Miss Margo note: I did not write this. It is the work of Laura Miller, from “A Tone Licked Clean: Fairy Tales and the Roots of Literature.” Harper’s Dec 2012
This story is perfect. I can’t stop thinking about it.
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There once was a woman who wanted, more than anything else, to have a child. One winter day, while peeling an apple under the juniper tree in her garden, she cut her finger, dripping blood on the snow. Nine months later, she gave birth to a boy with skin as white as snow and lips as red as blood. But she died when the child was born, and in time her husband took a new wife, who bore him a daughter.
The boy’s stepmother hated him, and made his life miserable. One day she offered him an apple from a chest; when the boy leaned inside to take it, she slammed the lid down and the child’s head was struck off. She placed his head back on his neck and sat him in a chair. When the evil woman’s daughter came home, she told the girl to ask her brother for an apple. “And if he doesn’t give you an answer, slap his face.” Of course the boy didn’t answer, and when his sister slapped him, his head flew off.
“Don’t worry, I know how to cover up your crime,” the woman told her daughter, and she chopped up the little boy and cooked the pieces in a stew. That evening, she served the stew to her unwitting husband, who liked it so much he ate the whole thing, tossing the bones under the table.
The sister, full of sorrow, gathered the bones of her brother and placed them at the roots of the juniper tree. A beautiful bird sprang from the branches and sang a ravishing song, with these words:
My mother, she slew me, My father, he ate me, My sister buried my bones Under the juniper tree. What a fine bird am I!