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Authors: Kate Forsyth

The Wild Girl

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THE WILD GIRL

Kate Forsyth

For my darling husband, Greg,
the Amen of my Universe

‘Every fairy tale had a bloody lining. Every one had teeth and claws.’
– Alice Hoffman

FOREWORD

The fairy tales collected and rewritten by the Grimm brothers in the early part of the nineteenth century have spread far and wide in the past two hundred years, inspiring many novels, poems, operas, ballets, films, cartoons and advertisements.

Most people imagine the brothers as elderly men in medieval costume, travelling around the countryside asking for tales from old women bent over their spinning wheels, or wizened shepherds tending their flocks. The truth is that they were young men in their twenties, living at the same time as Jane Austen and Lord Byron.

It was a time of war and tyranny and terror. Napoléon Bonaparte was seeking to rule as much of the world as he could, and the small German kingdom in which the brothers lived was one of the first to fall. Poverty-stricken, and filled with nationalistic zeal, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm – the elder brothers of a family of six – decided to collect and save the old tales of princesses and goose girls, lucky fools and unlucky princes, poisonous apples and dangerous rose-briars, hungry witches and murderous sausages that had once been told and retold in houses both small and grand all over the land.

The Grimms were too poor to travel far from home; besides, the countryside was wracked by repeated waves of fighting as the great powers struggled back and forth over the German landscape. Luckily, Jakob and Wilhelm were to find a rich source of storytelling among the young women of their acquaintance. One of them, Dortchen Wild, grew up right next door.

This is her story.

CONTENTS

 
  1. Title Page
  2. Dedication
  3. Epigraph
  4. Foreword
  5. Prologue: Briar Hedge
  6. Part One: Into the Dark Forest
  7. LANTERN IN THE NIGHT
  8. OLD MARIE
  9. THE WILD ONE
  10. A RAIN OF DEATH
  11. A BITTER BLOW
  12. RED SUN OF AUSTERLITZ
  13. BRAVELY GREEN
  14. THE BLUE FLOWER
  15. HOLLY THORNS
  16. Part Two: Weaving Nettles
  17. GREEN SAUCE
  18. OLD TALES
  19. THE THIRTEENTH DOOR
  20. THE MERRY KIN
  21. MIRROR, MIRROR
  22. BROKEN AXLE
  23. MIDSUMMER’S MORNING
  24. OAK MOSS
  25. A STROKE OF LUCK
  26. Part Three: The Forbidden Chamber
  27. SPANISH LACE
  28. UPRISING
  29. FIREWORKS
  30. WINTER MELANCHOLY
  31. MAY DAY
  32. SPINDLE
  33. COMMON RUE
  34. THE STORY WIFE
  35. GIRL IN ASHES
  36. Part Four: The Singing Bone 
  37. THIEF IN THE NIGHT
  38. THE OPIUM CHEST
  39. MAIDEN WITH NO HANDS
  40. CLAMOUR OF BELLS
  41. HELTER-SKELTER
  42. THE COMET
  43. FIRE AND FROST
  44. THE SINGING BONE
  45. MIDSUMMER SWOON
  46. Part Five: The Skin of Wild Beasts
  47. THE MARCH AGAINST RUSSIA
  48. ALMIGHTY FATHER
  49. PRAYING
  50. ALL-KINDS-OF-FUR
  51. THE COLDEST WINTER
  52. THE YELLOW DRESS
  53. NO USE WEEPING
  54. RED BLOOD, WHITE FEATHERS
  55. THE BEAST WITHIN 
  56. Part Six: The Red Boundary Stone
  57. THE FALL OF WESTPHALIA
  58. THE RUSSIAN INVASION
  59. UNKIND
  60. RETURN OF THE PRINCE
  61. IN THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
  62. HEAD OF THE HOUSEHOLD
  63. GO TO HELL
  64. HER MASTER
  65. AN EARLY GRAVE
  66. Part Seven: The Singing, Springing Lark
  67. IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS
  68. A SHEATH OF ICE
  69. GOLDEN LEAF
  70. BLINDMAN’S BLUFF
  71. WRITTEN IN THE STARS
  72. A HIGH REGARD
  73. DOG IN A MANGER
  74. BY THE LIGHT OF THE NEW MOON
  75. CORNFLOWERS
  76. Epilogue: The True Bride
  77. Afterword
  78. Sources of the Grimms’ Stories
  79. Acknowledgements
  80. About the Author
  81. By Kate Forsyth
  82. Copyright

PROLOGUE

Briar Hedge

CASSEL

The Electorate of Hessen-Cassel, December 1814

And the maiden changed herself into a rose which stood in the midst of a briar hedge, and her sweetheart Roland into a fiddler. It was not long before the witch came striding up towards them, and said: ‘Dear musician, may I pluck that flower for myself?’ ‘Oh, yes,’ he replied, ‘I will play to you while you do it.’ As the witch crept into the hedge and reached to pluck the flower, he began to play, and she was forced to dance. The faster he played, the faster she danced, and the thorns tore her clothes from her body, pricking and wounding her till she bled. As he did not stop playing, the witch had to dance till she lay dead on the ground.

From ‘Sweetheart Roland’, a tale told by Dortchen Wild to Wilhelm Grimm on 19th January 1812

BOOK: The Wild Girl
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