring; the arrow flew fast and straight. It pierced right through the hag’s shrivelled heart, as easily as a butcher’s knife slices custard. The hag shrieked and fell dead. In the blink of an eye she turned into a pile of grey ash, which a swirling wind scooped up and scattered to the four corners of the forest.

    —An excerpt from the traditional Hungarian children’s tale, The Foolish Maiden.

© 2021 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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