Picturebook: The woman who wanted a baby

    Photo by Emily Chow / North by Northwestern.

    Once upon a time, there was a man and a woman. They had been married for five happy years, but they had yet to have a child. The woman had been with child many times, but each time the child had been born without life in its veins and the man and the woman grieved. Faced with such bad luck, the woman, pregnant again, made the decision to see her mother for help.

    The woman had come from a long line of sorceresses, but when she married, she left that life behind and never told her husband of her dark past. She cut all ties with her family when her mother and her sisters tried to convince her to stay. Her mother told her of the curses that could befall her if she turned away from her heritage and her sisters warned her of how defenseless she would become without her magic, but the woman had found true love with the man and was blind to her family’s concern.

    When the woman went to see her mother and her sisters in their house in the woods, the mother was quick to forgive her errant daughter and their meeting was marked with warm embraces and tears of joy. The woman told her sisters and her mother of the troubles that had befallen her and they felt her pain as their own.

    “How can I make sure this baby is born healthy?” the woman asked her mother. “How can I make sure this baby will know the light of the sun and the smell of the sea?”

    The mother looked at her daughter and smiled a sad smile. “You have been away from this life for far too long for you to step back into it and command the spirits as you once did. They will try to trick you. They are unhappy with you, and they are not as forgiving as a mother. But do not despair, my child, for it can be done.”

    And then the woman’s mother told her to make a deal with a spirit. Her mother reminded her how to call upon a spirit and her sisters helped her cast the magic. “The spirit will be greedy,” her mother warned, “but it will not make false promises. You, too, my daughter, must not make promises you cannot keep.” The woman nodded her head and assured her mother that she would take care, that she would be true.

    The spell was cast deep in the woods. The woman’s mother looked on while the woman took her sisters’ hands and called for a spirit to come forth. The spirit came in a half-form; it was a swirling mouth that made demands. “I want to walk upon this land,” the spirit said. “I want to breathe this air and feel the wind. Give me this and I will give you the healthy child you desire.”

    The woman answered, “Yes, I can do this for you, but you can only come to this world one night a month until my child is born and you cannot explore further than I allow. Are we agreed?”

    “Agreed.” And the spirit’s half-form disappeared.

    The woman prepared for the spirit’s entrance into the world. She built a set of stone stairs from the bottom of the ditch to a point halfway up its wall. And then she began to dig. She dug a small tunnel for the spirit to climb through to get from its world to this one. She placed a candle in the opening to guide the spirit to the ditch. Lastly, the woman lined the ditch with moonwort to contain the spirit.

    The first full moon arrived. The woman called upon the spirit to come forth and she came, swirling through the opening in the wall of the ditch and stepping onto the earth in the form of a small child with purple eyes. She frolicked in the ditch and laughed and skipped. Every month that the woman called the spirit to earth, she was guaranteed another healthy month of pregnancy.

    When the child was born, the man and the woman rejoiced for the child was a healthy baby girl. The next full moon, the woman thanked the spirit and told her that the promises on both ends had been fulfilled. “This will be your last night on earth, dear spirit,” the woman said.

    “That is all and well,” the spirit said. “But I cannot ensure your daughter’s good health once I am gone. Allow me to return, and I can protect her from disease, from injury, from grief.”

    Fear filled the woman and she quickly agreed with the spirit. “I will call upon you every month for as long as my daughter shall live.”

    The moment the woman spoke those words, a jolt went through her from head to toe, and she felt empty in a way that she had never felt empty before. The spirit laughed and and her purple eyes flashed. Taking the form of a swirling wind, the spirit left the ditch, crashing into the stone steps that once led her into the world. They were of no use now.

    The woman ran to her mother’s house and told her of what had happened. “What went wrong, Mother?”

    “My dear daughter,” her mother exclaimed, “what have you done? Have you forgotten the Rule? Making a second deal with the same spirit will strip you of your powers forever and you will be at the mercy of the spirit. There is nothing I can do. Go check on your daughter. I fear for her now that she is no longer under the spirit’s protection.”

    The woman ran to her home where she lived with the man and rushed into her daughter’s room. She peered into the crib and breathed a sigh of relief. Her daughter was happily kicking her thick legs and gurgling in happiness.

    And then her daughter’s eyes flashed purple.


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