The Frolicking Folly: Part 1

The Frolicking Folly

A Hungarian Folktale

 

Part 1

     Once upon a time, there was a girl named Bianka. While she was a cheery little thing, forever singing and dancing, sometimes her exuberant merrimaking caused her to miss a great deal.

     Bianka had a Papa who adored her, but he was not blind to her obliviousity. When she was sitting in his workshop one day, he gave her a task: to deliver an important, most secretive, brown-paper parcel to a Madam Zorka in a faraway village.

     Bianka set out with a lively tune on her lips, a kickety jig in her step, and the parcel tucked safely in her sash.

     Along her way, she passed many people, some peasants, some lords. She paid them no mind, except to whirl into a flourishing step and blare a trilling melody.

     Bianka did not notice the hobbling old woman with bunions to boot. Neither did she note the hungry child who trudged alone, weighed down by a heavy load. 

     Then along came a wee lad, who had lost his red cap. He asked Bianka’s aid in finding it, but she did not see him for she was busy twirling. Furious at being ignored, the small man stamped his foot at her, and the moment he did, she turned to stone from her waist to her tiniest toes.

     In horror, Bianka twisted to look at him. Only now did she observe the pointed ears and floppy nose of a manók. She pleaded with him to change her back, but he just wagged his finger, shook his head —which sent his nose a-bouncing— and disappeared in a puff.

    Bianka strained against her stone legs, but her efforts were futile. She could not skip, leap, chasse, spin, or plie. She could not even budge! She was stuck, quite firmly, all alone in the middle of the lane with nothing but her brown-paper parcel.

    At first, she was furious, then she became bored, and when twilight came on, she grew frightened.

     Holding still for so long forced her to do a good deal of thinking. Would she starve? Would she grow into an old woman and die there? Would the stone creep up her body until she was nothing but statue?

     Fears swelled in her chest when to her amazement the setting sun put on a glorious robe of dazzling colors. Explosions of orange and pink lit the clouds and kissed the horizon in golden splendor.

     When the sun finished tucking itself away for the night, the moon glowed to life, smiling on the earth with his multitude of children, winking and dancing in the Upper World.

     Bianka was astounded. Had the sun and stars always done such things?

     The next day, when dawn stretched into the sky and dew blanketed Middle World, Bianka watched many passersby and wondered at the things she saw.

     She witnessed infatuation in the eyes of lovers, abuse in the sneer of masters, and despair in the slump of the poor. She saw purple cotton clouds and fireflies on drunken flights.

     She saw an otter family toddle across the lane to drift in the river for the day and wondered at them choosing such a slow life. She imagined the otters watching other creatures. Did their watching allow them to better understand the ducks and the deer? Did understanding make them better friends?

     Three agonizing days passed in this manner, and it looked as though Bianka might be a permanent fixture in the path. Hopeless and hungry, her song slunk into a mournful dirge.

    That afternoon a peasant fellow, pulling a pear cart, came trundling down the lane. Bianka squelched her pride and called to him. She told of her plight and pleaded for a pear, lest she perish.

     Matyas, for that was his name, though poor himself, gave her two of the juicy fruit without hesitation. Not only this, his compassion was so great, he promised to seek out the good witch who lived two days east, retrieve from her a counter-curse, and return as swiftly as his legs could carry him.

     Bianka sang in gratitude and nearly wept from relief. She munched and crunched on a delectable pear as she watched Matyas rumble around a bend in the lane. A few moments later, she glimpsed him and his cart through a gap in the trees as they climbed a little hill. She lifted a hand to wave, in case he should glance back when a group of highwaymen jumped out of the forest and assailed him! They dumped his pears into sacks and slung them over their shoulders. Laughing, they snatched his coin purse and pummeled him to a pulp.

     Bianka wrenched furiously against her stone legs and yelled for aid, but none came, and the marauders rode away, dooming Matyas to a slow, lonesome death.

     She cried out, ‘That he should die in such a manner— a man as good as he? It should not be! By the Creator, Isten of Upper World, I beg that I may save him.’

     The moment these words passed her lips, Bianka’s legs were loosed, turning again to bone and marrow and flesh! Unhindered, she sprinted to Matyas.

     At the sight of his wounds, Bianka started in alarm. Quickly, she stowed the paper parcel in her skirt and used her sash to wrap his injuries. Easing him into his cart, she pulled him to the next village where she sought the renown alchemist.

     Sweating and panting, Bianka trundled into Sage Gottfrid laboratory. Gottfrid frowned as he examined Matyas. Scratching his wiry beard, he finally declared the lad would survive if he drank an ameliorate potion of his making. But to concoct it, Gottfrid would need Bianka to retrieve a rare herb from the Dark Wood, for which he gave superlatively specific specifications:

Found near pine, not on a vine,
In bunches of nine which sort of shine.
Leaves taste of cherries are frequented by faeries,
Who carry and ferry, the berries away.

With navigational tips and instructions on how to avoid werewolves, Gottfrid hurried her into the wood.

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