The Hollowing Witch
a fairy tale deleted from The Kingdom of Little Wounds
(and an inspiration for Mermaid Moon)
This broken fairy tale was deleted from The Kingdom of Little Wounds, but it lingered in my mind till I started to write a novel on loosely the same themes. Mermaid Moon is very, very different from this story--proving that a story takes on its own life and becomes its own thing.
The Hollowing Witch
There was once a witch of the earth who loved a maiden of the sea. The witch invited the mer-girl to her castle to dine, and when the mer-girl agreed, the witch dug a long channel so her new friend could swim straight from the ocean to the great hall. There she intended to keep the mermaid for as long as might be required to make the girl love her too, for she was lonely and wanted a friend more than any treasure on earth.
While the two of them shared a banquet of air well spiced and sugared, the witch had her minions fill in the channel and plant a garden over top, complete with ladybugs and sheep and other creatures never seen at sea.
“See how nice it is in here,” she said as she combed out the mermaid’s long green-blue hair. “Think how easy your life will be, protected from the awful waves.”
The mermaid was unhappy, for she had loved the witch, too, at first sight, but she had not expected or wished to stay in the muddy castle forever. Of all things, she abhorred a garden where plants stayed put.
As the witch prattled and combed, the mermaid shook her great green tail. She slapped it fretfully against the floor, and the entire castle trembled.
The witch cradled the girl’s face in her hands. “My servants will be yours to command,” she promised, and paraded some misshapen imps and overgrown dogs before her.
The mermaid raised her tail and thumped it a second time. The walls began to crumble.
“But this is love!” pleaded the witch; and at that the mermaid slammed her tail with such force that she reopened the trench the witch had dug.
“Sleep in my home instead,” she invited. “Make this your bed.”
But here the witch hesitated; she could not fling herself so easily into an unknown element.
While she tried to decide, the slit grew and grew until finally, infused with the saltwater of the mermaid’s birth, the ground caved in and swallowed the castle. It swallowed the witch and the mermaid as well, and left a salty hollow of mud that smothered any creature foolish enough to step near its treacherous bed.
The witch of the earth died in her own element, but the mermaid swam safely back to sea. She spent the rest of her days luring sailors to their deaths and crooning, “But this is love … this is love.”