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The Woodcutter's Daughter
By Edward Charles Spreeman, Natalie Gregorarz
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2016 Edward Charles Spreeman
All rights reserved.
An Unexpected Surprise!
Sometimes in life, someone may happen along our path so that when we meet this particular someone we may allow what we see, and very little else, to form within us an opinion of what kind of person they are. But things are not always as they appear, are they? This is exactly the kind of mistake the people who lived in the kingdom of Antwin a very long time ago made concerning a little girl named Brianna.
The kingdom of Antwin was very much like the other kingdoms at that time. They had tailors for making clothes, cobblers for making shoes, cheese makers, bakers, soldiers, and all the other kinds of people that make for a good kingdom, which, of course, Antwin most certainly was. And in Antwin, as in all the other kingdoms, there lived a king, a queen, and a prince, who had just recently been born. Antwin in those days was a large city surrounded by a great high wall, which sat right on top of a large hill with the castle itself rising up from the very center like a great oak tree in the middle of an open field. It was in this city that most of the people of the kingdom lived, although some had found their way beyond the walls outside the city.
It was here, outside the city gates on the edge of the great woods, which was some distance but not too great a distance, that there lived a poor woodcutter and his wife, Zodh and Deriva. They lived humbly in a small wooden cottage that sat just inside of the edge of the woods. The cottage itself was a simple home, the kind where the dining room, the kitchen, the living room, and the bedroom are all the same room. It had a big fireplace opposite the entrance for cooking and warmth and a tiny loft above the main floor, which they found useful for storing the few things they owned. Their only furniture was a modest wooden table with two chairs, and a mattress laid out on a low wooden platform stuffed with straw where the couple made their bed at night. Even though they were poor and their circumstances humble, they loved each other very much and found great joy and contentment even in the few things they had.
Now Zodh was a woodcutter. He was rather average in height and size, and his hair was beginning to gray, but his hands were still strong and his ivy green eyes were as full of life as they had ever been. Every day after an early breakfast of bread and tea he would bundle up and go out into the forest to cut wood, which he would put into his cart. When it was full he would put the shoulder harness on and pull his cart down the road and up the hill leading to the main gates of the city of Antwin, where he would sell his wood to the people who lived there.
Deriva, Zodh's wife, was somewhat shorter and a bit round, of course, the way mothers are supposed to be. Her dark brown hair, which was also beginning to gray, was usually pulled up into a knot on top of her head so it didn't get into her plain blue eyes. She could be found most days either in the garden tending the vegetables or at work in their cottage cooking, cleaning, baking, and doing all the other things a good wife would be doing in her home. This was the way the couple had lived for many years, and both were very content with their simple life together. Well, that is, almost.
Zodh and Deriva were beginning to grow old, and they longed for a child of their own, one they could love, one they believed would bring happiness to their humble lives. But dear Deriva after all their years together had found herself unable to be with child. One day, while she was waiting for Zodh to return home, her heart was especially heavy from the thought of having no child of her own, and without her meaning it to happen, big tears started to form in her eyes and began to run down her cheeks and onto the table where she was sitting. Deriva found herself praying to the Creator once more, asking Him to bless their home with a child. She had prayed this so many times before, but this time it felt different. The words seemed to tumble from her lips somehow more earnestly than ever before. Suddenly she noticed Zodh walking up the path to the house, and she jumped up, quickly drying her eyes and busying herself at the pot over the fire with their supper in it. Deriva soon forgot her tears and the prayer, and their lives continued on, each day much the same as all the others.
A few weeks later she began to notice changes. At first they were very slight changes, but they continued until she realized something was taking place inside her. It was then Deriva knew that the Creator had answered her prayer that day at the table just few short months ago.
Deriva waited for several more days to pass until she was quite certain of the life now growing inside her. Once she was very sure, she finally decided to tell Zodh. After Zodh left, she went to work making his favorite meal, which she took all day to cook. She set the table.
Then she arranged some wild forest flowers she had picked into a jar and placed them in the center of the table as a final touch. When all was finished she sat down in her chair and waited eagerly for him to come home so she could tell him the wonderful news.
When Zodh walked in he didn't notice things at first, but Deriva's unusual mood and the food as well as the flowers on the table quickly told him that she was up to something. Even so he kept his thoughts to himself. When he had finished eating, Zodh spoke to Deriva in his usual quiet and gentle manner.
