Trudging through the thick snow I headed home. Every evening I travelled to the far end of my garden, to the well where we collect our water. I pushed past the freezing wind, attempting to keep me in Winter’s hold. Living in Lapland, in the Swedish Alps, means we got extremely cold winters, especially at the high altitude. I finally made it to the oak carved doors of the little cottage and entered my cosy home, away from the blistering wind. I took a sigh of relief to have finished that torturous chore.
I removed my white wool scarf and white fur coat and placed it on the hooks next to the front door. I looked in the mirror and saw my red curly hair was in a mess. I grabbed the brush from a nearby table and braided it so it was out of my face. I then sat down in front of the warm stone fireplace while my mother is making dinner in the kitchen. I grabbed my favourite book of the book shelf, The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson. I sat down of the big green chair, the one my father sat on when he told me all these stories of animals that could talk and magical beings that could grant wishes. But that time is long gone, my father passed away 4 months ago, leaving me and my mother to fend for ourselves. I was nearly becoming so involved in the book that I didn’t hear my mother calling me.
“Katarina, Katarina Bloom put down that book and come and have dinner. Tonight we are having jassons frestelse.”
“Alright Mamma, I’ll be there in a second,” I replied.
I placed the book in it’s special place on the bookshelf and sat at the dining table. The casserole my mother has made for dinner was really delicious. We had both finished our dinner and I started collecting the plates. As I began washing the dishes, my mother entered the kitchen.
“Katarina, as you have noticed it has been hard to find the money to buy food and wood for us. And you also know I have…” A loud knock on the door interrupted my mother during her sentence and a man with a large grey coat and big brown boots entered the cottage. His name was Eskil Tobiar.
“As you know Katarina” announced the Eskil, “I have been visiting your mother, and the other day she has agreed to marry me.”
“The wedding is to be in three days,” my mother added, “and you are to be a part of the wedding.”
“Since she now knows, I will give you this firewood I chopped down today and head off.” As Eskil said that he started to leave through the front door where he had entered.
There was a silence throughout the house. My mother began to speak but this time it was I who interrupted.
“How could you Mamma? Papa only died four months ago and you are already marrying another man!” I yelled.
“I have to. There is no place in this world for a women living with a child without a man” my mother replied.
“But Eskil Tobiar is mean and horrible! When you aren’t around he hits me and calls me a useless child. He always tells me that I am a burden to you!” I scream at her.
“I hardly believe a man like him would do such a thing. Stop making up such stories.” yelled my mother.
“Well if you don’t believe me, I am leaving and I am never coming back! Goodbye Mama.” I yelled. I then grabbed my favourite book of the bookshelf and a photo of my father and packed it into my brown leather satchel and put on my fur coat, black boots and woollen scarf and left through the big oak doors.
I ran towards the end of the snow covered field to the forest. I paused for a moment to look at the smoke coming from the chimney of the cottage I had lived in for my whole life and stepped into the vast unknown.
I don’t know how long I had been walking. My legs were beginning to ache and the wind was blistering cold. If I don’t find a place to make a fire soon I will surely die. I continued to search for some shelter, or anything that would get me away from this freezing wind.
It’s so cold, I don’t think I can go any further, no I must. I don’t want to die, I can’t die. I am only ten years old there must be more to my life than being a burden. What was that! I think I heard something.
I turned around to see a huge brown bear 20 feet away from me growling. I had no idea what to do but scream. I screamed as loud as I could, knowing no one could hear me. The bear then began charging towards me and I started running as fast as I could but I tripped over a large branch protruding from the ground. I turned over and braced myself for what would be the last few seconds of my life, and then all of a sudden a grey wolf ran and jumped off a boulder, right onto the bears back. The wolf snarled, showing its huge white teeth and took a huge bite of the bear’s neck. The bear winced in pain and tumbled over. Dead.
I stayed curled into a ball thinking I was next but then I heard a voice.
“It’s alright, you are safe now little girl.”
