Welcome, my little lambs, to the Puszcza. It's an ancient forest, a keeper of the deepest magic, where even the darkest fairy tales are real.
Here, a Girl is not supposed to be a woodcutter. Or be brave enough to walk alone.
Here, a Wolf is not supposed to love to read. Or be curious enough to meet a human.
And here, a Story is nothing like the ones you read in books, for the Witch can make the most startling tales come alive. All she needs is a Girl from the village, a Wolf from the forest, and a woodcutter with a nice, sharp axe.
So take care, little lambs, if you step into these woods. For in the Puszcza, it is always as dark as the hour between night and dawn -- the time old folk call the Wolf Hour. If you lose your way here, you will be lost forever, your Story no longer your own.
You can bet your bones.
Sara Lewis Holmes
Sara Lewis Holmes is the author of Operation Yes
, which was named to the Kids' Indie Next List and nominated for seven state awards, and Letters to Rapunzel
, which won the Ursula Nordstrom First Fiction Prize. Thanks to her husband's service in the Air Force, she has written stories and poems in eleven states and three countries, as well as her current home of Washington, DC. Please visit her online at www.saralewisholmes.com and @saralewisholmes.
- ! "From The Wolf Hour:
Once upon a time there was a wolf. When
he wasn't any more, there was another one. And another one. How could this be? A
wolf without end?
Welcome, my little lambs, to the Puszcza, where even wolves
must live and die by the rules. It's an ancient forest, a keeper of the deepest
magic, and there, fairy tales of the darkest kind are real. Some even call them
spells, for if you're unlucky to be caught in one of them, you must play your part,
all the way to the bitter end.
Psiakrew! you say. You're trying
to frighten me! Besides, fairy tales contain silly things like talking wolves and
clever pigs and ugly witches. Ridiculous, but not dangerous.
of course, if you mean the pantomimes recorded in books. But those printed words
are like the sparse, thin-limbed trees at the edge of the forest -- nothing compared
to the thick-boughed, magic-laden, spell-fraught depths of the Puszcza.
clever pigs can follow every word of their mother's advice, and still have their
lives blown down around them.
Here, an ugly witch can offer sweet things
to a brave girl, and both can leave as empty as they came.
And here, a wolf
can tumble down a chimney, neat as a bale of hay, into a pot over a hungry fire.
No matter how many fancy words he knows.
So I don't blame you if you want
to look away, little lambs. Look away until the wild jig of boiling water has loosened
the scrubby fur from the wolf's flesh, and released his pike-sharp teeth from his
soft pink gums. Look away until all that's left are bones.
But if you desire a life beyond the ragged edges of the forest,
and if you wish to see how the living are plucked from the dead and the mad cleaved
from the sane, and -- most of all -- if you're ravenous for another heart to beat
in time with yours, come into the Puszcza.
There lived a talking wolf.
And a witch who told fairy tales.
You can believe those
tales if you like, my lambs. You can be amused by the clever pigs who pop up from
time to time. But never forget that in the Puszcza's deepest reaches, it is always
as dark as the hour between night and dawn. Always the hour more people come into
this world and more people leave it than any other. Always the hour the old folk
call the Wolf Hour. If you lose your way then, you will be lost forever, your Story
no longer your own.
You can bet your bones."