"Is there some sort of special occasion I missed? Is today your birthday? "
"No, it's not my birthday, but I do have some very special news I must tell you," she replied with a little twinkle in her eyes. Zodh had a puzzled look on his face and wondered what sort of news it could be. Deriva couldn't contain herself any longer and motioned for him to come and sit down by the fire with her. When they were both seated, Deriva leaned forward slightly.
She reached out and put her hands softly on his knees. Looking him clearly in the eyes, she couldn't contain herself a moment longer.
She half-blurted, half-laughed, "I am with child."
"With child," said Zodh quietly as he just sat there stunned, letting her words slowly settle down into his mind. After so many years of waiting and being disappointed, it was a very hard thing to believe.
"Are you certain?" he said still with some disbelief in his voice as he looked at Deriva.
"Yes, I waited until I was absolutely positive," Deriva replied, sounding very sure of herself and nodding her head up and down rather quickly.
A big smile started to break across the woodcutter's face, and then suddenly with a hoot and a holler he jumped up from his chair and grabbed Deriva, and the two began to dance the happiest jig they had ever danced. That night there was tremendous joy in the woodcutter's humble cottage on the edge of the woods, down the long road from the walls of the city surrounding the Kingdom of Antwin.
The next day dawned bright and sunny, as if the Creator were continuing to smile on the woodcutter and his wife. Zodh felt very happy as he worked that day. There was a spring in his step and a joy in his heart that he had not felt for many years. For the first time in a long time, it actually felt good to be alive. The days leading up to the birth of their long-awaited child seemed to fly by. They worked hard to get everything ready. Deriva made the tiny clothes the baby would wear, and Zodh made a little cradle out of pine boughs from the trees that he had cut, which would rest beside their bed. They were patient at first, but you know how it feels when it is almost Christmas and the day is right upon you. It can seem like those last few days will never pass, and the waiting is never-ending. And so it was the last few days before their little baby was born. Finally, after so many months of anticipation, the day was upon them and the waiting almost over.
When the time for the birthing was right, Zodh went for the midwife. Now this midwife was short, a bit chubby, pushy, and loud as well. She also was a busybody and a gossip. And like most of the other midwives, she had an over-exaggerated sense of her importance. In spite of their faults, however, midwives could be very helpful in birthing babies. It was normal for the midwife to come and stay with the family a day or two before the birth and a couple of days after, so this one came to stay the last few days until the little child was to be born. Poor Zodh and Deriva had to listen to the woman's continual chattering about this person and that person's birthing until Deriva thought she would just go mad. Then, in the afternoon two days after the midwife's arrival, while Zodh was away in the woods working, it happened: the birthing pains began.
Zodh returned home that day just in time to hear the first cries of his child. His heart started racing as he ran into the tiny cottage. When he came through the door, he couldn't see his child, only the look of disgust on the midwife's face as she turned her head away from the child she was holding in her hands and said, "What a hideous child! In all my years I have never seen one born who is as ugly as this, and it's a girl at that!"
Well, of course, Zodh, shocked at the sudden outburst from the midwife, was immediately very offended. Even though it was not usually his way to be short with people, even for the most extreme rudeness, with as much kindness as he could muster, he asked her to leave immediately. When the midwife had finally gathered her things in a huff and left with an air of hurt pride, Zodh went over to their bed where Deriva lay smiling with their little baby girl lying peacefully on her chest. Bending over, he kissed Deriva's forehead, and then he looked at the child. When he did, the little baby girl opened her eyes and looked up into his. At that moment his heart became overwhelmed with love and joy. This was his child, his daughter, a precious gift from the Creator, and the answer to their prayers. From the very first both Zodh and Deriva saw nothing but tremendous beauty in their precious child, the wonderful blessing that the Creator had given them. And together they named her Brianna.CHAPTER 2
Brianna Wants a Friend
Now Brianna was in almost every respect just like all other children. She liked to play hide and go seek. She liked birthdays and Christmastime. She liked the warm sunshine of a summer day and the beauty of a freshly fallen snow. Yes, she was almost exactly like every other child with two exceptions. The first was just as the midwife had exclaimed: Brianna was the ugliest-looking child that had ever been born in all of Antwin, maybe even in the whole world. Her appearance was so awful that most people would turn away in disgust at the very sight of her. But there was also something very special, something that, if one didn't look closely enough, could very easily be overlooked. You see, it seemed that with as much ugliness as had been given to Brianna's outward appearance, she had also been given the kindest and most beautiful heart there ever was.