I looked up and asked “Who said that?”
The wolf then replied “It was I who spoke. My name is Baltasar. You are such a young child, what is your name and why are you in this forest?”
“My name is Katarina Bloom. I ran away because my mother is getting married to a horrible man who hurts me and she doesn’t believe anything I say. I am never going back.”
“Well then follow me. I will take you to a cave where you can keep yourself warm. Take some of the sticks from over there with you.” Commanded Baltasar.
I did as he said and gathered the sticks and followed him to a cave near a giant mountain. When we made it to the cave I made fire and we both huddled around it. Before long a dozed off into sleep.
I awoke to sunlight pouring into the cave. The fire has died out and Baltasar has disappeared. Great, I am alone again. And I’m starving. I was just about to leave the cave when Baltasar entered. He was dragging two deer carcases.
“Relight your fire Katarina, this deer is for you to eat. From now on I’ll help you find food and protect you from dangerous animals.” Announced Baltasar. I relighted my fire and cooked the deer. It tasted really good and I saw Baltasar was enjoying his raw deer.
Six years past and Baltasar taught me how to hunt for food and which animals were to be trusted. Tyra the otter taught me how to fish in the nearby lake and Frida the Red Squirrel taught me how to gather fruit. I learnt how to survive without the need of other people.
One day I was on my own gathering fruits while Baltasar was out hunting. It was a lovely spring morning. The sun was shining bright and the trees were full over luscious green leaves. The ground was blanketed with flowers of every colour. The shrews were playing in the forest as well as the rabbits, the hedgehogs were out exploring and the beavers were making a new dam in a nearby lake. The forest was filled with music from many of the birds. The forest was full of life and it was a beautiful forest too.
I continued looking for fruit after admiring the magnificent forest. I heard a little voice calling to me and looked up to see Frida on the branch above my head.
“Katarina, there is a human in the forest. He is close to Baltasar; you must make sure nothing bad happens,” squeaked Frida.
I rushed over to where I knew Baltasar would be hunting. I could see Baltasar standing completely still, staring at the stranger with a bow and arrow aimed at him.
“Stop!” I yelled. “Don’t hurt him!”
The stranger turned around and saw me. It was a boy my age. He was wearing a black cloak and had a quiver full of bows on his back. The man had dark brown hair and piercing green eyes, he was quite attractive. But no time to think about that, I have to keep Baltasar safe.
“Run Baltasar, Run! I yelled to Baltasar. Baltasar ran into the forest, but now the boy was running to me. He was getting close. I turned around and started to run but the dress I made from the wool of a roslag sheep got caught in a branch. The boy caught up to me and grabbed me. He took me back to his camp where he sat me down in his tent and stared at me. It seemed like an hour for the time he looked at me and then he suddenly spoke.
“Why are you out here in the forest?” he asked, “It’s too dangerous for a girl like you.”
I stayed silent, glaring at him with my bright blue eyes.
“Not talking huh? My name is Vilhelm Lukas, and I am a hunter.” He said, trying to make conversation with me. “What is yours?”
“Katarina. Katarina Bloom.” I replied shyly.
“What a pretty name. Why are you here in this forest?” Vilhelm asked again.
“I ran away six years ago, when I was ten years old. My mother was going to marry an abusive man. I didn’t want to stay.” I replied, showing my disgust for the man my mother married.
“And how have you lived for so long?” he curiously asked.
“Baltasar taught me to hunt while the other animals taught me to gather fruits. I must get back to them.” I said in a panic. I stood up to run away but he blocked the exit.
“If you go I might not see you again!” he exclaimed.
“Come back here tomorrow and I will come and see you. But I must go before the others come to search for me.” I told Vilhelm. I then ran out the tent and back into the forest.
When I returned back to where all the animals were they asked me what happened and if I was alright. I told them there was nothing to fear and that I was safe. I headed back to the cave and slept for the night. The next morning I cooked meat from a rabbit Baltasar caught and headed back to the campsite of Vilhelm.
