Long ago in the country of Zuma , there lived an old woman. She was deeply fond of sparrows and had built a bird haven in her backyard with little water pools, minature wood houses and sofy hay-filled cornices. She spent every morning and evening, out in the yard with her many winged friends--- feeding ,cleaning and singing. She picked her tunes from the sparrow trillings. One day a young girl of sixteen passing by the house heard this song and was entranced. She stood next to the wall listening till dusk fell and the old woman finishing her daily rounds went inside.
The girl thrilled with the melody and beauty of the song walked around to the front of the house and climbed the seven stairs up to the door. Holding the round brass knocker in her hand, she admired the intricate design of primroses along the edge. It reminded her of her own cottage--rose cottage it was called after her beloved mother. Her lovely and kind mother who sacrificed herself to save Miriam and their village. -- The girl's -Miriam's- eyes filled with tears at the memory of her mother. Wiping her cheeks, she clanged the knocker. The unfamiliar vibrations of the knock resounded through the house reaching the old lady bent over her boiling pot of stew. Wiping her hands on the apron and wondering she walked into the parlour.

On unbolting the door, she found a pretty pink face with big round eyes and curly black hair staring back at her. " Hello dear girl! What are you doing so far away from home at this hour? ".  " Good evening ma'am. I was on my way to my aunt's house down along the river when your extraordinary song stopped me and held me bound. I am sorry ma'am, I believe I have disturbed you in work.". "Not at all child. Step inside, it is a mighty cold night tonight.". "Thank you ma'am.".

Walking into  the toasty little house Miriam felt warm relief spreading through her limbs. Such as she had not experienced in a long time. The old lady led her to the fireplace and sat her down in the cozy armchair and went back into the kitchen. Left to herself, Miriam closed her eyes and dozed.

Presently, the old woman returned with a steaming bowl of stew and placed it in front of Miriam. Grateful, Miriam thanked the old lady again and again before picking up the spoon. Now, the old lady seated herself on the sette across from Miriam and watched as the young girl supped eagerly. After some colour came back into her cheeks, the old lady gently asked for her name."Miriam! That is a beautiful name, tuberose -- the world's prettiest and most delicate flower. Your mother certainly had excellent taste child.".
On this sudden reminder of her mother, dammed memories burst open and Miriam broke into tears. Shocked, the old woman rushed to the child and taking her into her arms began trying to soothe her. This only reminded Miriam more strongly of her mother and she was wracked with heart-breaking sobs. Holding the heaving child tight, the old lady began to sing.The tender notes of her song gently soothed the child and put her to sleep. On waking, she found herself tucked in a warm bed with a sole candle burning on the bed stead.
Looking around she saw the old woman snoozing in a rocking chair, close to the fire. She closed her eyes again. Morning sneaked in through the open window blinds, with a soft rosy glow. After a sumptuos breakfast of soup and eggs, Miriam sat down with the old lady and helped her with her knitting.

Sitting side by side, Miriam whispered her story. How the monster, flying into their village from the high and cold mountains had begun to butcher families, one everyday, for 100 days before Miriam's mother who was also the matron of the village, walked  into the monster's lair and struck a deal with it. The willing heart of a mother in exchange for the lives of her village fellows. How her mother had not come back and the monster stopped its attacks, thus confirming the worst.
However, exactly a year to that day, the monster had come out. Only, it wasn't the monster anymore, it was her mother but not her mother. A changed, harsh and cruel woman who ate raw bunnies and crows.
No one had been able to explain this monstrosity. No one could understand it. This witchy woman lived with Miriam and put her to ghastly tasks that so surpassed Lucifer himself in horror that they can not be recounted here.
How Miriam finally unable to bear anymore had run away and was making her way to her aunt, her real mother's sister who lived a little way from the river bank woods on the east side, when she had stopped in awe of her host's enchanting song. On finishing, the old lady hugged Miriam and promised to help her. To bring her old life and smiles back. Also, her mother if there were the thinnest chance.
Touched by the old lady's emotion for her Miriam kissed her cheek, filled with love.
The next day, Miriam started on her way again. Waving goodbye to the old lady, she left with a heavy heart. But as she neared her aunt's cottage, she felt the old feelings stirring again.
As she was walking up the path to the cottage, its doors were thrown open and her aunt ranout to her. " Miriam! My dear dear child! I was so worried. I waited and waited for three days and three nights. My child! My child! I thought I had lost you too. My poor, poor Miriam! Come, come inside. Let me look at you to my heart's fill. It's been so long, so very long. Oh! but you look so much like your dear mother, my dear dear sister. Bless her.".   "Hello aunty!".   " Did you eat anything child? You look so weak and faded. My poor, poor girl!".
 She laid out a big lunch for Miriam and helped her out of her dusty clothes. After eating, aunt and neice sat under the shady Beech in the garden.  "Now tell me child, why were you late? The journey was safe I hope.".
" Oh yes, aunty. I met the most lovely old lady in the woods. She sings enchantingly. Her songs are magic itself aunty. She took me in and sheltered me for the night. I rested at her old, cozy house before starting out again. That delayed me, aunty.".
Aunt Prim's eyes were wide -- huge and round as saucers. She was mouthing something, Miriam did not notice this in her excitement. When she finished, she looked at her aunt and found her pale and shivering.
"No, no,no !".
"Aunty?! What has happened?? Are you alright? Is it you liver?? Aunty?!".
"No child. No. No. I am ok. But what have you done child?! Oh No No No! ".
"Aunty, What is it?".
" My child, do you know who she is, that old woman??  The sparrow lady!!"  "She must have cast a spell on you! She must have poisoned you! Come child, let me take you to the high priest healer."

"Wha...what  is the sparrow lady?".
"She is a witch, child! and people say she is 500 years old and has been haunting those woods all these years. Hurry, we need to walk 5 miles to the church. I pray nothing happens to you, you are all I have left. The Sparrow Lady Miriam!! What were you thinking?!".
"But aunty, she did not do anything to me. She isn't a witch, aunty. She is just an old lady. A misunderstood old lady from what you tell me. Nothing is the matter with me. Look, I am alright.".   "Morever, she promised to help us, to even bring mother back if she could.".
"But child...".
"No aunty. She is a good woman and I am going back to her before I return to the village.".
"Return?! But surely you are not thinking of going there. After all that has happened. You can not, you will only hurt yourself or worse.That thing there isn't your mother, child. Understand that. And the sparrow lady is trouble, Miriam. Please listen to me. She must have charmed you into going back to her. Do not. I shall take you to the priest and everything will be alright then. Please Miriam, listen to your aunt. I love you.".
"I love you too, aunty ,but, I love my mother and I have to go back to save her. I know it isn't her in our house but maybe I can bring her back, maybe she needs my help. I can't abandon my mother, aunty. No. I must go back. I only came to rest my weary soul for a while.".

Two weeks later Miriam started on her journey back, ignoring her aunt's repeated entreaties to refrain.


  1. Its brilliant......... so very warm and toasty :) A perfect story for a cold winters day.


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