It was this beauty and kindness that her mama and her papa saw in her eyes from the very moment she was born. It was this beauty that made them able to overlook, even to the point of not even seeing, what seemed so obvious to everyone else. But then maybe love is like a special pair of glasses that causes the person wearing them to see people and things exactly the same way the Creator sees them. Nevertheless, while most parents were busy dressing up their children and fussing over their clothes and hair, Zodh and Deriva just naturally encouraged the love and goodness that seemed to overflow out of their precious Brianna. Love and joy filled the humble woodcutter's tiny cottage on the edge of the woods, down the long road from the walls of the city surrounding the Kingdom of Antwin. And it was there that little Brianna quietly grew from a girl into a young lady.
As you can imagine, it was very difficult for Brianna to make friends. Many times when she was little she would beg to go with Zodh into the city when he would make his deliveries. It was in the city that Brianna began to notice the curious stares of people, especially stares from other children, who would also make awful faces at her and call her names. At first she didn't understand the looks and behavior of the children, and the calm assurances of her papa were enough to satisfy her questions. One day, though, as she was growing older, she saw her reflection in the glass of one of the merchants' stores. She immediately knew that the people's stares and remarks were because of her looks. From that moment on Brianna hardly ever went with Zodh again into the city to deliver wood. This caused Zodh to feel sad, for he enjoyed her company, but he understood, for he too noticed the stares and behavior of the people in the city.
Because of this, poor Brianna grew up without any friends, having only her papa and her mama to talk to. In time she came to make friends with many of the woodland animals. They didn't seem to notice her appearance. Instead, they seemed drawn to her kindness and loving treatment of them. She would talk to them as if they were real friends, and when they gathered around her it seemed that they listened to her as if they really understood. Still, from time to time she would find herself wishing for a real friend. Someone, anyone other than her parents and the forest animals, someone that she could talk to and share her feelings with. Every so often when she was drawing water from the small stream that ran behind the tiny cottage, she would catch her reflection in the water and shudder at the sight of it. And she would wonder why the Creator would do something like this to anyone. Why couldn't she have been born beautiful like a fairy princess? Then she would lie on her back looking up into the sky, imagining herself in a beautiful dress, going to the castle, meeting the prince, and even dancing with him. Yet slowly she resigned herself to her lonely life and the fact that she would probably never have a friend. And so, as the years passed so did her hopes of someone to talk to slowly fade away, like the smoke from their chimney as it floated into the tops of the forest trees.
It hurt Zodh and Deriva to see their little girl returning from her days in the woods so many times with sadness on her face. And they would both try very hard to cheer her up. Zodh would take her onto his lap, stroking her hair with his calloused hands. In his quiet gentle way he would say to her, "You know, little one, beauty has less to do with our appearance and what people see on the outside and much more to do with what is on the inside. If you don't know what to look for, you can easily miss it. When you grow older, you'll see, everything will turn out all right. Someday you'll find a friend."
"I hope so, Papa," Brianna would reply, and in her heart she longed for the day when someone would really see beyond her appearance, and be her friend.CHAPTER 3
The Crossing Over
As the time of Brianna's sixteenth birthday drew near, Deriva pulled Zodh aside one day and began to speak to him about something that was on her heart, something she wanted to do for their Brianna.
As he typically did at the end of the day, Zodh was smoking his pipe thoughtfully and staring into the fire when Deriva broke the silence. "Zodh," she said in a low voice, "Brianna has gone to bed, and there is something I've wanted to talk to you about."
The woodcutter nodded his head for her to go on, and he continued looking at the fire, the light of it flickering on his face as he listened to her.
"It is almost time for her sixteenth birthday, and you know as well as I do that this is the most important day in a young lady's life before she is married. It is the day our little girl becomes a young woman and declared eligible for marriage. I want to do something very special for her."
"What do you have in mind?" he asked in a low, steady voice without looking away from the fire.
"I want to have a 'crossing over' party for her. I want to invite some of the people you know from the city, have a real party and a cake. Let's have a small celebration in Brianna's honor. I thought you could take invitations into the city the next time you deliver wood there."
"Well, I'm not sure if anyone will come," Zodh replied as he turned to look at his wife sitting there staring at him. "Anyone who knows her is completely put off by her looks, and I'm not sure they would come because of it."
Excerpted from The Woodcutter's Daughter by Edward Charles Spreeman, Natalie Gregorarz. Copyright © 2016 Edward Charles Spreeman. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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