Vilhelm was there waiting for me. We talked and I showed him how I hunt and gather food. Every day he came back and I taught him to hunt better, gather fruits and fish. A month had passed and we had become closer. One day I took him to a lake where the water was as clear as crystal. We sat there together watching the sunset which was reflected onto the water. As we looked toward the mountains where the sun began to fall behind Vilhelm turned towards me.
“I love you, I have since the moment I met you.” He said and he kissed me.
“I love you too.” I replied, my heart felt really light.
“Then come with me, back to my village where we can live together forever.” Vilhelm asked excited.
“Of course I will, let me go and say goodbye to my friends and gather my stuff. I’ll be back soon, wait for me here.” I told Vilhelm.
I raced back to my cave and gathered my favourite book, the one I took with me when I left home all those years ago, and the photo of my father. I said goodbye to Baltasar, Tyra and Frida and thanked them for everything they had done for me and promised to visit them whenever I could and said goodbye to all the other animals. I then hurried to return to Vilhelm.
But while I was gathering my belongings, a sneaky red fox played a nasty trick of Vilhelm.
“Hello Vilhelm Lukas, I have heard a lot about you.” Said the sly fox.
“Who are you, and how can you talk?” Vilhelm asked defensively.
“I am Rurik; I can talk like all the animals here.” Rurik said giving a cunning look.
“Why have you come to me?” said Vilhelm.
“I have come to tell you that Katarina doesn’t love you. She is planning to have the animals come and kill you.” Announced Rurik.
“Is this true? But how could I ever forget about her?” Vilhelm asked, his heart sinking in his chest.
“Eat this leaf, it’s from the Belladonna plant and it can make you forget all about her” said the cunning Rurik handing him the leaf.
Vilhelm took the leaf and consumed the leaf. He started to stagger and collapsed to the floor. When I arrived back at the lake I saw Vilhelm lying of the floor breathing heavily with a bit of rash on his arm.
“Vilhelm what happened?” I asked in a panic.
“I had a leaf from the Belladonna plant because Rurik told me that you didn’t love me and you were going to kill me and eating that was the only way I could forget about you.” Vilhelm replied, his speech slurred.
“That’s not true. I do love you and I would never want to kill you.” I told him, tears running down my face. Baltasar had followed me to the lake. He killed Rurik with one bite.
“Baltasar, how can I save him, how can I save Vilhelm?” I desperately asked looking Baltasar in his cold black eyes.
“The only way to save him is to give the moon your life in exchange for his. You must do it in the lake.” Baltasar answered.
“I will do it, I must.” I decided out loud. I turned back to look at Vilhelm. “Vilhelm I love you and always will, I want you to remember me but live your life. You have so much more to live for than me.”
I gave him one last kiss on the cheek and entered the still water of the lake which the moon was reflected on.
I closed my eyes and commanded “Moon, I give you my life so that Vilhelm Lukas may live. Take it now so that he can live a full life.”
And after I said that, a silver light embraced my body, lifting me into the air. I could feel a rush of wind encircling me and I felt myself changing until I was nothing more than a red water lily. Vilhelm regained consciousness and started at the lake at wear I last took my breath of life. All that remained was a red water lily. Vilhelm then collapsed and wept. Tears fell down his face onto the ground. Baltasar approached him.
“It is time for you to return to your village. Live your life just as Katarina asked, you have your whole life ahead of you.” As Baltasar said that he turned around and disappeared back into the dark forest, and Vilhelm returned to his village.
Years passed and Vilhelm had married a lovely woman name Tilda Synrove. The three adorable children, Gerda the oldest daughter, Kasper his only son and Katarina his youngest daughter named after me. Today was the anniversary of the day we met and Vilhelm mounted his chestnut horse and headed for the lake where I died. Every year on our anniversary he goes there and places a red water lily in memory of me and the life I gave to him.
© Copyright 2016 Miss Murray. All rights reserved.